General News of Friday, 2 November 2018
The embattled Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), Mr Kwame Owusu, has said eleven air conditioners are not even enough for his freshly-renovated four-bedroom Cantonments official residence which has an adjoining one-bedroom guest house.
GHS1 million of the Authority’s funds were used to expand and renovate a two-bedroom “colonial-styled wooden structure” into the current sprawling property which sits on a one-acre land that has become a source of controversy, since Kwame A Plus, a musician-turned-Citizen Vigilante, outed the Director-General on his profligate expenditures.
Mr Owusu, who is being investigated by the Ministry of Transport for spending GHS135,000 on an end-of-year dinner party in 2017, and also GHS10,000 on lunch for eight people at a meeting, services provided by his own Luxe Suites Hotel, said the conflict of interest accusations are “below the belt”.
Parrying accusations of conflict of interest regarding the award of the house expansion and renovation contract to a friend of his, Mr Owusu told journalists at a press conference during the week that the media has been mischievous and unprofessional.
Regarding accusations that he fitted his new property with eleven air conditioners, Mr Owusu said thus: “Also an issue has been raised with the Director-General having eleven air conditioners. That, I consider mediocrity. In a two-bedroom house? Where would I put them?” adding that: “The places [rooms] that I listed to you, [for] each one of them to have an air conditioner, it would be 13, so, the eleven is even not enough”.
“By the way, we don’t put them all on together”, he added.
Explaining how the house expansion and renovation started, Mr Owusu said: “This Authority has been renting apartments, houses, whether its $5000 or whatever it is, over the years, paid by the Authority. When I took over these affairs, I decided to go and chase the Works and Housing Ministry to see if the Authority can have a residence. In my quest, I was able to secure a property. That property was a 2-bedroom wooden structure in the old colonial style. If you are going to renovate that structure, you would have to put a memo and say: ‘A renovation of a 2-bedroom residence’. Even if it becomes 10, the initial one will not be renovating a 10-bedroom house. So, the topic of 2-bedroom, which some of you [media] including Mr A Plus, the Citizen Vigilante, has made this to become like the Director-General has actually increased an amount just to do ‘chop chop’ as one big TV station says: ‘Let us ‘chop chop’’. The man at the bar is my friend, I cannot imagine when the above, Mr Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, I’ll be chopping GHS8,000 and say let’s chop before he’s my friend. Oh please!
“I have to let you know that when I secured the land, normally, this has to be done by the Ministry’s PWD Prestige and then they hand it over to you as an individual. I wanted it for the Authority. So, in their bid to go and do the renovation, they did the first phase. It took some while so the Deputy Minister of Works and Housing said: ‘Look, it’s going to take a while for us to find the money, so, if the Authority has money, we’ll rather give you the Bill of Quantities that has been designed by PWD Prestige and you’d be able to use that and do the building.
“So, we took that Bill of Quantities, which as you see here, and you can go to PWD, over here, they are the ones that gave all the Bill of Quantities for the first phase, and as you went along, they do the second phase and the third phase. When this was submitted to me, I brought it to Administration and we went through a tendering process which three people have been given this to do, the selective tendering.
“The tendering was done without my involvement, awards were given to various things which you have published anyway with the amounts that were associated with those individuals. Tender process went through Administration. The Bill of Quantities was done by [PWD] Prestige. So, the Director-General could not have influenced the outcome and given it to my friend and said: ‘Increase the money so that when they do it, I can do your so-called ‘chop chop’. I took this from PWD, it was supervised by them, our auditors were so thorough, they even went through all the construction period pictures, the auditors were there day and night taking pictures of construction; and then came out the building.
“And let me tell you: That building is now made up of four bedrooms of the main structure, a living room, a dining room, kitchen, a family room, a library and a basement. That is the main structure. We also have a guest house which should befit a Director-General for that matter, where you can have a guest of your counterparts that they can stay, that one is a one-bedroom, a dining room, a living room, and a kitchen and a porch that has also been erected. And an outhouse was done and a whole floor of grass has been concretised with this same amount of GHS1 million.
“We have taken consultants there, Management has been there, all other people who know value-for-money and that is an understatement. So, if you are going to go around and do blackmailing and say the Director-General has renovated a two-bedroom which you have not gone there to see, it is amazing how we can kill people before they die.
“Also, an issue has been raised with the Director-General having eleven air conditioners. That, I consider mediocrity. In a two-bedroom house? Where would I put them? The places that I listed to you, [for] each one of them to have an air conditioner, it would be 13, so the eleven is even not enough. By the way, we don’t put them all on together.
“And if you sit, some Director-Generals have a house allocated to them, and have even a separate guest house for entertainment. If this Director-General or any other Director-General of Ghana Maritime Authority, who superintend the Maritime Authority in Ghana cannot have a four-bedroom or five-bedroom, then I say it is mediocrity in their mindset. We must think big. The plot that was allocated to me was one acre. And I wasn’t going to put a two-bedroom [on a one-acre property] and I think that not only that, when this investment is made, 20 per cent of my salary or any others who will come to take over, 20 per cent will be taken, so over a period it is going to pay for this stuff, I am paying rent for the structure that I’ve put there and I thought that you would even appreciate that for the effort of saving”.