A call by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) on Ghana’s Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, to investigate and prosecute two government officials alleged to have misused state funds in the Upper East region has provoked a controversy between the opposition party and the Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development.
The NDC told journalists at a news conference the ministry had blown an extortionate Gh¢1, 250, 000 ($250,000) over the construction of what was meant to be an Astro-turf sports complex in Bolgatanga but which ended up being a mere green-grass park not worth the said contract sum.
The party’s regional communications secretariat said “the taxpayer has been shortchanged” as “there is no value for the whooping” amount reportedly disbursed to execute that project.
Whilst addressing newsmen at the presser, the party urged the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to join the Office of the Special Prosecutor to probe the two government appointees— former Minister for Inner-City and Zongo Development, Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Saddique, and the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of Bolgatanga, Joseph Amiyuure— for “causing huge financial loss” to the state.
“The current government initiated the construction of [some] multipurpose integrative projects in some zongo communities across the country. The said project is expected to have an Astro-turf, panel mesh fencing, floodlights, spectator stands, washrooms and changing rooms.
“In March, 2018, the government cut [the] sod for the construction of multipurpose integrative Astro-turf projects in two constituencies of the Upper East region, namely Bolgatanga Central and Navrongo Central. Each Astro-turf project cost the taxpayer $250,000 (Gh¢1, 250, 000) and was to be completed in three months,” said a statement read Monday by the party’s Deputy Upper East Regional Communications Officer, Sunday Casper Kampoli.
Continuing, the secretariat said, “What is an Astro-turf? An Astro-turf is an artificial pitch made from synthetic grass-like fibre. So, the pitch that we have at Mobil Park is not an Astro-turf. This is because it is constructed with normal grass that is supposed to grow but cannot grow well because of the type of soil they have used and, as a result, the grass has turned into plants on the pitch. Also, the pitch has no spectator stands, no washrooms and no changing rooms as the contract says.”
“We are giving the Special Prosecutor two weeks ultimatum to commission an investigation into this disgraceful looting of the taxpayer money,” emphasised the statement signed by the NDC’s Upper East Regional Communications Officer, Saeed Ahmed Tijani.
Fielding questions from journalists after delivering the statement, Mr. Kampoli said the contractor in charge of the project told the NDC when contacted that the selected park in Bolgatanga was designed to have a natural-grass pitch and not an Astro turf.
The NDC also said the contractor neither confirmed nor denied the $250,000 or Gh¢1, 250, 000 figure said to have been revealed through checks conducted by the party as the amount voted for the project.
“As we speak, other places have been given Astro-turfs. If we had our Astro-turf, we would not complain. Right now, you don’t call that grass green grass because it is dying. This a pure joke. You can’t call this an Astro-turf. Go there and see goats feeding on the grass. It’s only under Nana Akufo-Addo and Bawumia goats feed on Astro-turf.
“Whilst we call on the Special Prosecutor to initiate investigation into the construction of this pitch, we would also like to call on President Akuffo Addo and Dr Bawumia to make sure that the people of Upper East region also get their [fair] share of the national cake by making sure that the type of Astro-turf that they have constructed for their kinsmen in Kyebi and Walewale is also constructed for the people of Upper East region,” yelled the secretariat.
Ministry says Cost of Project a little over Gh¢ 400,000
When Starr News telephoned the contractor on Tuesday, he maintained the response the NDC had credited to him at the press confab, saying he was only engaged to construct a natural-grass park.
And, as the opposition party had claimed at the conference, he also would not disclose the contract sum try as Starr News did many times to find out from him.
But the Director of Communications at the ministry, Seibik Bugri, told Starr News via a statement emailed Tuesday evening the NDC got it all wrong.
“The Ministry for Inner-City and Zongo Development has not constructed or undertaken any Astro-turf in any community in the Upper East region. For the record, the Ministry is re-constructing, greening and fencing the Bolga Mobil Park plus a borehole whose cost or value is a little over Gh¢ 400,000 and nowhere near the amount they falsely stated. In their haste to give a dog a bad name and hang it, they alleged that the pitch in question should have certain facilities.
“It is unclear whether that is a statement of fact or suggestions. Because, under the scope of work, in this contract, it involves re-vegetation, fencing, reserve player seats, goal post and floor lights. For the record, Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development has not constructed any Astro-turf in Navrongo and, therefore, has no knowledge of what has been attributed to it,” said the Director of Communications in a statement he said was the ministry’s response.
NDC’s Investigations are False — Ministry
Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Saddique was in the Upper East region in the first week of May, this year, to inspect upgrading work being done on two football parks in Bolgatanga and Navrongo.
Mr. Bugri, who together with some officials from the ministry accompanied the former minister on that tour, described as “a falsehood” the investigations the NDC said it did.
“Again, hasting to create and feed the public with half-truths, the Bolgatanga NDC talks about short-change in the Bolgatanga project. Fact is that the Bolga project is only re-vegetation, fencing plus a borehole as stated earlier. It does not include changing rooms, reception, or dressing room as that of Walewale and Kyebi. And so the issue of value does not arise.
“Let it be stated here that your supposed ‘checks’ is a falsehood as the project in question is in Ghana cedis and not dollars. We therefore wish to state that just like Bolgatanga, the Ministry has a similar project in Salaga, Yeji, Tafo and Oda,” he stated.
The ministry concluded its statement by saying, “Finally, let the opponents or critics of the Ministry be advised not to jump to hasty conclusions, half-truths and inaccuracies as done by the NDC in Bolgatanga in a bid to score cheap political mileage. To assume that all the projects are all Astro-turfs and must come with other facilities as you speculated is, to say the least, mischievous and ignorant of due processes that ought to be followed and be mindful of the very ‘taxpayer’ alluded to.”
Telephone calls placed to the MCE of Bolgatanga from Starr News’ end on Tuesday were not answered. He also did not reply after Starr News sent an SMS to him on Wednesday, notifying him of the accusing finger the NDC had pointed at him at the news conference.