The $1.5 billion Galloper affair
It looks like we have a potential judgment debt on hand. According to Deputy Minister of Information Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration of former President John Agyekum Kufuor failed to honour a bill of US$17 million contracted by the previous administration.
The Deputy Minister said the amount was in respect of 86 Galloper cross-country vehicles, ordered by the erstwhile Rawlings administration, and which arrived in the year 2001.
The beef of the Deputy Minister is that because the Kufuor regime refused to pay the bill of US$17 million presented by African Automobile, an Accra-based car assembly plant, the bill has ballooned to US1.5 billion, and that the failure had caused the state that huge judgment debt.
The accusation brought Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, ex-Chief of Staff in the Kufuor regime, to his feet. According to Mr. Mpiani, the vehicles were not in good order. The bill was also excessive for the kind of vehicles delivered.
On television, on Wednesday, Mr. Osei Prempeh, Member of Parliament for Nsuta-Beposo-Kwaman, who was Deputy Attorney-General at the time and was in charge of legal matters relating to the importation of the cars in question, said there was no contract between the company and the Ghana Government .
According to the former Deputy Attorney-General, his office never sighted any official contract on the importation, and that it would not have been proper for the government, at the time, to commit state funds to a venture without official documentation.
On Joy FM on Wednesday, when Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa was asked to explain how a bill of US$17 million became US$1.5 billion, he asked the questioner to reach the car dealers for the explanation.
By simple arithmetic, the cost of each vehicle was pegged at US$196,000 at the time. And we are talking about the year 2001. Yesterday, Mrs. Cecilia Johnson, who was Minister of Local Government and Rural Development at the last stages of the Rawlings regime, told The Chronicle that she believes the state had a contract with the supplier
Whatever it is, indications are that events in the next few weeks would put the issue into its right perspective. What is clear is that the state of Ghana has to brace itself for another bout of judgment debts.
The Chronicle is of the view that before any money is paid in respect of the Gallopers controversy, the state would have done due diligence on the matter.
We are unhappy about the huge cost involved. If it is true that 86 cars were involved, then the cost was exorbitant. It would not be normal for a four wheel-drive of any mode to cost nearly US$200,000 in the year 2001.
We are not experts in the automobile industry, but we learn that Gallopers are among the cheapest brands of the four wheel drives. We are also ill at ease that an unpaid bill of $17 million in 2001, could balloon to $1.5 billion.
Whatever is the case, the government could liaise with officials of the Kufuor administration to ensure that indeed, the state of Ghana is indebted in the infamous Gallopers affair, before taking the decision whether to commit state resources to the issue.
Many Ghanaians are loosing sleep over the haphazard state representation on matters involving the public purse. Public money is not merely there to be disbursed without justifiable cause.
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