The capacity of new Minister of Information, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, to be honest and lay the truth bare even if unpleasant to government has been called into serious question after a failed attempt to address controversy surrounding the Office of Government Machinery (OGM) staff for 2019.
The Minister had claimed the 1,614 figure captured in the 2019 budget was a reduction of the ceiling for 2018, which was pegged at 1,697 and therefore government size would actually reduce by 83.
The Minority in Parliament, however, argued that the Information Minister was not truthful because the 2017 ceiling as contained in the 2017 budget statement was 953, which government exceeded by 45 after reports confirmed 998 people were appointed to the Office of Government Machinery.
At a press conference addressed by ranking member on Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, he noted that claims by the Minister the increase is a result of the Minority comparing Office of President, (998 in 2018), which was part of the 1,697 ceiling with the entire OGM ceiling for 2019 (1,614) was not nothing but peddling falsehood.
The 998 figure, he indicated, cannot belong to 2018 because that report, which would confirm the number of staff appointed to the office is yet to be presented to Parliament, which would be sometime next year.
He said, “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.”
According to him, Hon. Oppong Nkrumah’s claim that the minority do not know the difference between Office of the President and the Office of Government Machinery is clear case of the Minister trying to disguise the issues, stressing that even the Budget Statement only captures Office of Government Machinery and not Office of the President, which is a subset of the former.
Hon. Ablakwa noted that the Minister was so anxious to discredit the Minority that he failed to realize if the 998 staff reported to Parliament in March this year only refers to the Office of the President and not the entire Office of Government Machinery, it makes the matter even worse.
“It presupposes that Government under-reported to Parliament and that the 998 figure was far below the reality. Clearly, the Minister did not help Government’s case and this only happens when you try to spin facts which are so obvious and sacred,” he said.
The President Akufo-Addo-led NPP government, he stressed, is too large and wasteful and observed that if Ghanaians did not accept the 998 when the information became public in March how would they embrace the jump to 1,614.
He said, “Obviously, President Akufo-Addo did not mean it when he pledged to protect the Public Purse during his presidential inaugural address and we in the Minority are resolved to do everything in our power to prevent the continuous rape of the public purse.”
The size of the government, he said, is the height of insensitivity and an insult to Ghanaians who only a few months ago had the cause to vehemently oppose 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.
The Minority, he said, demands downwards adjustment and ceiling of Staff at the OGM else they would join Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to pressure the government to salvage the deteriorating living conditions of the poor taxpayer because of the size of government.
By Osumanu Al-Hassanfirstname.lastname@example.org