Monday, May 16, 2005 (Chronicle) -- Dr. Tony Aidoo, the former Deputy Minister of Defence and a vocal member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), last Saturday touched on the raw nerves of Mr. Kwabena Agyepong, the Press Secretary to President John Agyekum Kufuor, when he lashed at the government for woefully doing little to avert corruption in the NPP government.
According to him, the government, though professing to be committed to ?Zero Tolerance for Corruption,? after accusing the previous administration of being corrupt, is now reeling under pressure to institute an investigation into over 325 newspaper allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds by government officials, including the case of the son of the President, John Kufuor, a.k.a Chief Kufuor.
The NDC?s debate guru?s assertion sparked off heated argument between him and Mr. Agyepong, who interjected the submission swiftly, expressing disgust and noting that the NDC was waging allegations aimed at doing a collateral damage to the government, which he said, was reprehensible.
The verbal brawl between the two on last Saturday?s edition of Alhaji and Alhaji, a news review programme on Radio Gold, nearly marred the programme as they were on each other?s throat, throwing allegations and counter allegations of corruption.
The Press Secretary, who averred that the NDC and its officials have resorted to throwing mud at the NPP to perpetuate the perception that the party?s officials are corrupt, stated that the ministers were not corrupt.
?It was unfortunate that the NDC makes unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and they deliberately and continuously cast it in the minds of the people to the extent that the government and its functionaries are corrupt. For Christ sake! This collateral damage that they seek to do is reprehensible and cannot continue like that.?
According to Mr. Agyepong, who said he was at pains going to the past, ?The way the NDC talked about corruption, I thought that they would use the vetting process to expose the majority of the ministers who are corrupt. These, they were not able to do because the ministers were not corrupt. I want to tell you that the majority of our government officials are very decent people-oriented ministers who are serving the nation. If there are a few bad nuts, let us expose them. We don?t want to cover up anybody.?
In sharp contrast, he said, ?There may be a few, but they are all part of human endeavor. The nation cannot be destroyed on the basis of mere allegations of corruption and also to create the impression in the minds of the people that those who run government are corrupt.?
Comparing the allegations of corruption against the NPP, the press secretary stated that, ?The magnitude of corruption that we saw under the NDC, if compared to the unduly unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in the NPP, pale into insignificance.?
He continued, ?Any decent-minded and objective person would know that the president is not condoning corruption. He has been frank to tell us that our forebears bequeath to us a government of men who are not angels or people who would not make mistakes. It is the duty of the government to ensure that those mistakes do not make our people suffer.?
According him, though the assertions of the NDC are reprehensible, ministers and party officials have names and stated that there is the need to expose any of them if they are found to be corrupt.
Prior to his rebuttal and defence, Dr. Aidoo claimed that over 325 newspaper allegations had been made against the government officials and that none of such allegations were investigated to prove that the government is committed to its slogan of ?zero-tolerance for corruption? as the NDC did by investigating at least 37 cases of corruption and misappropriation of funds.
?Let the NPP tell us one single case of investigation of alleged corruption or embezzlement of funds that has been investigated. Suddenly, Mr. Kufuor feels the pressure and makes about-turn about corruption. Last year, when the heat was on the NPP government, they came out to say that they were fighting corruption and provided various bills or acts to prove that they were about to avert it but to no avail.?
Dr. Aidoo pointed out that some NPP officials sold their houses or properties to support the party in previous elections, and stated that the NPP was built upon corruption, because such properties did not come back, but, ?If today, the assets of those individuals who sold their houses to support the NPP are examined, we would find out that, they have not only recovered their houses but have doubled them as well.
This is evidence of corruption. The deception of the NPP is sometimes amazing,? he said.
The former deputy defence minister, in clarifying a statement he had made, accusing the president of stealing ?1.6 billion, said: ?I have said that his house was renovated at the cost of ?1.6 billion. If the Vice President can have his bungalow renovated at the cost of ?900 million, then for the president to renovate his private house at ?1.6 billion, it was not far fetched,? he claimed.
The NDC firebrand, condemned the policies of the NPP and described it as ?fairy tales.? He revealed that the NDC investigated a number of cases and was able to retrieve some substantial amounts into public chest.
Tony Aidoo submitted that it was amazing today that President Kufuor and his family who were rescued by a ?poor farmer? with ?41million to renovate his house, could boast of their expenditure, to the extent that his son could be able to purchase a hotel valued at $3 million within four years of governance.
?This is outrageous. You are only conjecturing. It is not true that the president spent ?1.6 billion to renovate his house. You did not have the facts. Let us speak with the facts,? he told Tony Aidoo.
Mr. Agyepong hit back, pointing out that the NPP had also retrieved monies paid out by the NDC to contractors for no work done.
He rubbished speculations that the NPP is reeling under pressure: ?We are not reeling under any pressure.
We take cognizance of the concerns that people are raising. Governments are put in place to solve problems.
We are doing our very best to solve the problems. I think that on the basis of what we would be able to achieve, the NPP will be retained in power in 2008.?
According to him, those who thought that the country is on the brink of collapse are being misled, stressing that, ? Ghana is a beacon of hope and there is hope ahead.?