Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, has denied any complicity in the re-scheduling question on the cost of President Akufo-Addo’s travels to France, Belgium and South Africa.
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, was scheduled to answer the said question on Thursday after the Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, responded to the first part of the question on the airworthiness of the Presidential jet on Wednesday.
But the question directed to the Finance Minister by North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, was allegedly taken off the order paper for the day. According to Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Finance Minister had requested additional days to answer the question, although he had been notified for more than two weeks.
Speaking on the floor of the house, Alban Bagbin said the Finance Minister will definitely provide answers to the said question.
“Let me disagree with what has been put on social media that the honourable speaker rejected the questions. There is no iota of truth in that publication. The questions were admitted and forwarded to the ministers and the ministers have indicated to me their readiness to come and answer the questions, so it will be no problem. The business committee should do the right thing and get them programmed for the minister to come and answer.”
The Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Okudzeto Ablakwa in an earlier tweet, also denied reports that the Speaker of Parliament had rejected his questions.
“Kindly disregard and treat with contempt the fake news in circulation, claiming that Rt. Honourable speaker has rejected my urgent questions to the Defence and Minister of Finance on the state of the presidential jet and the total cost of President Akufo-Addo’s recent profligate luxury travels to France, Belgium and South Africa respectively.”
President Nana Akufo-Addo has been widely criticised after it came to the fore that his recent visit to France, Belgium, and South Africa were done using an expensive private jet.
The issue was first raised by the Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who subsequently demanded answers from the Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul in Parliament.
Mr. Nitiwul , who appeared in Parliament on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, justified why President Akufo-Addo didn't use the presidential jet for the trips saying the ultimate factor for such a decision was “safety”.
Mr. Nitiwul insisted that the challenges with the current presidential jet such as the limited passengers it can carry, the number of times required for refuelling on a trip, and luggage capacity among others, make the aircraft not fit for purpose.
“This aircraft will carry a load of 11 persons minus the crew. When this aircraft is travelling to the eastern part of the USA or Asia, it will not load a crew of more than eight plus the luggage. So it depends on where it is going. Secondly, I have also said the aircraft has to do refuelling stops, and also in this COVID-19, when you are travelling to multiple destinations like the president's recent travel, the Falcon couldn't have been taken because he would have had to do technical stops which are not desirable, and when he is travelling with more than 20 people like he has been doing for business trips that brought huge sums of money for this country, he will need more than just a Falcon, otherwise, the others would have to go a day ahead before the president to prepare themselves.”
However, the explanation has been heavily criticised. While some say it is a waste of the public purse, others maintain that the safety of the president is much more critical.