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General News of Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Source: GNA

Ghana to get TWO Presidential Jets

... aircrafts not for the Air Force per se but "Presidential comfort" --Minority
Accra, March 18, GNA-The Minority in Parliament on Tuesday registered its reservations on the manner in which the Government intends to purchase two aircrafts, describing the arrangement as unconstitutional, lacking clarity and insensitive to the real needs of the people.

The aircrafts are I unit ACJ 319 ER Corporate Jet from airbus industry at the cost of US$62 million and 1 Unit 900 Ex Easy Aircraft from Dassault Aviation S A at the cost of at US$ 43.15million. Minority Leader, Mr Alban Bagbin told a press conference at Parliament House that, the acquisition of the two aircrafts, was only for "presidential comforts."

Parliament has been called upon to approve a joint parliamentary report and to resolve to mandate the government for the purchase. "What is however before Parliament is not an application for the acquisition of aircrafts for the Air Ghana Air Force per se but the acquisition of two luxury aircrafts for "Presidential comfort"

"The cost of the two luxury aircrafts is to be financed from loans and budgetary contributions," Mr Bagbin said.

Mr Bagbin said according to the Government memo and the report of the parliamentary committee; "in pursuit of the Ghana Armed Forces five-year strategic development plan 2005-2010"

He said the Minority in Parliament has no objection in re-equipping the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and catalogued a number of facilities to equip the GAF.

These included the approval of US$55,000,000 Barclays loan from which four transporter helicopter were purchased. Again the Gulf Stream 111, which was exchanged for four k8 made trainer/light attack military jets and one flight simulator for the Ghana Air Force.

"We are reliably informed that as at today government has failed to procure the simulator aircraft from the suppliers.

"As a result the four k8 trainer jet aircrafts cannot be put to use because of the lack of the simulator which is to be deployed in the training of the pilot and technicians on the use of the aircrafts."

According to Mr Bagbin, the "luxurious" Falcon 900 Ex Easy, had a capacity of 12 passengers, and the purchase of the aircraft was being supported with a buyer's credit of US$37,150.00 at a commercial interest rate of USD Libor 6 months +1%, while the Government of Ghana is making available a budgetary amount of US$6,000,000. The repayment period of the facility is only five years.

Also, the corporate jet is being financed from a loan of US$52,000,000 from no disclosed source and an additional government support of US$ 10,000,000.

The Minority takes issue with the purchase of the two luxury aircrafts at this time of the HIPC where failure to execute projects is attributed to lack of funds.

The Minority said it was rejecting the move by Government to purchase the aircrafts because they are not acquired for strategic operations of the GAF.

Also, the payment schedules of the contract stipulates that five per cent of the price due must be paid upon signature. However, Mr Bagbin said, the payment of the deposit, which involves the withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund without Parliamentary approval, contravenes Articles 178 and 181 of the 1992 Constitution. "The payment is therefore unconstitutional and unlawful," Mr Bagbin said.

He added that, it was ironic that the same "people" who raised objections in 1999 when, on the acquisition of the Gulf Stream 111 on the grounds of misplaced priority are today asking Parliament and the nation to approve the acquisition of two luxurious presidential aircrafts whose costs are exorbitantly higher than that of the Gulf Stream.
The Minority questioned why the Government could commit US$105,150,000 to buy two "luxurious" presidential jets for the comfort of a president in the midst of social problems as water shortage, rising school fees, and lack of funds to pay railway workers.