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Opinions of Friday, 7 October 2016

Columnist: Nii Amarh Amarteifio

BoG gold watches saga: The hard truth analysis

The Bank of Ghana has played down public outcry about stories doing
the rounds that the Central bank has been insensitive with the kind of
benefit handed out to deserving staff who have worked with the bank
for 30 years or more.

However, an independent analysis of the amount of money spent on the
watches by one Dan Antwi making rounds on social media ndicates that
it would translate to paying each retiring staff a meager 863 Ghana
Cedis for each year of Service.

Explaining the rationale behind the gift of gold watches to 3FM,
Bernard Otabil, Communications Head, Bank of Ghana said the gift was
meant for staff who had served with the Central Bank for 30 years or
more, “in gratitude for the years of dedicated service”.


Whereas the general concern has been about the amount spent on the
watches, there are others that have raised issues on whether it was
appropriate for the Central Bank to use sole sourcing to secure the
watches.

The Central Bank in a release has explained the reason behind the
decision to procure the watches and the adoption of the sole-sourcing
approach.

The independent analysis showed that indeed 48 units of gents’ 18
karat Tissot watches and 25 units of ladies watches of the same brand
and quality would be procured at a cost of around 426,000 Euros for
those retiring in 2016 and 2017.

Using an exchange rate of 4.44 cedis to the euro the total amount
spent would be 1,891,440 million Ghana Cedis on the watches.

“This translates into a spending of 25,910 Ghana Cedis on each
retiring staff, given the benefit on a yearly basis of 863 cedis for
every year's service to the bank,” the analysis concluded.

The analysis, properly put in perspective, makes it difficult for
anyone to understand the hue and cry, when viewed against the
background that the award is meant to encourage loyalty and commitment
at the organizational level.

Central Bank sources told 3FM News that the process for the award and
commitments are handled purely by the Welfare Committee of the Bank
and is a longstanding tradition of the Bank.

Meanwhile, a former Deputy Governor of the BoG, Emmanuel Asiedu
Mantey, himself a recipient of a gold watch has debunked assertions
that the Central bank was using tax payer’s money to purchase gold
watches for retiring staff.
He described the public outcry against the purchase as, “pure misconception”

“The Central Bank,” he noted, “draws its balance sheet at the
beginning of every year … and it is from its internally generated
funds, not, repeat not, tax payer’s funds.”

He said the CB generates its own revenue through services and, “this
is how we raise this amount, despite the fact that we are a public
entity.”

He called for a more dispassionate discussion on the matter instead of
picking out the total amount of the watches and concluding that it was
wrong to do so.

Mr. Austin Gamey Chief Executive Officer & Principal Consultant in an
interview with 3fm news averred that the $504,000 worth of gold
watches meant as end-of-service awards for 72 retiring staff of the
Bank of Ghana who have worked for 30 years and beyond is “fair and
it is not an issue at all”.

According to him, critics are fighting the award out of ignorance. "…
We don't need to raise eyebrows, and those who are raising it, it's
perhaps because of lack of knowledge," adding: "Bank of Ghana workers
are in a special class – not distinguishing them in a way that
ridicules other people, no, far from that – but the reality is that we
are talking about a group of people who are assigned specific roles to
play and they (BoG) need to retain certain loyalty with them.

"They are not being paid a certain special pay or professional
allowance of a certain class that will warrant condemnation.

When you are talking about this kind of long service, the gold watch
is an end sign that is being given to them to retain the loyalty of
the people to remain there instead of switching camp to another
company that will require the services of such a person who would
contribute to the economic and finance management system within the
banking system in the Bank of Ghana, which we need, so, it cannot be
across the board," Mr. Gamey concluded.

The bank also explained that the procurement of the watches begun in
2012 when the Bank decided to procure the gold watches once every two
years (i.e. 2012/13 etc.) in order to control cost and make savings on
foreign exchange

With questions of morality and prudence surrounding the move to reward
retirees with gold watches, the Mr. Otabil indicated that, “If there
is the need for it to be reviewed from gold watches to any other item,
I am pretty sure that the competent managers of this bank will come up
with those reforms but for now the agreement between management,
unionised staff and the senior staff is what is being implemented ”.