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General News of Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Source: Chronicle

Agyepong blames NDC over jet

?....agreement was sleazy, hazy,?
... but keeps mum over J.H. Mensah c'ttee report

In the heat of the ensuing debate over which government has indeed caused financial loss to the state for the acquisition and maintenance of the controversial Gulfstream 3 presidential jet, Presidential Press Secretary Kwabena Agyepong says Ghanaians should blame the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

According to him, there is no need for any person or group of persons to apportion blame on the government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) since it has no hand in the acquisition of the said jet.

To him, it would therefore be out of place and context for anybody to blame the NPP government for possibly causing financial loss to the He noted that the processes for the acquisition of the Gulfstream is shrouded in so much doubt that even the letter authorizing payment from the Accountant General was misleading, since ?it was quoting the money as being security deposit for budgetary support in 1999?.

This, he said is the reason why Ghanaians must lay blame on the government at the time, especially those officials who supervised and signed the agreement on behalf of the nation, stressing that ?if there is any blame, it should go to those who were given the national treasury who did not use our resources in the interest of our country?.

Briefing newsmen in Accra, Mr. Agyepong indicated that the decision of President Kufuor not to use the jet is based on personal conviction, since the entire transaction was not transparent, hence he did not want to be associated with anything void of transparency.

Considering the ?strange? circumstance under which it was acquired, he noted that this was taken prior to the appearance of then candidate Kufuor, when he made clear his intentions over the jet.

On assumption of office, Mr. Agyepong said President Kufuor set up what he called an unofficial committee led by Senior Minister J.H Mensah and a couple of ministers to undertake correspondences with HSBC, the bank which underwrote the entire agreement to make certain findings.

As a result of discussions with the HSBC bank, he noted that the NPP government realized the transaction was a sleazy, mazy and circuitous offshore lease purchase agreement.

He indicated that the transaction was more lucrative for the HSBC bank than the people of Ghana, hence the bank?s continuous feet-dragging even when the NPP government wanted to dispose of the jet, saying it was not prepared to assist government.

When frantic efforts with HSBC failed to yield any profit, he noted that government had no option than to abide by the terms and conditions of the agreement, since it binds Ghana as a sovereign country.

According to him, though it was a bad deal for the NDC government to acquire that jet, considering the circumstance under which it was purchased, it was still incumbent on any government to service accumulations that it accrued as in any agreement.

Mr. Agyepong however failed to answer the question of what the findings of the J.H Mensah committee entailed.

Asked of the cost that the nation is incurring as a result of the jet sitting on the tarmac of the Kotoka International Airport, he deflected the question.

He however said the jet had been reverted to the Ghana Air Force.

The NDC, has, since it left office denied any underhand dealings in the acquisition of the presidential jet.

It has rather asked the NPP government to proceed to the law courts if it has any evidence of shady deal in the transaction as it seeks to say, challenging the NPP to prove their claims that the acquisition lacked the element of transparency.

Though some have suggested the need to acquire another presidential jet, the NDC as a party believes there is no need for it, since it would amount to a misuse of the country?s already limited resources.

Opinion is divided over whether the Rawlings Government-inspired purchase may have caused a financial loss to the state by acquiring that jet.

Others believe that the Kufuor-led NPP government have also caused substantial financial loss to the state by leaving the Gulfstream at the mercy of the weather at the Kotoka International Airport, making it to lose its value.