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Opinions of Friday, 19 June 2015

Columnist: Efo Dela Mawuko

Sylvester Mensah's NHIS legacy is a shame to Ghana

Politicians, public servants, and political office holders, have actively left legacies. Dr. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng established and transformed the Korle Bu Cardio centre.

Tsatsu Tsikata led in the rethinking of petroleum sector policy and it led to the crafting of the petroleum exploration and production law at GNPC. Richard Anamoo is leaving a great legacy at GPHA, and Prof. Ayittey has turned University of Ghana, Legon into a first class academic centre of excellence.

Legacies are immutable and eternal. But there are other political office holders whose actions and inactions whiles in office makes it difficult to understand if they ever wanted to leave a legacy.

Sylvester Mensah, the sacked chief executive officer of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) readily comes to mind.

This is a man who assumed the position of a ‘tin god’, and whose leadership at the NHIS for a greater part of his tenure was fraught with intimidation of employees who are not in his good books, threat of dismissals, financial mismanagement culture of silence and uneasy calm.

The NHIS was doing just fine until Sylvester Mensah took over as CEO. Despite massive infrastructural investments and resources available to Mr. Sylvester Mensah, he woefully failed to provide leadership to realize the dream of one-time premium policy implementation. He also failed to send the scheme to rural-urban poor families.

As Chief Executive he has been more of a reactionary than a proactive/strategic manager of the institution and the scheme. Sylvester Mensah’s only interest was about promoting himself and making it look as if he was the best thing ever to have happened to the NHIS. It was about his political ambition and nothing more.

He says, he want to be president and his main aim was to catch the eyes of the president to select him as a vice presidential candidate. And to further that agenda, his interest and motivation was to use his trusted media contacts to run down anyone he sees as a threat, to the extent that he even sponsored IMANI-Ghana to run a survey and place him first as the most effective public sector chief executive.

Even in his last official day at the office as the CEO of NHIS, he still managed to get his trusted media friends to ridicule the Finance Minister, Hon Seth Terkper announcing his dismissal when indeed the man was still at post.

Wondering why he failed woefully at the NHIS? Your guess is as good as mine. Now let’s ask salient questions. What change was he able to bring to the NHIS? How then do we trust your judgment if you are elevated to the high office of Vice President? Am I being unfair? Is there not even one poistive thing to say? OK. It was nice the other day, in fact quite nice, that just when he was told of his dismissal from office, he quickly embarked on a wholesale promotion of his cronies and loyalists at the NHIS. That was well done. Bully.

But the legacies Sylvester Mensah attempted to leave has virtually nothing to recommend it. Even he know it.

Maybe he's just a really lousy manager. Who was in over his head to begin with. I wonder how it feels, how it really feels, to know that, outside of the obvious issues that the John Mahama government is grappling with, Sylvester Mensah was one of the worst public sector CEOs ever appointed in the history of modern Ghana.

Evethough he knows it. He'll never say it. So, I say, let him live with it, every day. And let the rest of us thank him for failing so colossally and then get on with the rebuilding. Enough said.

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