So who wants to ‘whine’?

Cameron Duodu Comlumnist Cameron Duodu is a writer.

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 Source: Cameron Duodu

In some countries, people are appointed to posts because they either have experience in the concerned field, or because they possess and exhibit an aptitude for efficiency and reliability generally that convinces the employer(s) that a few weeks exposure to the job would enable them to perform creditably in it.

Not so in Ghana. First, over here, it’s usually whom you know!

If one has the right ‘contacts’, one could hear of a job of interest, even before the job is advertised.

If one is appointed to an important post through this route, one would not be able to benefit from that sense of “insecurity” which acts as a brake to complacency. The result? One can easily sleepwalk one’s way through the job.

A second factor that contributes to the inefficiency we see all around us is in Ghana is public apathy. Ghanaians tend to respect people not for what those people do achieve, but for who they are. He’s the CEO of such-and-such an organisation. Oh, then he is someone to show reverence to. The man’s name might be mud in his own professional circles. So what?

He doesn’t perform? Whom do you tell that to? No-one will listen to you! The guy might have got the board under his control. Or there’s no internal mechanism through which complaints, if received at all, can be effectively channelled.

No-one cares!” How often do we hear that refrain?

People who have tasted the fruits of other cultures, where objective criteria are used to select and promote people who hold important positions, are confused and utterly dismayed when they come to Ghana and experience the poor services made available to them. But let them express their disappointment to those paid to ensure that services paid for with the Ghanaian people’s taxes, are actually delivered – and they would be excoriated for their “arrogance” and “sense of superiority”. Universal standards? Tell me another!

Recently, another accusation has been levelled at complainers, especially those from the “Diaspora”, who had come to visit their homeland and could not keep quiet about some of the unnecessary inefficiencies that had made their stay here a punishment, and not the enjoyable sojourn they had envisaged.

The word hurled at them was “whining”!

“Whining” was used by a deputy minister against the Diasporans! He word caused so much outrage among the “Diasporans” that no less a person than the President of the Republic, in his usual show of graciousness, felt it necessary to try and mitigate the hurt it caused the Diasporans.

But I think it is a good thing that the issue came out into the public space. For Ghanaians like to hide things too much. To quote Fela Kuti, we tolerate “suffering” by smiling”.

Alas, there are peculiar tenets of the Ghana situation which militate – automatically – against good practice. Take, for instance, the way that the business that must be growing fastest in Ghana, as in other countries – Mobile Telecommunications – is regulated here.

Ensuring that telecom companies deliver a great service is not anti-business, but pro-economic– growth! Britain, for instance, is ruled by a “business-friendly” Conservative government. Yet, the regulatory body there, OFCOM, constantly harangues telcom companies over the unrealistic speeds they claim (in their advertisements) to be able to deliver to customers who subscribe to their internet services. OFCOM also checks to find out whether the reach of the telcom companies into the rural areas is as wide as they promised when they applied for their operating licences.

Britain, despite Brexit, has agreed to a European Union edict that “roaming charges” by telecom companies should be abolished across the board in Europe.

But what about Ghana? The body that regulates the telcom companies, the National Communications Authority (NCA), has apparently been concerning itself, not with monitoring the operations of these companies and protecting the public from any rapacious practices they might indulge in, but in acquiring equipment for the Government which can be used to infringe the rights of Ghanaians to the privacy of their electronic communications! What happened to “data protection”? The NCA doesn’t seem to have head of the concept.

Apart from thus unethically subverting the functions entrusted to it, the National Communications Authority has stepped into another ethical issue. The NCA’s new board chairman, Mr Kwaku Sakyi Addo, was until his appointment on 9 April 2017, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.

Now, have no evidence to doubt the integrity of the new NCA board chairman. But the fact that he has been so very close to the organisations he’s to regulate, exposes him to a potential “conflict of interest”.

In fact, it’s not fair to Kwaku Sakyi Addo to be placed in such a situation. If the telcom companies carry on being as insensitive to public opinion as they have been doing, poor Kwaku will be blamed for allowing his organisation to ignore their failures.

Yet how can we blame Kwaku for the fact that the manner in which the telcom companies price their products, especially “internet bundles”, is too confusing and opaque?

If you buy “credit” from them and you are unable to specify the services you want, the period you want it for, and the division between “bundles” (Internet/data versus voiced communications), you are cut off when you need to do simple things like send email.

People who are not technically savvy about these things should be protected from the clever commercial tactics employed by the telcom companies. For if they don’t feel under pressure, they won’t act.

I know it – I’ve been railing against the crappy “call-tunes” they irritate customers with for years, but I might as well never have said a word about that issue. Now, I am having trouble with my “bundles”. But who will be my champion, when the “poacher” has turned into the “catcher”? Or could Kwaku Sakyi Addo give us a nice SO, WHO WANTS TO ‘WHINE’?

Columnist: Cameron Duodu