The Ranking Member on Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Samuel Okudzeto has accused President Akufo-Addo of ostentatious spending at a time that Ghana is going through economic hardships.

He alleges that it costs the taxpayer £345,000, that is, ¢2,828,432.80 when the President travelled on G-KELT aircraft, instead of the presidential jet on his 10-day foreign travel.

Consequently, the matter has become a matter of public debate. As expected, security analysts and other experts have also spoken to the matter with differing opinions as to whether the matter of presidential travel cost should become a subject for scrutiny.

I have read some experts and analysts argue that International Best Practice does not require presidential protection services (travel, residential, etc.) to be subjected to such scrutiny.

For the records, I am yet to see any such International Best Practice requiring governments, or our government for that matter, not to disclose full cost of presidential travel to Parliament. Suffice to say, Government has not argued so. International Best Practice in any true democracy is to hold oneself accountable to the people.

In advanced democracies like the United States of America, it is required by law under the Presidential Protection Assistance Act, 1976 for the Secret Service, the Department of Defense, and the Coast Guard to submit semi-annual reports of expenditure (including travels) incurred on Presidential Protection services.

Such reports are distributed across the Committees on Appropriations, Committees on the Judiciary, and Committees on Government Operations of the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, on March 31 and September 30, of each year.

The Presidential Protection expenses are further subjected to audit by the Comptroller General and his authorized representatives, who have unimpeded access to all (not some) records relating to such expenditures. The Comptroller General then transmits a report of the audit results to the Committees on Appropriations, Committees on the Judiciary, and Committees on Government Operations of the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively for further scrutiny.

Thus, Presidential travels, irrespective of the type of travel, be it official, political, or other non-official purposes, is subject to scrutiny as far as public funds are involved.

No one, well organized in his “upstairs”, will request for a detailed listing of how many machine guns, ammunitions, or number of armed personnel accompanied the president just to appreciate cost of a travel or level of protection offered.

After all, this is not the first time a President has travelled, and it won’t be the last. We will most certainly know whether the public purse is being efficiently applied when the figures roll. Therefore, there cannot be any justifiable reason under the sun not to account for the use of public funds.

Consequently, considerations such as national security, presidential security, etc. cannot, and should not provide a “cover” for wanton dissipation of the public purse. Presidential travels all over the world, involve extensive security and diplomatic arrangements made ahead, during, and the aftermath of the travel that costs the taxpayer significant currency.

Also, there are certain individuals who are required, in the performance of their official duties, to accompany the President when he travels; whose costs are also paid for, by the State. How can we not be concerned about how much it costs the taxpayer for Mr. President to travel?

I am rather disappointed that as a country, we seem not to even know which Ministry/Ministries should be accounting to the representatives of the people on presidential travels. We appear not to have even learnt any lessons from the past.

In 2001, President J. A. Kufuor was alleged to have spent $4 million of State funds to renovate his private residence. This became a national political hot potato, until one Ex-Police Officer and a farmer, was claimed to have settled the debt to the State.

Then in 2018, President Akufo-Addo was also alleged to have appropriated some GH¢9.5 million to renovate his private Nima residence. There is formal arrangement, that monies spent, or maximum-security fixtures installed to serve as protection services to these Presidents/Vice Presidents, will be reverted to the state or the cost will be shared in any way.

Perhaps, it’s about time we enacted a Presidential Protection Services law like that of the United States of America to streamline and regulate security expenses for the President, Vice President and their immediate family members.

There’s not a truly successful and legitimate democracy, that is not accountable to the people. Presidential protection and all other services must be accounted for.

I am a bonafide citizen, not a passive spectator.

Author: Nana Yaw Akwada

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this publication are solely that of the author and are not necessarily those of the Bureau of Public Safety. The views are not subscribed to or influenced by any other organization or institution or persons the author has, may have, or have had a relationship with.