Minority wants update on foreign travel ban for appointees

BY: Political Desk Report
 Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

The Minority in Parliament has written an open letter to the Chief of Staff requesting an update on the presidential order to temporarily suspend all foreign travels for ministers, deputy ministers, regional ministers, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) apart from the Foreign Affairs Minister.

It is also seeking clarification on the status of a similar ban on the purchase of new vehicles by ministries, departments and agencies

The letter which emanated from the Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, recalled that on June 21, 2018, the Chief of Staff, Madam Akosua Frema Osei, communicated under her name and signature to all sector ministers and deputies, regional ministers and their deputies as well as MMDCEs and heads of government agencies informing them of a presidential directive to temporarily suspend all foreign travels and exempting only the Foreign Affairs Minister.

The letter went on to say that the directive was made public and that both the deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor and former Information Minister, Dr Mustapha Abdul Hamid, vouched for the authenticity of the document which, at the time, was in wide circulation.

New guidelines

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“They both attempted to offer some clarity and assured the nation that "soon" new guidelines covering future foreign travels will be developed as government strives to cut expenditure and keep ministers and other appointees focused on domestic duties,” Mr Ablakwa recounted.

Mr Ablakwa said his open letter to the Chief of Staff was in utmost good faith and in the spirit of good governance requesting that she provided an update for Ghanaians on the ban, four months on.

“This update, if provided, apart from helping build confidence in our governance processes so that matters of this nature are not thought of as propaganda stunts, it will also enable those of us in the legislature adequately discharge our constitutionally mandated oversight obligations,” Mr Ablakwa’s letter posited.

The letter additionally said it was worth the reminder about how a similar ban on the purchase of new vehicles by ministries, departments and agencies dated March 21, 2017 which was also signed by the Chief of Staff and made public had seen no public reversal 19 months on and yet evidence abounded on the purchase of fleets of new vehicles from the presidency to ministries, departments and agencies.

Accountable governance

“Respectfully, this tendency to go public with bans of all sorts and remain silent thereafter hoping all Ghanaians will forget and move on does not promote trust in public officers neither does it create a good image for government. It also destroys our quest for accountable governance” the ranking member said.

In the index case of the ban on travels, the open letter said it had been four “long” months since the matter became the subject of national interest and that Ghanaians deserved to know whether the ban was still in force, if not, when it was lifted and that if it was still in force, when it would be lifted and whether the promised guidelines were ready.

Mr Ablakwa is also seeking to know what the new guidelines contain adding that the taxpayer should be informed about how much the government has saved in specific terms as well as the general impact of the assessment of the ban.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu added that it was imperative to point out “that we seek to continue in the spirit of public engagement on this matter as initiated by your government when your signed memorandum was made public and formed the basis for extensive commentary by numerous government officials. It is within this context that we have elected to utilise an open letter approach which we believe will enhance the quality of transparency and accountability we all yearn for.”