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Ministerial vetting: Ken Ofori-Atta is our true role model

Wed, 7 Apr 2021 Source: Gabriel Nii Otu Ankrah

President Nana Akufo-Addo after surviving a roller-coaster 2020 General Election which saw the unprecedented defeat of many of his parliamentary candidates, and himself, a close- to- call challenge to his presidency by his main contender, John Dramani Mahama, faced the uphill task of constituting a team to assist him to execute his mandate.

So foggy was the political atmosphere as the main opposition embarked on a crusade of press conferences and street demonstrations and the uncertainty of whether the country was going to have a repeat of the 2012 election which had to be settled at the apex court, the Supreme Court.

Albeit the wheels of government had to run – ministers must be appointed and vetted by the legislature to ensure the implementation of policies by the bureaucracies.

So, the President announced the names of his appointees and presented same to the legislature for onward “scrutiny” and approval. A list of 46 nominees, made up of 30 for the Central Government and 16 for Regional Government, was presented to Parliament on 21st January 2021.

Parliament subsequently released the schedule for the vetting of the first list of appointees on February 2. The vetting began on February 10 and ended on March 9.

The vetting process was such a spectacle – serious sessions with “razor questions” mainly from the opposition, comical responses and clueless presentations.

Nominees for key sectors such as health, defense, agriculture, interior, foreign affairs, attorney general, had their turns at the vetting.

The verdict on individual performances were subjectively owned by Ghanaians as some could not escape without disdain, disappointment and controversies.

Strikingly, the minister responsible for the national purse seemed to be too far on the vetting schedule.

Then the shocker came on February 14, 2021 when the Ministry of Finance informed the general public and stakeholders that Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, the Representative of H.E the President at the Ministry of Finance and Minister-designate for Finance, will travel to the United States of America for a special medical review.

The statement said after recovering from Covid-19 last December, Mr. Ofori-Atta had medical complications which doctors advised, required further interventions not currently available in Ghana.

He was expected to be away for two weeks. Mr. Ofori-Atta was scheduled to appear before the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Tuesday, 16th February, 2021. The leadership of Parliament was thus duly notified for a new date to be fixed upon his return.

Let me confess that I prayed only once for his healing and safe return home (I forgot to do same subsequently). But by the providence of God, Mr. Ofori- Atta returned home and was scheduled to appear before the vetting committee on 25th March.

His vetting arrested attention of many Ghanaians like the last solar eclipse in Ghana in 2006.

Not so impressed with the performance of some of the ministers who were vetted early on, I was very thirsty for an insightful session with Ken Ofori-Atta.

I watched proceedings with expectancy. Some of the early nominees were ignorant on key issues in their sectors, pompous, ill-prepared and comical. Let me concede that some of the nominees discharged themselves creditably.

Ken Ofori- Atta appeared on March 25th before the vetting committee. He was quizzed for six hours on his stewardship for the past four years as finance minister.

He could not escape questions on such “famous” issues as the current debt stock and the Agyapa deal.

For the first time, a nominee’s vetting had to be adjourned to continue the following day- the Chairman of The Appointment Committee of Parliament, Mr. Joseph Osei Owusu, announced this. It was to” slow down” on Mr. Ofori-Atta, who was “recuperating” from his treatment.

Enough of the narration, please pardon me.

I choose to single out Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta to celebrate, salute and let the whole world know the positive influence he has had (from afar) on some of us young and budding leaders.

The closest I came to this man was at the graduation ceremony at the Trinity Theological Seminary in Accra, in November 2018.

He was the Special Guest of Honour, and I was a graduating candidate in the Master of Arts in Ministry Class, seated “roll by roll” in the auditorium.

He was clad beautifully in a kente cloth on his “Ghanaman- bare-chested-warrior body” and typical of him, he seized everyone’s attention with his calm voice as he addressed the gathering.

Permit me to highlight his display of some key leadership attributes at the vetting that inspired me and I believe other admirers – depth of knowledge in economic management and issues in his sector, demeanor, humility, patriotism, preparation and public display of his faith.

Depth of knowledge in economic management and issues in his sector

I do not have the slightest knowledge in economics. In fact, I have phobia for numbers and formula.

But I am among the many Ghanaians who judge the effectiveness of a finance minister and his management of the economy by the stable “trotro” fares, cost of food and pure water, no queue for fuel and LPG gas.

These are our key indicators – forget jargons like “micro and macro, debt stock, liquidity, GDP, fiscal stimulus, commodity prices, recession blah blah blah.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit hard on major economies and sent them trembling. Mighty economies suffered recessions over and over.

The African Development Bank Group in its 2021 edition of the African Economic Outlook, projected Africa to recover in 2021 from its worst economic recession in half a century, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Real GDP in Africa is projected to grow by 3.4 percent in 2021, after contracting by 2.1 percent in 2020.

This projected recovery from the worst recession in more than half a century will be underpinned by a resumption of tourism, a rebound in commodity prices, and the rollback of pandemic-induced restrictions. The outlook is, however, subject to great uncertainty from both external and domestic risks.

Since the Covid–19 pandemic began in early 2020, governments have announced fiscal stimulus packages ranging in cost from about 0.02 per-cent of GDP in South Sudan to about 10.4 percent of GDP in South Africa.

The Bank estimates that African governments need additional gross financing of about $154 billion in 2020/21 to respond to the crisis.

These fiscal stimulus packages have largely had immediate, direct implications for budgetary balances, borrowing needs, and debt levels.

I think Ghana’s story has not been that bad.

Our economy is standing on its feet for now and I think we should give honour to whom it is due, the finance minister and the Economic Management Team.

Demeanour

Mr. Ofori-Atta’s calm disposition was on display at the vetting. He responded to “anger-provoking” questions with ease and calmness.

No matter how hard he was pushed, he never lost his cool. He took everything easy and responded according to his ability.

Those he had no ready answers to, he intimated that he was going to seek advice on those issues. A true mark of a great leader!

Humility

Humility is defined as “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance”. I am convinced Mr. Ofori-Atta lives this definition.

Considering his sphere of influence and achievements, he ought not to be this modest by affluence standards (we saw a driver flaunting his wealth for all to see recently in a video circulating on social media).

I still battle with the assumption that Mr. Ofori-Atta has a PhD degree or Professorial title he is not making us aware of.

Patriotism

This is one word I used to hear growing up. I believe it was a clarion call to rally us as a people to a common course.

It was to imbibe in use a spirit of volunteerism, selflessness and dedication to the land of our birth. It was to sacrifice our all for the growth and development of our society and people.

Mr. Ofori-Atta made it known to the public that he does not receive salary or any emolument as a finance minister. His dedication to the service of Ghana is free.

How many of us in public institutions do not “demand” bribes in addition to our salaries before rendering public service? We take up public responsibilities with the aim to loot and milk the state. I hear former minister Kwame Peprah was also not taking salary.

Imagine we have only a 100 Ghanaians like these men. May God grant the young leaders who are coming up this spirit to seek the wellbeing of the people first.

Preparation

Uncle Ken attended the vetting well prepared. He was prepared psychologically and physically. He had “every” paper and document on him.

His delivery was on point because he prepared for it. What freaked me out was his concluding remarks to the Committee. Hahahahaha, after the minister had been officially discharged by the committee, he sought to move the vote of thanks.

He kept it going until he was interrupted by the Chairman that the session was over but Mr. Ofori-Atta would not hear that and went on till the full stop on his script (I suspect he had a prepared script of list of acknowledgements). This is called preparation! He came prepared!

Public display of his faith

This minister has never hidden his devotion to His God and faith. He seizes every opportunity to hallow the name of God and Jesus Christ regardless of the platform – be it corporate or religious. A very devout Christian. He is not ashamed to own His Lord and to defend His course.

Mr. Ofori- Atta goes public with his faith with no apology. That inspires me. Did you take account of the number of bible verses he used during his vetting? As for his “addiction” to the white colour in his fashion sense, I will ask him when I have the opportunity to meet him one day.

You inspire the younger generation sir! You are a true model. There is hope for Ghana.

THANK YOU, SIR.

Hon Ken Ofori-Atta, assumed office as Ghana’s Finance Minister on January 27, 2017. He brings to the Ministry over 30 years’ experience in Ghanaian and international financial sector.

He was a Co-Founder and former Chairman of the Databank Group (an investment banking firm) in Ghana. He was the Executive Chairman from 1990 until his retirement on February 14, 2012.

Prior to co-founding Databank in 1990, the Hon Minister was an investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Salomon Brothers on Wall Street in New York. He has other business interests in Insurance, Retail Banking, Private Equity, Microfinance, Pharmaceuticals and Real Estate.

Hon. Ofori-Atta was the first African to be honoured as a Donaldson Fellow at Yale University in 2010, a John Jay Fellow at Columbia University in 2011 and also a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. He is a Co-Founder of the Aspen African Leadership Initiative.

He was also the first African to testify at the US Congress Ways and Means Committee to support the AGOA law. He was twice honoured by PriceWaterHouse Ghana as one of the Top 5 Most Respected CEOs in Ghana.

He went to Achimota School in Accra, Ghana; received a BA in Economics from Columbia University in New York and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

He is married with four children (credit: Ministry of Finance website)

Columnist: Gabriel Nii Otu Ankrah