World Bank Stirs Truth In Contempt

Mon, 8 Jul 2013 Source: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

Critical News, 7th July 2013

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

I had two could be catastrophes last week, worth mentioning. Before I get there though, I just want to say that the Ashaiman Municipality responded very swiftly to the call for repairs to the major roads in the area. Not only did they grade and smooth over the crinkles and pot holes in the towns, they also forethought to water down the dusty roads all last week, eliminating the Sahara swirl and saving us the pain of walking with handkerchief-covered mouths as if we would soon have to conform to some new form of Sharia. The Ashaimanese put Jah in their stride, with a calm confidence, that their message is clear and life will remain normal till they determine otherwise, as close as you can get to an Egypt uprising in Tahir Square and even as I heard many people condemning the Ashaiman riot I wondered whether the bigger wrong is not that of Government. After the riots, they found the money to engage a contractor to fix the road. What was the mindset previously when all this was so visible? It is the same with all Government machinery. Platitudes deftly layered with pretentious care in a mold of financial distress. Ashaiman showed that there is a limit to civil engagement.

But writing about it was not my faux pas. My accounting fraternity did not take kindly to my blatant criticism of KPMG in the Pink Sheet count. Initial scathing responses accused me of not being “circumspect in my reportage”, a phrase I have penned as the proverbial journalist’s cop out, while another group suggested I could have quietly made my point to my friends in KPMG and not gone loudly public. Yet another group suggested it was not everything you must comment on. Naturally I disagreed with all and when Monday came and the Bench was just as “confused/unclear” about what Petitioner’s Counsel Phillip Addison claimed was not incorporated in the KPMG findings, I felt vindicated. KPMG claimed 8,675 was the unique count, yet clearly they had not included 1,575 sheets on the grounds that it was not their remit to identify those sheets using other obviously simple procedures. I think the logic was wrong and as I also said, this exercise was not a technical audit. In the end the Supreme Court Judges made their decision and moved the case on, wondering whether KPMG might have to come back to court. So I hope all those who criticized me followed the logic in court and maybe I did say something of import.

But now I am a bit confused about the contempt issue. I read Professor Kweku Asare’s letter to the Chief Justice a few more times and I still think he is right on the free speech issue. Ken Kuranchie’s front-page story was insulting, but I am not clear that it makes for criminal contempt. Stephen Atubiga’s statements, to me were more inflammatory and dangerous, but I think they were matters for the Criminal Code (which, by the way has to go). His apologetic stance rang a bell with the Judges and he got off with a lighter sentence. So now the media is weakened in a week when stations have been agog with discussions about restrictions to free speech and “how not far can we go?” Certainly there is a lot more cacophony when it comes to politics, but this is all part of the democracy thing. We must criticize and challenge those who would abuse their authority. I don’t want to be in a place where if I suggest the President appears too close to a deal of sorts, I will be hauled before a court and sentenced without trial for bringing the President’s name in disrepute.

I don’t even know how the Judges got to hear about these statements, because they are supposed to be totally insulated from all comments in the media on cases. That Mr. Boahen walked because he could prove that the attributed publication from him was false, told me he could have been jailed on no evidence. Now we are all calling for a definition of contempt in the legal sense to “avoid” another situation like this.

And that is how I got my second black mark, from the readers on Ghanaweb’s site, many who chose to call me unmentionable names. Someone suggested that as an Ashanti NPP illiterate, I was creating chaos in the minds of other illiterates by misinforming them about happenings in the country and I must be “Ho-gagged”. So I take it in my stride, horses for courses.

This month we are in the final stretch of the Petition hearing. Judges have already signaled to both sides to commence drafting their addresses for the coming week. Unless Afari Gyan gets a chance to redeem some of the statements he has made through Counsel Quarshie Idun, plan for the incorrigible Tsatsu Tsikata to respectfully suggest that we restart the case because “new” exhibits, pink sheets and polling stations have been magically introduced by some unknown someone. He is still holding out that the NDC Respondents intend to use the now discredited fact that only 8,600 odd sheets were provided, as part of their trump card to buttress their case, and they will not say what they have not received. If he does so, he gets to extend the case for another day, maybe two, if the Judges allow him such grace.

Now we are all focused on the decision to come in the next two to three weeks. After final submissions, the judges can take up to fifteen days to return a verdict. This verdict is the final peacemaker in our voting results and the decision will forward us to 2016. If the Bench deems there is a case to annul some if not all the Petitioner’s request, I assume the EC will have to go back and recount. And I wonder if the AG will find some criminal intent in all this.

But the big question on our lips. Are we going to allow Afari Gyan to supervise another election if it comes to that? Will the Bench, as part of its judgment suggest that the EC, in the matter of stability and fairness, not be accepted as independent? What will make Ghanaians comfortable, if perception is that our EC is possibly discredited? The Bench is worn ragged and the dished out sentences to the “Contemptuous Ones” is a reflection of the pent up stress meted out by both Petitioners and Respondents. At the same time we do not want international commissioners. This is a Ghana challenge and we must do it by ourselves and be satisfied that when we reload the count we accept the verdict. By ourselves, for ourselves. All of us.

After all we brought the Americans to come and tell us where the market arsonists at, and up to now, no result. I hear they released an interim report, but as usual our Government will not share the content. So is the problem one of inability to detect or determination not to share? Our problem is disrespect for the rights of citizens.

Which is why the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) holds the World Bank in contempt for suggesting they have an incompetent Board. When the report broke, the immediate reaction was how insulting? But the PURC forget that the WB is only parroting Ghanaians. Dumso is still with us, and all that the regulatory agency does is hike tariffs. Haven’t we complained incessantly about poor service and damaged appliances? Just because the ECG publishes a load shedding schedule (that they do not follow), does not mean the job is done. As part of the deal, we expect to have uninterrupted supply every weekend. When was the last time that was respected? And what has PURC done about this? We all agree with the World Bank. We have been treated as small fish, no need to fix our complaints; now the big whale has opened its mouth, deal with it. They have said what we have been saying on air and in print all this time.

I don’t understand what the Government intends with the ghc400 million tax burden loaded on Ghana business, while protecting RLG communications by raising duties on imported phones. The Poultry sector has asked incessantly for something to be done to give them protection from imported cheap parts; no care shown. But when it comes to the only phone assembling company, we have found revenue-creating opportunity. I am asking again, who is really behind RLG Communications? Because Roland Agambire is getting a lot of Government support.

I have found little humor this week. We have too many serious issues to transition and I am deflated from dumso, no water, poor voice and even worse data communication and no access to finance. But lol, we will find solutions, it has been this way for only fifty of the years I have been around. Armah Kofi Buah, Minister of Energy says we will soon have nuclear energy, he has not asked Kwame, Ama, Prudence, Kakra and Payin and me whether we want this potentially dangerous, if mismanaged, energy source in our backyards.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney