By Maxwell Nkansah
A leading member of the opposition National Democratic Congress, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has fumed again about the cost of the President’s travels.
The Member of Parliament for the North Tongu Constituency bemoaned the ‘wastage’ associated with the President’s external flights and is therefore calling for a national policy on presidential travels to deal with ‘the rape of the public purse’ by President Akufo-Addo. His recent backlash comes on the back of President Akufo-Addo’s recent trip to Germany to negotiate a deal with Pfizer to help in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
In expressing his concerns about the cost involved in the travel, the enraged legislator stated that Akufo-Addo has acquired an insatiable desire for flying in luxurious aircraft, leaving Ghana’s presidential jet, the Dassault Falcon 900-EXE to lie in waste, despite its pristine condition.
The Falcon, according to Okudzeto Ablakwa was used by ex-Presidents Atta-Mills and John Dramani Mahama, and hence he sees no reason why Akufo-Addo will abandon the Falcon, irrespective of its functional state. In his view, this ostentatious preference by the President comes at the expense of the ordinary Ghanaian, and must therefore be curbed immediately.
In expressing his frustrations, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa further argued that Ghana’s official presidential aircraft can embark on similar destinations to Europe and hence he’s unable to fathom why the President willfully abandons the country’s presidential jet for expensive charters that only hurt the public purse.
According to him, following the public outcry that greeted the President’s expensive charter some weeks ago, he would have expected the President to heed to the calls of Ghanaians and flown in the presidential jet, which is comparatively cheaper; but instead, the President threw caution to the wind and went for another top of the range VIP luxury charter, known as the Boeing 737-900ER BBJ3.
He further went on to state that, if the government is dealing directly with the operators of the LX-DIO, then it is costing the Ghanaian taxpayer at least US$14,000 per hour. However, if the government is leasing the aircraft via brokers or middlemen the Ghanaian taxpayer is being billed between US$18,000 and US$22,000 per hour.
Okudzeto Ablakwa also estimated that if the conservative rate of US$14,000 per hour is applied, the two trips to the UK and Germany which require some 28 hours of travel distance in and out plus an additional 13 hours of pick up and drop off time, will cost the taxpayer a whopping US$574,000.00; equivalent to 3.46 million Ghana Cedis.
This according to him is outrageous, the reason for which a national policy on presidential travels should be adopted to curb such ‘needless’ expenditures.