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Not So Fast, Mr. President!

Mills 05.09

Thu, 30 Jul 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa


Not too long ago, Ghanaians woke up to what has become known variously as the ‘Muntaka saga’ or ‘Muntakagate’ The Atta Mills government took a rather unusual step of putting the BNI in charge of the investigations surrounding the numerous allegations against the then Minister for Sports, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak. Some people thought it was not a very good move but heck, let the BNI go ahead and give us their best shot. The President, meanwhile, had directed the Minister to present his defense to him in writing. We were fortunate to have access to the Minister’s defense. After reading that supposed defense, I came up with an article “Over To You, Mr. President!” I looked very closely at what the Minister himself had written and I concluded that it was more of an indictment of himself than a defense. My very last sentence in that article was “The ball is in the President’s court. His decision, on this case, would go a long way to set the tone for his presidency. So, over to you Prof. Let’s see what you have.” Well, the BNI has presented its report and the government has also made very clear where it stands on this. From where I sit typing this, I believe the Atta Mills government did a good job of ‘beating about the bush’ and sidestepping all the pertinent issues in the case-what lawyers refer to as ‘facts of issue’.

The BNI established that the Minister was indeed given GHC2,000 for the Ghana-Benin match but the President believes the Minister ‘had no knowledge of what his per diem for the travel was supposed to be’; and for that the Minister is absolved from any culpability. I have some issues with this conclusion by the President. The allowable per diem was GHC1, 200. Would the Minister’s reaction have been the same if the Chief Director had paid him, say, GHC100 instead of the GHC2, 000? Would he have just accepted that without a word because he did not know how much it was supposed to be? Look, the point is that the Minister was ok with that amount (GHC2, 000) and so he did not bother to question it. As a Minister, doesn’t he have any responsibilities to check and cross-check everything and be sure before proceeding with it? Apparently, the President does not think so!

Let me quote from the BNI findings: “Ms Edith Zinayela (Secretary to the Majority Leader in Parliament) was part of the Minister’s entourage to the finals of CHAN tournament in Abidjan at the expense of the Government. After the delegation returned from Abidjan, the Minister SOUGHT the advice of the Chief Director of the Ministry who instructed the Principal Accountant to purchase the ticket for Ms. Zinayela by raising a memo for the purpose” These guys at the BNI must be thinking that we are all ‘small boys’ eeh?? The Minister knew very well that his decision to take the lady along was wrong. He knew that and that was why he went to the Chief Director. We are told he went to see the Chief Director for ‘advice’. Advice for and on what? That meeting was not to seek advice; it was to find ways to ‘cover his (minister’s) behind’!! And that was exactly what happened. They managed to generate a memo to cover purchase of a ticket-after the fact!! Now can anybody tell me that the Minister was innocent in all of this and did not know what was going on? Here is another from the BNI report: “The Minster requested for he and his family to travel to Kumasi by air. The Chief Director endorsed the request by the Minister. The request was backed with a memo. The Chief Director did not advise the Minister that his family was not entitled to these tickets.” Nonsense!! Why should it be the responsibility of the Chief Director and not the Minister? Did the Minister bother to find out whether his family is entitled or not? Let’s get real here: how many Civil/Public servants out there can really stand up to their sector Ministers and say no to them?? I believe he is a Member of Parliament, right? Was the State paying for his family to travel with him as a Member of Parliament? But I guess being a Minister is different from an MP! When he took over as the sector Minister, was he given hand-over notes? Did he read his files, and if he did, did he read that he could take his family along on trips and make the taxpayer pay for them? This whole thing STINKS to highest heavens and the government knows that. Why the President took the decision he took beats me!

To the charge that he ‘appropriated’ a VW Passat and gave it to her wife to use, the BNI had this to say: “The Vehicle VW Passat No GT 1351 Z was formerly used by Dr. Emmanuel Owusu Ansah, Director of Sports Development at the Ministry. The decision of the Minister to take that car did not go down well with Dr. Owusu Ansah to the extent that he decided to retire before his retirement date. This source of conflict between Dr. Owusu Ansah and the Minister apparently caused him to team up with others like the Principal Accountant Mr. Adim Odoom to create problems for the Minister.” Apparently, when it came to ‘grabbing’ cars, the Minister did not need any advice from anybody. He knew exactly what to do. Did he have the right to take that car away from Dr. Owusu Ansah? Did the Chief Director give him the ok before he ‘grabbed’ the car? After all, this Chief Director was supposedly ‘responsible’ for all the illegal actions of the Minister! Interestingly, there was no mention of the fact that the Minister gave the car to his wife to use.

According to the President, the conduct of two Officers, Mr. Odoom and Mr. Lomotey, was “unbecoming of the high positions that they hold in the Civil Service.” The two are charged with paying out monies “without any documentation and without any evidence whatsoever.” The President has therefore directed that appropriate sanctions be applied against them. That is all well and good but what is the President’s reaction when the Minister lies to the German Embassy in order to obtain a visa for Ms. Zinayela? Well, in this case, it is described as a “misdescription of her official position” and an “error of judgment on the part of the Minister from which it is hoped all other appointees will learn.” Does the President consider the acceptance of the Minister’s resignation as ‘appropriate sanction’? When it is all over, the ‘whistle-blowers’ are in trouble and the man in the ‘centre of the storm’ walks away quietly to take his seat in Parliament!! Ghana oo Ghana! “You can’t us” So the President has set the tone for his presidency. And we live to see!!

Written and submitted on July 28, 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw