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General News of Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Source: Myjoyonline.com

OccupyGhana threatens to sue gov’t over corruption

Leaders of the OccupyGhana Movement have served notice they will drag the Attorney-General and Auditor-General to court if they fail to retrieve monies wrongfully paid to certain individuals under dubious circumstances.

They say the nation is bleeding profusely from a litany of corrupt activities and the time for action was now.

Speaking for OccupyGhana at a press conference held at the International Press Centre to mark one hundred days of the movement’s initial #OccupyFlagstaffHouse demonstration, Nana Akwasi Awua, says government has failed to address the Movement’s initial concerns.

“We at occupy Ghana are disgusted by the wanton and indiscriminate acts of corruption being perpetrated by government appointees.”

He announced that “we will within the next hundred days declare a number of ‘red days’ as the Movement embarks on a series of activities to demand accountability and good governance.”

Making reference to the GYEEDA, SADA and NSS scandals, Nana Awua decried the seeming reluctance of the Attorney and Auditor Generals to take any overt steps to retrieve monies paid wrongfully and misappropriated by individuals; insisting that they have failed to exercise due diligence as expected of them.

He declared that the Movement will deliver a thirty-day notice to both the Attorney and Auditor Generals demanding they perform their statutory functions and duties or face legal action and “put the culture of combined impotence and impunity to an end.”

The OccupyGhana Movement called an unprecedented demonstrated on 1st July, 2014 which it christined, #OccupyFlagstaffHouse protest. About three hundred concerned Ghanaians, largely middle class citizens, participated in the march, which protested the worsening state of affairs manifesting in the erratic supply of electricity, unreliable supply of potable water, depreciating value of the cedi, constant increase in taxes and utility tariffs and poor road networks, among others.

The group presented a petition demanding government action on the issues raised.

The initial protest was followed by a #RedFriday Campaign.

A hundred days on, the movement says the situation has rather worsened, compelling the leaders to consider ratcheting up pressure on government to demonstrate real comtment to solving the country's debilitating power, water, security, and general economic challenges.

Below is the official press statement read at the press conference.

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PRESS STATEMENT BY OCCUPYGHANA ON THE OCCASION OF 100 DAYS AFTER JULY 1ST 2014 ?#?OCCUPYFLAGSTAFFHOUSE PROTEST AT A PRESS CONFERENCE HELD ON WEDNESDAY 15TH OCTOBER, 2014 AT INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE, ACCRA.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Clothed with the freedom of assembly and the right to protest under the rule of law; and despondent about the persistent rot sinking the nation, coupled with unacceptable actions and omissions of government and public officials and agencies, hundreds of Ghanaians representing millions from all walks of life, who had become fed up with the abysmal state of economic decay and poor governance, staged a protest, braving rain and police harassment.

On the 1st of July, 2014, we marched to the Flagstaff House and petitioned the President of the Republic of Ghana to act swiftly in order to redeem Ghana's falling domestic and international image as a “Republic of Corruption”, waste, unaccountable governance and economic atrophy, barely three years after recording significant revenues from oil and growth in GDP of 14%. On that historic day, the good people of this country demanded real, determinable and effective action against the worsening state of affairs manifested in a nationwide increase in erratic supply of electricity, unreliable supply of potable water across the country, the ever depreciating value of the cedi, constant increases in taxes and utility tariffs, inefficient and corrupt acts in revenue collection, very poor road networks, unpardonable arrears with statutory payments to crucial social services like education, health and sanitation.

It is important to emphasize that it has since been 100 days after that petition, and yet nothing useful has been done to address the issues. Indeed on many levels, things have become worse. We have experienced much more than we envisaged on July 1.

We have seen many thousands of Ghanaians yield to a disgraceful disease as cholera with hundreds of deaths; aggravated looting of state coffers; trials of petty criminals while politically well-connected accomplices who supervised scams worth many millions of dollars such as in GYEEDA, SADA, SUBAH, payroll fraud at the National Service Secretariat, municipal and district assemblies are either walking scot-free, or still making national decisions on the quiet. It worries the average Ghanaian with good conscience to observe that the Attorney-General is yet to take any overt steps to retrieve the over GH¢51m unlawfully paid to Alfred Woyome despite an emphatic judgment on the matter by the Supreme Court. Neither have we seen nor heard of any steps being taken by the Attorney General to prosecute all government officials who supervised this specific enterprise of “create loot and share”. We expect immediate and swift moves by the Attorney-General to retrieve that illegally paid sum back to the national coffers. Inexplicable international lobby contracts worth millions of dollars have secretly been signed without parliamentary approval.

CHRAJ has been undermined by the poor judgment of its Commissioner, consequently causing financial loss of over GH¢500,000 to the state.

Statutory funds such as the NHIA, GET Fund, District Assembly Common Fund, all continue to be in arrears while others such as the Road Fund have been hugely misapplied.

Hard earned taxpayers’ money worth GH¢2m which was spent on the Northern Star Tomato factory has returned no value, and the factory has been taken over by reptiles and rodents.

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust continues to make many unwise investments with pension funds and continues to give peanuts to millions of aged Ghanaians who toiled for decades contributing to the fund. It has been calculated that for every 1 Ghanaian cedi that every Ghanaian worker contributes to SSNIT, nearly 50 pesewas, and (50%) goes to paying fat salaries, cars and other evil perks at SSNIT. We are calling on SSNIT to immediately begin a proper audit of its books for as long as it has existed.

The National Identification Authority has abandoned an otherwise good registration exercise and left millions of good ID cards to rot whilst it seeks to saddle Ghanaians with an additional debt of $115m to do the same thing it has failed to do in almost a decade. Meanwhile, the World Bank had on September 26, 2013, provided US$97 MILLION for Ghana's e-TRANSFORM PROJECT - Including US$29.15 Million to Build Robust National Identification System that "will provide support to develop a robust national identification system based on international standards to help prepare Ghana for a modern e-commerce industry, improved e-government services, and alleviate poverty. Support will also be extended to selected agencies and institutions in adopting electronic identification and verification services into their operating processes. Instead of pursuing the World Bank money that is more than enough to establish a functional national identification system for Ghana, some very awfully greedy individuals at the NIA are vigorously pursuing the expansion of a nebulous and scamming PPP contract to re-register only 15 million Ghanaians at over a whopping cost of $300m.

Worse yet, the government through its Parliamentary majority has passed many important road and natural resources-related contracts within hours of their being laid in a recently recalled Parliament under a certificate of emergency.

Rather than deliberate on cholera and other important acts of corruption, Parliament returned to vote on $800 million of new loans in a single sitting when evidently most of the Parliamentarians had not read the voluminous agreements.

The sum total of all these acts is that the government has gone beggar-bowl in hand to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a financial bailout and policy credibility endorsement, which program conditions will sorely hurt the average Ghanaian who did not contribute in any way to the canker.

To add to all this, the Constitutional Review Implementation Committee is bent on sidelining Parliament to stage a referendum on very controversial constitutional amendments, that have the propensity to dupe the Ghanaian into voting to entrench the overbearing powers of the executive presidency.

The Electoral Commission is dragging its feet on implementing suggested electoral reforms whose aim is to improve our voting credibility and enhance our democratic rights. Finally, we are asking the Bank of Ghana to tread cautiously with the management of our currency in its quest to hold the dollar down. Currency games result in one thing-Artificial hope. Allowing the cedi to find its true worth is better for Government’s wage bill management. Holding the dollar down is leading to losses for exporters who had adjusted wages to accommodate the earlier decline in the cedi. Import revenues in cedis will drop with an artificial rise in value of the cedi since imports are in foreign currency. Additionally, it is shameful for the BoG to seek praise for what seems a temporary relief to the downfall of the CEDI especially when other economists warned of depreciation. The fundamentals in the economy on which our currency balances have not changed yet the BoG is claiming an unwarranted victory and this is worrying. It is unfortunate that the issue of responsibility for incompetence and or incapability has become an issue of jokes instead of leadership attention.

IN SHORT, THE THINGS WE PROTESTED AGAINST HAVE BECOME WORSE. IT IS CLEAR TO US THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS EITHER UNWILLING OR UNABLE AND THE PEOPLE Of GHANA NEED ANSWERS.

We at OCCUPYGHANA are disgusted by the wanton and indiscriminate acts of corruption being perpetrated by government appointees. We shall soon embark on a number of activities aimed at slinging this Goliath of a nation wrecker. OCCUPYGHANA is today serving notice to Government and informing all Ghanaians that we have drawn up, and together with other concerned Ghanaians and civil society organizations, will within the next 100 days declare a number of Red Days as we embark on a series of activities to demand accountability and good governance. In 2009, President Barack Obama famously asserted in Accra, that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen; it needs strong institutions.” OCCUPYGHANA agrees and disagrees. Ghana needs both strong institutions and strong persons manning those institutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, one strong institution that has been created by our law and literally empowered to nip public sector corruption in the bud is the Audit Service; yet successive Auditors-General have failed this nation simply because they have been too weak to exercise these powers. Specifically, the Audit Service Act empowers the Auditor-General to disallow expenditures that are contrary to law and then surcharge the public official responsible for incurring or authorizing such expenditure with the amount of any loss incurred to the state. If the official does not pay within 60 days, the Auditor-General is to refer the matter to the Attorney-General, who is then required by the law to commence legal proceedings against the affected official, to recover the monies lost to you and I.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to the best of our knowledge and information, this power has NOT been exercised by any Auditor-General. All that the Auditor-General seems to do is to issue yearly audit reports, send them to Parliament, go to sleep, and wake up the next year to begin this impotent cycle all over again. The effect is that public officials, who have paid out and spent the taxpayer’s monies with reckless abandon, are comforted in the belief that nothing will ever happen to them.

OCCUPYGHANA will bring this culture of combined impotence and impunity to an end. We are going to deliver a 30-day notice to the Auditor-General and the Attorney-General, as required by law, that they should stand up and be counted, and immediately exercise this power of disallowance and surcharge under the law. It is time for the Auditor-General to dig and rake up all past Audit Reports and apply the law. Notice is further served, that if the law is not complied with, we will commence legal proceedings in court to compel the due performance of those statutory functions and duties.

We encourage all well-meaning Ghanaians to support OCCUPYGHANA in our quest to occupy hearts and minds for God and country. We do this because we believe Ghana can work again. Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your kind attention.

Signed

Nana Akwasi Awuah for OccupyGhana Council.