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Opinions of Saturday, 19 December 2015

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

GH¢3,649,044 to rebrand buses? That is impunity

That any government official in Ghana, given our peculiar economic circumstances, will dare to think of asking for GH¢3,649,044.75 to rebrand 116 buses for the Metro Mass Bus Rapid programme is nothing but impunity. Broken down, the mathematics comes to GH¢31,457.28 to brand one bus!

If this is true, impunity would be a mild synonym and I will urge Ghanaians to rise up to stop it.

But we may have to stay our anger for now; after all, for now it is only the say-so of the Minority Leader in Parliament. I will plead that we all wait until the Transport Minister, Madam Dzifa Ativor, reports back to Parliament. On the floor of the House this week, she said she did not have the details of the rebranding.

I asked for a stay of our anger because of the track record and the very demeanor of Dzifa Ativor. I respect her. As a travel writer, I fell in love with her when she turned into an agitator on behalf of the domestic aviation industry, advocating the withdrawal of the 17 per cent tax on domestic aviation. It is not usual, in our part of the world, for a minister to become an advocate, pleading with her own government, and doing so publicly.

The question that cannot, and should not go away, however, is: Why does the state need to rebrand public buses at all? Shouldn’t we rather be asking Corporate Ghana to bid (and pay the state) to brand the buses in their corporate colours or product brands? That should be the sane action of a country that is broke.

It was not stated how much time the Speaker gave to the Transport Minister to report back to Parliament, but I am saying on this page of today’s Daily Graphic that if the claim made by the Minority Leader turns out to be true - that even one-millionth of that money has been budgeted for branding the buses - I will join any group of protesters to demonstrate against this impunity. That amount of money can buy more buses for the long-suffering people of this country.

It flies in the face of economic wisdom, especially in the light of the words of Parliament’s Roads and Transport Committee Chairman, who disclosed that the 2015 approved budget for the Transport Ministry and its agencies was “drastically revised downwards to GH¢50,047,963 by the Ministry of Finance” from GH¢179,767,991.

So now that Parliament has approved the Ministry’s budget, what is Parliament telling us?: that the rebranding programme has, by implication, also been approved? Why did Parliament not call for a stay of action until the Minister reports back?

If my voice means anything, I am saying that Ghana cannot afford to spend even one-millionth of this amount on such frivolity. It is callous; it is disrespectful of Ghanaians; it takes Ghanaians for granted; it adds salt to our already festering wounds. It is equivalent to asking us to go eat cake because there is bread shortage. Is this why this nation has gone for many loans?

Worrying about impunity, the latest that got me puffing and exploding was Power Minister, Dr Kwabena Donkor’s promise to Ghanaians that Dumsor was to end from Monday, December 14, 2015.

I believed it. How I believed him! After all, he was the Power Minister.

So you can imagine my anger when on Joy FM’s News File programme, a few days later, Dr Omane Boamah, the Communication Minister, stated that it was NOT possible to bring the dumsor to an end within one week.

Who was to be believed: the man who had brought in the power barge or the Communication Minister, the man who speaks for government? Today, as I write, I know whom I have believed. It is long past one week – long past December 14, and I am doing this article by the power of a solar lamp.

Long past the one-week promise, the Power Minister has not had the humility to apologise to Ghanaians for raising hopes and dashing same.

You know the name for this? Impunity is when somebody does an act against the society and does it so brazenly, caring no hoots about the consequences. Usually it is because he/she has the confident assurance that nothing could ever happen to him.

Otherwise, dear reader, how else could a Minister of State promise “emergency barges” and they don’t arrive until almost a year later, after twice postponing the date of promised arrival? How can the same minister turn round and blame Ghanaians for putting “too much hope” in power barges? Who put the hope in us, to start with?

It is called impunity. The man knows that nothing would ever happen to him; that nobody can (or will) do anything to him! O yes, he knows!

Deputy Power Minister, John Jinapor who, on the same Joy FM programme, gave Ghanaians the strongest indication yet of what his minister was counting on to end the dumsor. He said factories in Ghana would be going on Christmas break and power was likely to be saved for domestic consumption.

Can you believe that any group of human beings can be fed such…..! It is called impunity. And they know it. They are sure of Ghanaians: nobody can or will do anything!