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Opinions of Friday, 8 July 2011

Columnist: Fordjour, Kwadwo

A case for Ghana government reform or privatization

The Government of Ghana has demonstrated, since independence
that several functions could be better run by private enterprise, at local
level or discontinued. Recent reports
about corruption in all sectors of the Ghanaian government underscore the need
to take critical look at reinventing Ghana government not only on
constitutional reform but in governance and accountability.

This article is intended to initiate a debate or
discussion about privatizing or reforming several key areas of the executive
branches of the Ghanaian government; among them are sports, transportation, law
enforcement, water supply, waste management, tourism, local government, information
and controversial and sensitive education sector. I believe others may add to
the list, but this is just a start of the discussion.

Where do we start? A constitution is supposed to
establish a vision, mission, guiding principles, goals, policies and programs
that benefit and protect all members of a community, country, organization or
institution. The current Ghanaian constitution does not provide equal right,
protection and benefit for all Ghanaians.
As George Owen wrote in his book entitled Animal Farm “All men
are created equal, but some are more equal than others”. There is no true
separation of power among the three institutions of government namely the
legislature, executive and the judiciary in Ghana. A parliamentarian serves as
member of the executive at the same time. The judiciary does not prosecute
corruption to the extent of the law due to perceived political ramifications
and unethical behaviors. The citizens do not have the ability to choose their
local, district or municipal chief executives.
Who makes decision at the local level is dictated by the central
government through the control and command colonial legacy.

First, Ghana needs a true constitutional review and
development of a long term (20, 30, 40 or 50 years) vision for the country by
parliament
and implemented by the executive branch. Breach of the vision by any arm of
government should be prosecuted by the judicial branch. No government should
abandon the work of its predecessor and start a new one for political gains.

Second, there should be a national referendum on local government
management. The citizens or all jurisdiction should be allowed to decide
whether the local government executives be elected by the citizen of the
jurisdiction or appointment by the national government. Current incidence of
protects by the foot soldiers and other assembly members against appointed
DCE’s is a testimony that the practice of appointing DCE’s are out of favor
with the people in modern democracy: Thus the command and control legacy of
colonialism is over.

Third, many executive branches and government
institutions could benefit from major reforms or complete privatization. Many
Ghana National Corporations ( GNTC, State Hotels Corporation, Ghana Food
Distribution Corporation, Ghana Airways and Railways, etc ) established after
independence failed to deliver, and had since been shot down due to
mismanagement and corruption of the government employees. The Governments of the 4th
Republic have divestiture many state enterprises to make them profitable again
and created employment and economic development in many parts of the country.
Ghana Investment Promotion Center and Expert Promotion Council have been
instrumental in luring more private sector investments to revive some of these
failing government corporations.

Now What? It is time to take stock of other sectors
of the government and develop bold strategies to make them more functional to
benefit the people of Ghana, and not a small section of the upper elite or
connected groups. Many lucrative industries are still controlled by the
government, but yet they are money losing operations. Many reports and
evidences point to corruption, mismanagement and lack of accountability and
transparency.
Other activities do not need a Ghana government involvement at all.

Opportunities:

1. Payment of fees and charges for government
Services: The current practices of cash and carry at government institutions
must be abolished. These practices allow staff to have millions of cedis at
hand in the offices and work places, and opened the doors for thievery and
corruption. Several organizations
including private schools and foreign embassies have set up bank accounts to
allow fees to be paid directly into the institutions’ accounts. We are in a modern
technology age and the
government must use these technologies to pay its bills and salaries of
employees. Government should work with Banks to promote paperless transaction
and checking account.

2. Transportation: It is evident that State
Transportation Corporation and Metro buses cannot compete with the private
Inter-city buses and Tro-Tros despite the huge sums of money that the
government pumps into STC and Metro. There is no motivation or incentives for
STC to innovate and be profitable because the staff salaries do not come from
bus fares. Government should get out of this business and spend the money to
provide infrastructures such as dedicated bus lanes, stations and fixed guarded
rail for light rails and trains in the metro areas. Ghana Airways died but the
private airlines are still thriving in Ghana. Should Ghana government jump back
into the air
travel business? The answer is “Hell NO”!

3. Tourism: Why does Ghana has a Ministry of Tourism
and Tourist Board? Tourism is a commercial activity providing services,
recreational and cultural opportunities, entertainment and allied services that
generate significant revenues and employment. It should be part of the Ministry
of Industry and Commerce, and Tourist Board be made an agency or Department of
Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

4. Sports: Why do we have a Sports Ministry? Ghana
Football Association is doing all the planning, development and implementing
all the football programs including international assignments. There are
similar organizations for Olympics, Boxing, Track and Field, etc. These bodies
are independent and should be independent to plan, develop and operate. Why are
Youth and Sports Ministry? The ministry of sports has done nothing to bring up
educated,
healthy and productive citizens out of the youth. Youth sporting and physical
and health educational needs should be handled through the Ministry of
Education. There youth employment program outside the Sports Ministry. There is
Ministry of Social Welfare to cater for the welfare and emotional needs of
youth and families.

5. Water and Sanitation: Since Zoom Lion assumed the
cleaning of streets and management of waste there has been some improvement in
the environment in some areas. However, there is more to be done. There is a
huge employment and economic opportunities in waste management from recycling,
composting, transportation, logistics etc.

The Ghana Water Company is not position to provide
potable water for all Ghanaians. Water in life, and can prevent many
communicable diseases in the system. The introduction of bored holes and small
town water projects has helped it little bit. However, there are some problems
with individual bored holes because of the location of the bored holes in close
proximity to sanitary soak-aways, or drain fields. Ghana need to look at
introducing community water supply structures whereby gated communities,
educational institutions, hospitals and any like minded residents team up and
develop a single system from deep bored hole, and supply/pipe the water to homes of
members of the community. This is
what is called the Public Utility Districts (PUD) in the USA. These systems
could be managed as non-profit cooperative, or for profit BOT (build, operate
and transfer) agreement. This will decentralize water supply and take a huge
burden off the GWC and government and improve the lives of all Ghanaians.

6. Traffic Law Enforcement: Everyone knows that the
motor traffic unit of the Ghana Law Enforcement system is broken and needs
major reform to make our roads safe. Bribery in the MTU has risen to the point
of national joke. A bold solution would institute some incentives and rewards
to motivate the officers on the road to do their job effectively. There should
be carrot and stick approach to rewarding or dissuading police officers on the
road. MTU must give each officer on duty a quota to issue a traffic infraction
ticket which is reported at the end of the day. The violating driver must pay
the fine at a designated bank and bring the receipt to the traffic court as
proof of payment. If the driver does not believe he/she committed the
infraction, they can contest the fine in traffic court. The police officers
should be paid bonuses according to how many citations they issue each year.
Individuals should be rewarded with better working conditions, equipments,
uniforms, better living conditions or even a patrol car to make them more
effective and efficient. This is practiced in other countries to make the roads
safer and police work more rewarding. Those police who fail to deliver should be
reassigned and eventually removed.

Also local governments should be allowed to
establish their own traffic safety enforcement units to keep local roads safe.

7. Information: Recent utterances of the information
deputy minister of information are clear indication that the ministry in
nothing, but a propaganda machine of the presidency. This is work for a
presidential spokesperson. Every ministry has public relations office charged
with disseminating information to the public about the agency’s programs and
services. The ministry of information has no use in today Ghana. Information
ministry has long outlived its purpose when access to media was non-existence
in the good old days.

8. Education: Everybody knows the deplorable
conditions of our public schools system. The school system has become a
political football with exponential failing rate such that private schools are
becoming a big business in Ghana. Back in the days when even the Presidents and
the wealthiest people all took their children to public schools. The schools
used to be run by Local Government and so they were called Local Authority
(L/A). It was local control and without partisan politics. Everyone knew
education was a constitutional right and therefore did not mess with it. Today,
educating our children has become a political game. Each government sets its
own graduation target, and this is causing many children to sit home and do
nothing. Graduating a person at the age of 15 should be a crime and not
tolerated in any civilized society. All children must have at least 12 years of
education to Senior Secondary level as they are 18 years old, and can enter the
work force and vote.

This is a challenge to all Ghanaians to ask
themselves, ask the current government including civil servants, aspiring 2012
candidates, the parliamentarians and judiciary how they intend to address the
issues or rebut, if they don’t believe they are national priorities. THANKS FOR
YOUR INPUT AND PARTICIPATION IN THE DIALOGUE.

Kwadwo Fordjour, AICP, MSc.

Environmental and Community Development Consultancy
fordjourk@msn.com206-234-1624

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