Pirates now call themselves “businessmen”

Fri, 23 Dec 2011 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The ongoing controversy over the huge sum of money paid by the state (through the Mills-led government) to businessman and NDC financier, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, is a clear demonstration of the criminal laxity that persists in our country to facilitate such sophisticated methods for fleecing the national coffers.

It is gradually emerging that Woyome was not the person awarded the contract to warrant his legal action to claim damages when the Kufuor government abrogated the contract. So, what was the basis for the court’s judgement and the government’s doling out of that huge sum of money to him? Obviously, that payment is fraudulent and must be condemned by all Ghanaians wishing well for the country.

Those in the government justifying the Attorney-General’s decision not to make any appearance at the trial, which facilitated the payment of that huge amount to Woyome, deserve nothing but public scorn. Alex Segbefia, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Ebo Barton-Oduro, Deputy Attorney-General (who said the government didn’t follow up on the case because it was a “bad case”) are a disgrace.

The worst of all, though, is Betty Mould-Iddrissu, then Attorney-General, under whose watch and incompetence the swindling act was carried out. And as if her conscience has been seared with a hot iron, she is sitting there at the Ministry of Education, continuously drawing attention to herself for her failures more than any positive accomplishment for which she might be remembered.

A painfully comical circus is in motion, though. We hear that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice will be in court tomorrow to pursue a case it filed against Woyome. The A-G is asking the Commercial Court to uphold a stay of execution of a judgment debt it awarded to Woyome who had sued the state for allegedly abrogating a contract he said was awarded him by the Kufuor administration.

The table seems to be turning round to indicate that some people in authority at the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General’s Department are suddenly being roused up by a rude awakening.

In this sudden twist to the saga, the Attorney-General is turning round to pursue this case against Woyome, probably as a mere face-saving ploy. The horses have already bolted out of the stable; why attempt locking the doors now?

With the President’s directive for the case to be investigated, suggesting that heat is being put on people to determine what went wrong, somebody must certainly be scared stiff of being exposed and punished. Thus, the turn-around to appear as if something positive is in the offing to redeem government’s image. But this probe won’t solve any problem. It won’t lead to any drastic action being taken against Woyome and all those who might be complicit in this swindling act. We already know the outcome of such half-hearted, cosmetic approaches to dealing with serious national problems.

Truth be told, this al-Houdini act is part of the orchestration by those who know how to take advantage of the loopholes in our system to perpetrate their hideous swindling of the state. It is an integral part of the deep-seated and pervasive scheme of corruption that has outlived all governments and will continue to dominate public life for as long as the conditions that spawn and nurture it exist.

Despite all the pontification by all the government leaders who have ruled the country over the past 50 years against corrupt practices and the stringent death-blows that Rawlings dealt to those swept away by the excesses of the June 4 Uprising, or the jailing of former government functionaries by Kufuor, the problem still defies solution. It is so because those in authority who should be the first to lead the fight against it are themselves complicit in promoting it. The favourable conditions persist.

Who won’t chafe at the manner in which Betty Mould Iddrissu’s Ministry handled this Woyome case? But she is still at post, unperturbed by the public outcry against her shoddiness in handling this matter.

And rather pathetically too, the President himself seems not to know the moral, economic, and political gravity of this swindling act. He can’t get rid of her from his government for fear of losing support from those who think she hasn’t done anything heinous and will browbeat him. They are the people who position themselves to profit from such a corrupt system that they prop up with malfunctioning appointees of Mould Iddrissu’s type and willing accomplices parading as businessmen and party financiers.

Woyome has staunchly defended his case but now that the truth about the contract award and the circumstances surrounding it are emerging to portray him as fraudulent, he is backing down and telling a different story to suggest that it was the company he represented that lost dividends. In effect, the matter for which he was bounteously paid wasn’t even his own to profit from. But he was paid that huge amount of money just because someone helped him take advantage of the lapses in the system.

Being a financier of the NDC, he must have a lot of responsibilities to bear; hence, the murderous desire to make hay while the sun shines so that he can continue to shoulder those responsibilities to the acclamation of the powers-that-be. After all, that’s how some think they must finance their parties and be rewarded when political power is won!

Probably, Kwadwo Mpiani’s challenge to Woyome and the government to prove that the Kufuor administration indeed awarded that contract to Woyome might be a bad portent, which seems to have instilled fear in Woyome and some people who are now scared of their butt being exposed. It is beyond being ridiculous at this stage.

Ebo Barton Oduro’s initial claim that the government didn’t pursue the case because it saw it as “bad,” which enabled Woyome to reap where he hadn’t sown will certainly not go down as a horrible defence. Now, will he be involved in pursuing this suit against Woyome? What is the moral justification for the about-turn, anyway?

The negative fallouts for President Mills and his government (or the NDC, generally) are dire. The credibility problem created for the government by this swindling act can’t be solved easily nor will its negative impact evaporate so soon. President Mills will definitely suffer immensely from it. As is already evident, Ghanaians are unhappy over the issue and will use it as one of the factors to upbraid the NDC and its government.

It stands to reason, then, that any cheap talk that President Mills’ uprightness will fetch him public goodwill and help the electorate retain him in office is extremely absurd. It takes more than one person’s moral uprightness for a government to be retained in office. What is the impact of this so-called singular positive trait of uprightness on his administration? Are his functionaries emulating his uprightness well enough to give the assurance that they are not corrupt? We know they are not and will judge them as such.

The evidence proves that they are corrupt and can’t win any trust for the President. In effect, President Mills’ uprightness fades in the face of what is happening around him that he can’t decisively tackle to reverse the negative public opinions about his administration.

The government seems to be mired in everything despicable as far as corruption is concerned. Probably, the Woyome case gives credence to all the allegations being bandied about. We’ve heard and seen enough to alarm us; but this Woyome case caps it all that President Mills will have an uphill task in his search for the people’s mandate. Unless he acts decisively to erode the current impressions about his leadership style, he will laugh at the wrong side of his mouth.

That is why those functionaries in his government mounting rooftops to howl themselves hoarse that he will win the 2012 elections hands-down are huge jokers who must be laughed to scorn. They are doing more harm to President Mills’ interests than any good that they may be aiming at through such public posturing and unguarded utterances.

For as long as the Woyomes hide behind faceless people in authority to do what will tarnish the image of the government, nothing points to any fact that winning the elections will be a piece of cake for President Mills just because he is perceived as morally upright. And we are saying so against the background of the mounting problems of survival still tormenting the lives of Ghanaians at all levels. How does the government expect to be retained in office when it can’t solve the problems facing the people?

Rather unfortunately, while these problems worsen, people like Woyome are goaded on to exploit the system only to end up annoying the people and turning them against the government because they see the government itself as aiding and abetting such swindling acts.

Such aggrieved people will not be wooed easily into giving their mandate to the government. President Mills needs to know why scandals of this sort are worse than any vile propaganda that the NPP may wage against his government with the view to stifling his hold on power. This Woyome swindling act is enough to endanger the government’s chances. It will continue to add to all other negative impressions to make the going tough for President Mills. He may continue to bank his hopes for re-election on his moral uprightness and infrastructural development, but all may end up in smoke. It’s all a vanity of vanities!

At this point, it is clear that some are already positioning themselves to be taken to task if the NPP wins the 2012 elections. The legal action against former functionaries of the Rawlings administration over financial malfeasance will definitely be re-enacted; and Woyome and those in the government who might have aided this swindling act will definitely be fished out and dealt with. Nobody should talk about witch-hunting if it happens.

We are seeing right now how people mindlessly do things to pit themselves against the law. This Woyome’s al-Houdini act will definitely make him a candidate for prosecution, even if the government succeeds in retrieving the money from him. More intriguingly, though, his act has smeared the government and it shouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a major campaign issue. The pirates have abandoned the sea for the land and are all over the corridors of power. Ghanaians, beware!

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.