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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Muntaka ‘Girlfriend’ Revealed

muntakaJust as the ripples of his momentous time in the court of public opinion are beginning to fade, former Minister of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, has bounced back with what cynics describe as a belated defence. Although he admitted that his discretion to travel with his girl friend was flawed, he stated that the action was not criminal in nature, challenging “those who are without sin to cast the first stone”.

Latest revelations showed that Alhaji Muntaka, when he was minister, traveled with his entourage, members of which were Charles James Aryeh of the Sports Council, Kofi Bartholomew Kukubor and Ms Edith Zinayela, through the VVIP lounge at the airport, and collected per diem approved for them by the Chief of Staff, J.H.M. Newman. A correspondence dated 14th May 2009 and signed by J.H.M. Newman, Chief of Staff, gave approval for the minister and a three-man entourage to travel to Germany with the payment of $2,615.23 as per diem for three of the ‘officials’.

However, Daily Guide’s checks revealed that apart from Charles Aryeh and the former Minister, the two other members of the team including the alleged girlfriend had nothing to do with the Sports Ministry and yet per diem approved by the Office of the President was collected for them.The Sports Ministry also paid for their visa application when they were not staff of the ministry. Also, the VVIP facility at the airport was made accessible to them and the advantage of those using it is that they would not be subjected to bodily search as obtaining in the other exit points.

Part of the correspondence requesting that the entourage pass through the VVIP point dated 14th May 2008, read: “The Ministry of Youth and Sports presents its compliments and wishes to inform you that Hon Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, Minister of this ministry and three other officials are scheduled to travel to Germany on Thursday 14th May 2009. We should accordingly be grateful if you could grant them permit to use the VVIP lounge at the Kotoka International Airport.” Allen Agbenatoe, Deputy Director (HRD), signed for Muntaka. However, speaking on a JoyFM morning programme yesterday, the former minister, who is also the MP for the Asawasi constituency in Kumasi, conceded that he breached the norm when he traveled with Edith Zinayela on the purse of the state.

He however dismissed the notion that his trips with the lady were for fun, explaining that in both Germany and La Cote d’Ivoire where he was with the lady, they could not have had time for such engagements as being insinuated by some Ghanaians because the programmes were so planned as to make such things impossible.He appeared to have prickled the minds of many who began questioning what the import of the defence was when the radio programme ended. The MP took solace in what he said was an honourable exoneration by the National Security committee which probed the 17-point charges leveled against him. Had people taken an objective look at the report which followed the investigation, he noted, “Nobody in his right sense of mind (sic) would say I was covered up”.

Alhaji Muntaka earned for himself notoriety and fame when a principal accountant at the Sports Ministry presented a 17-point charge against him to the Presidency. While some Ghanaians questioned the sincerity of the accountant’s action, others saw in it a veracity requiring immediate intervention by government.When eventually the President ordered the National Security apparatus to probe the allegations, many Ghanaians expressed apprehension over what the outcome of such an exercise would be.For such skeptics, the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service and not the National Security apparatus should be charged with such tasks.

The President, John Evans Atta Mills’ slogan of not shielding even his ministers when they soil their image with corrupt practices, was no doubt put on trial. Eventually, the then minister was cleared of most of the charges but went away with the indictment of indiscretion. Some of the charges had it that he traveled with Edith Zinayela, a secretary who then worked in the office of the Majority Leader in Parliament, Alban Bagbin. Edith is said to be cooling off in the United Kingdom.Alhaji Muntaka was said to have traveled with the lady to both Cote d’Ivoire and Germany at the expense of the state, even though he denied that they had an intimate relationship.

The litany of charges also had it that the MP taxed the ministry’s coffers for such expenses as the purchase of pampers and meat for his household among others.Alhaji Muntaka denied many of the charges, especially since documentary evidence could not be adduced to support the charges, Daily Guide gathered.The case, which raged on for a while, eventually saw the Chief Director of the Sports Ministry losing his job.The Chief Director could not understand the denial of the then minister that he did not collect an amount of $10,000 being landing expenses for the aircraft which conveyed the Ghanaian entourage to Abidjan.

The resignation of the minister at the instance of the President attracted a rowdy reaction by some members of his constituents in Kumasi who destroyed billboards bearing the pictures of President Mills.He told his radio host when asked whether he intended contesting the next polls as an independent candidate that “regardless of the cannibalism in the party, we must build it and hold onto it; that is our party, the NDC party.” Alhaji Muntaka’s outbursts will obviously attract a mixed reaction from the political spectrum.


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