Mills chases ministers for cars

Gladys AsmahGOVERNMENT HAS fired a salvo to former ministers of state under the Kufuor Administration, giving them to the end of this week to return 18 official government vehicles which they are allegedly keeping illegally, or be prepared to face punitive sanctions.

The fiery warning was made yesterday by the Deputy Minister for Information, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa at a news conference.

He claimed that each of the said vehicles has a street value of between $40,000 and $50,000 but they were undervalued and sold to the ex-ministers at very ridiculous prices with some as low as GH¢21,000.

The deputy Information Minister specifically mentioned that former ministers of state currently in possession of government vehicles illegally include Gladys Asmah, former Minister of Fisheries; Dr. Gladys Norley Ashitey, former deputy Minister for Health; Christine Churcher, former Minister of Environment; Kenwud Nuworsu, former deputy Minister of Manpower Development and Employment;  Gloria Akuffo, former Minister of Aviation; Nii Ayitey Boafo, Presidential Aide and Nana Nsiah Nketia, former Ambassador to South Korea among others.

He said “persons who criminally took away vehicles that are two years old knowing very well that government guidelines are against that”, include Abubakar Saddique Boniface, former Minister for Water Resources Works and Housing; Cecelia Dapaah, Minister of State at the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing; Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State at the Ministry of Education; Thomas Broni; Fred Opare-Ansah, deputy Minister of Communications, Ofosu Asamoah, deputy Eastern Regional Minister; Clement Eledi, a Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture; Vicky Bright, Deputy Minister at the Office of the President; and Esther Obeng Dapaah, Minister of Lands and Forestry among others.

However, some of the ministers and special assistants have shot back verbal salvos to the deputy minister’s claims, saying, they were mere falsehoods and state-sponsored propaganda.

Frank Agyekum, a former Deputy Minister of Information said he never bought a government car, adding that the inclusion of his name on the list was erroneous.

He pointed out that he returned his car in February after attempts to purchase the vehicle proved futile. 

According to Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, Special Aide to the former Vice President, Aliu Mahama, he had long ago returned the state vehicle in his possession and was issued a receipt for it. “I have returned the car and a receipt was issued to me.

I drive my father’s American Buick and if anyone dares take it from me, I will shoot him. I’m afraid governance cannot be done on propaganda,” he spoke with passion.

A fuming Gladys Asmah, former Minister of Fisheries reacted furiously to the claims that she had government vehicle in her possession. “They have been to my house to search and search,” she said, adding, “Don’t mind them; they are very funny people. I will sue them,” she contended.

Another former minister also vehemently denied having any government vehicle that he was not entitled to in his possession. He also threatened, “I will take the professor (President Mills) to court and show him basic contract law. I don’t have an army; I don’t have police; I will just sue them.”

He also asserted that he had paid fully for the vehicle and a receipt was given to him and therefore could not understand why he was being picked upon.

Meanwhile, at the press conference, Okudzeto-Ablakwa disclosed that the former government officials have formed a group, known as the Association of Former Ministers and were lobbying the current Chief of Staff to allow them to keep the cars but added that government would not countenance any illegality.

He announced that Government considers the undervalued prices as “unacceptable” and thus respective buyers, who have completed payments of vehicles that are over two years old, should as a matter of urgency, pay top-ups while those who have not finished paying should simply return the vehicles immediately.

He said, “Government has also rejected the supposed 30 percent rebate granted to prospective buyers after the ridiculous values placed on the vehicles…government wishes to remind all persons still in possession of government vehicles illegally to return them in their own interest”.

Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said while government has had occasion to apologise to some personalities for the issue of the seizure of their vehicles, the situation could have been avoided if officials of the previous administration had left the vehicles and other state properties intact.

The minister sought to rationalise that if that had not happened, “NPP officials who drove away a number of vehicles and motorcycles and hid them at various places would not have returned them”, alleging also that the Presidential candidate of the NPP, Nana Akufo-Addo, only returned two official four wheel drives that were in his procession for more than a year because he realised the security agencies were closing in on him.

“Even former President John Kufuor hijacked official vehicles and motor cycles of the President of the Republic to his house…these are the gangsters and criminals and not President Mills and his team,” he added.

The Deputy Information Minister claimed that Government was compelled to speak up on the cars because of a press conference held by the NPP which “broke the camel’s back” by referring to President Mills as leading a government of gangsters, adding that officials of the erstwhile Kufuor Administration should rather be tagged with the label of “gangsters and criminals and not President Mills and his team”.

By Halifax Ansah-Addo