By Kwaku A. Danso
Folks, there comes a time when people must wake up! The Ghanaian politician seems never interested in telling the truth, no matter what political party they belong to. We the people have allowed this to happen by failing to arrest these people we elected to office and end the joke and lies! Democracy does not work by simply having elections.
In the Monday, December 27 issue of Ghanaweb, a GNA report from Keta said:
“All communities in the country would be connected to the national power grid by the end of 2011, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information said at Keta.”
Who do these people think they are fooling! Whiles 80-90% of the people in Ghana do not have potable water and electricity, elected and appointed officials, from MPs, Chief executives of Districts, Metro areas and Regions, to Ministers of State and even Directors of government agencies can simply take money from public coffers to “renovate their houses”. The renovation we come to know means water reservoirs, generators, air conditioners, curtains and furnishings in some cases such as the former Speaker of the House Begyina Sekyi-Hughes. In addition to taking as much as they want these people see nothing wrong with a demand for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in ex-gratia emoluments. Some are asking for houses and cars, whiles others feel they deserve moneys for their libraries, and even gold chains as awards. Our democracy is not on the right path! No way! Our leaders in Ghana have made our nation a joke!
There is a saying that you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time! Ghanaians officials in government have for decades been sitting at their desks writing documents to obtain loans. In 2008, of the $295 million of foreign grants received, the auditor General report indicated only about $30,000 could be accounted for. To date nobody has taken any action. These officials can sit in their offices, furnished with leather sofas, and proclaim that we are a “middle income” nation, whiles we all know middle class neighborhoods don’t have daily water and most drink from poly tanks and wells. In addition electricity is interrupted many times and hours per week and hence most of these homes own generators.
Information about government should be a right in a democracy. Not in Ghana. A simple question to a Ghanaian official at any government owned office, such as Electricity Corporation, Ministries of Roads and Highways, will be met with many untruths, half-truths and sometimes simply lies. Ghana Water Company executives I have found to be more honest. Two executives in 2004 and again in 2010 have confirmed for me that since 1965 Ghana government has not invested any money to expand the water treatment facilities. As such one can conclude that almost all the moneys taken as grants and loans for water since that time have simply vanished into the general funds, and most probably some in private pockets. In the last meeting of GLU members with the Chief Director of the Minister of Roads and Highways (Mr. A.T. Essilfie) in November 2010, the room almost turned into a fight as I insisted on information and the Director was simply not ready to give any information. Fortunately he ended up giving me a copy of the Press release by the Minister, Joe Giddisu, presented in early November, 2010; this was so very revealing indeed, showing Ghana hardly invests any of the toll funds and other revenues in our own roads and bridge construction, but rely mostly on foreign grants and loans – further comment to be made at a later date. Some of us can see through the charade! We are tired!
The National Budget:
One of the greatest jokes in Ghana over the years is perhaps the national Budget. An examination of the 2011 National Budget by Minister Dr. Duffuor shows only essays and only one table in the whole 79 pages. Anybody who has worked in the West in Finance and real business environment knows a real Budget should have tables, calculations of financial projections, revenues and expenses, and less of words and essays. Ghanaian Budgets, over the years, are simply a wish list of essays and promises - promises of new roads, water for all, electricity for all, etc. What these politicians forget is that some of us older ones have been hearing these for decades, through many administrations, from the 1970s to now. The government officials have never made an effort to balance Ghana’s budgets. Is that the way they manage their own family affairs? Folks, the lies must end! And end now! We are tired of the deception and the pretense that these people know what they are doing when in fact they have no clue even how to do financial projections and the PhDs don’t seem to help them. And if they don’t know, nothing prevents them from learning from some of their colleagues who have worked for decades in the West! Our people are tired of living second class in the world fifty years after political independence! And the Joke must end!
A few years ago in the mid 2000s, the people of Ghana were told that electricity was erratic because the Akosombo dam did not have enough water. The term “load shedding” was coined and became a household word. What people did not understand was that electricity was being rationed, as government was not investing any more money in transformers to distribute power. Whatever money was allocated by the Ministry of finance in the Budget was not enough, irrespective of whether people paid for electricity or not, and whether enough tariffs were paid or not. During my inquiries in Ghana there was even a joke by somebody that possibly used 2nd hand equipment was sometimes ordered, and some people in management pocketed the difference. The truth is that moneys were not adequately appropriated for the different areas of the suburbs. As such some parts of East Legon or any town or suburb may have stable electricity whiles other parts have overloads and fuses may trip as soon as too many people are using electricity.
This is sheer madness! (As the British may say). It is sheer deception and somebody must be responsible for the nation. The responsibility must stop at the President! And President Mills must either take responsibility or simple declare he is not able to govern and resign. Agency heads of the utility corporations and the PURC must be held accountable and pay a penalty for the damage being caused by faulty and unreliable electricity! We have heard enough excuses. The PURC, ECG, GRIDCO, and other distributors must show a system of monitoring their quality and reliability and be monitored to adequately plan and deliver to modern standards as modern nations do, a minimum of 99.99% on-time reliability. Better still the distribution of electricity should be deregulated and private operators allowed to enter and simply monitored by the PURC. The Directors of the PURD must be fired if they cannot regulate. Period! How does the President think people live their lives when electricity is turned off in the middle of the day or night or appliances damaged due to unstable voltage and current? Why should everybody in the modern day have to invest in generators and plants that average about $15,000, when we can work together, collect funds in each neighborhood or town and manage our own electricity or water, sewage, schools and public parks! Is this too much for the mind of the educated African to fathom? What is the use of the Western education if we cannot do these things after 50 years!!
According to a former British Official who worked in Ghana, a $700 million loan for upgrading Ghana’s electricity was lost due to malfeasance and poor management. The Kufuor government was not able to deliver electricity and in almost two years President Mills has no clue about the malfeasance, misappropriation and potential corruption going on in the energy distribution sector. In his frustration he was reported to have retorted that he is not an electrician to produce electricity. The ignorance of our leaders shows up in massive shades to cover the actual lack of leadership and managerial acumen.
Electricity, called nkanea in Twi, however, has been used as a political gimmick for decades since Independence. Any government which was able to erect poles and string some wires on poles and promise electricity in a town got the votes of the people! It is simple: many associated electricity with an era of civilization out of the dark ages most have been forced to stay for ages. It is no surprise then that the young deputy Minister would make these deceptive promises about electricity to all communities in Ghana which he has no clue how to and when it will even be possible!
Seeking Help from Colleagues:
The acquisition of knowledge demands humility. Our culture of pride must end when people enter public service. Granted many of these politicians have no clue how electricity is generated and the methods by which it is distributed, one should expect that 50 years after educating Ghanaians, these politicians would remember that their often smarter school and classmates who did Science and Engineering may have an idea when we are being fooled about technology. Some of us at least know enough and are aware and sophisticated enough not to be deceived by such flagrant political deception, if one were to be blunt! Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa is perhaps the youngest man in the administration, under 30 years old and with no managerial or other life experience except completing University of Ghana and one of the student leaders who sang the NDC song. He has done a good job, in my opinion, in being outright and giving ultimatum to outgoing politicians who wanted to steal (if we want to be honest) public vehicles in their use. As much as I like him for his ability to speak his mind, during a time when the silence from the slave castle by President Mills has been a major disservice to the leadership.
One may justifiably ask the Deputy Minister of Communication, what the heck does he mean by “all communities will be connected to the national grid”?
Does the young deputy Minister know what this means, and can he break down the number of districts in Ghana that do not have electricity, explain the component steps and procedures and cost to generate electricity and deliver to communities?
Can he tell us even how many communities, whatever definition he uses, have electricity today and can he tell us the reason some affluent areas like even East Legon, Adjiringanor, Adenta and many other suburbs of Accra do not have reliable supply of electricity?
Ghana is a nation where some rich people who can hardly articulate a policy or speak in public have been elected from various districts. Most of them have had to bribe delegates to win their party nomination. Unfortunately these men and women enter politics to seek their self interest and have no clue even what the needs of their communities are. As such men like Okudzeto have risen to prominence in the land of the blind and the era of a President who does not feel he owes the people any public explanation or dialogue so far as he shows up once in a while to speak at a funeral till election time is coming. My Okudzeto was reported to have added that “hundreds of mainly rural communities were also to be served with potable water stressing that that President John Evans Atta Mills meant business when he declared the year 2011 as year of action.”
Yes these people in office may think they can fool all the people all the time. This electricity used as political gamesmanship has been played by politicians for ages, and let us see if Mills succeeds in using it come 2012. If I cannot get electricity in a suburb of Accra, I’d be darned if my village of Hwee-Hwee and Asegya where trucks go once per week gets electricity. What are they going to do with it? Hook up the Internet? And who pays the bills?
Tweaaa!! These politicians think they are fooling everybody?
There is a time when our leaders will have to be serious. A writer by name Obrefo on Ghanaweb Comments section wrote:
“Comical Ablakwah on the loose again. We're yet to see the 1.6 million jobs created, and now, you're promising every community with an electricity and water. What a comic relief” (Obrefo, Ghanaweb, 2010-12-27 16:59:43.
I strongly suggest that those closer to the President make him aware – whatever it takes, some of us will make electricity (and water, and roads) the election defining point for the nation. This article has generated almost 100% of the comments indicating they know the government statement is false information! There should be a legal requirement for political parties to make a decent attempt to fulfill their promises or else lose some benefits. This will teach them not to lie deliberately for votes!
I strongly recommend that our Presidents should have a 2 year evaluation by an independent pollster, and if the evaluation shows they are failing and get less than 50% be required to resign. President Mills seems to be an honest man, but for God’s sake he seem to have neither the guts and fire in the belly, nor managerial competence or leadership skills that a developing nation lost in the wilderness needs to catch up as these Asian nations are doing. Perhaps resignation may keep his dignity intact.
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso -Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
President-Ghana Leadership Union (GLU), Moderator, GLU Forum