By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK September 9, 2014
On Tuesday August 12, 2014, President John Mahama launched a ten million cedi Youth Enterprise Support (YES) to assist and encourage entrepreneurship among Ghanaian youth. The launch was in fulfilment of his 2012 campaign promises. YES is a flagship programme to assist young Ghanaians with creative and innovative business ideas and plans to achieve their full potential. It is a multi- sector initiative operating under the office of the President and drawing collaborative support from key agencies including, the National Board for Small Scale Industries, National Youth Authority, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Finance. Apart from providing funding for Ghanaian youth between the ages of 18 and 35, YES will also provide the beneficiaries with effective training and entrepreneurial mentoring that would catapult their businesses to higher levels. It will also give young Ghanaians an opportunity to showcase their talents and entrepreneurial skills and challenge them to start new businesses and employ other youth.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YES, is Mr Kojo Adu Asare, the former NDC MP for Adenta who was also the Head of Protocol and Supporters Welfare Committee for the Brazil 2014 World Cup, who shed crocodile tears when he appeared before the Dzamefe Commission of Inquiry on Monday September 8, 2014. I am not posing the question on his suitability for the position the President has appointed him to just because he wept like a child at the Commission but for what he said at the Commission. According to him, there were no formal written contracts or agreement (though contracts and agreement could be verbal and informal) between the state and the companies his committee engaged to perform some duties on behalf of the state. He also admitted that there were “no documentation on a benchmark or criteria to select one of the travel and tour agencies” which applied to his committee as preferred provider or supplier of services.
The purpose of this article is to access the ability of Mr Kojo Adu Asare to manage a ten million budget in view of his performance as Head of Protocol and Supporters Welfare Committee, not mentioning the difficulties experienced by Ghanaian supporters who made the trip to Brazil such as very poor accommodation, abandonment of supporters after matches and others seeking political asylum due to lack of pre-arranged return flight.
It was very clear from how Mr Kojo Adu Asare discharged his duties as Head of Protocol and Welfare Committee that the whole project was doomed to failure from the start. The lack of proper records keeping was either deliberate to steal and cover up corruption or pure incompetence.
If the modus operandi of Kojo Adu Asare in the above committees is transferred to YES as COE, then another SADA and GYEEDA is in the making. Contracts would be signed with others without any documentary evidence but by word of mouth. Sums of money would be exchanging hands or paid to young people/entrepreneurs without any documentation and the money will just disappear into thin air. The money may not be used by some of the beneficiaries for what it was meant for (business activities), but as there would no records on who got what and what for and no means to recover the money.
From the hearings at the Dzamefe Commission, it is quiet scary that state officials who were responsible for the 2014 World Cup were woefully incompetent. They acted as if they have never heard of the concept of risk averse or perhaps the money was not from their pockets so they were no bothered. In fact, for Mr Kojo Adu Asare to be appointed the CEO of YES despite his abysmal performance as Head of Protocol and Supporters Welfare Committee is either suicidal or madness, especially, considering the mismanagement, incompetence and the corruption of the those who were responsible for similar initiative by the Mahama government such as SADA and GYEEDA.
Sometimes, the calibre of some of Preisident Mahama’s appointments are such that, one wonders if the president has got the quality and quantity to assist him manage the affairs of the state efficiently and effectively. On other occasions, when consideration is given to the fact that President Mahama instead of sacking the former Sports Minister, appointed him as minister without portfolio at the Presidency, then one can conclude that the President does not care about quality in his appointees as far as the individual is NDC card bearing member, supported his election and will support his re-election, s/he should be appointed into positions of trust.
No doubt the Mhama government is one of the most, if not the most incompetent administration since independence. It is full of square pegs in round holes. It is no surprising that with additional income from oil, Ghana is in a state of financial meltdown, the cedi is depreciating daily, government is unable to pay its statutory bills when due with many recurrent and capital expenditures in arrears for years and Ghana is going begging IMF with bowl in hand for more handouts.
As long as President Mahama appoints incompetent individuals into positions of trust to lead strategic national bodies such as YES, he should expect more SADA and GYEEDA to happen and his so-called Ghana Better Agenda will continue to elude him. He will continue to promise a better tomorrow till thy kingdom come but come 2012 he will be massively defeated to become the first one term President of the Fourth Republic.
President Mahama deliberately established a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to probe the 2014 World Cup in order to shield his cronies from prosecution. That may be understandable since he does not want his friends and party members jailed if they were found guilty. But what is worrying is why is he not only appointing some of these same people into very sensitive positions but also to manage huge sums of money?
YES is an excellent and encouraging initiative that if well managed and delivered could reduce the high youth unemployment in Ghana and also create jobs. On the other hand, if the reverse happens, millions of scarce state resources will disappear without trace and hopes and aspirations would be shattered as it happened with SADA and GYEEDA. Has President Mahama’s government learnt any lessons? If what we saw and heard from Mr Kojo Adu Asare is any yardstick to measure his competence and ability to manage a project, then, what the hell is he doing managing the ten million YES budget? I may be wrong but some Ghanaians need persuading.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK