The majority caucus in parliament has described as assumptive and populist, the figures put out by North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa as the cost of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s recent international trip to Germany and the UK.
According to Mr Ablakwa’s calculations, the trips cost the taxpayer GHS3.46 million because the president hired a VIP charter jet instead of using the presidential jet, Dassault Falcon 900-EXE.
According to Mr Ablakwa, despite the public outrage that greeted President Akufo-Addo’s previous travel on the world’s most expensive and most extravagant private charter aircraft – the Airbus ACJ320neo, which does not cost its clientele below £15,000 per hour to lease, his recent travels to the UK on 27 July 2021 to attend the Global Education Summit and last week’s state visit to Germany, saw him opt for another top-of-the-range VIP luxury charter jet called the Boeing 737-900ER BBJ3.
The lawmaker, in a statement, said the Boeing 737-900ER BBJ3, provides a VIP lounge for relaxation, five-star dining facilities, a royal master bedroom, cinema room specially delineated for watching movies, which is a separate accessory from other in-flight entertainment systems, and is complete with a luxury shower.
He said: “If our 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 our government is leasing the aircraft via brokers or middlemen, as it has gained notoriety for in many sectors, you shouldn’t be surprised the Ghanaian taxpayer is being billed between US$18,000 and US$22,000 per hour.”
“Using the conservative rate of US$14,000 per hour, the two trips to the UK and Germany which requires some 28 hours of travel distance in and out plus an additional 13 hours of pick up and drop off time, the taxpayer has been burdened again to the colossal tune of US$574,000.00. At the current exchange rate, that is a staggering 3.46million Ghana cedis,” he added.
Mr Ablakwa noted that if the President has no use for Ghana’s presidential jet, he may as well sell it to raise some funds to buy COVID-19 vaccines.
He suggested that the country adopt a national presidential travel policy to cut down the cost on presidential travels.
However, Mr Paul Apraku Twum Barima, a member of the foreign affairs committee of parliament, is of the view that Mr Ablakwa is playing to the gallery by churning out if-this-then-that figures.
“The minister of national security is supposed to bring you a cost, why do you want to bandy [about] a cost that you think is an assumption and say that: ‘if you assume that’, but you cannot assume when you don’t have the original cost because every person wants to know exactly how much the president spent”, he said.
Mr Barima added: “If you come and tell us US$14,000, did you add the landing fee? Did you add handling charges? You add all that. What is the US$14,000 about? We need to come to a point where, as a country, we don’t need to do populist things”.