You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2006 05 25Article 104855

General News of Thursday, 25 May 2006

Source: The Chronicle

Presidential Jet: Shady deal suspected

Latest developments over the handling of the Gulfstream G-III aircraft has rendered the executive jet an ?orphaned property? with no equal in the annals of the history of Ghana.

Both the purchase and sale had short-circuited Parliament, and for that matter the good people of this country. While the agreement for the purchase was signed on 22nd April 1999 and delivery made on 20th August of the same year, it was not until 5th November 1999 that the matter was first presented to Parliament.

And the same ?strategy? seems to be in play as the government of the day has entered into yet another agreement and released the jet to the buyers before assuring the nation that the details of the deal would be presented to the legislative assembly soon.
But if the purchase of the Gulf Stream G-III by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government in 1999 was described as controversial, then its re-sale to the China National Aeronautical Corporation by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government some seven years down the line was insulting and a total rip-off.
This is because deep-throat, independent investigations and checks by The Chronicle on giant aircraft manufacturers worldwide such as Boeing, Airbus, Sirkosky and Gulfstream indicate that in spite of September 11, 2001, the prices of airplanes had not seen the kind of nosedive that would warrant the virtual ?give away? arrangement hurriedly entered into to dispose of the jet.
The paper?s ?discovery? has disproved the claim by the Minister for Information and National Orientation, Hon. Kwamena Bartels, that selling the jet for $5million was the best offer one could get anywhere.
In fact, that price seems to be way below the going prices anywhere and has posed a lot of questions to not only the information minister, but also the Defence Minister, Hon. Dr. Addo Kufuor, who is glaringly in the heart of the deal. For instance, checking on the inventory and sale of the manufacturer, it came out that a 1982 Gulfstream G-III, which is very similar to what we just battered away but four years older than Ghana's 1986 model, recently sold for USD 9,495,000.
The aircraft, with registration number N463 LM and serial number 0370, made total takeoffs up to 7,134 times. In fact, a modified 1982 model of the same type with registration number N960DC and serial number 378 that made 9,055 flights and landings was also sold at USD 9,699,000.
What may even sound pitiable to readers is that a type-2B, manufactured in 1974 (32 years ago), with registration number N110GD, and serial number 154, attracted a handsome price of USD 6,450,000 not too long ago.
The lowest sale made, according to The Chronicle?s findings, was USD 3,495,000 for a 38-year old (1968) make, which had flown and landed 10,296 times.
It is not yet clear why Ghana?s 1986 model, which was said to be relatively brand new (though fairly used) when purchased seven years ago, should go for a paltry $5m. Observers think the sellers, government, could have put on a competitive bid or at least advertised its intention to sell it on the manufacturer?s website.
When contacted for explanation, the Information and National Orientation Minister said he believed the $5m selling price was good because the valuation was done by what he called ?an internationally acclaimed Aviation Evaluation Company?.
Asked why there was no competitive bidding for the jet, nor was the sale intention made known through advertising on the manufacture?s website, the minister said nobody had shown interest in the jet. ?My dear gentleman, please, this thing had been in the open for so long. Everybody in the whole wide world knows about the jet; nobody was interested in it,? he concluded, adding that he was at a conference and could not talk any longer.
Since Bartels? explanation on radio on Monday, many people had been thinking aloud as to why only one evaluator was brought in to value the jet. Others also contended that the best evaluators for any equipment should have been the original manufacturers.
In any case, political observers, many of them in the NPP, think the absence of any transparent arm-length transaction with the Chinese would go a long way to compound the suspected illegality surrounding an earlier one done by its predecessors.