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Opinions of Thursday, 30 November 2006

Columnist: Ampofo Ofori

C36 Billion! We Demand Answers Now Bartels

36 Billion Cedis Bartel’s denial, how much was spent?

On 14th November 2006, the insight Newspaper, published a document purported to have been signed by the minister of information and National orientation; Mr. Kwamina Bartels.

The document was addressed to the director general of the Ghana telecom, which read “This is to confirm that the cost for fixing telecommunication lines for the list of twenty one (21) officials attached will be borne by the ministry through the usual government accounting channels” The document indicated that 36 billion Cedis was spent on the project for party friends and two journalists.

Hon. Mr. Kwamina Bartels immediately denied this and brushed it aside as “not true that 36 billion Cedis has been spent on party friends and the two journalists”. He went on to say that, indeed no money, not even a Cedi has been paid to the Ghana Telecom for such a program.

On Wednesday 15th November 2006, a joy FM general news item on the Ghana web, quoted the minister as admitting that he in fact engineered a project of sponsoring telephone facilities and internet broadband services procured by Government for its sympathizers and loyalists. He however disputed the 36 billion Cedis figure quoted by the insight news paper.

Fellow Ghanaians, we have every reason to doubt the truthfulness of the actual figure 36 billion Cedis because it appears to be an unreasonable amount to be charged for setting up telephone and internet broadband services for 21 individuals or businesses even in Ghana.

The biggest question one must therefore ask is, how much was actually spent by Mr. Kwamina Bartels, and who authorized such expenditure? We respectfully recommend that the Hon. Minister provide answers instead of leaving room and doubt for the general public to speculate, This, unlike other issues of the past will not go away. We shall continue to pursue this matter until we get credible answers about this project. Additionally, Mr. Bartels should openly confirm officially that, he indeed accepted the authenticity of the report in question?

If the admission of spending some amount of State money on party functionaries by the Minister of Information and National orientation is anything to go by, we of the Ghana National Party want to remind the Honorable Minister that his action amounts to misappropriation of state resources, and it is both illegal and unethical.

The honorable Minister must surely know that his party, (NPP) and the Government of Ghana are two separate and distinct entities. Any use of State money or Property for Party political interest is unacceptable and must be investigated by the appropriate agency of the Ministry of Justice to determine if in fact any laws were broken. It is unfortunate that the Ghanaian media and the opposition in parliament have failed to pursue this issue with the seriousness it deserves, since there is an obvious appearance of impropriety by the Honorable Minister that needs to be probed.

Are we the people to assume that the much talked about TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY, as well as ZERO TOELRANCE FOR CURRUPTION promised by the President was nothing but lip service? When shall we clean up our political system and do what is right and best for Ghana? Last year, a deputy Minister of Finance before Parliament, could not explain how 27.6 billion Cedis out of the HIPIC funds had been disbursed. The opposition questioned it briefly in the process, and till today nobody knows what happened to that money. It is completely and utterly unacceptable that our elected officials and members of the executive branch refuse to provide answers to routine questions when addressed by the media or the opposition in parliament.

It is worse that the sitting opposition and the media, on behalf of the electorate and taxpayers of the country have failed to pursue issues of National importance to the very end no matter where the facts lead to. By ignoring such matters, we send a message of acceptance of the status quo. It is our country, our tax money and our resources that these officials have been entrusted with. Therefore we should feel no guilt or timidity; nor is it disrespectful when we ask those custodians of our resources such as the executive, to give a full and honest accounting of the use or disbursement of the resources to us the citizens, no matter how tedious or complicated they believe the process would be. It is our right and not a discretionary obligation or a favor to be provided with information as desired by them on demand. This issue appears to be one of many that have been covered up. Accountability by our government officials is one of the biggest areas where we are woefully failing our people, and the future of our Country is crying for salvation.

In all these circumstances, I question the rationale of His Excellency, President Kufour, for pardoning the former Minister and deputy of Finance, Messrs Kwame Peprah and the late Selormey after a competent court of Law had found them guilty of misappropriating state funds and sentenced them to terms of imprisonments.

What precedent did the President set for the current serving Ministers and other top Government officials? The answer is simple, “YOU CAN ALSO DO IT AND YOU WILL NOT BE TOUCHED, OR AT WORST, YOU WOULD BE PARDONED” AND THAT IS WHAT WE THE CITIZENS SEE.

Ghana needs to clean up our political system but it is clear from our history that none of the existing political parties have the guts and political will to do just that because the system of incumbency favors them.

The Ghana National Party is formed, and legally would like to change the way politics is done in Ghana. We are determined to cut all waste in Government spending, and invest intelligently and create real wealth for our Nation to become self-sufficient eventually, using our natural and intellectual resources and skills of all our people at home and in the diaspora with no discrimination.

We demand answers from the government and especially, we must hear openly from Hon. Minister Kwamina Bartels or his representative. We demand accountability and transparency from our government, should we be denied this right, the Ghana National Party will go to court to seek the remedies we are entitled to on behalf of all the citizens of Ghana.

Ampofo Ofori (Executive Chairman)
http:www.natlparty.com


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