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Ghana Post loots customers

Thu, 8 Oct 2009 Source: Doe, James W.

Ghana Post Company has been on the blind side of any public scrutiny for over a decade, until recently its old management practices were not questioned. The recent allegation of embezzlement of GHc20,000 (September 2009) by the manager at the Kumasi office is only one of the few tangibles that government has been able to identify and put into the public domain. But to the millions of customers of Ghana Post throughout the country and around the world there is no respite because they can only count their losses running into billions of cedis as intangibles. This came about essentially because incoming mails were not received and outgoing ones abroad sometimes did not reach the intended destination. This situation makes all customers helpless and hopeless even if you pursue it, so most people will tell you to forget it. Since there will not be respite from any quarter. I have talked to many people who have had similar cases and the boldest of them have approached authorities at Ghana Post to seek redress. But they are quickly turned off with a disappointing response that nothing of the sort has happened at their end. They often insist that unless an officer is caught red handed they cannot do anything about it. Incidentally, one is compelled to ask what systems have been put in place to arrest the situation. In fact, no effective systems have been put in Ghana over the years at most organisations. Privileged workers at state-owned enterprises have become sole owners of such institutions. Oblivious of the fact that, the organisations they work for were built with the tax payers' money. But they continue to do what pleases them at work and we pay them salaries while the masses of our people suffer.

The Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (P&T) as it was known for a long time probably since independence had been a very useful state-owned enterprise (SOE). It provided services such as stamp sales, allocating post boxes, receiving savings, passport forms sales, receiving payments on utility bills and many others. These services have been reduced to just selling of stamps, receiving mails, bank statements and forwarding of mails or parcels. There is a total absence of postal vans and motorbikes such that mails are even transported by any bus plying the length and breadth of the country. By this Ad hoc means of transportation alone I can presume there is no responsibility for the mails in transit, because no one pays such drivers. The fortunes of the organisation begun to dwindle and was totally lost from the radar when the postal service was decoupled from the telecommunications and in the process two separate entities were formed as the Ghana Post and the Ghana Telecom companies.

So the core duties of the Ghana Post as stated on the organizations own electronic bill boards include post delivery and a myriad of business services. The precursor for the launch of an investigation by a commission was the financial loss at Ghana Post. This was categorically stated by the Minister of Communications, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu. The one important reason for the enquiry was that, as far back as 2001 the company had a surplus of some GHc600,000 whereas, by the end of 2008, the company's accounts were in red to tune of GHc700 million. This financial standing meant something seriously went wrong in the view of the Minister.

But to come to grasp with the true situation, management has to be dealt with as a whole so as to decipher from the bad management practices in both the tangible and intangible ways. To do this appraisal will require the marching of postal activities with the duties of the company. For instance the core duties of Ghana Post had shrunk in many revenue generating areas since the decoupling and further deregulation into certain arrears of the public sector that saw the proliferation banks from 2002. Some banks including the National Investment Bank (NIB) have striped further the sales of passports, do money transfers and receive payment for bills on behalf of the utility companies, these were services provided by the post office in times past. The payment for electricity bills is now being received by some banks. To say the least, post office savings I remember were common with school children during the seventies when we were growing up. I am not sure when this vital service of the Post Office ceased to operate. But that is history. In a similar way as the years passed there was a gradual and eventual absence of postal vans on our streets. I wish to say that there has been competition from indigenous and international courier service providers like the D.H.L., UPS, FedEx, etc., since the introduction of the Express Mail Service (EMS) in Ghana, which seems to be doing better.

The EMS was very efficient in the past, customer-friendly as mails were delivered to the recipient’s home. Be it, letter or parcel was received with dispatch. I had an initial opportunity to use the services of the EMS in 2000. Unfortunately, this year (2009) upon my return to Ghana I have had very serious misgivings about the operations of EMS. There have been attempts and sometimes successful removal of important contents in mails and parcels by postal workers before it was delivered. I wish to call on all others who have had one bad experience or the other with EMS to make it public through the media and any other means possible. This will enable the commission just set up to look into. On the other hand I would wish that after reading my own experience it could be an eye-opener to individuals especially, Ghanaians living abroad. They are advised to take a second look at other alternatives available to them rather than using the Ghana Post until such a time that they are convinced the services have been improved.

My investigation at the Accra North Post Office near Dr. Kwame Nkrumah circle showed a deplorable state of Ghana Post in terms of poor lighting at the main hall which made you feel like in a dungeon. There is total lack of maintenance and general cleanliness, a breakdown of CCTV camera equipment. The Accra North branch of the Ghana Post has been dwarfed by the Ghana Telecom which has been transformed regrettable into Vodafone instead of say GT-Vodafone or even Vodafone GH, is also riddles with all the challenging conditions for old workers.

Ghana Post has been lost from the radar of any public scrutiny or regulatory body for a long time. The postal service has become a less attractive business venture than the telecommunications sector. So even as a state organization it has been run as a company owned by a few lucky workers who secretly indulge in the greedy loots employing very shrewd but sophisticated methods. One of such methods, were discovered some twenty years ago was the sorting of targeted mail into their personal mail boxes and picking it up after work or at weekends. This led to the introduction of CCTV cameras into the sorting halls. These cameras have all broken down today so any worker can begin to count their booty silently after work in the evenings. When you see the postal workers on the bus after work, even the culprits among them tend to look innocent. For anyone whose precious mails and parcels have been stolen, will suddenly feel like hailing stones at the bus by way of protest. Unfortunately, that will be irresponsible and forbidden by the laws of the land.

Whether customers will safely receive their inbound mails from America, Canada, Europe, Israel, Japan and so on is at the whims of postal workers and the respective customs and excise (CEPS) officials stationed at the main post offices. Unfortunately, customers do not even have prior knowledge about which items would attract duties and at what rates. Parcels have been opened and rebelled without the concern of the receiver. In this regard the common supper glue has become the tool of choice because it has been used at the Accra General Post Office to bind illegally opened EMS mails from the USA, Israel, sometimes from Japan. Recently, Chinese mails are beginning to suffer similar fate as investigations have revealed. There was also a case in point of a tax return cheque of US$4,000 from the US was illegally cashed. And in the same mail graduate certificates were also lost. Many EMS envelopes from some advanced countries have been tempered with by no other suspects than the postal officers. Some of who make prior calls to recipients pretending they are good Samaritans but almost always such mails were found to have been opened. Another angry customer also reported on a case of missing cheques and items valued at US$800.

The investigation initiated by the sector Minister should not restrict its mandate to, just the accounts and management of Ghana Post but should include all the above. The are few suggestions I would like to make, that is postal workers should be made to wear uniform with name tags. The postal service should undertake some training similar to those of the security forces so as instill discipline in them. When this is done, there will not be a need for CEPS officials at the post offices so that CEPS duties will be limited to our vast border posts, air and sea ports. It will be appropriate to know if the private cards vendors operating at post offices pay any rent for the use of the post office space, how much and to whom do they pay such rents. Finally, I wish to add that postal containers, postal boxes and building need to be repainted throughout the country. The post box should also be cleaned regularly and even disinfected against dust mites which usually cause disease like cold/flu and trigger asthma in some patients. By repairing all such damages that have occurred at the post offices, the Minister and the Board Chairman Mr. John Sey would have accorded the post offices a total face lift throughout the country. There are many lessons of good practices in all aspects to be learnt from other countries including New Zealand, the US and even Japan or South Korea.

Source: Doe, James W.

Email: worlator44@hotmail.com

Columnist: Doe, James W.