General News of Sunday, 4 November 2018
Private Legal Practitioner, Yaw Oppong, has chided the Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Kwame Owusu, for the manner in which he defended the GHc 1 million spent on the renovation of his ‘colonial-style’ two-bedroom official residence.
Mr. Owusu was on the offensive at a press conference on Saturday where he insisted the renovation was relatively modest and in the best interest of the state.
In his submissions, he appeared to be antagonizing some media personnel as he insisted the GHc 1 million spent was justified because of the savings the state would benefit from, because it will no longer spend on rent.
“It was abysmal. In a matter like this, if you are not very sure about how your disposition will carry you, you don’t get into the arena,” Mr. Oppong remarked on The Big Issue.
“The Director-General’s disposition, his demeanour, his outlook at the press conference is not anything anyone will expect of him.”
Though Mr. Oppong expressed some understanding of why Mr. Owusu would go on the offensive, he maintained that the Maritime Authority boss went overboard.
“Of course, when you are accused of a wrongdoing, there is a tendency that your emotions may carry you away, but I think he was quite overzealous in his attempt to explain these matters.”
He further suggested that the governing body should have also cleared the air on the matter since it has oversight over the Authority’s expenditure.
“By now, I would have expected that they would also come out to explain the circumstance leading to this whole affair or affairs,” the lawyer stated.
Following the controversial renovation, the former wooden residence now has “four bedrooms on the main structure, a living room, a dining room, kitchen, a family room, a library and a basement.”
It also had a guest house added with one bedroom, a dining room, a living room and a porch.
Conflict of interest
Mr. Owusu also has personal ties with the one who got the contract for the renovation, and he sees nothing wrong with that.
He said due process was followed in awarding his “friend” the contract, at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Tender process went through administration. The bill of quantities was done… 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 have your so-called chop chop.”
He defiantly told the reporter asking questions on the matter that suggestions of conflict of interest were “below the belt”.
He added that even if his wife could be awarded a contract with the authority if she was qualified for it.
Mr. Owusu also confirmed claims that the Authority was to have paid an amount of GHc135,000 to Luxe Suites Hotel, which he owns, for an end-of-year party for the staff of the Maritime Authority.
He, however, said the amount was to cover food for 500 people and not 100 as being speculated.
“We will like to also respond to the issue of the Authority having GHc135,000 for end of year party. It is true; there was a GHc115, 000 of the cost of the food for 500 people. It is in management records. Some people have gone out of their way to state that there was less than 100 people. I want to bring to your attention that we have 200 workers.”
He however rejected claims that the Authority blew an amount of GHc 10,000 on lunch for only eight people.
Mr. Owusu said such reports were mischievous and a calculated attempt to smear his reputation.
He said the amount was spent on 17 management members for multiple meetings and not on a single meeting.
Transport Minister orders probe
Meanwhile, the Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, has directed the board of the Ghana Maritime Authority to investigate the alleged misappropriations.
The Transport Minister in a statement said the board is expected to make its findings available to him for an appropriate decision to be made.
However, there are concerns about whether the board will do a fair job, considering their links to the Director-General.