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General News Tue, 30 Jun 2009

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Muntaka: Govt In Cover-Up ?

The government’s report into allegations against the former Minister of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed, appears to be a classic case of an attempt to massage the facts. Firstly, the inability or failure of the government to release the full report by National Security raises serious questions regarding what really came out during the investigations. This failure gives the government the opportunity to present Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed as some hapless victim of monsters within the Ministry of Youth and Sports who were hell-bent on destroying him.

On the allegation that Alhaji Muntaka collected a per diem allowance of GH¢2,000 for a Ghana-Benin match in Kumasi, the President states: "This amount was authorized by the Chief Director, Mr Ampong, but the Minister had no knowledge of what his per diem for the travel was supposed to be." Is it not an indictment on the government that its Ministers were not provided with documentation of what their working conditions are, including allowances to which they are entitled? Is it acceptable that allowances and entitlements for Ministers are left to the whims and discretions of individual civil servants rather than a properly structured document which should be handed to the Minister on his or her appointment? If we are to accept this, would the Minister have accepted if he had been given GH¢1 instead of the GH¢2,000? In the same vein, would he have accepted it if he had been offered GH¢2,000,000 with the excuse that he did not know? The Government should say such things to the marines, not the discerning public.

The report attempts to blame the Chief Director of the Ministry for the payment, at taxpayer’s expense, of air fares for the Minister and his family for a private trip to Kumasi. The President’s statement claims that although it was the Minister who initiated the request (with a memo), it was the fault of the Chief Director that “he did not advise the Minister that his family was not entitled to these tickets.” The question arising from this is, who is in charge at the Ministry, the Minister or the Chief Director? Why should the Chief Director be blamed for an action that has been initiated by his boss? What a cop-out!

There is also the case of the GH¢674.02 for supermarket bills which the Alhaji’s household presented for a refund. Here too, the Chief Director is blamed for not vetting the receipt. The real question that arises is why should the Minister have presented the receipt in the first place? There too, he did not know? If the Alhaji did not intend that the taxpayer should foot the bill for baby food for his child, why did he not take a separate receipt for his baby food at the shop? What made him think, in the first place, that the taxpayer should pay him his regular salary, other allowances, and on top of all that, pay for any household expenses as well?

Regarding the official trip to Germany where the Minister took his lady friend, Ms. Edith Zinevali as part of the official delegation, the President is only “dissatisfied” about the fact that her visa fee was paid for by Ministry. It is sad that our President appears little concerned that as a member of the 4-person delegation to Germany, Ms. Edith Zinevali was also paid the following:

Ghanaians would have liked to know the deadline when Alhaji Muntaka would return those monies to the state.

It is also remarkable that when it comes to the Minister’s conduct, the President is only “dissatisfied”, but when it comes to the conduct of the people who blew the whistle on the Minister, the President finds them “particularly outrageous”.

It is also insightful how the President should accept a statement that the investigators could “not establish that Alhaji Muntaka personally arranged for accommodation and feeding of the Black Star players in Kenya and Sudan, neither was he paid GH¢15,200 as refund for meat and food items”. If he did not do that, then who did it”. Were those arrangements made by someone else? Why is it that the investigation could not state who did it? Or is it that there was no such arrangement at all?

It was also interesting how the report could not establish “that the Minister's wife was allocated VW Passat Number GT 1351 Z”. What they did not say was where Alhaji Muntaka took that vehicle when he seized it from Dr Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, Director of Sports Development.

If President Mills continues to whitewash the misdeeds of his Ministers, he would lose any moral ground to prosecute any wrong-doers in the NPP government. If former NPP Ministers were also able to claim ignorance of processes during their time, what right would the government have to prosecute any of them?

Source: By Kweku Sefa Manu for The Insight

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