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I Didn’t Steal Luxury Car; I’ve Returned It—Dr Oteng-Adjei

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Former Energy Minister Dr Oteng Adjei who has been severely criticised for appropriating one of the luxury vehicles meant for inspection of a rural electrification project says he returned the vehicle Tuesday, February 24, after the media vilification.

He said he didn’t steal the car and that the Lexus LX 570 which he was using until he returned it to the Energy Ministry this morning was an appropriate reward for his hard work.

Contrary to initial claims by the energy ministry that the 38 luxury vehicles were negotiated for and bought by officials under the erstwhile New Patriotic Party government, Dr Oteng Adjei confessed that the vehicles were bought by the NDC regime with money from a contingency fund under a loan agreement with the US Exim Bank.

An Auditor General’s report released last week revealed that the Energy Ministry had between 2010 and 2012 expended close to $2 million on 38 luxury vehicles and other office equipment which were to be used to monitor and inspect a rural electrification project.

The AG’s revelation caused a huge furore with sections of the public questioning why luxury vehicles would be bought for inspection of a rural electrification project.

The AG, again wondered in his report how the amount for the luxury cars was taken from the Exim Bank loan when no such budget had been made in the loan agreement.

But the Energy Ministry mounted a strong defence for the purchase and use of the vehicles.

The Ministry said in a statement that  the vehicles were part of the $350 million Exim bank loan for rural electrification whose negotiation began in 2007 and approved by the Parliament in 2008 under the Kufuor administration.

The Ministry also claimed that there was a cabinet approval for the purchase of the vehicles in 2007 or 2008, a claim NPP officials have vehemently denied.

In the heat of the controversy it became apparent that Dr Oteng who was then the Energy Minister until he was moved to the Environment Science and Technology Ministry in 2013 had appropriated one of the luxury vehicles for his personal use.

Even in a new ministry which had no mandate to monitor rural electrification project, Dr Oteng Adjei still held on to his luxury vehicle- the Lexus LX 570.

The NPP waded into the controversy with a press conference on Tuesday.

“Of the four Lexus vehicles which were purchased as part of the 38 luxury vehicles, Dr Oteng Adjei thought it wise and against the rules of public service engagement to appropriate one to his personal use and he continues to use it even though he may no longer be  in government service.

“The hypocrisy of it is that it was Dr Oteng Adjei who sent BNI operatives to retrieve aged and over ten years old Ministry of Energy 4X4 vehicles from former  ministers who were returning those vehicles in any event,” former Deputy Energy Minister KT Hammond said.

After days of heated controversy, Dr Oteng Adjei finally broke his silence giving a long history of his involvement with the Energy Ministry and why the luxury cars were bought for a project like that.

Asked if he was still using his luxury official vehicle even though he was out of government, he sounded biblically philosophical in his answer to Joy News’ Francis Abban, saying politicians have refused to “obey a basic Bible principle which says some plant, some water and then some also harvest and the Bible also says all of us are given our reward appropriately.”

When he was reminded that he had not answered the question about whether the Lexus vehicle was still in his custody, Oteng Adjei said the car was returned this morning after he read a Daily Guide report in which he was accused of illegally appropriating the Luxury vehicle.

Explaining how he had to settle on the Luxury vehicle, Dr Oteng Adjei said his official Land Cruiser which he was using at the time got involved in an accident around the same time the 38 vehicles were bought and therefore decided to take the Lexus for himself.

He said when he was reshuffled to the Environment Ministry, he realised that “the financial situation in that ministry was a little bit difficult compared to Energy so I worked out with the people in Energy and kept the car so that we don’t have to go and spend another money to buy another car for me whilst this one was available to me. After all it was the same government.”

“The car was not stolen; it wasn’t anything that was hidden anywhere,” he added.

How the cars were bought
He said when the NDC government came to power in 2009 it had to renegotiate the contract the NPP government had sealed and were able to save an amount of $46 million at the time.

With that amount saved, Dr Oteng Adjei said he decided to use part of the savings to buy the cars.

He disagreed with the assertion the cars were luxury vehicles.

“It was explained to me that the Land Cruiser in US is equivalent to a Lexus and Toyota Camry was equivalent to a Chrysler. Once the engineers who were doing this explained this to me, i didn’t question them and i didn’t see them as luxurious. I saw them as a rugged car that can be used to travel afar,” he stated.

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