Ablakwa details how Akufo-Addo’s trip swallowed GHC 2.8billion
President Akufo-Addo spent £345,000 or GHS2,828,432.80 on a luxurious private jet rental on his recent working visit to France and South Africa, MP for North Tongu Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa claims.
Mr Ablakwa was concerned that the huge amount of taxpayer’s money was spent on the trip as a presidential jet sat idle.
Therefore, he has filed a question in parliament for explanations on the expenditure, which has revived the controversy surrounding the numerous trips by the President.
The Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee pointed out,” Per Flightradar24, the G-KELT aircraft left Accra with the President to Paris on the 16th of May — a 6 and half hour duration. Airlifted the President from Paris to Johannesburg for 11 hours on the 23rd of May. Then Johannesburg to Accra on the 25th of May was a five and half hour flight. This gives us an accumulated flight travel of 23 hours; so at £15,000 an hour, it thus cost us a colossal £345,000. At current exchange, that is a staggering GHS2,828,432.80″.
In a Facebook post, he said, “Aviation experts inform me it would have cost Ghana less than 15% of this 2.8million Ghana Cedis had President Akufo-Addo opted for Ghana’s available presidential jet which is in pristine condition. Alternatively, far more affordable travel arrangements are available which could have aligned with the President’s rhetoric for sympathy from the west for African nations”.
Mr Ablakwa wondered why the president “engaged in this fantastic extravagance on his way to France to go beg President Emmanuel Macron for debt cancellation”.
“Needless to add that President Macron does not travel in such splendour,” he highlighted.
Growing concerns about trips
Over the years, a major concern for Ghanaians has been the frequent foreign travels by presidents and the huge expenditure paid from the taxpayer’s money.
The issue keeps recurring throughout the Fourth Republic, with the trips being extended to other public officials, who mostly fly first and business classes.
Former President J.A. Kufuor, former President John Atta Mills and former President Mahama have all come under the public lens of scrutiny for splashing millions of cedis on foreign trips.
Akufo-Addo criticised over GHS62.5 million for trips
In 2019, during the first term of President Akufo-Addo, the debate was rekindled.
The Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson, raised the alarm indicating that the President spent GHS62.5 million on foreign travels in the first nine months of 2019.
The breakdown of the expenditure by the Office of Government Machinery as part of the budget estimates indicated that about GHS63 million was spent on foreign trips, GHS5.8 million on hotel accommodation in Ghana and GHS1.9 million spent on refreshments, while GHS68.9 million was spent on operational enhancement expenses.
But the Presidency justified the expenditure saying every amount was within the budgetary threshold of GHS222 million.
“As we speak, the amount we’ve spent is less than the approved amount, so, these expenditures are budgetary allocations approved by the Parliament of Ghana and approved by the Finance Committee of Parliament of which Honourable Ato Forson is a ranking member.”
He went ahead to point to the president’s lifestyle as a public assurance of his frugality.
“The man drives in his own car which he bought in the year 2011, and everybody who works with him, everyone who is around him, knows that this is a man who is not into all sorts of extravagant expenditure”.
Mahama cited for $6milion expenditure on US trip
At the time President Akufo-Addo was receiving a backlash over the expenditure, a supporter of the NPP Fadi Daboussi alleged that former President Mahama was not innocent in splashing huge cash on travels.
According to him, former President Mahama spent $6million on a single trip to the USA when he visited CNN and posed for a Samsung Photoshoot”.
He added that the Cedi equivalent at the time was GHC 35million on “just one single week travel for a week”.
Again in 2016, former President Mahama was cited for spending $28,692 on his family while he was on a trip to South Africa in 2011.
At the time, he was Vice President of Ghana.
The issue came up during a debate on the Auditor-General’s report for that year.
MP for Atwima Mponua, Isaac Asiamah, who raised the issue, wanted to find out from the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanna Tetteh the kind of visit the then vice president undertook with his family that warranted the Ghanaian mission in South Africa spending that amount on him and his family.
He also wanted to know the actual number of family members on that trip.
But the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee(PAC), Kwaku Agyeman –Manu, said that the report had also captured the amount as having been settled, and so there was no need to belabour that issue.
On that occasion, Mr Mahama is said to have refunded the monies. Still, Mr Asiamah insisted, “Ghanaians must be told the full details of the trip for which the money that was not officially sanctioned for was paid”.
He stressed that full details of the money refunded to the state must also be made public.