Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta on Wednesday July 21, 2021 claimed that the Minister for National Security is best placed to provide Parliament with details of the cost of President Akufo-Addo’s foreign trips in May this year.
He insisted President Akufo-Addo’s domestic and international travels are issues of National Security Ministry and not the Finance Ministry and maintained that he did not make any specific releases to the Chief of Staff for the President’s trips to France, Belgium and South Africa.
He stressed the President’s domestic and international travels are matters of National Security stressing that National Security Minister is best placed to furnish the august House with the details needed.
The Finance Minister was answering questions on the floor of Parliament from North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa who asked the Minister how much the President’s recent official travel to France, Belgium and South Africa in May this year cost the Ghanaian taxpayer.
According to Ken Ofori Atta, the Ministry of Finance did not release any funds to the Chief of Staff, especially for the President’s trip to France, Belgium, and South Africa in line with the 2021 judgment implementation instructions because the President’s travels fall within the remit of National Security.
He said the Office of Government Machinery and the National Security Secretariat work together to achieve to facilitate the safe co-ordination of the President’s travels, both domestic and foreign.
The Finance Minister on June 7, failed to honour Parliament’s summon to provide clarity on the matter, after North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, alleged that the President’s trip on the G-Kelt aircraft, instead of the Presidential jet, cost £15,000 per hour.
Hon. Ablakwa, who doubles as the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, accused the President of ostentatious spending even as the country goes through economic hardships.
Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul who had earlier responded to an earlier urgent question by the North Tongu legislator on why the President had to charter a private jet for the trips told Parliament that the Falcon was not conducive and presented many challenges when the President was embarking on his 10-day foreign travel.
Hon Nitiwul explained that, to ensure the safety of the President and his crew, the G-Kelt aircraft was hired and defended the decision to charter the private jet for 15,000 pounds an hour explaining the Presidential jet is handicapped in handling long-distance travels which will require refueling.
He told the House the first thing they look out for before other factors was the safety of the passengers and the crew, not the amount involved.
After his response, the Finance Minister was again summoned to appear in the House Thursday, 16th June 2021 to respond to questions on the cost of the trip but he communicated to the House that he needed more time to put the details together.
The Minority in Parliament then said Ken Ofori-Atta was deliberately buying time to appear in Parliament to answer the cost of the President’s recent trip on the private jet to the three nations.
They said the question, an urgent one, filed by Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, was advertised on the Provisional Order Paper for Wednesday, 16th June 2021, to be asked the next day, but it was however not featured on the Order Paper of 17th June 2021.
According to the Minority Side , their enquiries on why the Minister would not respond to the cost of the travel was responded to by Leadership from the Majority Side that the answers were not ready, and the Minister had requested from the Business Committee for more time to provide the House with the answers.
Moments after the announcement on why the Finance Minister could not provide the response, Hon. Ablakwa at a presser at the Parliament House said the Minister was buying time because there appeared attempts to hide the truth and described the President’s trip as pinnacle of luxury, and Penthouse in the Skies
But Appearing before Parliament today, Wednesday, the Finance Minister stated that the Ministry of Finance did not release any funds to the Chief of Staff, specifically, for this trip.
He said the current practice is that the Ministry of Finance releases quarterly funds to the Heads of Department, in this case, Office of Government Machinery, Chief of Staff for all the operational activities of the Office.
The Ranking Member noted that the entities with which businesses were conducted are around and wondered what it would take to get the needed documentation and reiterating the Minority’s resolve to continue to pursue accountability even though that may take time and patience.