In a week where Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has been criticized over a bloated delegation to an UNCTAD conference, two young politicians from the two largest political parties have faced off in a contest of history and bloated political delegations to international conferences.
While a Deputy Chief of Staff Abu Jinapor is vehemently defending the number and composition of the delegation which accompanied the Vice President in the recent UNCTAD conference, his counterpart and Member of Parliament for North Tongu Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is steeped in criticism of the delegation, accusing Bawumia of draining the public purse and Jinapor of being “economical with the facts.”
Part of the issue of controversy was the necessity or otherwise in carrying along a valet to the UNCTAD conference, to help in cleaning and keeping up appearances of the vice president.
Okudzeto Ablakwa is convinced taking a valet along was unnecessary and to carry four more economic advisors along with the Vice President, who is himself an economist, is a needless duplication, and a drain on the country’s limited resources.
But Jinapor insisted the vice president cannot be made to do ironing by himself on an international conference, adding, a valet had always been a constant delegation member for the late Vice presidents Ackaah, John Mills and Aliu Mahama as well John Mahama.
He wondered Bawumia should be denied same.
Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia is said to have carried along a delegation of 21 officers to a 2017 UNCTAD conference which had other countries presenting at least one and at most five delegation members.
Canada presented one with the second highest delegation being China with five delegation members.
A Spokesperson to the Vice President Dr Gideon Boako explained that there was an error by conference organisers who added names of some five Ghanaian officials who were already resident in Geneva and who were not officially carried along as members of the veep’s delegation from Ghana.
“UNCTAD have admitted that they made an error by adding persons based permanently in Geneva who did not travel with the Vice President…Our Vice President was invited as the special guest for the UNCTAD,” he told Citi FM.
But the Minority has not been convinced.
Okudzeto Ablakwa who led the Minority charge against the bloated Bawumia delegation said the “thousand-man delegation” of staffers flies in the face of a government that touted austerity.
He said a travel ban imposed in June 2018 with a well-coordinated and syndicated publication plan was nothing more than a sham intended to create an impression government was interested in saving travel cost in government.
He wondered why Bawumia will carry along a Secretary, Valet, Aide-de-Camp, Executive Assistant, Four Economic advisors in a 21-man delegation to a Conference which had countries supporting Ghana’s economy and projects also attending with far fewer delegation members.
“…Meanwhile, at the meeting was Canada which is generously financing our Planting for Food and Jobs Programme attending with ONE delegate.
China, the world's largest merchandise trader and whom we are pleading with to express interest in our bauxite for $2billion arrived with only a FIVE-member delegation.
“The United States and Germany who follow China in that order as the World's largest merchandise traders were both represented at the same session by ONE delegate each. Our big brothers Nigeria also kept to the lean and respectable delegation of ONE,” he said.
But Abu Jinapor in a rebuttal accused Ablakwa of being hypocritical and playing to the gallery.
He explained the Vice President was specifically invited by the Conference organisers because he had a role to play.
He said none of the other attendees mentioned by Ablakwa came with a vice president.
“A vice president anywhere in the world will travel necessarily with the ADCs and every vice president of our country has always traveled with an ADC. The Vice president will necessarily travel with the head of security. The vice president will necessarily travel with the head of protocol and every vice president has done so. There is no single person on that delegation who accompanied the vice president who has not accompanied previous vice presidents,” he said.
Abu Jinapor said he had documentary evidence to show that then Vice president Mahama traveled to conferences across the world with 40-50 delegation and wondered why the same party will be making noise over a 21-delegation member by another government.
“I am tempted to point out to Ablakwa the delegation that vice president Mahama led to an ordinary session of the UN General assembly it will blow his mind,” he said.
In a response Okudzeto Ablakwa said: “My brother Abu Jinapor is not being fair to the facts…he refuses to compare like to like,” he said, suggesting that Jinapor should have cited an UNCTAD conference under vice president rather than using UN General Assembly as his example.