– Chinese Metro Buses and A Culture of “Government Property in the Dumpsters”
By: Kwaku A. Danso
The article on Ghanaweb of October 20, 2009 about Chinese Metro buses reported to be disabled and unable to function whiles one new manager of the Metropolitan Transit refuses the Chinese engineers from working on them smacks of another example where government property is simply in the dumpsters!
It is left to President Mills to act and act now! The President’s first official assignment after assuming office seem to be the application and acceptance of a $500 Million World Bank loan to pay workers and balance the bleeding coffers of the state. Nobody ever answers where the moneys are going!
In the Ghanaian Times story, we read that not all 0 of the Yaxing buses supplied by the company are grounded as reported but rather that the Chinese engineers paid and on contract singed n 2003 and 2005, are being prevented from maintaining the buses due to the orders of a new MMT manager. The report read: “What is true though is that, there is a raging controversy between the management of the MMT headed by Mr. Hink Visschers and the Chinese engineers who have been resident here since March 18, 2004 purposely to ensure the routine maintenance of the buses”.
These reports make me mad! And I think all tax-paying Ghanaians, especially those who have been forced to pay taxes and duties at our ports in Ghana to supposedly support our nation have every right to be mad! Who the heck is this Hink Visschers, a government official or employee preventing hired engineers from working, even when under contract and being paid! Be these engineers Chinese or from the moon, they were hired to do a job and under contract and being paid for sure by the Ghanaian taxpayer.
This report reminds one of a saying in the old colonial days depicting the sick attitude of government employees that when government property gets damaged, it is thrown in the ocean. Why has it take over half a century and nobody has been able to knock some sense in the brains of government employees and especially those who call themselves managers and directors that they work for the ordinary masses of the people who pay taxes! And that they have to produce to earn their living! Why? Why has this message been delayed for over 50 years!
It seems to me in the infinite wisdom of the Kufuor administration, Chinese buses were purchased, contracts were signed for maintenance, the Chinese mechanics moved here, they were being paid, perhaps with housing and other allowances, but the Ghanaian new manager (Hink Visschers – what nationality is that?) will not allow them to do their work per contract.
Not to make this sound political and as if the NPP government is being blamed, this is typical Ghanaian culture. So far as this belongs to government, some buffoon (if I may borrow some words from one Ghanaian Professor) calling himself Manager can stop any contractual obligations even if the nation loses millions of dollars and people suffer. Perhaps an argument with a Chinese engineer over some trivial thing can make one Manager of MMT do this nonsense and render a contact worthless. Why don’t these fools wait till a good (and hungry) lawyer with guts gets hold of the contract and Ghana government will be owing another few millions of dollars in unfulfilled contract. Where are the lawyers n our GLU forum? Lawyer “Skido” Kwasi Asiedu, Lawyer Kwesi Chinbuah, Lawyer George Asomaning, Lawyer Kwaku Asare, Lawyer Abdul Baasit, Honorable Your Lordships, shall I take the case for you and get my referral bonus? Are you there?
For God’s sake, Ghanaian managers and directors have acted in very childish manner and cost the nation tons of money. We know several international contracts were simply abrogated and Ghana lost: Ghana Telecom with the Malaysians, Ghana Airways /Ghana International contract, Westel Communications, and now Ghana Telecom /Vodafone is being discussed and in question for under-handed and possible corrupt dealings. Do we add a Chinese one to the list?
Folks, if the Mills administration has some good lawyers, and the AG department is strong, I suggest they be very careful and not allow some Ghanaian or other hired managers, perhaps with their ego on high gear after a bottle of Whiskey or Akpeteshie, to arbitrarily cost the nation millions of dollars in unfulfilled contracts. This does not mean if a contract was signed with the deceit and lack of goodwill by an individual in a previous government, the current government cannot void it and have some of our good lawyers take the case and win! No. What I mean is that we should not allow any individual(s) in the government to make decisions that cost us millions anymore. The taxpayer is tired of paying high taxes and we can’t have it anymore! Folks, come to Ghana and compare prices and note that a head of lettuce or canned tomatoes costs more than the average person’s salary for the day! 78.5% of our people live under $2 per day according to WB reports (2003), and yet a small 8oz. bag of Quaker Oats breakfast cereal costs more than two days wages! We stopped producing any products and closed down our factories. So who the heck does the government want to work overseas or produce money in Ghana and pay the huge taxes to support his nonsense and bleeding of the national coffers!
Isn’t it a shame that the same model buses supplied to other African nations are in running condition and that to Ghana are in shambles! Where is the leadership in Ghana? Who are the Ministers who are in charge of such government agencies under them? Why have they not been brought before a court of law and sentences to jail for mismanagement and causing financial loss? Why have the managers involved is using a whole $120,000 (estimate) bus as spare parts for another? Why? Where is the leadership?
Folks, I am now in Ghana and I can assure you that government employees have absolutely no conscience that government property is property that belongs to all of us and hence if under their care, normal prudence and care should be take of them for all! Folks, this practice ahs been around since some of us were young students at Prempeh College when we noticed and questioned the number of parked buses at the Ahinsan and Kwadaso and other stations in Kumasi even during the 1960s under the Osagyefo’s own rule! So don’t think I am criticizing one government or the other. It has been our culture – Our very damaging and completely insane culture of not caring for common property! The report continued that: “As a result, a number of the buses are presently grounded or cannibalized to service other buses are presently grounded or cannibalized to service other buses without the knowledge and input of the Chinese engineers.”
Do these people know the cost of a bus? What the heck is wrong with the Ghanaian employee or so-called big man? I have reported in past travels how I saw 6 to 8 huge Split Air conditioners at the Accra Airport entry Hall, first in use in November 2003, but all of them sitting idle and non-functional in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 travels to Ghana. A few weeks ago when I landed at the airport again, I noticed the 8 units were removed but two new ones were present, but still not working or turned on! Folks, my experience have shown that the Ghanaian mechanic is a far cleverer and crafty mechanic than even the American ones I have known, and our people can fix anything if managed and supplied with the right parts. The central Air conditioners in my house in Fremont, California were over 20 years old and still working! In Ghana appliances can break down every year because of what is called “electrical overstress”, caused by the interruption many times per week or even per day!
We should all find it extremely disgusting that when we all pay taxes to supply certain equipment or buy buses or airplanes for the nation, some managers in the government agencies will simply sabotage the operations, refuse to manage them as they would their own personal property, and cause major financial losses to Ghana. What is more annoying and makes me mad is the fact that no government Minister or President seem to want to do anything about it! And yet they ask us bringing goods and cars into the nation to pay huge 50% to sometimes 200% duties and taxes and charges at the ports! And they go begging for money from others to balance our budgets! Why can’t government directors for once be managed by the Ministers and forced to think for Ghana for a change!?
Why can’t the President of the nation for once care about such matters? A million lost here and a million there; losses in buses, vehicles, airplanes, don’t they all add up!
I challenge the Mills administration to be more concerned about such small bleeding of the coffers, and take care of the ordinary small things in Ghana, bring the managers and directors in to the Castle and fire some of them, and even if possible have the Attorney General file charges and let us put some behind bars for negligence, and stop the bleeding! If we do this, the big economic picture will take care of themselves!
I think if enough of us exercise the “Holy Anger” or Holy Jihad (if one can borrow the term) enough to change Ghana, we should push our Ministers, President, and all elected and appointed officials to act and act in the interest of the nation instead of for themselves only as we often see! They should think of Ghana before their own stomachs, cars and housing when in office!
Folks, let’s exercise our rights to demand performance and social justice and do it now! It seems the Mills administration may have a chance of listening to our moans and taking action. No Politics. PLEASE PASS THIS ON! IT’S TIME TO CALL YOUR MP, the Ministers, Chief Directors and Directors, and tell them to ACT AND ACT NOW! Fix the tattered roads in the cities and rural areas! Fix the broken-down water mains and pumps! Fix the poor communication systems! Fix the dirty streets and environments! Learn to grown grass for the parks and schools and neighborhoods! Stop the silly burning of trash in neighborhoods! Fix the police stations! Fix the Budget and let is live like others!
Enough disgrace! Let’s STOP it now!!
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso (firstname.lastname@example.org)
President, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc.(NGO) East Legon, Accra, Ghana