After keeping mute for almost one month, former Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer ‘Befakor’ Sekyi-Hughes issued a statement last week defending his disgraceful ‘loot’ of the house he stayed in as the third most important man in the land. His statement, though welcome, was quite disappointing in the sense that it didn’t reveal anything new.
I was expecting that he would come out with all guns blazing, threatening legal action against his accusers – including the leaders of both sides of parliament – and denying all the allegations that he shamelessly ransacked the house. If he had done that, his accusers would have bowed their heads in shame and eaten humble pie. Case closed!
As things stand now, those who have been calling him names from “thief” to “master looter” are walking about with their shoulders high, even more convinced that his decision to take away everything in the house – including soap dishes and flower pots – was a disgraceful affront to the office he occupied.
In his statement, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes points out that he didn’t take away anything that he wasn’t entitled to, confirming what minority leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has already told us – that ‘Befakor’ claims that the Parliamentary Service Board (PSB) had given him the licence to loot.
“My proposal regarding the disposal and sale of soft furnishing to occupants of official residences at the end of their term of office was approved,” he writes.
The majority leader, Alban Bagbin (a member of the PSB under Sakyi-Hughes) has repeatedly denied knowledge of any such approval. But even if we assume that for one reason or another Mr. Bagbin is afflicted by a sudden bout amnesia, how exactly can Mr. Sekyi-Hughes use whatever green light he claims to have been given to brighten up this dark deed of greed.
For a man of his age, one would have expected that when he was vacating the bungalow – and assuming permission had been granted for some things to be taken away – he would have asked for a representative of the Parliamentary Service Board to be present to determine what had been “approved” for “disposal and sale”. This representative would have been kind enough to point out to him – in case he didn’t know – that generator sets do not exactly qualify to be classified as “soft furnishings”.
In his statement, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes also tries to use legalese to create confusion in our minds by suggesting that his predecessors might have enjoyed a “loot” like his.
“Such furnishing (soft and hard),” he writes, “has been retained by leadership on leaving office”, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes wrote.
Here, he deliberately uses the word “leadership” because it doesn’t apply only to speakers. The deputy speakers, the whips and the leaders on both sides of the house are also part of the “leadership” of parliament. These people are primarily MPs and whatever package they enjoy – as obscene as it may be – is quite different from what Mr. Sekyi Hughes would want us to believe was enjoyed by his predecessors.
Mr. Sekyi-Hughes’ predecessor, Peter Ala Adjetey stayed in his own house throughout his tenure as speaker. There is no way Ala Adjetey would have looted state property in the same shameful manner Sekyi-Hughes did. However, it must be said that Mr. Adjetey’s house was furnished by the state and he kept the furnishings when he was booted out. I am told there was a similar arrangement with Justice Daniel Annan (speaker from 1992 to 2000).
Contrast this with the senior MPs – the whips, the majority and minority leaders as well as the two deputy speakers whose retirement package forms part of the obscene ex-gratia most right-thinking Ghanaians are complaining about. They are allowed to buy their officials bungalows (and all therein) at ‘donkomised’ prices.
Perhaps this is what Mr. Sekyi-Hughes is referring to when he points out that leadership “retained” some furnishings. This is rather disingenuous because being allowed to buy and keep a house and everything in it is quite different from vacating the house and stripping it bare.
Furthermore, most of us can quite stomach the idea that a public official whose accommodation doesn’t become a burden on the state should be allowed to “retain” the furnishing the state has provided him – as was the case with Ala Adjetey. But very few of us (perhaps, mostly of the Sekyi-Hughes ilk) will accept that a departing public official should vacate his residence and take away everything and not “leave even a pin behind,” as Majority leader Alban Bagbin puts it.
Having failed to deliver a clear, emphatic and unequivocal denial of the allegation that he had engaged in a disgraceful “loot”, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes finally suggests he is waiting for word from the relevant authority so that he can take the next steps.
“If it is the view that any particular item must be paid for,” he writes “the Parliamentary Service Board may so determine it, consistent with the manner of disposal to earlier beneficiaries.”
Such shamelessness! Why can’t he just cart back all the stuff he took away (let’s say in anger) just to shame those who have been calling him names? Then, after sifting through the items, the PSB can decide what he is entitled to. For sure, they would allow him to keep his wall hangings as well as the towels and bed sheets. But the expensive crockery, the so-called designer curtains and Arabian rugs are state property and he must not be allowed to keep them. If Kufuor’s cars have been taken back, Sekyi-Hughes’ rugs and forks must be retrieved.
The Parliamentary Service Board is due to meet next Tuesday to discuss the the former speaker’s disgraceful loot. Hopefully they will come out with a strong statement that Mr. Sekyi-Hughes acted wrongly and that he deceives when he says that he had been given permission to loot. If for any reason, he cannot return the items, he must be made to pay for them in such a manner that he feels punished for desecrating the high office he once occupied with such unrestrained avarice.