Defense Minister, is facing claims of contract price inflation in the award of a US$22 million night vision binoculars, monoculars and the accessories and training for the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).
The Majority side of Parliament led by Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, last Friday gave approval for a 50 percent down payment to the suppliers; Financiere DUC, Luxembourg.
A cursory search through Google, Amazon, eBay, reveal that Night Vision binoculars sell between $35 and $500, but Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, told Parliament last Friday ahead of its recess that the Akufo-Addo government is purchasing them at a unit cost of US$6,850.
At the rate of GH¢5.4 to $1, this means the government is buying each binoculars at GH¢36,900.
The most expensive binoculars; the Sightmark Ghost Hunter 1×24 Night Vision binoculars sells at $499.99.
The over US$11 million, is being secured from Financiere DUC, Luxembourg at a time Ghanaian solders, have for some time now been complaining about the uniforms and boots, saying they need spares. It is not uncommon to see a soldier with faded uniforms and worn-out boots.
The equipment are meant for the few armed forces and navy officers deployed to Ghana’s territorial waters.
Reports from Parliament’s Finance Committee, reveals that government of Ghana, intends to allocate a US$ 22 million to buy 1,500 pieces of night vision goggles and rifle scopes.
Night vision binoculars and monocular, also known as Night Optical Devices or Night Vision Goggles, allow a person to see an object clearly in the night. They are often used by the military and law enforcement agencies. However, civilians too can use it.
The Minority in parliament, is said to have raised alarm about the amount the Defense Minister quoted, therefore,refused to pass the $11,040,425 for down payment to the Luxembourg company, Financiere DUC.
But Majority members in Parliament approved the loan facility said to be a 50percent down payment for the contract, with the Ministry of Defence, would be pumping in the remaining US$ 11 million.
In the items, government will blow US$ 10.27 million on 1,500 units of “Night Vision Goggles with Helmet Mounted Accessories”.
This item, will cost US$ 26,500 to transport while insurance on them will cost US$ 464,000. Another US$10.27, will be spent on the same units of Thermal Rifle Scope while that will also cost US$ 26,000 to transport and US$ 464, 000 on insurance.
Other minor items include Tactical Helmet with goggle mount, Rifle-mounted flashlight, Aiming Rifle Sight, Day Rifle Scope and Aiming Rifle sights.
Even though all these items are being ordered en-bloc the breakdown curiously allocated separate transportation costs to each item. Also, a breakdown of each item shows that it was far above the highest-priced which range around US$ 4,000.
Indeed, the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) protested against what it considered outrageous spending, particularly coming in the heels of the recent botched attempt by the Ghanaian Parliament to pump a whopping US$200 million to construct a new luxury chamber for themselves.
“You’ll find some as low as $1,000 and the highest is around $3,000 but we are being told that we are going to buy them at $6,850. That is why this report should indicate the exact specifications of the equipment,” a livid Builsa North MP, James Agalga said, adding that the prices being offered are ridiculous.
“How can we tax Ghanaians and waste it in the way that we are proposing to do. We owe the taxpayer the responsibility to ensure that there is value for money when we are engaged in these purchases,” he said during the last session of Parliament.
In the report available to The Herald by Whatsup News, the Ministry of Finance, had given assurances that it has already made allocations for the purchase in the 2019 Mid-year review budget statement. The Minority had strongly opposed the spending, but the Majority New Patriotic Party (NPP) used their numbers to push the deal through.
According to the report, the Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul informed the Finance Committee those are part of the recommended safety gear for the military, “Unfortunately, the Ghana Armed Forces lack these safety equipment”
“…in order to address the situation and provide standard protection for the military that the Government of Ghana is procuring these safety equipment. The provision of these equipment is to ensure that the average Ghanaian soldier can defend himself in times of need,” the report justified the contract.
Accordingly, the equipment are meant to be used by Ghanaian soldiers for both internal and external operations including special operations such as the Project Vanguard against illegal Mining operations, Operation Calm Life and Operation Cow Leg. For external purposes, the equipment will be used for international missions such as the UN Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Initially, the Ghanaian Parliament had intended to approve US$ 66 million for the project but had to pipe down for lack of funds. Duration of the contract is expected to span between 2019 and 2021.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul noted in Parliament last week that there may be cheaper options of the said equipment but “that is not what any Armed Forces will use. Armed Forces of Ghana have a standard and are held to those standards.
“Before the Armed Forces purchase any equipment they go to inspect it first. So the Armed forces of Ghana are not the type that will go on the internet to buy equipment,” the Defence Minister defended the planned expenditure.
He stressed the standards of the Armed Forces, cannot be lowered and they cannot purchase anything that is less than the quality of western type.
“Defence is not a normal Ministry, where the Minster will go and be doing purchases.” In his view, the $6,850 price tag is the lowest in the market “for a very good night vision goggle and the type of equipment we are looking for.”