INFORMATION MINISTER, Dan Botwe, has described the agitations by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) - led Committee for Joint Action (CJA), organisers of the Wahala marches over the increase in petroleum prices, as cheap politics. According to Mr. Botwe, it was mischievous to link the recent petrol hikes to per diem allowances, granted to state officials.
The CJA, at a press conference, addressed by Mr. Ato Ahwoi, chief executive of the bankrupt Cashpro Ltd, on Wednesday asked government to account for total per diem allowances paid for overseas travels of state officials, including the President.
But Mr. Botwe, speaking on Radio Gold's newspaper review programme, yesterday, said, he was not in a position to know how much had been expended on per diem to state officials.
He explained that, since his appointment in February, he had not travelled abroad.
The Information Minister, however said, the information can be checked with the Controller and Accountant-General's Department, since it was not a secret. But ironically, while Mr. Ahwoi was leading the campaign for public scrutiny of per diem allowances, those given to his brother, Kwesi Ahwoi, when he was chief executive of Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), had not been retired, five years after his exit, against the Centre's code A report, submitted to the acting Auditor-General, in September 2001, on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, reveals the following:
a. Hotel Accommodation and Accountable Imprest
“We examined the invoices for the money issued for hotel accommodation, overseas travels, and other imprests and observed as follows: “From 1995 to 1998, most of the hotel accommodation imprests, and other imprest were not retired, as required by the GIPC standards, and the memoranda accompanying the issued cheques. We offered the department the opportunity to produce any retired documents from their archives.
“We list below the names of officers who failed to retire their hotel accommodation imprests, and other imprests. (See table on front page).
Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, between August 1996 and May 1998, allegedly collected various sums of money, totalling $28,229.36, as accountable imprest, for his overseas trips without accounting for how the money was spent. The sum of $5,308 was spent on hotel accommodation, while $22,921.36, was pocket money. This excluded other trips he engaged in, with staff, as well as other state agencies. For instance, Mr. Ahwoi and a certain E.M. Gyasi, allegedly, collected $1560, on April 29, 1997, and also, had $1,000 with Ruth Nyakotey, on March 15, 1996, without retiring them, according to the report.
Dan Abodakpi, a former Minister of Trade and Industry, and MP for Keta, also allegedly, collected $12,000 on August 19, 1996, on GIPC's account, without retiring the money.
Hon Abodakpi, who was then, a deputy minister, also, collected additional $1000, as per voucher FCB/107, from the GIPC, and still, with no retirement. Dr. George Adja-Sipa Yankey also benefited from GIPC's largesse sharing $5,040, with Ruth Nyakotey, on March 26, 1997, on voucher numbers FCB/O8, and CB/363D. Cletus Kosiba, former vice presidential candidate of the National Reform Party (NRP) among a host of others, also, generously, benefited from the GIPC's dole-outs.
The refusal to retire the imprests, was against the GIPC standing rule. The Auditor-General, Mr. Edward Dua Agyeman, while speaking to Daily Guide, last night, said, “public officers who travel for meetings and seminars, are given per diem allowance according to rates, provided, since 1983, by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and this is what we have been working with since then.
“The figures speculated in a feature article widely published on the internet and in a local newspaper are false, because allowances given to public officers, range from a minimum of $70 to a maximum of $478.80, and from my various audits, I have not come across an instance where an amount of $3000 was paid to anyone, apart from per diem, which were given as imprest, and not accounted for.”
Continuing, Mr. Botwe described as blatant lies, claims by Mr. Ato Ahwoi, a leading member of the Committee for Joint Action that, different types of cars have been allocated to ministers, since the New Patriotic Party (NPP) assumed political office in 2001.
Mr Ato Ahwoi, who is a former Energy Minister in the NDC regime, yesterday, told Radio Gold's newspaper review programme that since NPP took over power in 2001, there has been an annual allocation of different types of cars for the Ministers of State.
These vehicles, he said, ranged from VWs, Audis, Passats, BMWs and a current consignment of Rover Saloon cars, which are parked at the Tema Harbour. But Mr Dan Botwe, who was called to react to the claims, said there was no iota of truth in Mr. Ahwoi's assertion, and that the move was part of NDC's game to score cheap political points.
Though the Information Minister asked him to withdraw the statement and render an unqualified apology for lying to the public, Mr Ahwoi refused, and maintained his stance that, there had been an annual change of different cars for the ministers.
The two politicians continued to rain verbal attacks on each other, until Mr. Botwe declared, and said:
“Mr Ahwoi, there is no iota of truth in what you are saying, you are a liar, go ahead, and publish it in your news papers. I challenge you to withdraw your statement, and apologise for lying to the whole nation”.