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$17m Jet Garage Stinks - $1m For Movies   
 
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25-Jul-2011  
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CONTROVERSY CONTINUES to greet the purchase of the five new ‘huhudious’ presidential jets as the Minority in Parliament are calling for a probe into the whole transaction.

The Mills-Mahama administration has secured over $250million in loans to purchase five aircraft for the presidency and the military at the expense of the tax-payer, especially at a time the nation’s poor infrastructure is seriously crying for attention.

Government is also using $17million to build a hangar to house two planes, and nearly $1 million for in-flight entertainment, an amount Ghanaians and some NDC members have described as highly inflated.

“The whole transaction is ‘huhudiuos’ and we as a Minority are asking for a probe into the transaction since the whole deal is fishy,” Isaac Asiamah, Member of Parliament for Atwima Mponua, disclosed on Joy FM’s Newsfile on Saturday.

The fleet included the Embraer E 190 jet with a hangar to be purchased with a loan of $105,370,177.09 from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES); two DA42 MPP Guardian Surveillance aircraft with a loan of €11.75 million from the Fidelity Bank Ghana Limited and another two CASA 295 Military transport aircraft with a credit facility of €60,034,636 from the Deutsche Bank SAE of Spain.

The MP assured Ghanaians that he would personally raise the matter on the Floor of Parliament for the House to further probe the transaction in its entirety since it was not in the best interest of the nation.

He argued that much as he was not against re-equipping the Ghana
Air Force, the cost of the aircraft was outrageously inflated to the detriment of the state.

According to him, the whole deal was shrouded in secrecy and full of contradictions as due diligence was not done to ensure that the nation was given value for money.

Asked which institution should carry out the probe, the MP suggested that the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) could kick-start the investigation.

Mr. Asiamah stated that the Minister of Defence, Lt. General J.H. Smith, for instance, could not provide the House the breakdown of the cost elements of the five presidential jets, a development which made some of them believe that there was something fishy in the deal.

He wondered how the aircraft hangar alone could cost the already hard-pressed Ghanaian taxpayer $17m.

Mr. Asiamah questioned the claim by the ruling NDC that it was a social democratic party, wondering why in the midst of limited healthcare and educational facilities among others, it would prioritise the purchase of an “entertainment” jet.

Also speaking on the same show, the Managing Editor of the Ghanaian Observer newspaper, Egbert Faible Jnr, criticised the Mills-Mahama NDC government for going contrary to their austerity measures to buy the five luxurious planes.

According to him, Ghana did not need five aircraft in this period of economic hardships where the ordinary Ghanaian was not able to afford three-square meals a day.

Mr. Faible further observed that the whole deal raises serious questions.

He said the NDC government failed to do any comparative pricing from other aircraft manufacturing companies to get the best price as far as the transaction was concerned.

The NDC government has come under incessant attacks including people from the ruling party for going ahead to buy the five aircraft in the name of equipping the armed forces, despite calls to abandon the move since the huge amount could be used to provide several educational, road and health infrastructure for the general benefit of the people.

A Deputy General Secretary of NDC, Kofi Adams, has hit out at the government and called on the Mills administration to properly explain its intention to purchase five new aircraft.

According to Mr. Adams, who is also the spokesperson of ex-President Jerry Rawlings, the questions being raised by the minority needed to be answered properly for the good of the NDC in the eyes of the electorate.

Mr. Adams’s comments followed Parliament’s approval of the decision by government to purchase the new aircraft.

Speaking on Citi FM’s Saturday Political Talk Show, ‘The Big Issue,’ Mr. Adams stated that although it was a good decision for the nation’s military to be well equipped, the lingering questions must be answered first.

“It is unfortunate that it has come this far, but once it has come out, we must not be foolhardy and bury our heads in the sand and think that it does not matter. We should be able to explain in details why the hangar is going for $17million as against the figures that others are quoting.

“What I have heard is that the hangar is a garage being sold for $17million and it is doing a lot of damage to us as a political party so I expect the executive to come out strongly and explain the difference between what the minority is quoting and what the government is saying”.

Meanwhile, a Deputy Minister of Information, Baba Jamal, has sought to clarify the hullabaloo surrounding the decision by the Mills-Mahama administration to purchase the jets at a cost of Euro 71 million and $105,370, 177.09

According to him, apart from the military using the aircraft for training, it would aid in effecting the arrest of armed robbers.

The deputy Minister expounded that out of the five planes, there was only one commercial flight which the Military had requested specifically to be loaned to the United Nations for peacekeeping operations. “That aircraft,” he said, “is a 100-seater flight”.

“The Casa 295 will be used to train military personnel and for countrywide surveillance, especially in areas where it is difficult to access during disasters and accidents since those planes could be deployed almost everywhere…Two other planes will also be used to patrol the seas to protect the country’s oil from the activities of pirates,” he explained.

He argued that just as the government was trying to equip public institutions like the Fire Service with fire tenders and the Police Service with patrol vehicles, the government was also trying to equip the Military with the needed logistics to facilitate their work, adding that the aircraft could drop off soldiers via parachute at vantage points in the event of a life-threatening situation.

Felix Twumasi Appiah, MP for Sene, said it was important the nation equipped the armed forces, noting that “technically”, Ghana did not have armed forces because the country’s military equipment was not up to the standard to be called armed forces.

He said Ghana needed three brigades, as it currently had only two- one each in Teshie and Kumasi, explaining that it was because the military did not have enough personnel.

“When they came to Parliament this year, they said (military) strength is 78 percent of the required strength,” he said, adding that the five jets were not sufficient. “If you think security is expensive, try insecurity for once.”

He said out of the four K8 helicopters bought by the Kufuor government, only one is in good state and functional- one got burnt in Cote d’Ivoire during a peacekeeping operation, with the other burning at Atiwa in the Eastern Region.
 
 
Source: Daily Guide
 
 

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