In Ghana, riches are better than a good name

Ghana Thinks

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The biggest mistake in creation was making it possible for highly intelligent crooks to go to school and wear a three-piece suit.

By the fortuitous courtesy of the faceless Anas Aremeyaw Anas of Tiger Eye fame, Joy FM’s Manasseh Azure Awuni, the EOCOs, the EMS and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, we have a mirror placed before us by which the truth about ourselves stares us in the face week after week; and the truth is that we are a nation of five per cent highly intelligent, classroom educated crooks taking advantage of the majority merely on account of our illiteracy. They have access to the power and wealth of Ghana and they are enriching themselves beyond the dreams of greed.

In 2012, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) decided that it needed a self-service point which allows contributors and pensioners to print statement of accounts and update personal information with the help of a smart card.

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Not only was the project outrageously expensive; also, as has now been revealed, the $34million technology was only good enough for the management of the provident fund, not pensions. It has been upgraded six times between 2012 and 2016 with the cost rising from $34million to $72million but the system is still not fully functional.

One person at SSNIT could have prevented this from happening – the Director of Management Information Systems. As is now known, however, this director did (does) not possess a doctorate; no, not a master's; worse not even a first degree. So who constituted the interview panel that ticked him off as the best candidate for the job? And, having hired him, how did the man rise through the ranks to head this unit without once occurring to anybody to question his competence?

Dear reader, did you We need to hear how SSN IT and the State Insurance Company Ghana (SIC) were outsmarted in the Merchant Bank-UMB saga?

A Citi news report says that prior to the troubles of the hitherto wholly state-owned Merchant Bank, SSNIT controlled an 89.6 per cent stake with the remaining 10.4 per cent belonging to SIC Life.

SSNIT and SIC Life sold 90 per cent of the bank to Fortiz, a private equity fund. After an initial payment of GH¢10 million to UMB as equity capital, however, Fortiz took a loan from the bank (UMB) and used it to invest an additional GH¢40 million into the same bank (UMB). Soon after it was concluded, the loan was converted into equity, reducing the shares of SSNIT and SICS Life to five per cent.

Finally, we turn to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Thanks to Joy News investigative journalist, Mannaseh Azure Awuni, it has been revealed that the ministry procured one million waste bins which were not needed.

I am not interested, at least, for now in the truth or otherwise of how the waste bin contract was inflated. I am interested in how the contract could have been awarded on a Certificate of Urgency to justify the resort to single source procurement method – when the rains were not expected till MayJune 2017. Also, how come only companies from one group were single sourced?

The question I am begging every Ghanaian to ask is why the ministry placed an order for one million bins in 2016 when it had not been able to distribute 54,500 out of an earlier consignment of 155, 000 bins it imported in November 2014. Indeed, it is said that the distribution centres at the assemblies were choked with bins.

 An aspect of the Joy News investigation which may not have hit Ghanaians yet is the reason given by the assemblies for failing to distribute the bins. The ministry’s own investigations have revealed that the citizens for whom the bins were bought at such colossal cost did not need them and that many people were using them to store water.

Everybody says politicians are crooks. I think a greater threat to our existence as a people is the corps of unscrupulous civil/public servants.

I have, on some of my trips, met Ghanaian (and other African) public officials in a three-piece suit at duty-free shops of airports around the world. You will stand agape at the show of opulence. They shop like lords. At the expense of the taxpayer, they fly Royal Class, lodging at multi star hotels – the “successful” men and women in the land.

All these we do not begrudge them. Yet, all the book-knowledge, all the three-piece suit, all the air-conditioned chauffeured SUVs are good only for plotting the nation’s rape.

No wonder that in Ghana, luxury residential apartments are mushrooming everywhere whose rents are calculated per square metre and quoted in dollars. No wonder that a plot of land goes for over GH¢ 1 million.

All it takes to be successful in Ghana is looking the other way when a bus branding contract is placed before you whose sum has been inflated by several millions of Ghana cedis and you know it. Folks, I am getting convinced that the saga of SADA, GYEEDA etc did not happen by accident.

We need to save Ghana from rapists for whom riches are better than a good name. We need a civic education programme (as properly thought through as ‘One District One-Factory’, ‘One-village one dam’ and ‘Free SHS ’) to restore us to our pristine morality. Our children should grow up preferring a good name to riches.