Long after allegations by people like Dr. Tony Aidoo of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), that President Kufuor stole ¢1.5 billion of State funds to renovate his private house has been debunked and buried, there are fresh attempts at resurrecting this falsehood to give it a a new lease of life.
Readers will recollect that Mr. Alban Bagbin, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nadowli South and Minority Leader of Parliament, convinced that he had a case against the President on the issue, filed a petition to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), only to beat a retreat.
Again, readers will recall that in the wake of the false allegations against the President, concerning the renovation of his private residence, the Audit Service, as part of its obligation, intervened to conduct investigations and ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the claims.
According to the Auditor-General’s report of October 14, 2003 on the matter, investigations were conducted between 16 and 26 September, 2003 into the jobs undertaken by the Public Works Department (PWD) Prestige at the President’s residence between February and May 2001.
The report said the investigation took into consideration the type of works that were carried out at the President’s private residence, “the source of funding, the quantum of the amount and necessary payment document and the materials procured against those actually used”.
The report said the scope of the investigations included “a review of the request and estimates prepared for the jobs and the determination of materials issued from PWD Prestige stores to site”.
It said that materials that were issued on request were compared with those that were used on site “to determine the value of materials collected from PWD stores but not sent to site”.
According to the report, payment to PWD Prestige by Ministry of Works and Housing in respect of the jobs were examined.
The jobs actually undertaken at the President’s residence were: “clearing of the bushy area opposite the house and converting it into a car park; provision of barbed wire fence behind the house and construction of observation post at the area and provision of additional lights on the street in front of the residency and at the rear of the house”.
According to the report, PWD Prestige presented an estimate of ¢41,147,979.00 for the job on January 26, 2001.
A breakdown of this estimate is as follows: “Provision of security light being ¢23,723,438.00; construction of chain link fencing being ¢5,081,560.00 and construction of an observation post costing ¢12,342,920.00”.
The report said it was observed that “building materials worth ¢50,952,000 were issued from PWD Prestige routine maintenance store for the job”.
These included: electricals valued at ¢27,509,850; carpentry valued at ¢6,893,650; masonry, ¢16,998,500 and painting put at ¢350,000.00.
According to the report, the jobs discharged by PWD Prestige were identified as follows: “installation of 10 discharge security lamps; fixing of 8 way and 4 way distribution boards and the execution of some minor electrical works; provision of fibre netting with designed batterns at the end sides and rear of the ground floor of the main building and part of the out-house; and construction of the foundation of the observation post and erection of concrete columns (pillars) of approximately 20-feet high with concrete floor slate at the middle level”.
The report said the metal stair case to the post was constructed by one Johndave Metal Works at the request of the PWD Prestige.
The amount paid for the work, however, could not be ascertained.
Materials used for the staircase, therefore, did not form part of the materials issued from the PWD stores for the project.
The report said “the observation post itself was not fully completed at the time of the inspection; no louver blades were fixed while painting was not completed”.
The report said the PWD Prestige engineer indicated in his certificate of completion that the “jobs were done with direct labour paid for on monthly basis from the Consolidated Fund”.
In addition, “there was no record of personnel who worked at the residence and the number of men hours worked”.
And hence, labour cost was not included in the valuation.
In conclusion, the report said “PWD Prestige did not complete the jobs satisfactorily in accordance with the works order”.
It said the “Prestige Engineer issued a false certification of completion. Materials worth ¢50.0 million, procured from the Consolidated Fund were collected from the PWD stores for the jobs, while only ¢24.5 million worth were used”, adding “materials worth ¢26,426,500 collected for the jobs did not get to site”.
Meanwhile, a Communication Consultant and a Member of the opposition NDC, Mr. Kobby Acheampong last Saturday on Joy FM’s current affairs programme “News File” read a purported document he claimed was obstained from the Architectural Engineering Service Consultants (AESC).
According to Mr. Acheampong, when President Kufuor was sworn into office in January 2001, he refused to use the Castle or Flagstaff house as his official residence, adding that the same Castle was used by ex-President Jerry Rawlings to host former US President, Bill Clinton and the Queen of England.
He the President’s refusal to stay at the Castle clearly showed that “he (President) had a long-term agenda that he was in for a real business”.
Mr. Acheampong alleged that an amount of $3,985,678.75 being State fund, had so far been spent since 2001 on the President’s private residence.
Although the Communication Consultant could not back his claims with authentic documents except his exclusive AESC document, he argued vehemently that the President’s house had been refurbished to the level of a semi-presidential palace.
“Works so far carried out include the replacement of fence wall, replacement of polished ply wood ceiling with P.O.P and ceiling and soundcheckers, replacement of existing NACO louver frames, blades, and all one-side Odum panel door with glazed Italian aluminum sliding door fitted with security gadgets to match”, he alleged.
Mr. Acheampong said all enamel washing basins (WC) and baths have been replaced with Jacuzzis imported from Italy.
He read from his AESC document that the President’s residence now had a complete four bedroom presidential recreation centre, with a basement fully refurbished with four Jacuzzi bath and all security gadgets befitting a presidential security standard.
The President’s house, he said, had a new swimming pool with tiles imported from Italy and Britain respectively; a new club house attached to the recreational centre with a gym, a bar, video room, separate tennis and snooker room all well-furnished and fitted with necessary presidential security gadgets to match”.
According to him, extensive work was done on the fence of the house which was fitted with high intensity lights at 2.5 metre intervals all round with 12 security tower lights.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Ms Oboshie Sai Cofie, yesterday led a section of the media to the President’s private residence to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of Kobby Acheampong’s allegation.
It turned out that the allegations were baseless, prompting the Minister to appeal to the Media Commission to call to order people with the penchant to use the airwaves to propagate falsehood.