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Opinions Wed, 28 Feb 2018

Nana Yaa Ofori Atta writes: Bounty hunting

The Auditor General (AudG), Daniel Yaw Domelevo must begin to practice his small talk. He announced earlier this month in Accra, that his Office had investigated and subsequently issued Disallow and Surcharge certificates for Ghc5.4 billion cedis worth of public goods and services.

Some were found to have already been paid and had unilaterally chosen to reappear like the seasonal rains, some were not properly contracted for, others transactions were over priced and in some cases, the contract simply did not exist. That statement was the curtain raiser. Act II came a few weeks later - the virtual shoe in to Office by Parliament of Martin Amidu, Ghana's first Special Prosecutor.

Act I, Scene II

Contractors and public servants who disagree with the AudG's findings that they should not be paid have 60 days to proceed to court. What is astonishing is that thus far, no one has taken the usual Ghanaian position. Held a press conference, issued a wordy communique, taken to multiple broadcast stations, issued fiery prophecies against him, invoked wizards/witches/goblins and other such low flying objects.

No one has raised a finger or stuck his/her head over the parapet. Not a sausage. Not a whimper. Not even one small unity walk fair game. There are a few more weeks to go though. Courage my brothers and sisters. Courage. File your defence.

Act III

Domelevo has been directly adviced. Speaking at the 8th annual Accountability Lectures held in Accra, on Monday, February 25th, 2018, the Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia announced that the Audit Service will see an increase in its budget allocation up from Ghc19 million up to Ghc35 million. Presumably, the almost 100 percent increase is this government's going rate for a good job done.

And it falls far short of the usual practice. Before Domelevo bunged up the well-oiled works with unfortunate questions and his high jinks, surely a decent kickback from fiddling the books scored at least a 10% kickback? These days it seems bounty hunting to protect the public purse in Ghana comes with austerity rewards. And an invitation.

Dr Bawumia is reported to have said to the AudG, "a meeting with Mr Amidu over a cup of tea to discuss the issues will be in the right direction." The Vice President knows that the Executive should stop titillating us further with talk, and actually introduce a forward-looking Right to Information draft to Parliament that we have all actually seen. That would be Act III. Additionally, Dr Bawumia should be promoting discussions over a cup of chocolate drink, not tea. Surely.

Connecting the dots

I have searched my conscience, such as it is, and I would defy anyone to find more than a handful of affirmations that I have provided about the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as a party or its Founder, Former President John (I) Jerry Rawlings. And I welcome the sober albeit belated formal statement by the party issued I must point out, only after the pointed and I dare say heartfelt remarks of Mr Rawlings. He was responding to the deeply revealing public posture taken by one its minority Members of Parliament on 1 specific case.

A properly constituted court in Accra has sentenced the former National Coordinator of what is now the Youth Employment Agency, Mr Abuga Pele, former MP for Chiana Paga, to a six-year term in prison for his role in causing Ghc4.1 million of financial loss to the state. The crimes in question - there were 19 charges in all - took place some 7 years ago so factor in currency fluctuations and interest rates, should that money have been safeguarded.

Pele's convicted accomplice, the Chief Executive of Goodwill International Group, Philip Assibit was jailed for 12 years. The Court found that Pele abetted the crime by recklessly signing directives for payment to Assibit for phantom work. Assibit did not have the bona fides claimed, he was not representing in any way a World Bank-funded project and he did not deliver work for which he was royally paid. In addition to hosting the 2 at the taxpayer's expense, the state may also take it upon itself to recover assets from the 2. Assibit has served notice that he will appeal the ruling.

Cascading Communications

By radio and tweet, this is the sequence of events as I understand it. Judgement was handed down on Friday, February 23, 2018; a day later, Vanderpuye was on air stating that the party was working to regain power in 2020 to free Pele. By Monday, February 26th, as Bawumia was speaking at the Audit Service's lecture, Mr Rawlings had tweeted his deep disapproval of the Vanderpuye position; on Tuesday, the party clarified with a direct and welcome contrast to the Vanderpuye comments.

The after the fact statement from the NDC, the government in office when the GYEEDA scandal went viral, quite rightly pointed out that the investigations and the case against Pele and Assibit were initiated by them. Essentially they manned up and moved against one of their own. This they say is evidence of their avowed fight against corruption.

Act IV

The NDC statement went on to urge President Akufo-Addo to emulate their shining example and bring his political appointees as they have righteously done with Pele to justice, instead of his insistence that his people are clean. Fair game. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Since they opened the door, will the NDC now query why the AudG has only received a fraction of the money his Office needs to truly roll back on abuses of the public purse? The Ghana Police Service insists they need more than the GHc800 million awarded to them to secure our safety. Since they know where the bones are buried, the NDC could also choose, helpfully, to point out where savings can be made now to help Domelevo, Amidu and the courts ferret out corruption. Their formally charged cases as well as allegations from their recent past and Akufo-Addo's perceived present.

Will the party distance itself, on a matter of principle, from the attempt by another of their own, Dominic Ayine (also an MP), to challenge in court the appointment of Amidu as Special Prosecutor? That move may be legal, it also smacks of nitpicking. Will they now list All of the pending legal cases as well as allegations against individuals who are accused of abusing the public purse? Will they now state categorically that notwithstanding a certain Vanderpuye, this new NDC has faith in the judicial system, in the AudG, in Amidu and others charged with protecting the public purse against all?

PS: That list, should they care to paddle in their own backwaters, includes and is not exclusive to Woyoeme (still ducking and diving); Bus Branding; SADA and the migrating guinea fowl; that reality show airlifting of millions in hard cash to players of the national soccer team in Brazil; the multimillion-dollar wall built around our Burkinabe mission; the non functioning IT system at SSNIT, the matter of the 4 accused from the National Communications Authority. On the matter of the uncompleted allegedly ruinously expensive residence for the Vice President, Bawumia will welcome their support. Over a cup of chocolate drink. With small talk.

Columnist: Nana Yaa Ofori Atta