The political landscape of the Ayensuano constituency has been rocked by a scandal involving the Deputy Tourism Minister, Mark Okraku-Mantey, who allegedly hijacked GHC 50,000 meant for delegates during the recent NPP flagbearer elections.
The scandal has cast a shadow over the electoral process and has raised concerns about the integrity of the political system in the region.
The GHC 50,000 in question was originally provided by the Eastern Regional Campaign team of Vice President Bawumia, to use it as operational funds for providing food and other necessities for the delegates.
The money was handed over to the 1st Vice Chairman of Ayensuoano, Asare Donkor, in the presence of Okraku Mantey and the Constituency’s Youth Organizer, Prince Aboagye.
To make matters worse, it has come to light that Okraku-Mantey sent text messages to delegates, assuring them that he would take care of their feeding during the election process, further implicating him in the misappropriation of the funds.
The scandal took a dramatic turn when it was alleged that Okraku-Mantey had kept the entire sum of GHC 50,000 for himself, causing significant unrest among the supporters of the Bawumia camp.
In the wake of the allegations, Okraku-Mantey responded to the accusations with defiance.
He told the delegates, “The money has been used for operations!!! Nobody will return that money; the money was used for operations. If you like, take me to court.”
This statement only fueled the controversy further and did little to alleviate the concerns of Bawumia’s supporters.
The fallout from this scandal had a significant impact on the election results.
Kennedy Agyapong secured 308 votes, while Vice President Bawumia received 326 votes, a difference of 18 votes.
The heart of the issue lies in the disbursement of an additional Ghc50,000, which was disbursed by Dr Bawumia’s campaign office to the orphan constituency on Friday, November 3, 2023, just one day before the critical Presidential Primaries. This money was intended for “operations.”
The release of this “operation cash” instantly ignited a firestorm of controversy within the constituency.
Accusations began to fly, targeting Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, Mark Okraku-Mantey, and the Constituency’s first Vice Chairman, Asare Dankwah. Both were implicated in an attempt to pocket the funds after failing to distribute them to the delegates.
Incendiary audio recordings and video clips captured angry exchanges among constituency and polling station executives.
Their dissatisfaction stemmed from their belief that this financial mismanagement was a major contributor to the poor performance of Dr Bawumia’s campaign team in Ayensuano.
One party executive articulated the collective frustration, shifting blame squarely onto those who were responsible for managing Dr Bawumia’s campaign in Ayensuano.
In his opinion, the failure to effectively allocate these funds had disastrous consequences.
“This is just the tip of the ice of the iceberg. Seriously speaking who was the coordinator of Dr. Bawumia’s campaign in Ayensuano? Those who claim to be in charge of his campaign didn’t do the work so if we have any blame we must blame Mr. Asare Dankwah for the abysmal performance of Dr. Bawumia because Kennedy Agyapong shared his money as of Friday 8:30 not less than five minutes. And to think of government in power for this” a furious party executive said.
He continued “At almost 10:am a.m., five polling station executives that I encountered told me they wouldn’t vote for Dr. Bawumia if their monies were not given to them. Look at all these. Meanwhile, the money was in the pockets of some individuals.”
Defending Operation Cash, the constituency’s Youth Organizer, Prince Aboagye, staunchly asserted that the money was used for legitimate campaign operations and was not subject to return.
Prince Aboagye went a step further by questioning the motives of those who demanded the return of the operation cash.
He pointed out that the funds had already been allocated for campaign operations and emphasized that there would be no reimbursements.
He boldly challenged anyone to take the matter to court if they disagreed.
“So you wanted that money to be given to you and still vote against him. The money has been used for operations. Nobody will return that money, the money was used for operations. The money was given to the Minister for operations. He won’t account to anyone. If you like take him to court”
A Change of Tune
Nevertheless, on November 6, 2023, Prince Aboagye issued an audio message on the party’s WhatsApp platform denying that the funds were intended to bribe delegates.
“The amount you mentioned either Ghc40,000 or so is a peanut it could be my three-month salary. So be patient [He told the angry party executives].
He added “Dr Mahamudu Bawumia recognized that the Deputy Minister is the one who has been doing his work in their constituency for him. so take it from me from today, that his campaign office recognizes the Deputy Minister (Mark Okraku-Mantey) as his campaign coordinator in Ayensuano so all the monies were brought to him. We gave money to Police, EC so it is not money to bribe anyone.”
Return of the “Operation cash”.
To quell the confusion surrounding the operation cash, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mark Okraku-Mantey decided to take a stand and resolved to return the funds on Monday, November 6, 2023, two days after the elections.
This decision was motivated by a desire to protect his reputation, as he did not want the money to tarnish his image. He made it clear that anyone with claims to a share of the funds should contact the regional office.
“The operation money has been given to the region. I received the operation money, not Asare Dankwah. When u received it I handed it over to Asare Dankwah to vote so I instructed him not to touch the money. Then later I heard rumours that we had taken the money and kept it. Looking at the confusion being created we decided to absorb all the costs we have already incurred. Even the food that we cooked for the delegates, I financed it four days to the election”.
Mark Okraku Mantey added “The money was brought by Dr Bawumia Campaign team for operation work. It was not to be disbursed to executives. So to put matters to rest, we decided not to touch the money……we called the person who brought the money and returned it to avoid a bad name. I won’t let such money tarnish my image. I have returned the money so anyone who feels he has a share should go to the region. So let Okraku Mantey and Asare Dankwah’s name rest here.”
Meanwhile, the former Member of Parliament for Ayensuano, Samuel Ayeh Paye, expressed a similar sentiment, contesting Deputy Minister Okraku Mantey’s decision to withhold the operation money.
He contended that this fund was meant for various campaign activities.
“I disagree with you deputy minister on the operation money because those from the region who brought Dr. Bawumia’s money for delegates are the same people who brought the operation money. Operations money is for ways and means. Having disbursed the package for the delegates, the operations money for active supporters of Dr. Bawumia. It is also used to sort out things like water shortage, extra canopies needed etc so it doesn’t make sense that you decided to keep the money and directed that nobody should touch it.”