That right to know is inherent in being Ghanaian, for it is we who, by voting in elections every four years, employ, directly, the president and vice president and Members of Parliament. And an employee owes accountability as a duty to his or her employer. Yet while that matter is awaiting open discussion, disclosure and closure, we appear to be preparing ourselves to add to the undisclosed amount more expenditure in terms of “maintenance fees” on something we can stop today to reduce the cost.
Mr. President, it is as if someone is waiting for more brass plates to fall off at Flagstaff House, so they will bring you a huge, definitely bloated bill and say we need to fix this problem. There is a cornucopia of examples of public officials allowing spotted little problems to either grow or persist so that later or year after year they could propose expenditure for it; then they could personally profit thereby. As the Minister of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, ever said: “That is not everyone, but it is so many.” And you, Sir, better than most of us, knows the titanic money Ghana loses via such intentionally-crafted schemes.
Two simple examples will be helpful.
When Ghana divested her majority shares in Ghana Telecom to Vodafone, something queer happened. Before the handing over, someone printed tonnes of a new telephone directory that were useless. Whereas the old directory arranged and categorised telephone numbers according to cities, towns and villages, the new one threw together the telephone numbers of different locations (cities, towns and villages) and it was confusing to navigate the document let alone find a preferred number. Besides, change was coming and that move was unnecessary. Obviously, someone saw transition coming plus a huge amount of the people’s money sitting there and decided to create needless expenditure just so he could steal some for himself.
The second example is a scheme used by top public officials and workers to chop the people’s money year after year. Many years ago, Ti-Kelenkelen used to walk, round trip, from Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Adabraka, to George Padmore Library, near Afua Sutherland Children’s Park, Ministries. And one of the worrying sights he encountered daily was a leaky major water pipe joint at the Ridge Roundabout; it was directly behind the Electoral Commission wall, in front of the Ghana Airways Flats and under the neem trees directly opposite the Scripture Union office.
Later Ti-Kelenkelen stopped using that route for many (about five) years. Then one day walking along, as a form of exercise, he went past that spot, and shockingly, but not strangely, the leaky water pipe joint was still leaking. Sir, Ti-Kelenkelen was aghast! It means each year this same project is put on Ghana Water Company Limited budget with an amount for fixing it and someone or group puts it in their pocket. As a member of the inky sibliternity (my own coinage), Ti-Kelenkelen used his mobile telephone to take pictures. And then took out his small notebook and pen and went to the Ghana Airways Flats and across the street to ask people a simple question: How long has that major water pipe joint been leaking? And their response showed it has not stopped since Ti-Kelenkelen last saw it.
Then a more shocking incident happened. Couple of weeks later, Ti-Kelenkelen walked past the same major water pipe joint and it was not leaking. He looked around to make sure he was not in the wrong place. He was not! So he walked to the pipe joint, which was partially enclosed in a short square wall with one side broken. The place was very dry; wesee, as we describe it in Akan.
Horrifying, indeed! But it showed that when someone is watching or asking questions, public officials tend to do the right thing. But what about those we do not see till the state loses money? As Justice Afreh explains, some of the loss is due not to outright stealing (and other acts of corruption,) but due to negligent and even intentional omission or action, which – Ti-Kelenkelen must add – could then prepare the grounds for the stealing or personal profit at the people’s expense.
And, Sir, I hope no one from Flagstaff House Communication comes to tell us you have not seen the falling brass plates. They will sound like our brothers who go and sit somewhere and plan that when they come before the people and they are shown a goat they should say and insist it is a sheep; on the shameless creed that if they affirm that long enough people will begin to believe their intentional mis-construal.
Nevertheless, Sir, Ti-Kelenkelen extends you the benefit of doubt by saying, maybe you have directed someone to take action on the falling brass plates, but that someone has failed or refused to heed your directive. Strange, yes, but that happens, sometimes. Whatever the case, Mr. President, you surely know the buck stops with you, and that one day it is your name that will be mentioned when it is disclosed that Ghana saw a problem that could have been controlled and allowed it to get huge, and so Ghana, needlessly, had to spent a lot more to solve it. That, according to Justice Afreh, is the essence of causing financial loss to the state – you are culpable, because it was your duty to stop the loss or prevent it from getting huge and you could have stopped it, but did not.
The thorough damage to the economy and virtually-empty coffers you inherited have slowed you down. The perceptive know that. Yet they also know that it is better to give an ailing state to smart, practical people who are possibility thinkers rather than to a group whose best capabilities lie in doing trite partisan politics and mis-contruals and who brand every challenging idea or situation as impossible. Yet, Sir, you are also aware that it is all adults, not just the perceptive, that vote in elections. The people have been tightening their belt for so long till, as a friend puts it, there is no length left for tightening anymore. You raised the people’s hopes with your awesome vision, and they are hungry for the fruits; waiting on you to deliver.
And that brings us to the final point.
Sir, allowing a simple problem to fester, get huge and invite needless expenditure is incompatible with the very concept of the awesome development agenda you have outlined for this country. Hence the quicker you ensure that case of the falling brass plates is addressed the best it will be for state finances and your image as a headliner. It will give all hope that you can lead Ghana to start attaining an enduring version of the awesome vision you have given our great state of glorious destiny.
…with Yirenkyi Lamptey