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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Columnist: Quaye, Rikard

Presidential Plane Still Stands idle

....SIX YEARS ON

News of the near-plane crash and the emergency landing in Tripoli, Libya, of President Kufuor?s delegation to the AU summit in Khartoum, Sudan, must be a matter of worry and concern to all true patriots and sons and daughters of Ghana.

We may have all our differences in the world with President Kufuor and his style of administration, ranging from the celebration of coups d?etat anniversaries in Togo whilst proscribing revolutionary anniversaries in his own Ghana, to his alleged bonking of a foreign lady, and the consequent delivery of a set of male twins responsibility for whom he has allegedly declined, but the last thing we wish for him is his death, and an untimely one at that. We thank the Good Lord that the President and his entourage escaped unhurt and unscathed.
But out of every misfortune, they say, is a blessing, and out of that Libyan misadventure, we wish to revisit the issue of the Presidential Jet, indeed of two Presidential Jets ? which are left idling on the tarmac of the Ghana Air Force Station, whilst the President incurs great financial cost and courts great personal risks flying commercial air flights, chartered aircrafts, and air lifts from sympathetic Heads of State. But first, the facts.
Ghana has two Presidential aircrafts ? an F28, admittedly old plane, purchased during the era of Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and there! fore at least 30 years old.
The other is a Gulfstream Jet, almost brand new, bought in the Rawlings era during the NDC administration, in 1999, and therefore about 10 years old. When President Kufuor assumed office, the plane had been in Ghana for less than a year, but had been used by then President Rawlings on quite a number of occasions. Even Hon. Yaw Barima, NPP MP for Koforidua, travelled with it alongside the then Speaker of Parliament, Justice D. F. Annan, to attend the burial of the Speaker of the Malawian Parliament when he died in very unfortunate circumstances in Ghana.
President Kufuor refused to use the plane. And he has since refused to use the plane. The following have been some of his reasons, as gleaned from the statements of his spokespersons:

  • The circumstances under which the plane was bought were not transparent.
  • The real owners of the plane are not known.
  • The plane is too expensive.
  • At the time the plane was bought, the economy was in bad shape and people were suffering.
  • The capacity of the plane is too small for a Presidential entourage. The answers to these queries are simplicity itself.
First, President Kufuor put together his ?three wisest men?, J.H. Mensah, Yaw Osafo-Maafo and Nana Akufo-Addo, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the plane. The ?three wisest men? have found that the circumstances under which the plane was bought were scrupulously transparent. But that finding is so embarrassing to the President and the NPP Government and so fundamentally undermines his reason for not using the plane that he has refused to make it public.
Second, the ?three wisest men? have found out that the plane was bought from Gallen Ltd, a single-purpose company created by the internationally renowned bank, HBSC, in a feat of financial engineering that would cause the great Bill Gates himself to marvel.
Third, the ?three wisest men? have also found out that the price for the plane was just right and that the payment arrangements were also appropriate and within the terms of the trade.
Fourth, the ! NPP Government is itself embarrassed for the making a case based on the economic conditions of the country at the time the plane was bought. Today, when Ghanaians are crying that they are facing the worst economic times ever, the NPP Government has gone and borrowed US$30 million to build a Presidential Palace for the comfort of the President.
Fifth, perhaps the only plausible argument that the NPP has used so far is that with a passenger capacity of only 14 people, the plane is too small for the size of President Kufuor?s delegations on his foreign trips. But therein lies the difference between former President Rawlings and current President Kufuor.
Former President Rawlings, despite what the NPP think of his so-called ?limited education?, was so confident of himself and co! uld so master his briefs that on his foreign travels, he could handle any dignitary he met and any subject that came up. He also craved very little publicity on his visits. He was therefore normally accompanied by a maximum of 3 Ministers, most often two Ministers, 3 media and 4 security personnel. His entourage rarely exceeded 12 and could easily fit into the 14-seater Gulfstream Jet.
President Kufuor, for whatever reason and despite his Oxford University degree in PPE (Politics Philosophy and Economics), and legal qualification, is so unsure of himself and lacks such confidence that he finds it very difficult to handle foreign dignitaries (his statement about Ghana?s per capita income being US$600 and about Ghana weaning itself off the IMF in the 2001 fiscal year) and finds it so difficult mastering his briefs and dealing with subjects that come up (his answer at his 2005 Press Conference on the Millennium Challenge Account when the question was on the Millennium Development Goals).
He also craves maximum publicity for his foreign visits. He is therefore accompanied on such visits by a minimum of 5 Ministers, 10 media personnel, 8 security men, countless Foreign Ministry officials, Party hangers-on, women praise-singers and others whose missions on the missions can often not be fathomed.
His entourage has never been less than 25, and during his last so-called investment promotion tour of the USA, was double that number, 50. So obviously President Kufuor would have no use for a 14-seater plane. If he had his way, a USA ?Air Force One? type Boeing plane would be what he would want. So the question is, why have they not sold the Presidential Gulfstream Jet? Once that question is asked,! the other questions logically follow: ? Is it true that the NPP Government has finished making the instalment payments on the plane by way of the UNIFIL account check-off system that the NDC Government had used to purchase the plane?
? Is it true that the NPP Government has exercised its option to purchase the plane and that the plane has now become the property of the Government of Ghana as opposed to the NDC time when it was merely leased to the Government of Ghana? ? How much has it cost for the plane to have been standing idle for the five years that President Kufuor has refused to use it?
? What was the cost in training Ghana Air Force pilots and crew to fly the plane and what has been the cost of main! taining the pilots and crew for doing nothing since President Kufuor HAS refused to fly the plane? ? What has been the cost to Ghana of the 124 foreign trips that President Kufuor has made without using the plane and on First Class Commercial Airlines? ? What has been the total cost to the Ghanaian taxpayer of the 124 foreign trips that President Kufuor has undertaken since becoming President? ? What will be the total cost of the 124 foreign trips of President Kufuor added to the total cost of maintaining the Presidential Jet without using it added to the total cost of maintaining the pilots and crew of the plane for five years without their flying the plane, that is, without working? ? Do we detect the element! of ?wilfully causing financial loss? somewhere in that calculation? Ibrahim Adam, Kwame Peprah and George Adja-Sipah Yankey went to prison for simply arranging a guarantee for an America citizen who had been granted a big loan by an American Bank to do a big rice project in Ghana.
Kufuor and his gang have directly, wilfully, willingly, gleefully and vengefully caused massive financial loss to the state by letting a Presidential plane sit on the tarmac whilst they go gallivanting round the world in First Class Commercial aircraft.
We are in the sixth year of the Kufuor Presidency? and the Presidential plane still stands idle. The Ghana Bar Association says nothing. The TUC says nothing. The churches say nothing. The chiefs say nothing. The media say nothing.
Can you imagine what these groups would have been saying by now if this had happened under the Rawlings Presidency?



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