The Minority in Parliament is accusing the government of peddling untruths about the true size of staffing at the Office of Government Machinery, and wants Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah to keep Sundays 'holy'.
Read the statement below
MINORITY RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT'S FALSE CLAIMS ON THE OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT
The Minority in Parliament is grateful to you for your prompt response to our invitation.
We have convened this media engagement to react to a number of blatant untruths put out by the Honourable Information Minister, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah regarding staffing at the Office of Government Machinery during a press briefing yesterday.
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Before proceeding further, we wish to admonish the Honourable Minister for Information to remember that Sundays are holy days in Ghana and many parts of the world; and that if he so wishes to carry on this way, he should at least exempt Sundays. We do not expect him to be defiling the day by peddling falsehoods and half-truths at his Sunday press briefings.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the facts of the matter as you very well know are that during the debate on the 2019 Budget Statement last Wednesday the 21st of November, 2018, the Honourable Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa raised concerns about the size of the Office of Government Machinery as contained in Appendix 7 at Page 216 of the Budget Statement.
It is incontrovertible that Government has made a provision of GHS110, 000,000 to engage a staff of 1,614 for 2019.
The Minority made the point that the people of Ghana criticized and expressed outrage at the 2017 staffing of 998 at the Office of Government Machinery as reported to Parliament in March this year pursuant to the Presidential Office Act, 1993. Act 463.
We therefore submitted strongly that we had expected Government to listen to the demands of the good people of Ghana and at least reduce the numbers from the unconscionable 998 which
had earlier generated an uproar.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is therefore false for Government to claim that the Office of Government Machinery is undergoing a programmed reduction. How can 1,614 in comparison to 998 be a programmed reduction?
If Ghanaians did not accept 998 when news broke in March this year, what makes the Minister believe that Ghanaians will embrace 1,614?
In any case, the claim that 1,614 is surely a reduction because of the 2018 ceiling of 1,697 is rather erroneous. This is because the 2017 ceiling as contained at Page 177 of the 2017 Budget Statement is 953. The report of 998 confirms that this ceiling was exceeded by 45. If this track record is anything to go by, then one cannot be certain that there has in actual terms been a reduction from 2018 to 2019.
That said however, our point is that 998 was roundly condemned by Ghanaians and therefore we do not expect Government to treat the people's concern with contempt by further increasing this unacceptable figure.
We have also noted another falsehood peddled by the Minister of Information. Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said - "The claim of an increase is because the minority is comparing Office of the President (998 in 2018) which was part of the 1697 ceiling, with the entire Office of Government Machinery ceiling for 2019 (1614)."
This claim is totally false. The 998 figure cannot belong to 2018. The 2018 report will be presented to Parliament next year. The 998 figure can only belong to 2017 which had a ceiling of 953 and NOT 1,697. The Minister therefore either goofed badly or he set out to deliberately mislead Ghanaians.
Then there is the claim by the Minister that we in the Minority do not know the difference between the Office of the President and the Office of Government Machinery. Another clear case of the Minister trying to obfuscate the issues. Everyone in Ghana knows that the Office of the President can be described as a subset of the Office of Government Machinery. It is instructive to note that the Budget Statement only captures the Office of Government Machinery and not the Office of the President.
What the Minister failed to realize by his disingenuous attack on the Minority is that if we are to agree with him that the 998 staff reported to Parliament on 22nd March, 2018 only refers to the Office of the President and not the entire Office of Government Machinery then it makes the matter even worse. It presupposes that Government underreported to Parliament and that the 998 figure was far below the reality. Clearly, the Minister did not help Government's case
yesterday and this only happens when you try to spin facts which are so obvious and sacred.
We wish to refer the Minister of Information to the report submitted to Parliament from President Akufo-Addo and signed by the President himself on 22nd March, 2018. We shall make copies available to you. It is important to note that in the document, the President in compliance with the Presidential Office Act provided a breakdown as follows: 9 Ministers of State, 27 Presidential Staffers, 256 Junior Political Appointees and some 706 Employees of Public Sector Organizations assigned to the Office of the President. This is what gives us the total number of 998. We must emphasize that this is the only record in Parliament. We do not know of any Office of the President 998 number as part of a 1,697 Office of Government Machinery. This must only exist in Mr. Nkrumah's imagination. That said, if however, Government has more names to present to Parliament to complete the report on the 2017 staffing of the OGM, we are more than eager to welcome that report. In the absence of the existence of such an addition which would have meant that the President misinformed Parliament, we urge the Information Minister to clear his mind of the confusion and stop polluting the atmosphere on this matter.
The Minority in Parliament insists that this Government is simply too large, wasteful and humongous. We cannot continue on this reckless and insensitive trajectory. For a Government that has already appointed a historic 111 Ministers and yet living conditions are deteriorating as Government itself concedes at paragraph 10 of the 2019 Budget Statement, we owe it to the people who elected us and sent us here to raise these matters and more importantly mobilize resistance to stop this unwarranted plunder of the taxpayer's money.
Obviously, President Akufo-Addo did not mean it when he pledged to protect the Public Purse during his presidential inaugural address. Having come to this realization, we in the Minority are resolved to do everything in our power to prevent the continuous rape of the public purse.
We demand therefore that Government amends downwards and significantly the Ceiling of Staff at the Office of Government Machinery. It is the height of insensitivity and indeed an insult to Ghanaians who only a few months ago vehemently opposed the infamous 998 OGM staff only to be confronted with a much bigger ceiling of 1,614 in 2019 by a Government that refuses to listen.
We thank you very much for your attention and will now take questions.