Feature Article of Mon, 17 Jul 20175
Something must happen in Ghana!
It is evident that the government would have to do a census of organisations that only exist in name. l had long thought that the once important Ghana National Procurement Agency (GNPA) had been liquidated until l passed in front of its offices and realised that it is still operating.
Until the State Enterprises Commission hit the news recently, l had the feeling it had also gone under. I also remember there used to be a State Enterprises Audit Commission and wonder if it is still in existence. There was also the Ghana Supply Commission.
l wonder why we still have the Ghana Tourist Development Authority even though we have a Ghana Tourist Authority. Which one is doing what? And let no one tell me that they all have a purpose for which they were set up. As a matter of fact, way back in the 1980s, l questioned why the Ghana Tourist Development Authority was set up. Something must therefore happen to either liquidate the useless organisations or keep them working.
Looking back and judging from the importance that was once attached to some of these state agencies that have just either died or become comatose, one wonders why they were set up. Did they just outlive their usefulness? Was it that they were set up without any foresight? Could it also be that they were set up to serve a particular purpose and after that everyone forgot about them? These are questions that bother my mind daily.
To understand why we have these problems, l turned to my friend, Kwadwo Bonsu, who calls himself a nerd. When you push him to define who a nerd is, he would point to his car which has a sticker with the inscription, “a single-minded expert in a particular technical field.”
Bonsu, the nerd, told me the history of Ghana is filled with a lot of organisations that come and go without anyone wondering what happened to them. One of such organisations that is following the all too familiar trend is “Bland Ghana.” In fact, he meant Brand Ghana which he said had become bland.
He explained that when the late President John Evans Atta Mills decided to set up an organisation to sell Ghana, he thought very well about it and for some very good reasons decided to name it “Bland Ghana.” Unfortunately, when the organisation was being registered, someone changed it to Brand Ghana.
“Bland,” Bonsu said, means, “lacking strong features or characteristics and therefore uninteresting.” This can be found in “bland, mass-produced pop music,” which are some of the new hip-hop music that we hear on the radio. They do not move you to dance and even when it is played on the radio, you simply get up to change the dial. This is Bonsu’s opinion which many of the youth will disagree with.
Bonsu said, his research on the word bland has shown that it has some synonyms. These are; “uninteresting, dull, boring, tedious, monotonous, dry, drab, dreary, wearisome.” I became a bit confused as to what he was driving at so, l asked if he wanted to suggest that Ghana was a bland country. “Not at all,” was his response, rather his description referred to Brand Ghana.
This organisation, he said, has some characteristics – top amongst these is the fact that it hibernates. To further expatiate on this, he said the organisation is like those animals that hibernate over the winter, going into a very deep sleep. “Hibernating animals usually retreat to a den, a burrow, or a hollow log for protection and shelter,” Bonsu added.
Bonsu said, during “true hibernation,” the animal’s body temperature drops, and its rate of breathing slows down. These hibernating animals are very difficult to awaken. “Most animals will eat large amounts of food before hibernating, adding body fat that will nourish them during the winter. Occasionally, hibernating animals will awaken periodically during the winter to eat. When most hibernating animals awaken in the spring, they are very hungry.”
Bonsu said, some animals in this category are not “true ‘true hibernators’ ” but they do become dormant over winter or go into diapause (a suspended state that some insects enter during cold, short days).”
“For example,” he said, “during cold winter months, some bears go into a dormant state in which their heart rate is extremely low, their body temperature is relatively high, they neither eat nor release bodily waste, and they can be roused (unlike “true hibernators”). In older scientific literature, hibernation used to refer only to low-body-temperature winter dormancy, but now that much more is known about this dormancy phase, some bears (like the black bear) are considered to be extremely efficient hibernators (some biologists refer to these animals as “super hibernators”).
After listening to Bonsu, l asked what he meant by all this and his response was “Brand Ghana” is an organisation that does not play its role properly, once a while, it comes out with a flurry of activities after it is mentioned in the media for not working. The Chief Executive will lead some kind of workshop to tell people what they intend to do. After that, they go into hibernation waiting for someone to nudge them out of hibernation again.
I thought Bonsu was joking, but he was very serious. “Just tell me what ’Brand Ghana’ has done for the country since it was set up.” I had to agree because we all thought the organisation would market Ghana to make the country a haven for tourists and investors. But this has not happened because most of the time, the organisation seems to be in hibernation. So, one wonders what those who run the organisation have been doing to justify the salaries they draw at the end of every month.
It is for this reason that the government must quickly do a survey to find out if we really need some of these organisations that have been set up. The recent report that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a Trade Facilitation Office even though for a long time, personnel of the Ministry of Trade have been performing that role in our Foreign Missions, is one of those acts that are bound to fail. Why the duplication of roles? Over a period, the trade facilitation aspect of the Ministry of Trade will die out even though they have people employed to do that job. What would happen to these people?
So, the time has come for us to start taking these moribund organisations to court for causing financial loss to the country. The truth is that no one knows what they do and in some cases, the staff will tell you that they do not have good management material and that could be true. Some of the people who are put at the helm of affairs do not have a clue as to what to do. So, they report to work daily only to warm the seats in the offices they occupy.
If we do not take the necessary action, we may be seen to be setting up useless organisations to continue to feed fat on the national budget without making any positive impact on the economy. What our officials should take note of is that we do not need new organisations to solve our problems. In fact, if you look carefully, you will realise that the country has many organisations that can handle all the national tasks without establishing new ones.