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Opinions Fri, 18 Feb 2005

Ex-Ghana Airways Boss Vindicated

The sordid details of the sex scandal involving Dr. Richard Anane, the Minister of Roads and Transport, and his American mistress Alexandria O? Brien, in many ways exposed the lies and fabrication concocted by the minister to fire Mr. Philip Owusu, the ex-CEO of Ghana Airways.


The Transport Minister Dr. Anane, who was always at loggerheads with Mr. Owusu, led the decision to relieve Mr. Owusu of his job as Ghana Airways chief, and indicted Mr. Owusu for what the minister called inefficiency and insubordination. However, new details coming out are incongruent with the minister?s indictment of the ex-CEO.


Dr. Anane allegedly siphoned resources from Ghana Airways to finance his expensive dalliances with Ms. O? Brien. Fresh evidence reveals that Dr. Anane paid amount in excess of $90,000 directly from the Ghana Airways account.


Essentially, Mr. Owusu operated in an environment where he did not have a free hand to make decisions in the interest of Ghana Airways. Whilst Mr. Owusu was working hard to streamline the financials of the ailing airline that has been perpetually losing money, his boss at the Ministry of Transport could freely dip his hand into the funds of the Airline for his personal use. And worse, Mr. Owusu?s ability to make decisions necessary for the smooth running of Ghana Airways was persistently hampered by the minister and the board of directors. These ugly facts beg the question: which CEO can operate efficiently under such a hostile and pervasively corrupt climate?

As Ghana Airways CEO, Mr. Owusu was so frustrated every turn of the way that he threatened to resign more than once. Not only was the corrupt Dr. Anane an encumbrance, but so were the Board of Directors, who literally tried to do the job of the CEO by dictating how the Airline should be run on a day-to-day basis. In typical Ghanaian faction, the board of directors often overstepped their bounds and tried to micromanage the CEO. The boards of directors are supposed to be the watchdogs, not managers. Boards of directors do not evaluate the performance of CEO?s on a decision-by-decision basis, but rather on the overall direction and goals of the CEO.


In Ghana, there is a fundamental misunderstanding as to what the role of board of directors ought to be. In an organization that has a board of directors, the role of chief executive officer is usually the singular organizational position that is primarily responsible for carrying out the strategic plans and policies as established by the board of directors. The board is supposed to appoint a chief executive to whom responsibility for the administration of the organization is delegated. In Ghana Airway?s case, the Board, rather than delegating day-to-day administration to the CEO, tried to micromanage the CEO. This scenario is not isolated but rather symptomatic of the Ghanaian business climate, particularly among state-owned companies.


What is more, most of our ministers see themselves as super CEOs of any state institution under their jurisdiction, with the power to issue directives at will for their personal gain. There was such arrant interference at the Ghana Airways that it was common for the ministry to direct Ghanair to issue free tickets to private individuals, and for Ghanair to lease particular aircraft from particular companies. Moreover, Board members acted as agents for aircraft leasing companies and actively lobbied for aircraft to be leased from such companies. These were the same board members who did everything to prevent leasing aircrafts from other companies. The sad reality is that such wanton corruption and influence peddling activities are the norm in most state agencies and ministries, and the cost to the nation as a result of such greed runs in several millions of dollars. And a CEO who stands in the way of this degradation becomes a convenient target for the minister of state and board members of a state Corporation. Dr. Anane and the Board of Directors of Ghana Airways indicted and convicted Mr. Owusu of the preposterous charge of ?insubordination? for standing in the way of the cycle of corruption and influence peddling.

If the fortunes of Ghana are to improve, there ought to a greater accountability and transparency at the top, from the Osu Castle, to various ministries and down to all state-owned agencies. In a climate of transparency and accountability, a minister cannot siphon the resources of the state at his whim. And more importantly, people appointed to the board of directorship should be professionals who can work without the shackles of personal interest or agenda. Moreover, board members of national corporations must be better educated about their roles.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.



Columnist: Kwateng, Kwabena