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Letter From The President: Per diem folly 10/21/2005
Letter From The President: Per diem folly

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents,
I am glad that at long last the issue of my per diem has attracted your attention. I’ve raised this issue in several of my letters in the past but very few of you seem to take notice until somewhere last week when a citizen of Sikaman wrote an article on the internet accusing me of ‘legalized stealing’. I think the call by the WAHALA boys for a total disclosure of the per diem allowances also helped to get your attention on the issue. Am really glad I have your attention.

Now, I am going to tell you (once again) about my views on per diems. Simply put I believe that the payment of per diem allowances to government delegations on official trips abroad should be discontinued immediately. The auditor general appears to have set the records straight by actually putting out figures on how much state officials earn for each day they spend outside of Sikaman. Fair enough.

I only wish that he had come out with those figures much earlier than he did. The statement put out by the auditor general was couched in such a way as to convince citizens that there is no need to complain about how much the president earns as per diem. After all, it just under five hundred dollars. I insist that the hue and cry should continue until the per diems are abolished. I believe that the per diems allowances should stop because they constitute a needless and foolish waste of money. When I travel abroad my hotel bills are adequately catered for by the state of Sikaman. In fact, in most cases, the government of the country I am visiting takes care of all my bills – unless, of course, I went there uninvited. Even so they take care of some things. I eat free, drink free, sleep free and deliver my presidential ‘poo’ at no personal cost to me.

Sometimes, I even shop free and get nice things for my wife and concubines. The same courtesies are extended to almost every member of my delegation – except the shopping bit and sometimes their consumption is controlled. But that’s ok. So what’s the sense in doling out between 50 and 450 dollars each day to every member of a presidential (or governmental) delegation on an official trip abroad?

Let’s just assume that for my last trip abroad (the one to France) I went with an entourage of about 50. I don’t know how long I spent there (time doesn’t matter much when you are in the luxurious mansion of Jacque Chirac) but I think it was a five day trip. I know most of you don’t like Maths (I don’t either) but try and focus here and you will understand the few calculations I am about to show you. Let’s assume that for each day I spent in Paris, I earned 450 dollars. That comes to 2250 dollars for me alone. Let’s also assume that 20 members of the entourage took home 300 dollars each. That comes to 30,000 dollars (over the five day period). Let’s assume that the other members of the delegation each took a per diem of 150 dollars. That comes to 22,500 dollars (over a five day period). So in total, we should have spent about 54,750 dollars on per diem allowances in Paris. Now, 54,750 dollars comes to four hundred and ninety-eight million, two hundred and twenty-five thousand cedis. That is a lot of money – almost half a billion cedis.

Do you know what that would do for the people of Jinijini? It can build them a simple health post that can take care of their basic healthcare needs to ensure that simple diseases like ‘beriberi’ do not render them unproductive. Do you know what that money will do for the people of Eshiem (the hometown of my 2nd concubine’s father)? The kids there are studying under mango trees and whenever it rains or whenever the sun decides to remind us that we are rendering the ozone layer useless, school stops. So half a billion cedis can build a modern school complex for them. That’s not all. Half a million cedis can be used to supply potable water to people in some parts of the Nalerigu district who have been compelled to live like animals – drinking muddy water from the same puddles as their goats. I hope you get the picture now.

If we stopped doling out per diem allowances to government officials on foreign trips we could make almost as much savings as we make from debt relief and HIPC. A poor country like ours cannot continue to squander money on government officials traveling abroad. Come to think of it, these foreign trips bring us little or no benefits. So what’s the point?

Apart from the per diem allowances being a foolish waste of money, I think that they create the wrong impression about whether we are a thinking people or whether we have our priorities rights. What will George Bush say when he hears that my government officials and I are squandering scarce resources by paying ourselves fat travel allowances and yet we always go to him to beg for help? He would think that we are foolish. And he might also think that a foolish people are often led by a person who is not very wise – that will be me right? Most annoyingly, he might even think that I don’t care about the welfare of my people – whiles people drink mud water, I sip champagne in the luxury of Jacque Chirac’s mansion and get paid for it. You know am not like that. That’s why I am happy that you are now talking about the issue of per diems. Let the debate continue. Don’t let anyone – including the police – intimidate you from questioning the wisdom in doling out per diems. At the end of the debate, I want to see per diems scrapped – for good. When per diems are scrapped you will see a drastic reduction in the number of people who always scramble to travel with me. As things stand now, even garden boys want to be part of my travel delegations just because of the per diem allowances.

Before, I sign off, please allow me to chastise the police CID for foolishly interrogating journalists from the Chronicle for reproducing the ‘legalised stealing’ article in the newspaper. According to the police they decided to interrogate the journalists to “find out their motive” for publishing the article. Such nonsense. Why won’t they question me and my government officials for their motive for ‘stealing’ public funds to pay ourselves per diem allowances? The police should stay out of matters that do not concern them. The last time I checked, we were still looking for the murderers of the Ya Na. That’s still the police’s job, right? They should focus on tracking down criminals. They should not be harassing hapless journalists who take delight in just reproducing the critical articles of others because they are not even bold enough to challenge public officials and point out the folly in government policies.

Excellently yours, J. A. Fukuor

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