General News Wed, 28 Feb 2007

Confusion Over Ghana@50 Accounts

50 BMWs, 50 Benz, 50 Chryslers, 50 Peugeot, 30 Jaguars and 25 buses imported
Accra (Joy Online) -- Majority and Minority MPs on the Parliamentary Finance Committee were on Wednesday reported to disagree on explanations offered by the Chief of Staff over disbursements of funds allocated for the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

While the Minority side felt the explanations were not detailed and therefore not convincing enough, those from the Majority were quick to jump to the defence of the Chief of Staff, Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani.

Mr. Mpiani who is Chairman of the Ghana@50 Planning Committee appeared before the Finance Committee to explain how the $20 million approved for the independence anniversary celebrations was being disbursed.

Mr Mpiani who had insisted on coming before the Committee instead of the Chief Executive of the Ghana@50 Secretariat, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby, offered the breakdown of disbursements in the meeting that lasted one and a half hours.

Former Deputy Interior Minister Thomas Broni and Attorney General Joe Ghartey and several technical staff of the Ghana@50 Secretariat accompanied Mr Mpiani, who appeared very confident and jovial ahead of the meeting.

Dr. Wereko-Brobby was conspicuously absent even though Minority Leader Alban Bagbin had insisted he should put in an appearance.

There was a heavy security presence within and outside of the Speaker’s Conference Room venue of the meeting which was held behind closed doors.

Sources close to the Finance Committee however told Joy News that the Chief of Staff was allowed to first give a breakdown of the expenditure of the $20 million approved by Parliament for the independence celebrations before questions were asked.

Information gleaned indicated that $4.9 million was being used for the rehabilitation of the Independence Square and the Liberation Circle, otherwise known as the Ridge Roundabout.

$5.9 million was used to purchase vehicles for the anniversary celebrations, made up of 50 BMWs, 50 Benz, 50 Chryslers, 50 Peugeot saloon cars, 30 Jaguars and 25 buses.

The Chief of Staff told the Committee that $7.8 million was being spent on infrastructure rehabilitation but failed to give specifics on what structures were being renovated.

The final $1.4 million, Mr Mpiani said, was being spent on administration, publicity and other activities of the Ghana@50 Secretariat.

Joy News sources said the meeting was rowdy because the Chairman of the Committee, Nii Adu Mantey could not control most Majority MPs who jostled to defend the Chief of Staff’s explanations, and virtually prevented other members of the Committee from making their point.

Some members of the Committee told Joy News that they were compelled to leave the meeting because the attitude of some of the Committee members did not allow for orderly discussion on the matter.

In what they described as his usual brash manner, the sources said the Chief of Staff refused to explain in detail certain aspects of the expenditure as well as other significant issues they had wanted to raise, such as the sale of houses by government at La Wireless and donations by corporate bodies to the Secretariat.

For them, the meeting did not achieve its intended purpose as the Chief of Staff left the meeting with more questions than answers.

Minority Spokesman for Communication Haruna Iddrisu, who attended the meeting told Joy News Mr. Mpiani’s appearance was partly helpful in safeguarding the integrity and authority of Parliament as a body empowered with lawful summons for any citizen to offer explanations if need be.

However his appearance exposed the weakness of Parliament in its lack of thorough and careful scrutiny especially in asking for justification in approving budgets as big as for the Ghana@50 celebrations.

He said even if government had confirmation that 64 heads of government would be attending the celebrations, there was no justification for the fleet of vehicles they intend to spend the $5.9 on.

“If you come to investment, you are told that they invested $4.9 million in undertaking the renovation of the African Liberation Circle, the Independent Arch, and then the rehabilitation of the Independence Square and at the same time $7.8 million went into infrastructure and rehabilitation that for me raises an issue of lack of focus. Why would you separate the renovation of the African Liberation Circle, Independence Arch and Independence Square from your money spent on infrastructure and rehabilitation? So you have $7.8 million and the same thing being repeated by way of investment in $4.9 million.”
Haruna said the explanations rather confirm the minority’s earlier fears that much of the money would go into ostentatious spending or be put to waste.
“And then the most disappointing aspect was for him to tell us that only a hundred and fifty million cedis is going to each region and hundred million cedis to the districts for the purpose of the celebration. So it means that we are focussing the celebration just in Accra and at the Independence Square.”

Source: jfm
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