Business in Ghana

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Abongo Financial Management. Critical News, 12th April 2015

Posted by Business in Ghana on April 12, 2015

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Don’t do as I did last Wednesday. Mad persons were greeting me on the sidewalk of Accra, because they identified me as a possible compatriot.

I am walking from one end of circle to the South Industrial area. Traffic is jammed and I am late to a meeting. Going in the opposite direction from Bus Stop heading towards New Times junction, I was in a taxi and were it not that the conversation was interesting because the driver saw himself an Occupier and recognized, my alter ego would have me on time at the meeting.

Basking in the glory of hearing an “ordinary” Ghanaian loading praises on Occupy Ghana, I had to make an emergency drop off to catch an Okada, because the supposed professionals manning the construction of the Nkrumah Circle overhead, had not allowed for the pedestrian overflow and we have ended up endangering the lives of the walking Ghanaian every time you use a footpath in the middle of the road.

So now I am on the back of an Okada, chasing time on a rainy day in Accra, heading to one of the worst roads in the city where fake repairers modify and doctor engine parts just to get facades of success. Of course the Okada is going against oncoming vehicles and I am as nervous as I could be since I stopped riding motorbikes forty something years ago.

As if to fibrillate my heart from the sedative of the taxi, my immediate lord of my few years of life – which I have dedicated to fixing some governance issues in Ghana – is taking risks my sixty-year-old heart is not finding easy to manage.

Now we are going through unfathomable trenches of water, mud laden and opaque to the point of fear of falling off the bike. I fake my destination and get off the Okada, only to hear the young rider ask if I am Sydney. But yes! How does he know me? His English is laden with good diction and I am impressed enough to ask how?

A JHS graduate who can’t afford to go any further, he opted to stay alive through Okada. He wants my number and I surrender it, ask him to call me anytime to see if I can help in anyway. He wants to join OccupyGhana. Two out of two for me today.

But I have a meeting to attend. Picking my way carefully through water-filled mud traps, avoiding reckless “Formula One” Okadas coming at me, I nearly bump into this mad man.

His trousers are held up with sisal, pulled from the hips and turned up just above his belly button. This exaggerates the size of his genitalia and he looks like he hangs a twelve-inch pipe. He knows this, and accosts every woman with hips thrust forward and legs a stance.

As we pitch a headlong collision because I am not prepared to walk through a mud hole, he nods at me and I make the mistake of acknowledging his “ebonic”.

So I have a follower. A sex provocateur, rasta threads dancing along the back of his head, mottled hair twisted on his chin to match that on his head, one side only, and a permanent smile of confidence, mimicking my every step, but with a confidence of sexual depravity born out of Nature’s cruelty, giving half and taking the other.

Incident free, I arrive at my destination, muddied shoes my only bane, but happy to have survived the ordeal. And I call it an ordeal, because this cannot be the Better Ghana this country thumbed to.

The gate watchman takes over my disciple and he is not as refined as me.

And all this after the IMF agreed to our credibility bail out sign on and released $114milion out of the $918million odd.

That’s about 14% of the total sum. Now who does that kind of mobilization? Usually you get 20, 30, 40 or even 45 or 50%. But 14%? Makes no sense unless you assume it is specific to ward off an immediate disaster.

Could it have anything to do with “dumsor”? I wondered all through the week, but Finance Minister Terkper says it is for the Bank of Ghana to help shore up their deficits.

Well, as far as I can decipher, the recent November 2014 financial statements prepared by the Controller and Accountant General show that Government has chalked up an overdraft of ghc3.2billion. It owes ghc56billion, of which ghc27billion is domestic debt, ghc24billion is external debt and some persons owe Government ghc1.4billion.

Now you know the Controller is the Government’s accountant right? She (Grace Adzroe) is the accountant for this government. Last month when I was looking for the latest November statements and had to go create a stink at her office because it was not posted on the website way after the thirty days within which it should be reported, I succeeded in getting it posted, and wondered when December would show up.

But interestingly, the Ministry of Finance posted the provisional December 2014 end of year statements first on their website.

So now I am wondering, who is the Government’s accountant? If the Controller has not completed the statements, how did the Ministry of Finance do it? Where did the numbers come from?

I spent quite a chunk of my time looking at this strange situation.

First, I have to admit that I am not too clear what the CAGD is reporting, but I know the Auditor General audits the same numbers she produces. And I know this is the Consolidated Accounts of Ghana. But I also think it should be the total and composite revenue and expenditure of the state.

Limiting myself to the revenue side of the equation, because the numbers looked padded, I saw very strange “abongo” numbers between CAGD and MOFEP.

It was my mechanic friend who coined this. He says when you look at a car and most of the parts are not origional and it looks like someone has been tinkering with the parts (I offered the word “bogus”), we ended with his re-worded, “abongo”, you have to check everything.

And so I did. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2014 (Jan to March) the MOFEP reports a figure ghc1.064billion higher in Revenue and Grants than its Controller. In Q2 the figure is ghc938million, still higher. In Q3 it is ghc2.297billion and Q4, Controller numbers are not yet available. Added together, the MOFEP is reporting revenues ghc4.299billion higher than the Controller.

So the accountant is saying one thing and the boss is saying something different. Who should we believe? We have to look at the whole thing and examine each “abongo” part.

The IMF has “credibled” Government policy. The GoG provisional results compared to the revised budget, say we were down on revenue by ghc1.5billion and we saved ghc1.8billion in expenditure. Thus the budget deficit, which we expected to be ghc10.9billion will be only ghc10.5billion.

For the macro statisticians it makes a deficit to GDP ratio of 9.3% compared to budgeted 9.5%. And the Government will come crowing that despite all the economic downturn, which was an act of God, they have managed to rise even above the maker and deliver within 0.2% of target.

And there your “abongo” facade of financial management success. Because when you unravel the padding and sort out the expenditures that have not been included out of convenient cash reporting, you will have to include at least another 3.8%, taking the deficit to 13.1% of GDP (ghc113.436billion). And this does not include another ghc96.6million in discrepancies, reported in the provisional statements.

So don’t be surprised when the budget projections are not met, don’t be surprised when Government has no cash and don’t be surprised when you have to turn to an international agency to crave credibility to the numbers we release. They are “abongo” numbers.

Ah, well, the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards did happen, I couldn’t be there this time, I feared that Castro would come back from the sea and grab me, and I was right. Me and TB Joshua predicted he would win the top award. But we didn’t want to say it till after the event.

As for Mohammed Murtala and his misfits in Tamale, who cares?

Ghana, Aha a yε din papa. Alius atrox week advenio. Another terrible week to come!

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