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Ghana debates military jet purchase

July 22, 2011 at 2:32 PM   |   Comments

ACCRA, Ghana, July 22 (UPI) -- The decision by the National Democratic Congress government to acquire five new aircraft for Ghana's armed forces at a cost of $102 million has been debated in Parliament.

Both Parliament's majority and minority factions were involved in the discussions, The Ghanaian Chronicle reported Friday.

The proposed purchase includes a Brazilian-made Embraer E 190 jet with hangar facilities, two Italian-built Breda BA 42 Guardian Surveillance jets and another two CT95 aircraft.

Parliament's Minority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu accused the government of hypocrisy and corruption in the purchase of the military jets and claimed he "smelled a rat" in the purchases.

The minority abstained from the voting, which approved the purchase of the Embraer E 190 jet.

The Embraer E 190, which has a passenger capacity of 100, will be used to carry military personnel on peacekeeping missions and its proposed hangar facilities include an ambulance and a bus.

The issue has been roiling Ghanaian politics for three years.

In opposition and in the run-up to the 2008 general elections, the ruling National Democratic Congress, then the Parliament's opposition party, had questioned the propriety of the purchases of only two foreign-built jets, accusing President John Kufuor of engaging in profligate expenses when the country was wracked by poverty, with workers demanding salary increases.

During his first State of the Nation address to Parliament in 2009, President John Mills announced he would reconsider the purchase of the aircraft proposed by Kufuor.

"I will impose austerity measures throughout the government machinery, to ensure that we realize significant savings," Mills said. "As part of these measures we will review the decision to purchase … aircraft. Ghana simply cannot afford the expenditure at this time."

Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, in floor debate, quoted extensively from 2008 parliamentary records noting that the National Democratic Congress had mounted a crusade against the aircraft purchases.

Parliament's Finance Committee moved a motion for the approval of the aircraft. In support of the motion Deputy Minister of Energy Alhaji Fuseini Inusah read part of the committee's report on the agreement, which noted an "urgent need" to replace the aging fleet of aircraft of the Ghanaian air force. The replacement plans would allow for some current aircraft to be "phased out in line with the Air Force's strategic plan," the committee's report said.

In a gauge of popular opinion on the proposed purchase, radio and television stations in Accra have been swamped with calls and text messages, with most people expressing displeasure with the cost of the five aircraft.

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