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It has been more than twenty four hours since I put out an open letter on behalf of the Minority for the primary attention of the Honourable Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare seeking an update on her June 21st, 2018 letter conveying a Presidential directive banning all travels by Ministers, MMDCEs and Heads of Agencies.
Rather surprisingly, my open letter is yet to elicit any response from the Chief of Staff or any official of the Akufo-Addo led Government.
According to my media sources, all efforts to get the Government to speak to the open letter has so far met the kind of resistance akin to attempting to penetrate the Great Wall of China.
It is curious to note the stony silence and desperate efforts to prevent a discussion on the contents of the open letter which is a far cry from the well coordinated and syndicated publication of the 21st June 2018 directive. Also, the frenzy with which Government officials right from the Information Minister, a Deputy Chief of Staff and a host of Government Spokespersons went on a media offensive confirming the Presidential ban and highlighting what was claimed to be benefits to the State which they intimated Ghanaians must be thankful to President Akufo-Addo for.
Four months thereafter, the inability of Government to provide an update on the status of the ban and information on the promised new travel guidelines on Government travels portrays a Government which is still very high on propaganda and very low on actual delivery.
Hours after my open letter was published, Ghanaians have been outraged, and justifiably so by an embarrassing 21 member Ghana delegation led by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia to the 64th Ordinary Session of the 2017 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The document in issue which contains a list of participants has left Ghana terribly embarrassed in the comity of nations. It has undoubtedly dealt a mortal wound to our image especially under a President who pledged before the world at his inauguration to protect the public purse.
I have noted a half-hearted attempt to defend the indefensible by a statement being circulated by some in the thousand-man army of Presidential Staffers. I presume even Government is so embarrassed they could not find anyone to sign and put his/her name to that lame defence of a statement.
Whereas it is obvious that all other countries conscious of the need to be prudent with taxpayer’s money decided to make good use of their Mission staff in Geneva who are often better versed in the matters to be discussed anyway, Ghana’s Vice President on the contrary decided to virtually relocate his office from the Flagstaff House to Geneva.
The Vice President saw nothing wrong commandeering a delegation that huge which included a Secretary, Valet, Aide-de-Camp, Executive Assistant, Four Economic Advisors and a battalion of others to a destination where Ghana maintains a permanent mission manned by some of our finest Foreign Service Staff.
One wonders how the Vice President who touts himself as omniscient and probably the most prudent Economist the world has ever known will see the need to travel under such a thick cloud of duplications and nebulous functionalities. Did all his Economic Advisors have to follow him to Geneva with their advice? Does he need his Director for Foreign Affairs and a Protocol Director to accompany him when he is already travelling with a Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs? Does he have to jet off with the Head of Investment and Business Development in his office when he has a Deputy Minister for Trade on the same delegation? Then there is the Director of Communications, Official Photographer and an Official Cameraman who complete the now infamous list.
Meanwhile, at the meeting was Canada which is generously financing our Planting for Food and Jobs Programme attending with ONE delegate.
China, the world’s largest merchandise trader and whom we are pleading with to express interest in our bauxite for $2billion arrived with only a FIVE-member delegation.
The United States and Germany who follow China in that order as the World’s largest merchandise traders were both represented at the same session by ONE delegate each. Our big brothers Nigeria also kept to the lean and respectable delegation of ONE.
Ghanaians will be more angry when they find out that Ghana’s delegation opted to live at costly taxpayer’s expense in the palatial President Wilson Hotel – Europe’s most expensive hotel.
The President Wilson Hotel apart from its reputation of having the most expensive hotel room rates in Europe is famous for having the world’s most expensive hotel suite – the Royal Penthouse Suite which cost a staggering US$80,000 a night.
Even more worrying is the fact that the Vice President was needed for just two hours at the entire session. In all he spent approximately 8 hours in Geneva and yet his large sized delegation some of whom arrived before him stayed on many days after the Vice had left enjoying the royalty and luxury that only the President Wilson Hotel can offer.
It ought to be noted, very troubling though, that this does not appear to be an isolated incident under a President globally acknowledged for having one of the largest Governments in the world. Last year, the unprecedented size of President Akufo-Addo’s United Nations General Assembly delegation was the subject of much controversy.
Even before we see the dying embers of Dr. Bawumia’s ignominious UNCTAD delegation, the Vice President’s wife Samira who refuses to be outdone by her husband is also making the headlines for composing a huge 20 member delegation to the First WHO Conference on Air Pollution and Health slated for 30th October to 1st November, 2018.
Despite Hajia Samira’s invitation to participate in just two programmes – a panel debate on Clean Household Energy Access on 31st October at 11:30 to 13:00 and a Plenary Session on 1st November at 14:30 to 16:00, she appears like her husband to ensure that the Ghanaian taxpayer pays dearly even at a time their boss and our President has admitted that all is not well with the Ghanaian economy and that indeed times are hard.
This rape of scare national resources cannot be allowed to continue.
We will be relentless in mounting pressure on Government to provide us an update on it’s so-called travel ban now shrouded in mystery and we will be demanding the whereabouts of the promised travel guidelines.
We are serving notice that this is a matter we intend to raise seriously on the floor of Parliament when the House resumes later this month.
Finally, in the spirit of coming to equity with clean hands, I attach herewith, a copy of the President Mahama era Travel Guidelines which should dispel the claim by some elements in the NPP that the Presidency has had no travel guidelines since 1992 when President Rawlings was at the helm of affairs.
May God help us.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
MP, North Tongu
[Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament.]