General News of Wed, 11 Feb 20049

Bagbin admits using GPHA vehicles, but....

Accra, Feb. 11, GNA - Mr Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader, on Wednesday admitted that between 1995 and April 2001, when he was a Board Member of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), he used the Authority's vehicles during official visits to his constituency, Nadowli in the Upper West Region.

He, however, told the Parliamentary Press Corps: "I find rather surprising the view of the Auditor - General that my use of the GPHA vehicle to my constituency was for my personal enjoyment and for campaign."

The Minority Leader was speaking at a press conference he organized to respond to allegations of wrongdoing made against him in an official report of "Special Investigation Into Unauthorised Expenditure Made By The Ghana Ports And Harbours Authority (GPHA) On Hon. Alban S.K. Bagbin (MP)" by the Auditor-General's Department.

Mr Bagbin said during the period that he served GPHA the use of its official vehicles was a normal facility available for Board Members. He said members of the Board utilized the facility especially when they had to travel for pressing social obligations.

"In my particular case because I was a Member of Parliament and had to frequently attend Board meetings and meetings of Sub Committee, of which I was Chairman, the Authority periodically assisted me with a vehicle during my official visit to my constituency," he said.

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Mr Bagbin provided a memo dated August 7, 2002, which stated among other things that, his use of GPHA vehicles "to travel to his hometown/constituency" during his days on the GPHA Board, was officially approved by the Management of the GPHA.

The memo said: "Fuel for the vehicles during such trips and per diem for the drivers were borne by GPHA."

It, however, stated that, "there are no records to establish that GPHA programmes directly related to such trips, but could be seen purely as a privilege granted him in his capacity as a Board Member."

Mr Bagbin said: "The decision of the Auditor - General to surcharge me for the cost of the use of the vehicles and night allowances payable to the driver is arbitrary and without basis."

He said he also found it disingenuous for the Auditor - General to isolate his use of the vehicles in 1996 and 2000, even though he made use of GPHA vehicles for the whole period he was a Board Member.

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He argued that the Auditor - General's conclusion that a visit to one's constituency was necessarily to campaign and for personal enjoyment, was an affront to the dignity of Members of Parliament.

Mr Bagbin said he found it dubious on the part of the Auditor - General to have surcharged him with the cost of a vehicle which got involved in an accident while he was using it, adding that the calculation of the amount he was asked to pay in itself constituted "strange accounting". He said GPHA made available 18,571, 300 cedis to Sombo Women Group to procure a shea-butter processing plant, adding: "The amount was not paid even through me - it was paid directly to the ITTU."

He said it was clear that the entire Special Audit Report was a calculated attempt to cast aspersion on his reputation, adding that it all commenced in 2002 when he exposed malfeasance that had occurred in respect of the Castle and Ministerial bungalow renovation.

He said his problem was compounded when he challenged the appointment of Mr Edward Duah-Agyeman as Auditor-General.

Mr Bagbin said he suspected that there was an official conspiracy to deter him from waging a war to ensure good governance and accountability of government and government officials to the people of Ghana. The Auditor-General had asked Mr Bagbin to refund 66,860,237 cedis being unauthorised expenditure GPHA made on his 1996 and 2000 electioneering campaigns.

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The Report said in all the cases that the vehicles were released to Mr Bagbin, he did not make any proper application and there was no approval from the Management of GPHA for the use of the official vehicles for electioneering campaigns in the North, adding: "Not a single piece of evidence was produced for my inspection to indicate that the Management of the GPHA approved the use of the vehicles and all the expenditure incurred on the trips undertaken by Hon. Alban Bagbin."

The Report said: "It is worthy to note that the Board never met on any of the days the vehicles were released to Hon Alban Bagbin. Therefore, I found it very difficult to believe that the vehicles were released to him to attend Board meeting as alleged."

It stated: "Hon Member of Parliament's obligation to interact with his constituents and inspection of development projects is not the responsibility of GPHA."

The Report said any disbursement or expenditure incurred by a Board Member or staff of the Authority that is not beneficial to GPHA constituted misapplication or unauthorised disbursement.

It said: "Under Section 13 (c) of the Audit Service Act 2000 (Act 584), the Auditor-General shall examine in such manner as he thinks necessary and ascertain whether in his opinion, monies of any public corporation have been expended for the purpose for which they were appropriated and expenditures have been made as authorised.

"Monies spent by GPHA on Hon Alban Bagbin's trips to his constituency to continue his 'interaction with constituents and inspection of development project' were not expended for the purpose for which they were appropriated to GPHA and made as authorised," the Report said.

Mr Bagbin has within 60 days from the date of the issue of the Report to pay the amount and "this is without prejudice to any legal action that may be taken against Hon Alban Bagbin and any other person or persons for the misappropriation of public funds".

Source: GNA

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