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Opinions of Friday, 23 January 2015

Columnist: Ametor-Quarmyne, E. M. N.

Franklin’s Hoax

BY : E. M. N. Ametor-Quarmyne

The week beginning, Monday the 12th of January 2015, Mr. Franklin Cudjoe said to be the Founding President of a Ghanaian think tank called IMANI, circulated a ten-point note to his contacts both in the media and in the general public, through the internet. It was headed “IMANI Alert: Development Partners and GoG: Fix Messy Mechanized Payroll before IMF Programme.”

On my first cursory look at the caption of the document, I was not too sure whether it was a warning to the Government of Ghana and what has become known in our parlance as Development Partners or an admonition or ultimatum. Whatever it was, I proceeded to familiarize myself with the contents of the “valued document”, as it came from an organization that values itself as one of the best think tanks on the African continent and perhaps the best in the whole of Ghana.
To begin with, it must be clearly pointed out that the document which is the basis of this latest IMANI ‘epistle’ is a 2012 audit report by Messrs. KPMG, commissioned by the Government of Ghana, the recommendations of which have largely been dealt with by the Controller and Accountant-General. This document is what Franklin Cudjoe, IMANI, Occupy Ghana and their associates are parading in the media as though it was some brand new incriminating document they have suddenly stumbled upon. Therein lies the fraud and hoax of this whole matter.

For those of us who might read this article and who might not have been so lucky to receive a copy of the all “important” alert from IMANI, I crave your indulgence, Mr. Editor, to reproduce some of its salient parts for their benefit:

1. Government of Ghana(GoG), The IMF, The World Bank, The EU, DFID and others are working on a bailout package to help salvage our current depressing economic situation.
2. In the ongoing negotiations and according to statements made by GoG, Ghana’s bloated public wage bill has been figured as one of the sources of our economic decline.
3. If the bailout package is to be successful, it is absolutely imperative the bloated government wage bill should be arrested and corrected. If this is not done, the funds Ghana receives via this package may end up in a bottomless pit via the same government wage payroll route.
4. IMANI has been researching this matter for a while.
5. IMANI has learnt that payroll operations consists of three broad areas:
a. Payroll administration
b. Payroll rules and procedures
c. Payroll processing technology
6. IMANI has discovered major problems in all three areas.
7. IMANI will start with payroll processing technology.
(***The above are exact quotes of what IMANI circulated Notes 8, 9, and 10 are lengthier and I will deal with them in a follow up article later.)
The first of the above positions of IMANI is a statement on the present state of the economy of Ghana. It is the sing-song of those who have refused to see anything good about the Ghanaian economy since the NDC government took over the reigns of government in this country since 2009, and would say and do anything at any given opportunity to portray the country as heading for doom. While milk and honey are not flowing freely on the streets of Ghana, Ghanaians are certainly not starving to death in this country. For a country whose gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a rate of 6.9 percent last year and 7.5 percent in 2013, and with massive development projects on-going in all spheres, I wonder whether “depressing” is the most appropriate word to describe its economy. The World Bank and the African Development Bank both describe the economy of Ghana for last year as robust and in their outlook for this year Ghana is forecast to do well. Why would anyone seek to demean his own country as Franklin and IMANI are seeking to do?
“Ghana’s bloated public wage bill has been figured as one of the sources of our economic decline”.
Built on the first, this second statement of IMANI’s is an insult to the intelligence of Ghanaians. After the President Kufuor led NPP administration procrastinated for over eight years on wage reforms for the public sector, the Government of the National Democratic Congress(NDC) under the late Professor J. E. A. Mills of blessed memory took the bold decision to implement the now well known Single Spine Salary Structure simply called ‘single spine’. That well intentioned measure to reward public sector workers appropriately for their labour’s worth brought in its wake a huge wage bill, consuming initially, about 60 to 70 percent of our annual tax revenue, leaving only between 30 to 40 percent for all other government expenditure. Time without number the Minister of Finance brought up this issue for discussion. In 2012, the government and labour and other stakeholders met in Ho, the Volta regional capital, to chart the way forward in sustaining the continued implementation of this single spine pay policy. For IMANI to suggest now that it was only during the negotiations with the IMF in 2014 that the government brought up the wage bill issue is certainly to throw dust into the eyes of the uninitiated in Ghanaian economic matters.
And for the information of Franklin Cudjoe, IMANI and their associates, Ghana is not in economic decline. The Ghanaian economy continues to grow positively year-on-year as evidenced by our annual GDP figures. The fact that the GDP grew less in one year than another is not a decline as it was a positive addition on the previous year’s positive growth. Certainly, there has not been any negative GDP or decline in the Ghanaian economy as Franklin and his IMANI would have the world to believe. ( for example if the total value of an economy was 10billion in year1, and it grew by 7.5% then its GDP would become 10billion +(10x7.5%) which would be=0.75billion and the total GDP after year 1 would be 10.75billion. then if the economy grows by 6.9% in year 2 it will become 6.9%of 10.75 which is =0.74 and then the total GDP for the two years would be 10.75+0.74 which would be 11.49billion. In this case even though the economy grew by 6.9% in year two there was no decline overall because the total GDP grew to 11.4billion)
“If the bailout package is to be successful, it is absolutely imperative the bloated government wage bill should be arrested and corrected. If this is not done, the funds Ghana receives via this package may end up in a bottomless pit via the same government wage payroll route”.
This statement is a display of complete ignorance of how IMF programmes are implemented. The IMF does not lend money to countries to pay salaries. Franklin Cudjoe and IMANI are perhaps reminded by the NPP Government’s usage of the proceeds of the 2007 eurobond in paying public sector wages. This has not happened under President Mahama’s NDC Government.
For Franklin Cudjoe, IMANI, Occupy Ghana and their associates to infer that the NDC government under President Mahama has not done anything and does not intend to do anything about the huge wage bill of the public sector is most pathetic and unfortunate and must be totally and vigorously rejected. The Government having realized the problems brought about by the implementation of the single spine pay policy and difficulties in obtaining accurate numbers of public sector workers for various reasons, commissioned the internationally renowned accounting/auditing firm KPMG to carry out a comprehensive audit of the public sector payroll in 2012. The 195 page audit report entitled “Final Report – Payroll Assurance, Controller and Accountant-General’s Department”, was submitted to Government through the Controller and Accountant-General in November, 2012, with recommendations most of which have been implemented to try and eliminate or reduce to the barest minimum what is popularly called “ghost names” from the public sector payroll. There are continuing programmes by the Controller and Accountant-General as well as the Public Services Commission to tackle the human resource aspect of payroll administration to try and eliminate this issue of ghost names on the public sector payroll.
The following are some of the specific measures taken so far by the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department in respect of cleaning the public sector payroll.
a. implementation of an electronic payment voucher system(E-SPVs)
b. Implementation of electronic payslips(E-Payslips) system
c. Regional decentralization of inputs
d. Biometric registration of public sector workers
e. Payment of salaries of public sector workers using the E-zwich system which is biometric based
f. Usage of electronic input forms by MDAs
g. mandatory employee social security and bank account numbers as part of requirements for payment of salaries of public sector workers.
These measures adopted by the CAGD have led to massive improvements in the public sector payroll management system resulting in the elimination of large numbers of “ghost names”, which term simply refers to persons undeserving to be paid from the public purse but who somehow find their names on the payroll due to malpractices or inefficiencies in payroll administration at the ministries, departments and agencies of government which submit names of their employees to the Accountant-General’s Department for payment of salaries and other emoluments.
It is to be realized that there are human resource management elements in the public sector payroll and the Public Services Commission is presently working assiduously on a project to comprehensively address this aspect of the problem. It is the firm hope of Government that when this project is completed and fully implemented Government would have a complete hold of this seemingly intractable problem of ghost names on our public sector payroll.
With regards to the assertion that “IMANI has recently intercepted a report on the technology platform IPPD2(Oracle) that is used to process a portion of the mechanized payroll. This damning report finally begins to expose why the GOG payroll is bloated and unreliable and contributing to the near collapse of our economy”, I am amazed and completely scandalized that a so called think tank which brags so much about itself would claim that it has intercepted information. This is supposed to be an institution that dabbles in research for the public good. Franklin Cudjoe has positioned himself as somebody who cares so much about problems facing our dear nation. So? So why will he have to “intercept” information he requires to do his legitimate work, which will inure to the benefit of the whole country?.

That meant he used underhand means to obtain the information. For Christ sake, is he some Investigative Journalist or some Undercover Detective trying to unearth or unravel some intricate crime? For heaven sake, the so called intercepted report was a 2012 audit report commissioned by the Government of Ghana through the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department and undertaken by Messrs. KPMG which audited the public sector payroll. This is a public document in possession of a public institution. One would have expected that Franklin Cudjoe and his cohorts in Occupy Ghana if they meant well would have the decency and courage to officially request from the Controller and Accountant-General, whatever information they required on that report for their work. The truth of the matter is that the document in question is as old as Adam and its contents are of historical value mainly, having been dealt with by the Controller and Accountant-General. Its recommendations have been executed by the Controller and Accountant-General leading to much improvement in our public payroll administration.

Some of IMANI’s claims such as the statements below are completely outrageous and meant to confuse Ghana’s Development Partners and perhaps meant to derail the present on-going negotiations with the IMF.

“IMANI has also seen a report that states that this controversial technology platform (IPPD2/Oracle) has been proposed to our donor partners as the way forward regarding our bailout package. IMANI sources in the corridors of CAGD, Ministry of Finance(MOF) and Ghana Health Service(GHS) have assured IMANI that this claim is COMPLETELY FALSE. These sources further claim that cover up of the system flaws are as a result of the gargantuan contract sums associated with operation of the Oracle platform and the chop chop there of”. “They have further assured IMANI that there are far cheaper and far more efficient ways to computerize GOG payroll which are not being considered because of the chop chop by their bosses”.

If the above information which Franklin Cudjoe and his IMANI claim they have from so called “reliable sources” within the institutions mentioned are true and he is keeping them to himself, then Mr. Franklin Cudjoe and his IMANI can only be saboteurs. For, how can anyone who calls himself a patriotic and concerned Ghanaian citizen come by such information and refuse to pass them on to the President or the security services or even summon the courage to confront the Controller and the Accountant-General or the Minister of Finance with the bare facts.

For the information of the general public, the IT platform IPPD2 acquired for the management of public sector payroll, was acquired by the NPP Government in 2006. If there were any “chop chops” or corruption in the contract for its acquisition, then that charge must be laid squarely at the door steps of the then NPP Government under President Kufuor.

Of more importance are the issues of corruption and bribery which Mr. Cudjoe referred to as “chop chop” in the acquisition and operation of the present IT Platform, IPPD2. All decent minded Ghanaians are waging a fight against corruption in this country and there are many anti-corruption organizations ready and willing to pick up the fight if he Franklin Cudjoe is a coward and cannot stand up and be counted. The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, the Ghana Integrity Initiative, and Transparency International are all available if he has no faith and does not trust Ghanaian state institutions like the Bureau of National Investigations(BNI), the Criminal Investigations Department(CID) of the Ghana Police Service, and Economic and Organized Crime Office(EOCO). Why is he hiding behind anonymity and vagueness of so called sources he claimed are unwilling to come forward to substantiate their allegations of corruption in relation to that IT Platform acquision? Is it not simply because he does not have any information to that effect as he would have the world believe?

It is important that those who put themselves forward as holier-than-thou and call others names should be ready to come to the Ghanaian people with clear conscience and be above board in their dealings with us. So far and in this particular case of the KPMG audit report of 2012, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, IMANI and Occupy Ghana have clearly demonstrated that they have an anti-government agenda which they are striving to execute and they have been badly exposed by thier gross inefficiency and lack of candour. The fight against corruption must go much deeper than mere hatred for one political regime or one’s likeness for another. It requires pure transparency in all matters.
For now, Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, IMANI and Occupy Ghana, Ghanaians are watching your next move.