The Bank of Ghana has defended its decision to buy half a million dollars worth of gold watches for its retiring staff amid a growing outcry over wasteful spending.
Local news outlet StarrFM reported on Wednesday that it had seen documents showing the bank had requested the Public Procurement Authority buy 72 Swiss watches worth $502,000 for retiring staff.
Civil rights groups seized on the purchase of Swiss gold watches — worth almost $7000 each — as a sign of excess within President John Mahama’s ruling government in the run-up to fiercly contested presidential polls in December.
But the bank said that the procurement of the watches was done within the law and cited a tradition of awarding outgoing staff with gifts to “boost staff morale.”
“End of service benefits, as part of the conditions of service for staff, is a longstanding tradition of the bank,” it said in an emailed statement.
“In the year 2012, the bank decided to procure the gold watches once every two years in order to control cost and make savings on foreign exchange,” said the bank, denying claims it had flouted procurement rules to buy the retirement gifts.
“No procurement rules were breached in presenting sole sourcing justification to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for approval.”
Civil rights groups were unconvinced.
“Scandals of this nature cannot continue to happen and be swept under the carpet within the public sector,” said the Alliance for Accountable Governance in a statement, reported radio station Joy FM.
“At a time when the unemployment rate, especially among the youth keeps rising, the economy is struggling and the Ghana cedi is one of the worst performing currencies across the globe, it is unbelievable that the Bank of Ghana would rather focus on blowing over half a million dollars.”
Mahama earlier this year came under fire for accepting a luxury vehicle gift from a construction contractor.
Corruption claims have dogged the president as he struggles to revive Ghana’s economy following a slump in global commodity prices.