After dismissing Dr. Frimpong-Boateng, what next?

Sat, 10 Sep 2011 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

Thursday, September 8, 2011

True to his word to come out with his version of the circumstances surrounding his controversial dismissal from the honorary directorship of the National Cardiothoracic Centre (NCTC) at the Korle Bu Hospital, Dr. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng addressed a press conference last Monday. In clearing the air, he raised serious issues to confirm claims that most of the problems hindering our country’s development are either self-created or worsened by lack of proper judgement on the part of decision-makers in officialdom. That is why despite all the abundant resources at our disposal, our country is still under-developed.

I don’t doubt Dr. Frimpong-Boateng’s credibility. He is an accomplished professional without any blot on his character; and he comes across as well-composed, efficient, foresighted, and forthright in matters concerning his career. He has all the trappings of a good administrator and, given the needed support to head government, can handle responsibilities efficiently to achieve much more progress than we’ve seen under others so far. Which makes me wonder why the NPP chose to reject him as its Presidential Candidate and go for someone who has more questions to answer than any strengths that he may have for solving our problems. Akufo-Addo, I mean. He is no administrator. But that’s a whole new game altogether.

I have read the entire statement that Dr. Frimpong-Boateng made and want to commend him for his equanimity and maturity in handling this problem. From his explanation, I am persuaded that the problem has more to do with the characteristic Ghanaian Pull-Him-Down syndrome that has sent our country on a downward spiral over the years and will continue to do so for as long as people in authority fail to put national interests above their narrow, selfish, and parochial self-interests.

His explanation clearly paints the picture of the morbid desire by the Ghanaian to perceive another as an obstacle to his ambitions and to do all he can to kick him out of the way. Dr. Frimpong-Boateng has exposed major lapses in the management of public institutions, especially the Korle Bu Hospital, and revealed why despite all the efforts to retool that institution for it to serve the society as expected, it has failed to do so.

I agree with all the issues he raised and regret that neither President Mills nor the Minister of Health had the strength of mind to see the cause of the problems as expected. Going by the easiest way available to them, they chose to remove him from office, damn the danger into which their action was pushing the NCTC.

This is where the incompetence of officialdom emerges. Had the government done any diligent work, it would have realized that removing him from the NCTC would leave the place open to destruction by those who were moving heaven and earth to absorb the NCTC into the ambit of Korle Bu so that they can control its finances and procurement needs—which seem to be the allurement in view of personal gains likely to be made by those accused by Dr. Frimpong-Boateng of orchestrating his removal.

He has been forthright in his explanation, turning away from blaming anybody else but those he saw as the architects of the sordid manner in which he was kicked out. From his explanation, it is clear who those problem-makers are: the Board Chairman of Korle Bu (whose name he didn’t mention) and some faceless people in authority who might be using their political connections to cause needless trouble.

By coming out with these issues, Dr. Frimpong-Boateng has done us much service, and if the government wants to do the right thing to prevent the NCTC from falling into the wrong hands and collapsing, it must investigate his claims and halt the rot that will follow its absorption into the Korle Bu Hospital’s cesspool of incompetence, inefficiency, corruption, plain thievery, outright waywardness, and decadence. Those who engineered Dr. Frimpong-Boateng’s exit did so for specific purposes, which his press statement has exposed. If the government waits any longer in taking action to halt their mischief, it will facilitate the destructive moves by the Korle Bu Board and be accused of condoning wrongdoing.

Several salient points raised by Dr. Frimpong-Boateng confirm this situation. It’s all about the morbid desire to control the finances of the NCTC. From Dr. Frimpong-Boateng’s revelation, it is clear that the NCTC is financially strong because of its ability to generate funds internally to sustain its operations. On the other hand, Korle Bu can’t and is suffering immensely from this lethargy. Instead of looking for innovative ways to solve the problem, the Board wants to colonize the NCTC, using Dr. Frimpong-Boateng’s removal as a launching pad. That’s why I am tempted to accept his statement that:

“It has everything to do with the inordinate ambition of certain individuals using their connections to take over the cardiothoracic centre in an attempt to get access to what they think is a pot of money.”

The Board can’t achieve its objective if the NCTC and the other Centres of Excellence retain their autonomy from Korle Bu.

The frustrations that Dr. Frimpong-Boateng faced in trying to implement his vision for the NCTC, especially in land acquisition for its expansion project, clearly reflect the extent to which people in authority can cause harm with their shortsightedness and insidiousness.

By frustrating his efforts to get land for the relocation of the new Cardiothoracic Centre, the University of Ghana's land allocation committee did a huge disservice to the country. But, hey, aren’t those land allocation committee members also infected with the pervasive Pull-Him-Down virus?

Dr. Frimpong-Boateng has thrown a genuine challenge to the government to ensure that it takes prompt action to prevent the NCTC from becoming the victim of mismanagement. So also is his call that the independence and autonomy of the other Centres of Excellence (the Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery, Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine, and the Institute for Clinical Genetics) should be restored and guaranteed.

Nothing about his viewpoints and suggestions is amiss. His experiences teach bitter lessons and inform Ghanaian professionals in the diaspora about the wily nature of “national service”. Even though he urged such professionals not to be dissuaded by his experiences in returning home to serve the country, it seems that the inference that Ghana is not worth dying for has already sunk. Indeed, as is to be expected, when the frog in front falls into a pit, those behind take caution.

In all these circumstances, the lion’s share of the blame goes to the government. There is a lot wrong with how our national leaders tackle human-related problems in the public sector.

And as Dr. Frimpong-Boateng was quick to point out, the manner in which the Minister of Health handled the matter was disgusting: “I want to say a few words about the dismissal letter from the Hon. Minister of Health who has never visited the Cardiothoracic Centre before. If only someone had called me for a little chat we would have spared all the embarrassment not only to me but also to the Minister and Ghana as a whole. He was ill advised and those who did it and drafted the letter for his signature must be carefully watched, for they may do it again.”

That’s the problem to address in governance matters. Rather surprisingly too, President Mills had himself had close working relations with Dr. Frimpong-Boateng concerning the NCTC and would be expected to know how to handle the matter in a better manner than what ensued. So, if he was already well informed about the undercurrents at the NCTC, why would he not be circumspect in dealing with this matter to prevent the negative backlash? Unfortunately, President Mills was too quick to give his blessing to the Minister of Health’s action, which leaves the NCTC still vulnerable to the machinations of those bent on colonizing it.

Will this action be the catalyst for the collapse of an institution that has stood the test of time and proved beyond all reasonable doubts that there are still some competent people among us who can help us solve pertinent problems if not shackled with the all-too-common typical Ghanaian Pull-Him-Down attitude? Only time will tell.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.