Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, says the Defence Minister’s response to government’s decision to use a chartered flight for the President’s foreign travel is unsatisfactory.
The MP, also a Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament, is convinced that the answers provided to the House by the Minister further expose the misuse of public funds on what he calls luxurious trips.
Dominic Nitiwul, was in Parliament on Wednesday to respond to questions filed by Mr. Ablakwa on the airworthiness of Ghana’s Presidential jet. There, he admitted that although the Presidential Falcon was airworthy, it lacked space, capacity and the facilities needed for any reputable travel .
The Minister for Defence also stated that what was paramount in the government’s selection of a jet for the President was the safety of the President together with his entourage and never the cost involved.
However, Mr. Ablakwa believes these are flimsy excuses and, in fact, dissatisfying explanations.
“Honestly, I am not happy with the answers and many Ghanaians cannot be happy with these responses”, he said on Eyewitness News on Wednesday.
“First, it is important to emphasize that, what was confirmed in parliament was that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with our Presidential Falcon. As the Minister has confirmed, the Falcon is in great condition and could have been used by the President to France. This aircraft can fly for eight hours non-stop before it has to be refueled. Accra to France is about six and a half hours, so President Akufo-Addo could have used it. So all these excuses about refueling and COVID-19 don’t add up”.
Issue of cost and space
Commenting on the cost and space argument, the legislator rubbished Dominic Nitiwul’s explanation, saying “this issue is about financial prudence. It is about protecting the public purse, which the President himself pledged before the people of this nation that he will do.”
“Couldn’t we have saved money, especially when times are hard?”, Mr. Ablakwa asked.
The MP further explained that, government should have prioritized the number of persons who needed to part of the President’s delegation, considering the huge sum of money being spent amidst the lingering economic impact of the COVID-199 pandemic.
“Our Falcon has a 15 seater capacity with the crew. The President chartered the world’s most expensive private jet, which is a maximum of 19 seats. So it’s just a difference of four. If they had gone for say a 40 or 50-seater aircraft, which is far lower than £15,000 pounds……….there are other aircraft which are not this luxurious.”
“It has also emerged that, even after hiring this extravagant aircraft, there are other government officials who flew commercial to go and meet the President. So what did we actually achieve after abandoning the Falcon? Is this how we protect the public purse because of the extra four seats? Is this value for money?”, he again quizzed.