Row over Indian funding in Ghana presidential palace

By Francis Kokutse, IANS,

Accra (Ghana) : The Indian government’s funding for the construction of a presidential palace in the Ghanaian capital has caused a row with a former Ghana president commending New Delhi and the present incumbent refusing to move into the $135 million home. There are even suggestions that it be converted into a poultry farm.

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The presidential palace, called Jubilee House, was funded by the Indian government under the regime of former president John Agyekum Kufuor and it has generated a lot of controversy over the past 22 months.

Kufuor has commended the Indian government for its decision to fund the building of Jubilee House which was to serve as the official seat of government away from the present Osu Castle that used to be a slave post.

But President John Atta Mills has refused to move into the building in line with his 2008 campaign promise that he would not live there as the money spent on the building could have been used on other things to benefit the poor.

Tony Aidoo, head of policy monitoring and evaluation at the presidency, had even suggested that the entire building be used as a poultry farm.

The initial controversy was over the cost of the project.

Originally estimated at $36.9 million dollars, this was said to have shot up to $135 million with the provision of additional facilities to enhance external and internal security. The amount was part of a $60m facility that has a 50 percent grant element, at an interest rate of 1.75 percent, repayable in 25 years, including a five-year moratorium.

Shapoorji Pallonji of India was named as contractor of the project, which started in 2006 and was completed in 2008.

Officials of the new government under President John Atta Mills now claim that official correspondence from the Indian consultants to the project, STUP Consultants Limited, put the cost of the Golden Jubilee Presidential Palace complex at $135 million.

The government last year relocated the ministry of foreign affairs to the building following a fire that destroyed the offices of the ministry in the centre of the capital.

Controversies continue to dog the presidential palace with the latest row being over name change.

Supporters of the present government recently went under the cover of night to change the name of the building to Flagstaff House. That was the original name of the official building which the country’s first leader, president Kwame Nkrumah, used on the site before the Jubilee House was built.

Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Segbefia said that the latest name change was effected because the old regime under president Kufuor tried to wipe out the name of Kwame Nkrumah, which is synonymous with the Flagstaff House.

Deputy Minister of Information James Agyenim-Boateng said on Oct 4 that the government took the decision to rename the building because the name Jubilee House had no legal backing.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at [email protected])