General News Sat, 22 Mar 2008

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Prez Jet: How the Loan Was Debated

The debate began in Parliament with the Minority protesting that they had not been furnished with a copy of the 32 page Sales Agreement concerning the acquiisition of the six aircrafts.

They went further to lament that they had access to only excerpts of the agreement adding that a senior member of the House, Mr. J.H. Mensah, who belongs to the Majority did not even have a copy, quizzing about how to approve an agreement which they do not know the details.

The Minority leader, Hon Alban Bagbin argued that they should concentrate on priorities and that there were discrepancies in the figures regarding the cost of the six aircrafts in the committee's report, which was the motion and that of the Agreement

Mr. Kan-Dapaah challenged that if it was detected that prior payment has been made to the aircraft sellers then he should be sent to jail, specifically naming Nsawam Prison

"We are honourable men and we have not paid a penny, if we want to make such a payment you need a release from the Minister of Finance to the Accountant General, you need a bank transfer advise from the Controller to the Bank of Ghana, you need to complete an exchange control form from the Bank of Ghana, and if we have gone against the laws of Ghana the law should take it course," he challenged

Hon. Bagbin interfered and noted that their interest was to ensure that the right thing was done but not to wish that anyone was put behind bars.

Mr. Kan-Dapaah said the Gulf Stream was too old and that the financing arrangement was very complicated and could not be understood by even accountants and moreso was not recommended by the Ghana Armed Forces.

He cautioned that the arguments should not be based on emotions because that would cost the nation greatly, adding that it was embarrasing for the President to go to neighbouring countries to look for flights to travel.

Bagbin pleaded that the speaker should not end the debate because of lack of time since it was an important issue, as a result the Speaker allowed two statements each from both majority and minority sides.

Hon. Kumbuor was then offered the platform, he intimated that the issues should have revolved around adopting a committee's report, inquesting the constitutional and legal basis for the approval of $62million from the Ghana government to acquire the aircrafts.

"I understood the committee's report to be limited to the credit we are going to get from the lenders, then finally you have a motion which is telling you to approve $62million that is going to be the contribution of the Ghana government, try and justify to the people of this country why the $62million from the Government of Ghana has to be part of this motion," he argued.

Mr. Kumbuor continued that in the committee's report, the House was asked to adopt a resolution in relation to Corporate Jet 319, but they were in a fix as to where that facility for the jet was coming from since they do not know exactly the contract price.

He further said that, in the Agreement $37million was quoted as the firm's fixed price but the committte's report iintimated that he prices of the aircrafts in addition to the Falcon 900 were going to escalate till the month of delivery.

The rate at which it would be escalating we do not, whatever negotiations would be factored into the negotiation we don't know, that is why I am not sure whether we are approving the firm's fix price or an escalating price," he fumed.

He said those who were selling the aircrafts were with opened eyes as such those who were in the committee were expected to make the recommendations with genuine intentions and the parliamentarians must delibrate on the issue taking into consideration 'value for money.'

Touching on the Falcon 900, he said it could be used to evacuate patients, and that it could not carry a football team, and that the government should not misinform the public that it was for the military, when it was rather for the President.

He said the excuse the government was putting up casts a slur on the professionalism of the Armed Forces, because it creates the impression that they do not know their work, hence contributing to such an unprofessional recommendations when the Armed Forces were full of inteligent preople.

Hon Hammond, the Adenta MP jumped in and said that Mr. Kumbuor was misleading the House, bringing his personal travel experience with the President to bear on the debate, he recounted how heartbreaking it was to him seeing the President rushing to make it to international meetings as a result of delay of time by commercial flights.

Hon. Kumbuor's defense was that he was not interested in the MP's personal fortunes but the scientific analysis by the Armed Forces. Minister Boniface Sadique Abubakar, who created some sense of humour was cut by the minority on the grounds that the issue before the House was not a joking matter.

The Speaker at this juncture read to the House that the President has appointed the former NPP presidential aspirant, Felix Owusu-Adjepong as the Minister for Energy.

Mr. Akoto Osei mentioned about the terms of agreement and argued that the period for the deal was vey convenient since it had a five-year span indicating that the NDC had done a bogus deal previously with down payments being made without the approval of parliament.

Adjaho maintained that when the NPP came to power, they instituted a committee to go into the deal but up till now, they had not brought the report though they had been forced to producce it. Mr. Akoto-Osei came back to say that what he was saying was to bring out the fact that they should learn from their mistakes.

Hon Bagbin, who urged the house to wholeheartedly reject the proposal said Hon.Kumbuor had put up a very coherent argument and that they do not have to approve the 62million from the consolidated funds.

Mr. Adjaho indicated that the house was not in dispute about the fact that the Armed Forces were being supplied with facilities, adding that they would agreed to the four aircrafts which were more important for their work but not the two.

Mr. Bagbin challenged that the Majority, which was in a position to give the house accurate information about the deal were rather giving out conflicting information advising that it was important to be certain on dates and figures before they commit ed their approval.

He continued that the interest of 6% on the terms of payment was on a high side for a new government to be able to pay within only five years.

The Finance Minister warned that although this year is a pollitical year the members should argue by removing political emotions.

Occasionally the sittings were deferred because of the discrepancies in the figures for reconciliation to be done at the committee level.

A last munite attempt by the minority leader, Alban Bagbin to amend the motion after several deferments, was rejected by the speaker who called for a head count after the voice count proved a deadlock. The majority won the motion with 118 votes as against 63 by the minority.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle

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