The Presidency has waded into the raging issue of a kitted up office for the former President, and categorically denied receiving notification from the office of ex-President J. A. Kufuor, over the latter's interest in converting a state bungalow at Ridge in Accra into an office.
Whereas the spokesperson of the ex-President, Mr. Frank Agyekum, insists that a notification letter was written to the Castle before moving into the building, both the Chief of Staff, Mr. John Henry Martey Newman, and Dr. Don Arthur, Chairman of the Executive Assets Committee of the Transitional Team, have both denied receiving such a notice.
The building is very near the State House, and was once used by the late Madam Hawa Yakubu, when she was appointed Minister of Tourism.
“Oh yea, that was Madam Hawa's official bungalow, and it is a pity there is such a spat over it now,” noted Kofi Coomson, a close friend of the late militant women's rights activist, who recalled that the bungalow was allocated by Mr. Kwamena Bartels, then the Minister of Works and Housing.
The building has undergone extensive restructuring and must have taken several months to reach such a stage of development, at least three months, judging from the state of the bungalow. There was no proper kitchen then, and the previous occupant, Hon Mike Gizo, also could testify that the house still needed work to be done, even when he lived there.
While the Chief of Staff pleaded for time to enquire about the letter requesting the allocation, he recalled never receiving such a notification on the matter.
Mr. Newman suggested that officials of the Assets Committee could be the best people to comment. However, the Head of the committee, Dr. Arthur, demurred, stating to The Chronicle that Mr. Agyekum must explain when the letter was written, who the letter was addressed to, and the response that was given.
He said if any such letter had been written, his office would have been in the know, and would have been the one to do the allocation.
Asked whether all letters regarding the acquisition of state buildings come to him, he responded, “I would have seen it, but I have not seen a copy. During the time of the work of the transition team, nobody made a request to the Castle without sending it to me.
“Mr. Frank Agyekum is not just a simple person, he is an honourable and one-time a Deputy Minister. He should make available a copy of that letter, and state whether or not there was a reaction, if there is a reaction, it will indicate whether the request was rejected or not,” he added.
He maintained that Mr. Agyekum was throwing dust into the eyes of Ghanaians, stressing “I don't believe the story; I have not sighted such a letter.”
He concluded by stating, “They are just bamboozling us with some fantastic stories that could only be told to children.” Mr. Agyekum told The Chronicle that the office would be used as a place to receive visitors locally and from international destinations.
He insisted that the notification letter was written to the Secretary of the President, in the latter part of January. He said it would be wrong for anyone to assert that the office was hidden.
“That is where he works now. If you want to see him officially, that is where you have to go,” he stressed. Asked whether the ex-President was being frustrated by the freezing of the recommendation of the Chinery Hesse Report, Mr. Agyekum said there had been a lot of correspondence between the ex-president and the office of President Mills.
“Waiting for the Chinery Hesse Report; nobody knows when it would be implemented, and you don't expect the former President would sit there without doing anything,” Mr. Agyekum stressed.
He said there was nothing wrong with the President setting up his private office.
The Chinery Hesse Report, which has been frozen by the government for review, recommended that the ex-presidents should be provided an office facility, fully equipped furnished and staffed with five professionals, and adequate secretarial support within the nation's capital at state expense, at a location to be determined in consultation with the former presidents
The controversial report also recommended that in order for former presidents to use their rich experience, garnered during their stay in office, the state should provide seed money, equivalent to one million US dollars as an endowment fund.