General News of Tuesday, 7 February 2017
It appears President John Dramani Mahama is not in a hurry to vacate the official residence of the Vice President at East Cantonments area of Accra, after spending huge sums of money to furnish his (President’s) official residence at the seat of government – the Flagstaff House.
This is because the Mahama administration has commenced the construction of what is believed to be a new official residence for Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur at Cantonments.
The amount for the mansion is said to be in region of several million dollars; and it is progressing rapidly, in spite of challenges facing the economy, for which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has come to bail Ghana out.
The new official residence of Veep Amissah-Arthur is being built on the land on which the former Nigerian High Commission was located—behind the Police Headquarters at Broz Tito Avenue on the Kumordzi Hospital Road, close to where the Food Research Institute (FRI) of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI) is located.
Interestingly, Ghanaians were told that the Flagstaff House, when it was built, was supposed to serve as office and residence for both the President and his vice.
President Mahama still occupies his bungalow, which he moved into as Vice President, while Vice President Amissah-Arthur is also staying in the Bank of Ghana (BoG) Governor’s residence—where he was residing when he was the Governor of the apex bank.
Attempts to speak to presidential spokesperson, Ben Dotsei Malor, were not successful as he did not answer calls to his phone.
Last year a contract for furnishing the presidential quarters at the Flagstaff House was awarded to Ebby Mays Furnishings at a cost of GH¢218, 565.50 (¢2.2 billion) yet, President Mahama is still staying at the Vice President’s residence.
Dr Abdulai B. Salifu, Director-General of CSIR, confirmed to DAILY GUIDE via telephone that the ongoing project was to serve as the official residence of the Vice President and admitted that part of the CSRI/FRI land had been taken over by the project.
‘In fact, National Security had to come to us before the construction of the building because one of our bungalows was affected and we had to find a replacement for it. I used to discuss a lot with Larry Gbevlo-Lartey (then National Security Coordinator) but he is no longer in-charge so basically that is it,’ he said.
‘Where the massive construction is ongoing really doesn’t fall on our land. The only portion is the bungalow to the extreme right which was demolished to pave way for the construction of the Vice President’s residence, and we cannot lay claim to everything. The land on which the Nigerian High Commission was situated belonged to the government and had been leased to the government of Nigeria,’ Dr Abdulai Salifu underscored.
DAILY GUIDE gathered that there are three huge structures making up the whole project and all the three have underground facilities. The project is being executed by Consar Limited, an Italian construction giant.
The paper also learned that there is always national security presence at the construction site and at one point the SWAT Anti-riot Police was brought to the premises to forcibly take over portions of other CSIR staff bungalows in order to extend the Vice President’s project; and a sort of confrontation ensued.
‘A security officer who was with the SWAT team, allegedly ordered a staff from Consar to erect stakes to demarcate the premises of the CSIR staff to be added to the veep’s portion amid threats that they will be removed completely if they frustrated the ongoing work,’ a source said.
‘The contractor has been pumping rain water which floods the streets leading to the residences of senior staff. Additionally, the main pipeline supplying water to residents has been cut off and a make-shift water supply provided, as a result, we enjoy water only once or twice weekly instead of the regular flow.’
‘We have even been told that the roads will be cordoned off as the project advances because they will pose security risks to the property.
United Nations Project
There was also an allegation that adjoining offices of CSRI/FRI were taken over by then Minister of Environment and Science, Sherry Ayittey, about five years ago for a United Nations project; and upon completion, an unknown private company was said to have entered the property and is working from there, but the Director-General said it could not be possible.
‘That walled facility painted blue, was given to the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology to embark on an UN-funded project. I think it was a three-year project. Those premises are currently vacant but the ministry has to officially hand it back to us. It is not true that the facility was given to a private company after the UN project had ended,’ he claimed.
Dr Salifu said the facility would be part of the graduate school soon to be established by the CSRI, saying, ‘We don’t know how it is going to be because it is very close to where the official residence of the Vice President is being constructed.’
There are concerns that CSRI lands are being taken over by developers, including the government. Currently, there is encroachment on lands belonging to the Animal Research Institute, Water Research Institute, Crops Research Institute, among others.
The GH¢218,565.50 Ebby Mays Furnishings contract involved furnishing the residency, including the downstairs corridors, costing the tax payer an amount of GH¢67,220; GH¢1,669 for coffee room curtains, voile and trimming; GH¢5,995 for reception curtains, voile and trimming; GH¢6,455 for the main living room, voile and trimming; GH¢2,261 for bar voile and trimming and GH¢9,755 for the dining area.
Others are: GH¢2,461 for a recreational room—formal coffee room; GH¢171 for an informal kitchen—Venetian blinds only; GH¢2,850 for gym remote control blinds; GH¢3,604 for a family dining room; GH¢1,925 for the main kitchen; GH¢8,380 for the meeting area and GH¢3,243 for the waiting reception/visitors’ lounge.
The rest include an amount of GH¢5,940 for a playroom and lobby; GH¢31,270 for the upstairs corridors; GH¢7,212 for what was described as Madam’s room and library; GH¢7,212 for two master bedrooms and libraries; GH¢11,540 on the private lounge or suites and GH¢4,562 on a supposed prayer room.
An amount of GH¢11,900.50 is also to be used to furnish four family bedrooms, while GH¢1,323 is earmarked for the furnishing of two VIP bedrooms at the President’s residence – not to talk about GH¢2,156 for the VIP lounge; GH¢1,323 for two security rooms and GH¢1,568 to be spent on two guest rooms at the downstairs of the Presidential Villa.
An amount of GH¢15,750 is earmarked for workmanship, delivery and installation by the company contracted for the job.
After spending this huge amount of money, it has become a drain on the public purse because President Mahama refused to move.