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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Electricity Corporation of Ghana, What a Disgrace!!:

Fire this Inept Dr. CEO

My friends, reading about the rot at ECG, in an article published by Ghanaweb on 24/1/2012, got my blood boiling. This time around, the president did not stomp over there huffing and puffing. I guess the cover of our one trick president has been blown. If this is not a disgrace, I am not sure what is. It appears as if no matter who is in power, Ghanaians will be screwed. I think it will get far worse before it gets better. Until our people step and rebel noting will change.

I consider myself very considerate but I can promise you this: If I were president, I will fire Dr N. K. Smart Yeboah. I will fire him on the stop! What numbers does Dr CEO go over with his leadership team? What informal systems does he tap into within his organization? Which customers is he engaged with? Is this man a CEO, King, or a business leader? Does he ever go to the field and talk to consumers and stakeholders? Lord have mercy! Dr. Smart Yeboah has shown clearly that he is totally detached from the organization he is supposed to lead. To confess that he is not aware of what is going on, when everyone does, shows that he is not leading. Leading an organization, I might add, is not the same as lording over it. It is not the same at quitting on the job! It does not mean that you barely supervise filth and get paid for doing absolutely nothing. To lead an organization is to have your hands on its pulse! Sorry Dr. Smart Yeboah, you deserve to be fired. However, if the president or whoever your boss is, cannot pull the trigger, why don’t you resign to show that you really care? What business school did you attend and what have you learnt since you left school?

The case of ECG is a telling one but also representative of the mindset that dominates leadership in Ghana. In our beloved and tortured country, leadership represents an opportunity to do nothing yet rake in plenty. This mindset reigns from the presidency right on down to entry level leaders. This is leadership with benefits but no responsibility or accountability. This leadership challenge is prominent and daunting, because, if the head of state cannot hold anyone accountable, how will the concept of accountability cascade throughout the country? The minister is not responsible and so are all his/her minions. It is indeed a sad and calamitous state of affairs that if not arrested, will continue to retard our development and perpetually make us a nation of beggars in the midst plenty. This mindset is not resigned to only the executive but festers across all the nooks and crannies of government. This same lack of accountability and responsibility disease afflicts personal and familial relationships. Ask anyone why they are not investing or gingering up economic activity in Ghana, and their answer centers on lack of trust, accountability and responsibility. It is a cancer of epic proportion in Ghana. There are, and should be no free lunches in this world.

Another problem that Ghana faces is the equation of academic titles to performance. I don’t have the data and have not crunched the numbers but by golly, if empirical evidence is anything to go by, academic adornments, some of them purchased on the internet or acquired from fraudulent institutions, are not fail safe indicators of performance. The excuses and sometimes inane answers adduced by this disgraced CEO, is clear proof that he is in over his head. I bet Dr Smart Yeboah has no real life corporate experience prior to ECG. I’ll also bet that he got his lofty assignment party because of his academic titles. Maybe tribe and political affiliation too! I think Ghanaians have to wake up and understand that some of the most successful businesses, for example Wendy’s and Pizza Hut, were started by individuals who did not have high school diplomas. We are a country in need of doers instead of worshipping titles. Let us not forget that Bill Gates still does not have a college degree. We have to dent severely, the culture of titles and adopt a culture of flawless execution. We don’t need lords and kings to run our institutions. We need hard working down to earth folks who don’t mind putting their nose to the grind stone.

The government of Ghana must get serious and put in place rules and policies governing businesses in Ghana. I am all for creating a business friendly environment. What I am not for is a situation where businesses, both local and foreign, game the system at the taxpayer’s expense. If businesses continue to abuse credit privileges then the rules must be tighten. A forty-two day credit period is too much. Surely if a business does not pay for the first month, it should be cut off and given an opportunity to pay up or restructure its debt. It must not be allowed to continue using services only to fold up and start in a different name. This kind of trickery ought to draw swift and severe punishment from the state. I am just wondering why businesses are not assigned prepaid meters? Wouldn’t that solve this scam? If individuals are using prepaid meters, why not businesses? Why can’t we think ourselves out of problems?

What is this thing about paying board members 9,000+ Cedis a month ? If Dr CEO Smart Yeboah or Atta Mills had to pay a board member this kind of money from their pocket, what would they want in return? Board membership has become a gravy train for the boys and girls! Irresponsible characters worm their way onto boards only to take the pay but do absolutely nothing about corporate governance. The board of an organization is put in place for a reason. The board is there to provide corporate governance. This means, providing direction and helping to set policy. The board is supposed to work with the CEO at the same time as it holds him or her accountable. It is not just another appendage that is nice to have. It should be looking out for the interest of all stakeholders. In the case of ECG, as is obvious, the board is completely ineffective. It is a rubber stamp providing a warm patch for irresponsible and inept individuals to rape the corporation. Here again, the government must move swiftly to bring accountability, responsibility and transparency to the board. Boards all over the world are being asked to pay attention and do more because of the volcanic ethical scandals that rocked the US and European businesses. Ghana must move to make boards of public organization effective. Only individuals with business savvy and experience must be allowed onto boards. Boards should not be another giveaway to party activist who know nothing about how businesses. When will we make these board members work for the money that they skim?

One of the worrying aspects of Ghanaian culture is our attitude towards paying debt. Being poor, down on your luck or facing hard times is not an excuse not to pay your debt. Debts do not have expiry date! The fact that you can’t pay now does not mean you should not pay later when conditions improve. This goes back to the issue of responsibility and accountability. Unfortunately, this mindset of giving up on your debt affects the person or entity in debt as well as the person or entity owed. It looks as if corruption has enamored a culture of quickly closing accounts even if there is a possibility that some of this debt can be paid in the future. If the trend shows that businesses are not paying their bills, why not either demand collaterals or again go with prepaid meters? ECG is not Santa Claus and must not act as such. It must operate as a business. Perhaps the inevitable solution to this nasty problem is privatization. What use is a public utility that subsidizes criminal business organizations?

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Also known as the double edge sword)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell.—Harry Truman