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Mahama Boy Grilled Over Hajj

PRESIDENT JOHN Dramani Mahama's nominee for minister of state at the presidency in charge of scholarships yesterday had a grueling session before the Appointments Committee of Parliament on matters relating to organization of Hajj in the country.

Alhaji Limuna Mohammed Muniru, chairman for the 2008 Hajj Committee, was grilled over the 'shambolic' organization of Hajj about five years ago, during which hundreds of would-be Muslim pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mecca, were left stranded in Accra.

The nominee had a hectic time in extricating himself from the disastrous Hajj organization in 2008, explaining he inherited an already bad situation from his predecessors.

Alhaji Muniru told members of the Appointments Committee that the previous Hajj Committee could not airlift about 750 would-be pilgrims even though it had collected huge sums of monies from them.

He explained that his committee had taken over the baggage and this created a lot of confusion in their attempt to handle the old cases and fresh ones at the time.

According to Alhaji Muniru, he and his team were able to handle the issue in an effective manner that resulted in the removal of bottlenecks that had confronted the operations of Hajj.

Later, the nominee used the opportunity to explain how he intended to restructure the scholarship scheme for the benefit of majority of Ghanaians.

Taking his turn, the minister of state designate in charge of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements, Alhaji Abdul-Rashid Hassan Pelpuo, promised to help develop indigenous businesses in the country.

'My vision is to help develop local businesses so that they can facilitate the growth of the economy,' Pelpuo stated when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament yesterday.

Pelpuo, a former Minister for Youth and Sports and Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament, whilst answering questions from members of the committee about his new portfolio, indicated he would ensure there was an appropriate legal way to regulate public-private partnership agreements in the country.

According to the nominee, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wa Central, he intended to set up a secretariat to do feasibility studies on projects the public-private partnership would be executing.

His outfit, he added, would also identify projects which government intended to execute but did not have resources so that government could invite the private sector to partner it to carry out such projects.

Earlier, Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, a member of the Appointments Committee, described Pelpuo as a versatile man who would excel in his new portfolio.

Other ministerial nominees at the presidency who appeared before the Appointments Committee included Fifi Kwetey, Alhaji Limuna Mohammed Muniru and Comfort Doye Cudjoe.

Fifi Kwetey, Minister of State-designate at the Presidency in charge of Financial and Allied institutions, was quizzed on various issues including huge loans contracted by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), the topical issue of fuel subsidy and youth empowerment.

Touching on fuel subsidies, the former deputy minister for Finance and Economic Planning told the parliamentary committee that the continuous payment of fuel subsidies by government was 'inflicting far more damage on the people.'

'We must have the courage to once and for all deal with this fuel subsidy because the subsidy thing has almost become an ostrich; it's almost as if we are pretending the problem is not there but the problem is there. We are pretending somehow by continuing to allow subsidies,' Fifi Kwetey said.

Just this week, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) urged government to remove subsidies on fuel because it was not sustainable due to the current demand on the market.

Fifi Kwetey waded into the issue, saying the payment of the fuel subsidies did not impact positively on the poor and the matter should be tackled head on.

'What we are doing is temporarily creating the impression that we are cushioning you in terms of how much you are spending at the pump, how much fuel you have to buy and so on.'

According to Fifi Kwetey, who is also the MP for Ketu South, government sometimes borrowed to pay the subsidies.

'Sometimes we have to get Bank of Ghana to finance and it affects us in many ways; it causes inflation and that inflation affects prices, it affects income of workers, it prevents us from using some of these critical subsidies for critical things that actually affect the poor,' he maintained.

The last nominee, Comfort Doye Cudjoe, spent less than 15 minutes at the parliamentary committee, answering a few questions on her curriculum vitae.

By Awudu Mahama

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