Comedy replacing appreciation of nation’s problems under Mahama

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 Source: Ebo Quansah

We are still in the comical mood as a nation in spite of the serious problems staring us in the face and threatening to undermine our very existence. Ghana must be the only nation on earth, where an industrial concern commissioned amid roof-top advertisements of saving US$200 million a year, and providing 7,300 jobs, has to close down before the ink on the story of its inauguration could dry up.

I have one huge hunch that the compilers of the Guinness Book of Records are frantically looking up on the atlas map of the world, in their endeavour to establish the exact location of the new industrial town of Komenda, where a new sugar factory commissioned by Mr. John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, is put under lock and key one week after the event, ostensibly for maintenance.

Do not ask me whether checks were run on the machines before commissioning. With elections in the air, and the incumbent Head of State and the political party that props him up are under serious threat of eviction from Government House, officialdom is behaving as if they think the people of this country have lost the ability to discern.

When we all know that the major problem stems from lack of raw material – the cane from which the sugar is supposed to be extracted – we are required to accept jumbled versions of the reason for the shut down from officialdom. The interesting development is that, like the Biblical Tower of Babel, those explaining the problem are speaking different tongues.

Some say the factory has to close down for maintenance, one week after commissioning. Others trace the shut-down to lack of electricity supply, at a time when we are told, by the same officialdom, that the dreaded Dum-so has been sent on permanent exile.

In most cases, it is not too difficult to hazard a guess on the influence that is cascading in the minds of the so-called members of the communication team. At this time, when the aroma of the election feast is assailing our noses, both party and government communicators are wearing the same colours. The combined effect of the V8 and fat incomes from sources they may found wanting in explanation is translating into different tongues on the same issue, is why the lack of raw materials will continue to wear several hats.

While the Komenda factory is under lock and key, one other news item, given saturated coverage in both the print and electronic media over the weekend, was the de-freezing of the accounts of the former Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority.

A report on Ghana Web said an Accra High Court ordered the de-freezing “after lawyers for the Financial Intelligence Centre asked the court to release the accounts to its owner – Mr. Sylvester Mensah.

According to the report, Mr. Mensah told Accra-based Citi FM: “I am glad that there were no adverse findings against me.”

The accounts were frozen on application from the Bureau of National Investigation, which was supposed to be conducting a probe into his leadership of the NHIA for possible financial malpractices.

According to Mr. Mensah, a former Member of Parliament for Dadekotopon in Accra, he was relieved of his post through a letter from Government House. “I received a letter relieving me of my post and another (person) acting in my stead, and I sent an internal memo to all my staff across the country, notifying them of the change in leadership, and someone leaked it to the media with his own heading on it,” Mr. Mensah said in an explanation to the rumour mill that had suggested he had resigned.

“It is not true that I have resigned. I have been relieved of my post, and I am happy for serving in that capacity this number of years. That is the issue, not that I have resigned.”

In an interview with Kwame Sefa-Kayi on Peace FM, Mr. Mensah said: “I served for six years, and I am exceedingly grateful and thankful.”

It is important to recall that pressure from the National Democratic Congress for the de-freezing of Mr. Mensah’s accounts, and for him to be re-instated, kept mounting as the so-called investigation into the role the Chief Executive might have played in the virtual collapse of the National Health Insurance Service intensified. The La Dade Kotopon Constituency of the NDC announced that it was ceasing all political activities in protest over the arrest and freezing of the accounts of the former NHIA boss, who was their immediate past Member of Parliament.

The constituency branch of the party in power claimed that the arrest was politically motivated by persons close to the Presidency, in a bid to scuttle the presidential ambitions of Mr. Mensah.

“We are hereby calling on the NDC regional and national offices to publicly condemn this wicked political machination against Hon. Sylvester Mensah. We will not vote. We will not campaign,” Acting Constituency Secretary, Lawrence Lamptey told Joy News.

The story of Mr. Sylvester Mensah’s arrest, the freezing and de-freezing of his four bank accounts, and the decision to move him higher to Government House and confer on him the honour of being a Presidential Aide, even when he was supposed to be under investigation by the BNI over alleged misuse of NHIA funds, tells everything about the cronyism in vogue in today’s Ghana.

It is not very common for a person under arrest, and being investigated for financial malpractices, to be elevated to the higher office as Presidential Staffer. The NDC, I dare state, knows how to take care of its own.

Under Sylvester Mensah’s watch, the NHIA lost every touch with reality as a social interventionist programme. It is common knowledge that service providers were not paid for ages under his tutelage. NHIA patients were denied medical care at medical centres provided by even Christian missions. At government health facilities like the polyclinics, regional hospitals, Komfo Anokye Hospital and Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, NHIA patients were largely ignored. Cash and carry was very much alive and healthy.

As Mr. Mensah regains the use of his accounts with four different commercial banks, NHIA holders are struggling to receive medical care. In the midst of the confusion, the Integrated Development and Empowerment Centre (IDEC Ghana) asked patients to sue health insurance providers which turn down NHIA card bearers.

A statement signed by the Executive Director of IDEC, Samuel K. Agbotsey, released in Accra, said: “We believe that as part of efforts to access their rights to quality health care, as guaranteed under the local and international laws and conventions, these individuals have registered and duly paid their premium as prescribed under the National Health Insurance Act 825 of 2012.”

The IDEC boss stated further: “This is an agreement binding on both parties. Therefore, it is subject to be enforced for compliance, in case of default. This is why, under the Act, subscribers are refused service when they failed to renew their Health Insurance cards upon expiration. Unfortunately, while Mr. Sylvester Mensah has access to all four accounts and draws a fat salary from his role as a special aide to the President, millions of NHIA card bearers suffer in silence.

Tomorrow, this column will look at the concert at the Accra Sports Stadium, where new Sports Minister Edwin Nii Lamptey Vanderpuiye turned the Peace Match on Saturday into his birthday concert, with Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Kwaku Asante, Chairman of the National Peace Council and his other officials glorifying the encounter at the national arena, as if it is the panacea to all civil conflicts.

As a foot-note, please remember that Mrs. Charlotte Osei and her Electoral Commission are obstinately refusing to comply with the Supreme Court order to ‘delete’ names of all those who registered with NHIA cards from the voters register.

In my opinion, that is the real cause for concern as we enter the home stretch for the vote on November 7. I intend to show why the football arena may not provide all the ingredients needed to guarantee peace in this country.

I shall return!

Columnist: Ebo Quansah