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Corruption In Ghana’s Public Services Is A Big Problem.... (No.2)

Fri, 10 Dec 2010 Source: Darko, Otchere

A Fictionalised But Hundred Percent True Story Showing A Public Service Corruption Experience Of A “Real” Ghanaian. This Is The Second of Five Series. Continue Reading The Whole Series And See How Corruption Proceeds In Ghana; Why The Writer Thinks It Is A Big Problem; And Why We Must Confront It. We Cannot Confront It, Unless We Know How It Operates.

By Otchere Darko

“This is For the Baby”: Mrs Ampeh delivered four months after she and her husband arrived at their new station. This was two weeks to Christmas. The couple decided, therefore, to use the Christmas occasion to do the outdooring and naming ceremony of their new and first baby, in order to finish with it and give Ampeh time to get on with his official work. ‘Uncle John’s TV gift which was the topic of discussion in last week’s revelation had not ceased to surprise the couple, but what happened at the child’s outdooring and naming ceremony was to be a much bigger surprise. Ampeh had decided to ‘low-key’ the function so as to keep his cost within his means. He knew that ‘big spending’ was one of the root causes of domestic financial problems; and it was an antecedent to corruption. So he had only invited relatives from their two hometowns and a few families who were either the couple’s closest left and right residential neighbours, or Ampeh’s immediate work colleagues at his new workplace. He forgot, though, that it was not an offence in Ghana to attend such private functions without invitation.

On the day of the ceremony, his Bungalow was filled full with all kinds and descriptions of uninvited guests. And these people showered gift after gift on the new baby and its mother. Nearly all these unknown guests never said anything that threw light on who they were. They merely dropped these gifts and kept saying “this is for the baby” or “for Madam”. One uninvited guest who chose to speak about himself was a man who said he was a dealer in Cold Rooms. Even there, his self-introduction was that short; and that casual. After it, he handed an envelope to Mrs Ampeh and left the place immediately. Ampeh and his wife never opened that envelope until after the function had ended and everybody had gone. Then, to their astonishment, there was a big sum of money in the envelope, with a small note that read: “This is for the Baby”. That money could buy four TV sets like the one given to them by ‘Uncle John’. “People here must be the richest and the most generous in Ghana,” Ampeh said to his wife, with an astonished face. As usual, though, he expressed no worry beside just this surprise.

Ampeh instructed his wife to open an account for their new baby with the entire amount donated by this Cold Rooms “dealer”. “It is too big to be wasted,” he told his wife, “and it was given to Amma, so we should save it for her future university education”. Two months after Mrs Ampeh had opened the special Bank Account for Amma, her husband found out that this “kind man” who gave the huge cash gift and who they had, from then on, begun to call “Mr Cold Room Dealer” was in fact mere coldroom repairer, and not a coldroom dealer. Ampeh had also learnt that this repairer had a contract awarded to him by the Regional Headquarters of Ampeh’s Ministry....the same Regional Headquarters that had awarded a similar contract to ‘Uncle John’. This particular contract related to the servicing and repairing of a big Cold Room at Ampeh’s establishment. This Cold Room was very important for the preservation of “precious human treasures” deposited there by the local community and which always had to be kept working to stop decomposition. Thus, this contract required the repairer to fully service this big Cold Room once in every twelve months, so as to forestall breakdowns. In addition to the servicing, there was also a provision for repairs which had been termed “whenever called to repair”. Within one year after he assumed office, the Cold Room had been repaired five times, after having been “serviced” once in that same year. Ampeh was not a coldroom engineer; nor was he a general engineer; but he knew that the refrigerator at his Bungalow worked on the same principle as the big Cold Room that served the public. The refrigerator at his house had not been serviced and, yet, it had not broken down. Of course, the big Cold Room was used to preserve heavier “human treasures”; but that was also the reason why the motor in it was bigger. Ampeh did not think that his Ministry could continue to spend what had been spent on that single facility within the one year he assumed office.

The repair records on that same facility in the past four years before him showed annual repair bills that were even far bigger on year basis. That meant Ampeh’s first year total “Cold Room Maintenance Cost” that seemed too big for his liking was not his fault. However, he set himself the task of understanding the rationale behind keeping a Cold Room that cost more in a year to run and maintain than the average annual incomes it generated..... a cost consideration that was at variance with financial cost-benefit analysis. Ampeh put his pen on paper; deployed his mind to the task; and closely ‘brought his ears to the ground’. Before his second year in office was over, he had had information, through hidden sources, which seemed to suggest that the generous man he and his wife “affectionately” called “Mr Cold Rooms Dealer” possessed a copy of their big Cold Room’s entrance key, apparently given to him by someone or some people who worked at his station or his “Regional Ministry”; and, also, that whenever “the conspirators” were financially “skinned”, “Mr Cold Rooms Dealer” would be “signalled” to “invoice”. He would then go to this big Cold Room at night, at which time the worker-attendant would have finished work and left. He would then open and remove from it a special fitting or small component; lock it back; and then leave the premises as secretly as he went there. The removal of the fitting or small component would force the Cold Room to cease working from that time. The next day, one of the three Cold Room worker-attendants who ran shifts from morning till 9 pm every day would come and find the facility “not working”. The attendant would then report it to the office. An office worker would be sent to verify. Whoever was sent from administration would go and see it. Clearly, he would notice that the Cold Room was not working and the place was stinking, or beginning to show signs of ‘decomposition’. A confirmation from him would lead to an immediate call being made to “Mr Cold Rooms Dealer” to proceed to repair the facility. Feigning complete surprise, “Mr Cold Rooms Dealer” would come and “fiddle” with the facility for a couple of hours. He would then go to the office with his “bill for repairs”. They are “fake”, of course; but who would know that, apart from this repairer and his accomplice or accomplices?

*Many things happen in the Ghanaian Public Service. Some Ghanaians in the Service, who know “what is going on”, will say Ampeh’s experience is “tiny”, compared with what happens elsewhere. Yes, that is true; and this makes Ampeh’s story “a storm in a tea-cup”. We should not forget, though, that it is all “these” and “others” that are collectively destroying Ghana. We must see any corruption in the Public Service as a “cancerous cell” that is working in conjunction with others to “kill”. Let us kill, or neutralise corruption in any form or size, before it kills Ghana. Our current politicians will not do this, because they are part of the problem. This is why we need a new “crop of Ghanaians”, “YOU”, to enter politics and push out these “rogue politicians” and move from there to tackle corruption in all sections of Ghana’s Public Service, before this “cancer” gradually and systematically “eats away” all our oil money in the next twenty years, or so of “bumper harvest”.

Source: Otchere Darko; [This writer is a centrist, semi-liberalist, pragmatist, and an advocate for “inter-ethnic cooperation and unity”. He is an anti-corruption campaigner and a community-based development protagonist. He opposes the negative, corrupt, and domineering politics of NDC and NPP and actively campaigns for the development and strengthening of “third parties”. He is against “a two-party only” system of democracy {in Ghana}....... which, in practice, is what we have today.]

Columnist: Darko, Otchere