General News of 2014-03-17

Mahama dumps 3 wise men

There are strong indications that President John Mahama has done away with three former ministers commonly referred to as the ‘three wise men’ appointed to oversee critical projects in the current administration.

Impeccable sources close to the seat of government, the Flagstaff House, told DAILY GUIDE that the three former ministers responsible for Government’s Priority Projects may have been subtly relieved of their duties as they have been sidelined in the planning of the projects which have now been taken over by sector ministers.

A source cited the recent groundbreaking for the construction of 50 community day senior high schools in the Eastern Region where an SMS text message inviting the ‘Wise men’ to the function was sent to them in the morning of the programme.

The appointment letters of the ‘three wise men’ consisting of Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, former Ministers of Health; Enoch Teye Mensah, former Minister of Employment and Social welfare and later Water Resources, Works and Housing as well as Cletus Avoka, former Interior Minister and later Majority Leader, have for several months now, been withdrawn by the Chief of Staff, Prosper Douglas Kweku Bani with an excuse that there were some errors in the letters that needed corrections.

Up till now, no replacement has been made for the withdrawn appointment letters which placed them in the category of Cabinet Ministers leaving the ‘three wise men’ and their two other co-optors, PV Obeng, Chairman of the National Development Planning Committee, and one Dr. Stephen Ayidiga, in abeyance.

The absence of the ‘three wise men’ was clearly evident at President Mahama’s March 3, 2013 sod-cutting ceremony of the first 50 in a series of 200 SHSs at Nyanoa in the Eastern Region, even though they were supposed to be spearheading such priority projects.

When contacted by DAILY GUIDE Sunday afternoon, E.T Mensah stated that at the time of the sod-cutting ceremony, he was out of town. “I wasn’t around; I wasn’t in town,” E.T Mensah told this paper.

When probed further, he said he needed to consult his colleagues on the issue before going public.

Mr. Bagbin was out of town at press time in far away France for parliamentary duties.

DAILY GUIDE also reliably gathered that Mr. Bagbin was chairing a women’s meeting in Accra on such a special day when the 200 schools project was unveiled.

The strange absence of the ‘three wise men’ and the events leading to the project has given rise to serious conclusions that the task force has been rendered redundant.

Apparently, the Minister of Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman and her deputies have fully taken charge of the schools project.

The Minister of Education is said to be personally seeking land for the construction from District Chief Executives (DCEs) while the ‘three wise men’ look on helplessly.

When contacted by DAILY GUIDE, Presidential Spokesperson Ben Dotsei Malor promised to give details of the status of the ‘three wise men.’ “Let me call you back, thank you,” he told this paper, but as at press time yesterday, he had not returned the call.

He wanted to volunteer information but after asking if he was being recorded, he said he would get back but never did.

Text Message

DAILY GUIDE gathered that the embattled ministers were issued with invitation to the event via text message by a Deputy Minister of Education on the day of the event.

It is strongly believed that the late invitation was one of the main reasons why the three former ministers of state were visibly absent at the widely publicized event showcasing the commencement of President Mahama’s priority project in education.

Critics have questioned why the ‘three wise men’ designated to coordinate and oversee these priority projects would choose to absent themselves from such an important event.

DAILY GUIDE gathered that the ‘three wise men’ did not feel they were part of the programme because their input and architectural designs for the 200 schools project had been brushed aside and their roles had been taken over by the sector minister.

Unpaid Staff

This paper gathered that prior to the withdrawal of the appointment letters of the ‘three wise men’, the staff at their secretariat in the Castle Osu, headed by a coordinator and some support staff, had not been paid for several months as part of the scheme to say ‘hey you are no longer needed’.

The Chief of Staff at the Office of the President is said to have ceased to cooperate with them and had refused to release funds for their smooth operation.

The ‘three wise men’s conditions of service as contained in the withdrawn appointment letters were pegged at the level of Cabinet Ministers with perks and allowances.

Cars were said to have been procured for them at the initial stage when they complained, with the office Secretariat set up for them at the former seat of government, Castle Osu.

Sources disclosed that the task force once wrote to the Chief of Staff to persuade him to authorize the fencing of the site of the planned international airport at Prampram in the Greater Accra Region, but he wrote back to say their request was not a priority.

Mr. Bani is also reported to have told the task force unequivocally that they had no mandate in undertaking some of these projects like construction of hospitals, air strips in regional capitals, airport and schools, among other projects.

For instance, the source told DAILY GUIDE that the ‘three wise men’ have been sidestepped by the Ministers of Education in the 50 senior high schools per year project, as the architectural designs they prepared had been shelved for some other designs.

Mr. Bagbin was recently compelled to go public with the frustrations that the ‘three wise men’ were facing.

According to Mr. Bagbin, the embattled Ministers had hardly been given the opportunity to meet with the President to discuss their modus operandi.

Alban Bagbin also hinted at the ‘wise men’ being starved of resources needed to do their work effectively.

Their predicament had given rise to speculations that the office was a mere ploy to subtly retire these men, hitherto very influential in the ruling party.

The task force is charged with superintending the construction of 200 senior high schools across the country, the putting up of 10 regional hospitals as well as the construction of a new international airport in Accra and a new university in the Eastern Region, yet some aggrieved members such as Alban Bagbin, have complained about total neglect of the office by the President.

During their appointment, President Mahama said the task of the three Ministers of State was to assist him to execute the projects which had been labelled a top priority of the Mahama administration.