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Press Review of Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Source: Chronicle

Editorial: Presidential Jet - Heading for a replay?

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Kwamena Bartels, in what looks like a first major public outing, has raised some issues that must engage national attention.

The secrecy shrouding the leasing/purchase arrangement regarding a Gulfstream GIII aircraft for the presidency at a time when general concerns were that the country had more important needs to spend its limited resources on seemed long to have been resolved. This was because in spite of several pronouncements from governmental circles about possible wrongdoing in the transaction leading to the acquisition of the jet, the rest seem to be based on suspicions.

But it becomes more bizarre when a minister of state, and more grievously one for Information and National Orientation, would state publicly, over five years after his government has been in power, that he has discovered the said aircraft has a capacity suggesting it could carry only eleven passengers.

The minister states further that since as far as he was concerned the jet could not carry a president, security, press and business people, it was therefore not really a presidential jet because ?it was quite clear that it was not meant for that; indeed its capacity has given credence to the rumours that it was really meant as an end of service benefit for the former president, Rawlings.?

It was disheartening to hear Ghana?s new minister of information, who has been given an additional responsibility of orienting citizens, start jumping to conclusions based on what he himself admits to be a transaction his government has been unable to make head or tail of, to spread what he himself also claims to be rumours.

The minister did not end there but went on to give out some misinformation that the aircraft could have been bought at not more than $7 million, which is the current value of a 1986 Gulfstream GIII.

It was obvious he was basing his misinformation on a post-September 11 valuation, which, values do not need any expertise in the aviation industry to conclude and cannot be the basis for any reasonable comparison with pre-September 11 values.

Secondly, it does not need any expertise in finance or business to know that generally things bought on hire purchase or credit cost more than cash purchases. The second process of acquisition also gives some breather to the buyer in terms of liquidity pressure.

Surprisingly, even after giving out the types of jets the aircraft was being offered for as down payment, he finds the value to be that of a security concern!

Interestingly Mr. Bartels still insists that there was an element of fraud on the state regarding the acquisition of the aircraft since it should have been acquired at less than 50% of what was paid for it and that people would be dragged in to answer for it.

The Chronicle believes that if for over five years the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government had failed to uncover any malfeasance, failed to utilize the jet while it depreciated in value, and although have been in a position to lay hands on all information related to the transaction cannot make head or tail of that particular transaction, for which a committee chaired by no mean a personality than former Senior Minister, Mr. J H Mensah, they should stop wasting our ears, and either shape up or shut up!

At least on this presidential jet matter! So far as The Chronicle is concerned, if government officials do not approach issues of national importance with open, unprejudiced minds, they would not understand what has gone on and would grope in the dark forever.

But above all, The Chronicle finds it curious that in castigating the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government for handling the presidential jet transaction in a non-transparent manner, the Information minister is telling us the jet had been traded off and flown out already, even without parliamentary approval.