Business in Ghana

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It Will Not Work Like This. Critical News, 8th February 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on February 9, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

In secondary school, Accra Academy, 1966, one of our set books was King Solomon’s Mines, the narrative of Allan Quatermain, elephant hunter and explorer, and his adventures in the company of Danish man of action Sir Henry Curtis and Royal Navy officer Captain Good.

It made such an impression on all of us in the year group, we adopted names from the novel and assigned their characters to persons such as Scragga, the wicked bodyguard of King Twala.  Gagool, the witch doctor and chief advisor to Twala, was famous for being so ugly; and some persons found themselves on the wicked end of student humor throughout their five years.

But King Solomon’s Mines was significant for the use of “white mans” magic to mesmerise a more primitive community, displaying power and control over natural events, such as when a lunar eclipse conveniently presented itself to avert the sacrificial offering of the gorgeous Falouta.  Sir H. Rider Haggard’s novel was one of the best reads of our youth. Take a gander through the pages of King Solomon’s Mines from this link.

But what has been its significance in my life?  Acquiring knowledge to understand gullibility, ignorance and subservience by religion and poverty, why we hold on to mediocre existence in trepidation, scared of a return to a time when life was so bad, we gave up all and allowed Governments to take advantage of our docility.

I will borrow a quote sent by a friend because it is such a poignant phrase.  Winston Churchill.

We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle”.

You can’t distance yourself from such common sense.  There are certain things that just do not work if you try to fix them nonsensically.

While I was occupied with the financial malfeasance mess at the Metropolis’, Municipalities and Districts most of Ghana was fixated on the cedi depreciation.

The little publicized Auditor General’s (A-G) report on the District Assembly Common Fund, MMDA’s corruption and his frustration, fighting a losing battle year after next.  If you can ever feel frustration in words, this must be the sum of it all.

Reporting on findings at this level, our A-G, Richard Q. Quartey was pushed to advise the District and Municipal Chiefs one more time after year.

“I had in my previous reports on the Management and Utilisation of the DACF, recommended to the Honourable Minister for Local Government and Rural Development to set up effective monitoring and follow-up mechanisms to track actions to be taken on conclusions and recommendations in my audit reports and management letters. I had further recommended that punitive actions should be taken against managements of Assemblies, which indulged in the mismanagement of resources placed at their disposal”

And waiting for action to be taken on previous reports, he commented yet again on the Financial Year 2012.

“The deficiencies noted in the operations of the Assemblies created avenues for some officials to, mismanage the funds and resources of the Assemblies to a financial value of approximately GH¢48,435,279.59 during the year under review. The lapses and deficiencies were identified in transactions such as cash management, which repeatedly recorded payment cycle irregularities, unsubstantiated payments, misapplication of funds, unauthorised payments and unaccounted payments. I also noted procurement, store and contract irregularities in the transactions of some Assemblies as well as tax irregularities, all of which have been summarised and consolidated in this report”

One more time he identifies where the problem lies and where to find the loopholes.

“The outstanding and unresolved issues are attributable to deficiencies and weaknesses in internal controls in the operations of the audited Assemblies. Weaknesses such as non-compliance with existing legislative framework and instruments, managerial lapses and weak monitoring procedures at both the ministerial, legislative and administrative levels of the Assemblies were pervasive as evidenced in my management letters”.

This sounds so GYEEDA’sk, and the parallels so clear I don’t know what else can explain the opportunities we missed to fix our corruption.  In his report on the Consolidated Fund he echoes this problem and proffers a qualified opinion on the Government’s accounting.  In so many words you cannot rely on Government’s financial statements within Truth and Fair limits.

It is so bad, even the District Fund itself withheld money from the MMDAs without accounting for it.  I am thinking this is where some of the GYEEDA money was siphoned.  We know the DACF disbursed unaccounted for money to GYEEDA and here is some circumstantial evidence that they did take money from the fund without “permission”.

“The outcome of my audit of the management and utilisation of Common Fund and Other Statutory Funds for the 2012 financial year is not different from those of previous years. The Assemblies continued to violate rules, regulations, policies, procedures, directives and legal instruments which had been introduced to ensure effective and efficient management of resources made available to the MMDAs. The management letters and annual audit reports, the contents of which formed the basis of this report, therefore disclosed recurring weaknesses in internal controls and lapses in operational areas such as cash management, contract administration, procurement and stores management and tax administration all of which are highlighted in this report”

He continues.

“This sordid state of affairs in the management of resources by the MMDAs is primarily the result of the lack of interest and dedication to duties and responsibilities exhibited by both the Ministry and managements of the MMDAs towards the implementation and enforcement of my audit recommendations. I have again recommended appropriate methods of improvement through effective supervision, monitoring and enforcement of existing statutory and regulatory frameworks, together with imposition of sanctions. I have also recommended improved risk management and controls to safeguard the proper utilisation of resources within the MMDAs”

The MMDA master is not we the people who pay their salaries and contribute to their welfare, it is the person who appoints them and can remove them at will.  I heard an argument on air during the week, that DCE’s and MCE’s should not be elected to office because we should not politicize elections at that level, contrary to the Constitutional Review findings.  Complete hogwash.  Who is more accountable than an elected official?

I particularly wanted to verbatim the A-G’s words, in order that no one accuses me of distorting the content.  What the A-G reveals goes to the heart of the issue, also underpins structural problems and sheer thievery of resources, which if plugged will greatly improve our fiscal space for development.  Instead of monies ending in Government coffers, it is seeping into personal pockets through party politics.

We cannot make it work like this.  We cannot continue to think that fixing a nation’s economy is a matter of praying that the devil evict himself from the two by two space it has inhabited in the cedi.   I think Bishop Duncan Williams takes me for a fool when he stands in a pulpit to order an exorcism of the currency.  Neither should the Governor of the central Bank deceive me that he can implement the laws with remedies he cannot enforce within limited resources and even more limited will to change.

And neither should the Government think it can fix the economy because it says it is working on it.  Have they read the A-G’s report?  Or are we going to “gagool” our way out of the mess?  The run on the cedi is a supply and demand issue, underpinned by a lack of confidence in economic management.  My assertion.

It will not work like this.  If this Government does not come up with some real solutions to correct the structural cleavages, we are on a deescalating spiral back to the early 80’s.  Remember Rawlings’ chain and the culture of silence?  Well, maybe the chain will return, but definitely not the silence.

Otumfuo back home from the “dead”.  Kumasi rejoiced with relief.  Long Live the King.

And Mission Churches want their schools back from Government after lousy work done.  I advise Government to take this opportunity, start a process to sell off the schools and get out of the business of running ghost payrolls.  Citizens abre!

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

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