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General News of Monday, 8 April 2019

Source: citinewsroom.com

Vehicles left to rot: Citi FM replies NIA over claims of unprofessional reportage

Accra-based radio station Citi FM is standing by its reportage on abandoned vehicles at the National Identification Authority (NIA) and has said the authority peddled falsehood in its attempt to deny the report.

The NIA questioned the professionalism and rigour of Citi News’ Caleb Kudah, who reported on the story.

The authority said he did not contact the authority or its officials for comment on the story.

The NIA also claimed a colleague Citi News reporter corroborated claims that Caleb Kudah was not thorough in his reportage of the matter.

But Citi FM in a statement responding to the NIA maintains that Caleb Kudah covered all his bases in his pursuit of the story.

“The reporter Caleb Kudah visited the office of the Executive Director of January 8, 2019 for an interview on the matter. After being made to wait for hours he was informed by the secretary that the Executive Director was unable to speak to him. The visitor’s book at the authority confirms the visit by Mr. Kudah to the office on January 8, 2019.”

“The reporter made other subsequent attempts to reach the Head of Corporate Affairs of the NIA for comment on the matter, but was unsuccessful,” the statement added.

Find below the full statement

RE: NO CAR HAS BEEN LEFT TO ROT AT NIA


Our attention has been drawn to a press release dated 3rd April 2019 and signed by the Head of Corporate Affairs of the National Identification Authority (NIA), ACI Francis Palmdeti.

We wish to respond to the press release by the National Identification Authority dated April 3, 2019 on the above subject

The NIA response, which unfairly accuses Citi News and its journalist Mr. Caleb Kudah of laziness and unprofessionalism, is rather misleading and paints an inaccurate picture of the circumstances and facts surrounding the story.

The NIA statement makes four main claims, namely:

1. That Citi News reporter did at no point in time contact the authority or its officials for comment/reaction to the story,

2. That a Citi News reporter Ms. Zoe Abu-Baidoo admitted this claim in (1) above.

3. That the statements and the entire story are wholly untrue, unfair and unprofessional

4. That the conclusions in the story are wild and baseless

We will outline our response to these four specific claims below:

1. Citi News reporters did at no point in time contact the authority of its officials for comment/reaction to the story, and admitted same

RESPONSE

*This is a blatant falsehood. The reporter Caleb Kudah visited the office of the Executive Director of January 8, 2019 for an interview on the matter.

*After being made to wait for hours he was informed by the secretary that the Executive Director was unable to speak to him. The visitor’s book at the authority confirms the visit by Mr. Kudah to the office on January 8, 2019.

*Mr. Kudah on the same day called The Head of Corporate Affairs Mr. Francis Palmdeti for a comment on the issue. Mr. Palmdeti told our reporter that “the problem was inherited from a previous administration and he wasn’t prepared to speak to the issue.”

*Sometime in February, the reporter managed to get the phone number of the Head of Procurement of the NIA, Mr. Emmanuel Amponsah, for comment on the issue. The head of procurement turned down a request for an interview on the matter as well.

*The reporter made other subsequent attempts to reach the Head of Corporate Affairs of the NIA for comment on the matter, but was unsuccessful.

Therefore the claim that “At no point did the reporter contact the Executive Secretary, the Head of Corporate Affairs or his deputy, to afford the NIA an opportunity to respond to what is disrespectfully described as so-called findings, is not only a lie, but an implicit admission that the authority had not been willing to comment on the matter all along.

2.That a Citi news reporter Ms. Zoe Abu-Baidoo admitted the above claim of failing to contact the Authority.

RESPONSE

*This claim by the NIA that Ms. Zoe Abu-Baidoo admitted this yesterday is also another palpable falsehood. We have records of the conversation between Ms. Abu- Baidoo and the Head of Corporate Affairs of the NIA. And at no point did she explicitly or implicitly make such an admission. We will publish on air the records of that conversation to reveal the patent falsehood of this claim by the NIA in its statement.

*We demand that the NIA renders a public apology to Ms. Zoe Abu-Baidoo and to Citi FM for the falsehood.

3. That the statements and the entire story are wholly untrue, unfair and unprofessional

RESPONSE

*The story falls under the theme of abandoned projects that Citi news has been pursuing over the past two years.

*The video, which formed the basis of the story, was recorded by the reporter and clearly shows the state of the cars as being in a bushy area within the authority’s precincts.

*Indeed the reporter made two separate videos of the state of the cars, the first in January and the other in March 2019, showing that there had been no improvement in the state of the vehicles.

*The story stated that over 100 vehicles had been left to rot at the premises of the NIA, and described the present state of the cars.

*The video story also stated that despite the existence of these cars, the NIA had gone ahead to buy new vehicles, one of which had also been “dumped” with the old cars- this has also not been disputed by the NIA.

*The story stated that the vehicles had 2014 registered number plates. This is not in doubt, from the registration numbers displayed in the video. This was why the reporter made the claim that the vehicles were procured by the previous administration, a position, which the NIA has in its statement denied and sought to clarify.

The fact however still remains that the vehicles remain abandoned at the premises of the NIA.

4. That the story draws wild conclusions from unfounded assumptions.

RESPONSE

*Our reporter questions in the story whether this administration would handle the vehicles better than the previous administration. How does asking a question amount to drawing a baseless and unfounded conclusion?

*The reporter also asks whether anyone would be held responsible for the financial loss caused the state by the continued deterioration of these vehicles. Once again when did asking a question amount to making a conclusion?

*Even if the vehicles were free gifts, which did not cost the Ghanaian taxpayer any money, it cannot be said that their wasting away without use would not constitute financial loss to the state.

*The NIA itself by painstakingly outlining the history of the actions they have taken on the vehicles reinforces the importance of the issue of procurement, and the use of the public purse on wasteful expenditures.

*Indeed various reports of the Auditor General have made reference to the issue of public procurement and how that is a drain on the public purse.

*The only other issue the reporter raises in the story is the core mandate of the NIA and recent complaints from some of their field personnel about delayed allowances. This may not be directly related to the issue of abandoned vehicles but is relevant context to the story.

CONCLUSION

*In the public interest and for the deepening of good governance and accountability, Citi FM’s reporters have pursued stories on the usage of state resources by public institutions.

*Our work in uncovering the expenditure of over $1 billion on about 15 hospitals over the past 10 years, without a single one being completed was followed by a joint petition with OccupyGhana to the president of Ghana to act urgently and address this inefficiency in the use of scarce public resources.

*It is in this spirit that we have published stories on abandoned vehicles like the Gallopers at the Institute of Local Governance Studies and most recently the National Identification Authority.

*Indeed our aim in publishing these stories is to draw public attention to the need for swift and decisive action by duty bearers to salvage the situation of waste of resources in line with our mandate of enhancing good governance.

*If the duty bearers are working in the quiet to address the wastage we have so identified, all we expect of them is to show proof of the work they have done, instead of chastising well-meaning whistleblowers for raising the alarm.

*We will not cede our watchdog role to the pleasure or convenience of public officials who fail to respond to our requests for information.

*It is regrettable that the first impulse of officials at the NIA is to decline to provide information to throw light on the issue only to turn around and accuse hard-working journalists of unprofessionalism for going ahead to publish the story based on the information they have already gathered.

*We reiterate our demand for an apology to Ms. Zoe Abu Baidoo for the falsehood the authority has perpetuated against her in claiming she made ad admission, which she never did.

*We have attached a link to our report to this release, for members of the discerning public to judge for themselves whether or not the facts put out about the abandoned vehicles is a piece of professional journalism or not.

*https://citinewsroom.com/2019/04/02/over-50-vehicles-left-to-rot-at-national-identification-authority-video/

Signed

Bernardino Avle

(Director of News Programmng)