Opinions Fri, 22 Dec 2017
Dear President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,Those of us who grew up in the days of Kwaku Ananse stories know at least one proverb and its meaning. We were told that Nti Kumah does not sit and doze off on the tree from which his father, Ananse, fell and died. Our elders have also taught us that if a man dies by stumbling over a stone, we do not run to his funeral.
I see a lot of wisdom in this, Mr. President. If someone runs, stumbles and dies, the cause of his death will still be fresh on the minds of those attending his funeral so they will do everything to avoid the fate of the deceased. But it does not seem you have averted your mind to this simple ancient wisdom. In your case, it is worse because you’re running to John Mahama’s funeral with your eyes closed.
A year ago, Ghanaians voted out President John Dramani Mahama and his National Democratic Congress (NDC). They gave you the opportunity to preside over this nation. Ghanaians did not vote for you because they adored you so much. Please, don’t be deceived. You are not one of the politicians with the charm to sweep voters off their feet. You were rejected in 2008 when all the odds favoured you. Again, in 2012, Ghanaians rejected you. So why did they vote you in 2016?
They did so because they were simply fed up with President John Dramani Mahama and his corrupt regime. The outcome of the 2016 election was more of a rejection of Mahama than an endorsement of you. You came along as a viable alternative, or rather, the only alternative. You put yourself up as an incorruptible man who would safeguard the integrity of the presidency and stop the wanton stealing of Ghana’s money. When you were sworn into office, you reaffirmed your commitment to your values. In your brilliant inaugural speech, which was marred by plagiarized lines, you said:
“State coffers are not spoils for the party that wins an election, but resources for the country’s social and economic development. I shall protect the public purse by insisting on value-for-money in all public transactions. Public service is just that – service and not an avenue for making money. Money is to be made in the private sector, not the public.”
Mr. President, I was one of the people who had hopes in your words. Corruption was choking our republic and your predecessor seemed to have no clue in dealing with it. Your election gave us hope. You were presented as the messiah, a cure for the nation’s biggest epidemic. Some people warned that your party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and your fiercest opponents, the NDC, were different sides of the same calabash so we should not be so optimistic. I agreed with this school of thought, but still had hopes in your words because I believed there would be a difference between Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and John Dramani Mahama even if the deities they worshiped were conceived and birthed from the same womb of political deceit.
As I write this, however, I have a feeling you may be worse than President Mahama in dealing with corruption. Your grand speeches and promises are not backed by action. And our elders have taught us that the man who cultivates his farm with words harvests weeds. We are harvesting the mature and overgrown weeds of corruption in your presidency at a time we should be planting. If you don’t sit up and act, you will endanger the security of our nation. With this kind of mass suffering and unbridled stealing, our nation is imploding. And it will explode one day. Maybe, sooner than we think.
Unlike those who blame your ministers, I want to put the blame squarely on you. Our sages of old have told us that an elder who sits at home and allows children to eat python will not be left out when the roll call of python eaters is conducted. In your case, however, you have not only sat down and supervised the eating of the python of corruption. You have, through your actions and inactions, demonstrated that you are part of the killing, skinning, chopping, spicing, cooking, serving and the eating of the forbidden reptile. Here is why I say so.
Our constitution gives you enormous power. You have the power to stop stinking transactions if you want to. Those who don’t want to act often hide behind the rule of law. But prosecution is only one means of fighting corruption. Firing a corrupt minister can send a strong signal. Denying corrupt company a contract on the basis of its numerous corruption scandals will warn other private sector accomplices that they have a price to pay should they join hands with politicians to steal. In many cases of corruption, it is difficult to get the needed evidence to successfully prosecute. But firing and denying the corrupt opportunities are also punishments.
I am reliably informed that some of your ministers and cabinet members were strongly backing the fraudulent towing levy and the senseless contract signed before you took office. Sources close to your office have told me that you took a position that this was not in the interest of Ghanaians. You said it would not happen and told the sector minister not to entertain the idea. It did not happen. And it’s one of the greatest achievements since you took over.
The first major allegation of corruption in your government was the shady sale of the contaminated oil by the state-owned Bulk Oil Distribution and Transportation Company Company (BOST). The Minister of Energy, Boakye Agyarko, set up a committee to investigate the matter. In less than a week, that same minister held a press conference to announce that the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) had conducted an investigation and cleared the BOST managing director of any wrongdoing. It sounded strange, but that’s how the case died.
My sources, whom I have no reason to doubt, have told me that you played a role in stopping the probing of scandal. My sources say when the minister set up the committee, you were not happy. My sources say you were “misled” into believing that Boakye Agyarko, was on a vindictive warpath against the BOST MD because he (Agyarko) and the MD of BOST were not on the very best of terms.
According to my sources, you called Boakye Agyarko, reprimanded him for acting on such an important issue without your orders and asked him to reverse the decision. The result is that shameful press conference the minister held to make a mess of himself and your government in the BOST scandal. Your body language towards corruption and your words are not in the same direction.
Mr. President, I was in Nigeria in October 2015. In fact, I was in the senate the day President Mahamadu Buhari presented his first batch of ministerial nominees to parliament. The major caption was a reference to the ministers as “Buhari’s nominees of integrity.” And everywhere you turned, you were greeted with a very familiar phrase, “Buhari’s body language.”
One Nigerian journalist I spoke to for a report explained that Buhari had a no nonsense disposition towards corruption and so ruthless was he in dealing with thieves that people were sitting up and doing the right thing as soon as he took over. They said his body language alone was enough to get hardened thieves return money they had looted from the state without him talking. Some people resigned for fear of being tempted to steal. Those of us who have followed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria have seen how empowered they have been in the Buhari era and the hundreds of millions of dollars they have seized in addition to other stolen state properties.
Mr. President, can we say same of your body language? I am afraid, no. Your body language is corruption-friendly. Recently, you were seen endorsing and praising Joseph Siaw Agyepong, the man whose companies have been involved in many corruption scandals in the country and was banned by the World Bank in 2013 from bidding for World Bank funded contracts for two years “following the company’s [Zoomlion] acknowledgment of misconduct impacting the World Bank-financed the Emergency Monrovia Urban Sanitation Project in Liberia. The company paid bribes to facilitate contract execution and processing of invoices.”
Your government campaigned on some of the alleged acts of corruption involving the Jospong Group, but when you met him, you laughed it off as controversies that come with being in the forefront of doing things.
“When you are in the forefront of doing things, like you are, you will be the subject of controversy. It goes with the territory. I know you a little bit, and I know you are capable of handling it. Stay focused,” you told Joseph Siaw Agyepong amidst laughter.
With this signal to your appointees, is it strange that we are beginning to see the crudest manifestation of thievery by a government in our country? The budget that has leaked from the Ministry of Special Development Initiative is just one stinking example. Before I proceed, let me suggest that we scrap that ministry or change its name to the Ministry of Special Stealing Initiative so that we can look at it as such.
This ministry is supposed to supervise the special development authorities. The authorities are yet to be formed, but the budget has been drawn and centralized at the national level and all contracts are to be awarded from this ministry. Whoever mooted this idea did not do a sensible thing. What will then be the roles of the Northern Development Authority, the Coastal Belt Development Authority and the rest, which will be formed? Why would we form them when the minister is sitting in Accra and awarding inflated contracts for the procurement of boreholes?
That ministry said it would spend GHS800,000 to develop a website. Websites of state institutions are among the worst designed we have in this country. And why should it cost that much?
This is a shadow ministry and we may not get up to 2000 clicks on that website in a year. My website can get up to 100,000 page views for one article but it did not cost me more than GHS2000 to develop. The GHS 800,000 to be spent on the website is stealing. Whoever goes ahead to pay that money is a thief! I’m told the minister says the figure is an error and that the actual figure is GHS80,000. I submit to you that this is not an afterthought. The Ministry of Finance or the Economic Management Team ought to have seen the figures before agreeing to allocate that much to the ministry. That budget was taken to parliament and the Finance Committee of Parliament scrutinised it before approving it. All those people who have worked on and reviewed the budget are not idiots not to have seen and raised questions about it. And we are not idiots to accept that explanation. It was a planned and deliberate action to siphon public funds and you must act seriously on this case.
That same ministry is constructing 1000 mechanised boreholes at the cost of GHS132,000 per borehole. The explanation is that this borehole will have solar to power it. Unless of course the solar panels are going to plated with gold, no sensible person will defend this.
Budget for the Ministry of Special Development Initiative
In November last year, your party, the NPP held a press conference to accuse the Mahama government of stealing state funds when it came to light that the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission was constructing similar boreholes at GHS30,000 per borehole.
Mr. President, the chief executive you appointed for Krachi Nchumuru District of the Volta Region, Augustine Appiah, is sinking mechanized boreholes at the cost of GHS7,000 per borehole. This means the GHS132,000 can sink 18 boreholes to serve the same purpose.
The worst of it all is that the budget preparation and budget performance reporting is responsible for GHS2.5million for the Special Development Initiative ministry while the entire budgetary allocation for the Ministries of Ministry for Planning, Parliamentary affairs, as well as Monitoring and Evaluation for the entire 2018 is GHS3million each. It does not make sense!
Mr. President, I don’t think the sector minister, Mavis Hawa Koomson, sat alone and drew this budget and allocated how much should be sent to her ministry. You are the head of the government.
The Special Prosecutor cannot make any difference in the fight against corruption if the body language of the President and his actions do not fight corruption. We did not have the Special Prosecutor but as soon as your government took off, we saw how Ibrahim Mahama and others were hounded by existing state institutions and monies were retrieved. If you’re serious about fighting corruption, then begin to crack the whip.
For some of us who know more than what is public knowledge, your words on corruption are like the promises a man makes to his wife at the peak of his sexual ecstasy. They are not taken seriously!
Manasseh Azure Awuni.
I am a citizen, not a spectator!
Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni