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Opinions of Friday, 15 July 2005

Columnist: Ampofo, Ofori

Mr. President, Act To Control Public Funds.

The consequences of inaction is far greater than the consequences of action.

Ladies and gentlemen of HIPC GHANA,
Listen again to this news headline. MPS 18 MILLION CEDIS A MONTH HOTEL/ RENT SAGA. Ghana web July 4 2005. Six months ago, 118 new MPs joined the old members retained by their constituencies. These people applied for jobs within their constituencies, interviewed and selected to assume their new positions as parliamentarians. Just like any other job in the civil service, they should assume duty, the day their appointment takes effect. How they get to the office, how they re-locate and accommodate, should not be the problem of government.

The government of Ghana however, has made accommodating members of parliament, ministers and other state officials, a privilege under the constitution. Article 71 clause 3 reads - For the purposes of this and except as otherwise provided in the constitution, ?SALARIES? includes allowances, facilities and privileges and retiring benefits or awards. Privileges under the constitution, can be a lot other things and doesn?t spell out categorically this or that. Therefore, accommodating certain category of government officials cannot be said to be constitutional but they have made it fit as a privilege and enjoyed it over the years at the expense of the tax payer.

The 118 new MPs got to Accra from their districts and were expecting to be driven straight into their fully furnished accommodations, but since the government had no such accommodations ready, they have since been accommodated in hotels paying 60 U.S. dollars a day per each MP. This amounts to 1,800 U.S. dollars a month, approximately 17 million cedis by the exchange rate.

The NDC member who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Gye Nyame Concord said, the issue has generated a furore between the NDC and the NPP, describing the arrangements as an embarrassment to the NPP government. I don?t understand why the NDC member wanted to stay anonymous on such an issue of grave national importance.

The majority leader and minister of parliamentary affairs Mr. Felix Owusu Agyapong when contracted by the Gye Nyame Concord reporter in parliament house, is said to have rubbished the minority position on the issue because he did not see accommodating an MP for 60 U.S. dollars a day a big issue at all. The majority leader is quoted as saying that , there were much bigger problems for parliament to deal with and didn?t think the hotel Saga, was anything that the House should bother itself about.

Wait a minute, Countrymen, if the majority leader do not view spending over 17 million cedis hotel bill a month on one MP multiply by 118 totaling over 1.8 billion Cedis which under good management practice could save over 60% of that amount, then GHANA has a big problem. I don?t know how much the majority leader would want to spend on MP's hotel accommodation to consider it a big problem for parliament to deal with.

According to Mr. Felix Owusu Agyapong , it is the responsibility of parliament to accommodate the new MPs for three months in a hotel and then move them into permanent accommodation. However he said, parliament has been finding it difficult to evict the old MPs from the bungalows meant for the new MPs.

Why are the old MPs refusing to vacate their bungalows for the new MPs ? According to the report, the NDC anonymous spokes person said that the constitution makes it clear that it is the president who determines the ex-gratia benefits of former MPs and others, pay them, and let them vacate their bungalows for the new MPs;He fumed. when the reporter asked who takes the blame for this mess and confusion, the NDC anonymous spokesman replied ? the buck stops with the president?. Referring to article 71 of the constitution.

Let us accept the fact that the tax payer has to accommodate the MPs because, that has been the norm. However couldn?t Parliament look for a much better and cheaper alternative accommodation within Accra-Tema Metropolis? How much is the MPs total monthly salary anyway, to spend over 17 million cedis hotel bill on him/her?

If the majority leader has ever lived in Europe or America, he should know; if not, I want to let him know and understand that 1800 U.S. dollars that the tax payer spends on every MP on hotel accommodation a month, is a very big money in the United States. If he has never lived outside Ghana, most of his colleagues have. I will advice him to ask if any of them ever spent 1800 U.S. dollars on rent during their stay in the United States or Europe. It is simply not easy to come by 1800 US dollars a month but Felix Owusu Agyapong thinks Ghana can afford it so It's Ok.Countrymen, these people have all sold their consciences, joined the greedy minded political class and look on while Ghana's resources are carelessly dissipated.

How do anybody think Ghana can develop to a second world country under these same political leadership that does not consider 1800 U.S. dollars Hotel expenditure on one Mp a big issue to spend time discussing in parliament? It is said that little drops of water makes a mighty ocean. Therefore, if the honorable majority leader don?t consider the hotel expenses as a waste of national resources then he is a big joke and should do Ghana and Ghanaians a big favor and resign as majority leader of parliament.

The hotel accommodation saga, is one aspect of thousands of wastes within the central government on the consolidated funds. When they appropriate billions of cedis and millions of dollars into the consolidated fund, they find ways to spend them by all means. It is the irresponsible application of both bigger and smaller resources that have over the years built up the national debt. Fortunately the G8 has just concluded a final decision on the cancellation of our debts totaling over 4 billion dollars. Thanks to Prime Minister Tony Blair, President George W Bush and all the G8 countries. However if 4 billion U.S. dollars is left in the hands of those politicians who do not have value for 60 U.S dollars,Ghanaians will wake up from their sleep to read or listen to the news head line that , ? THE BRIEF CONTAINING THE DOCUMENTS ON THE 4BILLION U.S. DOLLARS GOT MISSING IN TRANSIT FROM J.F.K. TO THE KOTOKA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

I don?t blame the honorable Majority leader for having no value for 60 U.S. dollars hotel bill because, the political arena of Ghana has gradually been turned into a gold mine for politicians. There are various institutions of power ie.Executive, parliament, Judiciary and Council of state. All these state bodies have different functions by the constitution. However all of them serve the overall interest and well-being of Ghana as a country and Ghanaians as a people. The irony is that, no single person within these state institutions of power has ever spoken to criticize and condemn the wastes that goes on in our political system. Why because they all enjoy the bogus system which doesn?t serve the interest of the disadvantaged suffering people of our country. Some of these top men in government are aspiring to replace president J.A. Kufuor three years from now. The same old band of politicians, who only believe in the politics of the 1950?s. Countrymen let us wake up to these economic hijackers of our country else,Posterity will never forgive anyone of us. Their interest is not to develop Ghana but to fill their pockets.

THE BUCK STOPS WITH THE PRESIDENT

Article 71 of the constitution dictates that the president of Ghana decides the ex-gratia benefits of MPs and others, in consultation with the council of state. The question is, why is the president not acting by the constitution and pay the old MPs and get them vacate the bungalows? If the problem has been funds, then Government should have borrowed to pay them out, instead of wasting billions of cedis accommodating the new MPs so far. That money could have gone to reduce the money borrowed to service the ex-gratia benefits of the old MPs. How long this hotel accommodation saga is going to drag on, is anybody's guess. Common sense management; knowing the financial constraints of the country, why did the government create the 30 additional constituencies to compound, overheat and overstretch the economy which is already in turmoil?

Fellow Ghanaians a lot many questions have been asked whether the 20,000 U.S. dollars car loans granted MPs 4 years ago, have been paid and the answers from parliamentary leadership has been that, final payments were made out of the ex-gratia benefits of those MPs. The public now have two conflicting statements to grapple with and that leaves us with three fundamentals questions to look for answers.

1. Has the ex-gratia benefits of ex MPs been paid or not?

2. If they have been paid, then what is making it difficult to evict the old Mps from the bungalows they are illegally occupying?

3. If they have not been paid, then why have officials insisted that the final payment on their car loans were paid out of their ex-gratia benefits? We may never know the answers now, but EVERYDAY DEY FOR THIEF MAN ONE DAY DEY FOR THE OWNER.

Mr. President, the buck stops on you. the financial mismanagement is so prevalent in the company Ghana which you are the chief executive and your inaction will spell the doom and total collapse of the company Ghana Ltd. As a matter of urgency, I suggest you consult the constitution, the council of State,call your finance minister, pay those Ex MPs and get them out of the bungalows as soon as possible to avoid tax payers money being wasted on Hotel accomodations. WE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF INACTIONS.

GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND AND OUR PEOPLE

Ofori Ampofo{New Jersey}


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