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Opinions of Saturday, 19 June 2010

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.

Ghana Parliament - Learning Democratic Practices from BP Congressional Hearings

There are episodes in life that offer opportunity for us to learn from real life. Our Ghana parliament can learn a lot by watching how other democracies we have modeled our government after operate.

As much as we may want to eat our fufu and soup, have one bottle beer and go to sleep in Ghana 9as my brother in law once told me), please anybody who gets a chance, watch the US Congressional hearings under way right now in the US, and intense courtroom-style questioning of BP's CEO Tony Hayward. I have been watching it and I can almost say the fireworks may be enough to light some homes in Ghana during these emergency ECG days. We need some energy for a change!

My Gosh, American Congressmen and Senators come from experienced Lawyers, Judges, Businessmen, Professors, Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, with lots of experience and they do their homework when it comes to a need to solve problems or in such investigations! They are surely giving the OJ Simpson criminal trial, called the Trial of the Century, a run for the money, as we say here. Boy! Here's a link that may help some of you. &hpt=T1

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The Hearing has involved some of the following:

1. The level of BP documents and reports these Congressmen have obtained in their hands,

2. Have read in detail and asking question on, such as

3. What methods BP used,

4. BPs reliability safety and quality control records;

5. Cost-cutting methods and how some have compromised on safety and hence ended up in disaster;

6. Decision-making strategies and if it was for profit over safety or time-saving, or cost-saving,

7. Actual cost for using a single lined casing or double casing.

8. Comparative safety violation records of BP versus other oil companies, etc.

Folks, it is an exciting educational experience that no course in Economics, Law, Engineering, or Management can match! We need to watch these if we can - i.e. if those in Ghana have enough speed on their so-called broadband!! For example they are asking BP why their safety records show the following:

Violations in the last year or same period: BP -760, Sonoco -8, Sitco -2, Exxon-Mobil -1

Criminal negligence is a serious issue in America and nobody gets away. Big time lawyers always come in but corporations, including GM, Ford, Chrysler, and now Toyota and others have all learnt since the 1960s to be careful. Just a sample of the questions: Congressman Bart Stupak (D., Michigan) asked: "Mr. Hayward, you have a PhD in Engineering from Manchester (or other University), you were Chief Technical officer of BP, you were vice President of Operations, and now CEO. Do you mean to tell us that in your 28 or so years at the company, and your level of experience, you made the best decision and did not cut corners or compromise on safety for the sake of profit?"

And CEO Tony Hayward answers "I cannot answer that question right now until we have concluded all the investigations underway".

It is critical in building our democracy and move away from some of the actions that others may see as a joke of electoral dictatorship and rubber-stamp do-nothing parliamentary system we have. One wonders, based on the confirmation hearings of the past, if our Ghana parliament really indeed do any homework at all to deserve their salary and benefits and status as "Honorables" in fighting for the people of the nation.

Enjoy whatever lesson you can learn from it. Ghana is getting in the oil game and once big money is being made by others, how we secure the environment, and the safety of our people becomes important and still remains the responsibility of our government. Government is made to protect and serve the interests of the people and not the members alone as often has been the case in Ghana. It is exciting to see how the power of a people in a nation is greater than that of any giant company or conglomerates, and I hope we learn that in Ghana.


Dr. Kwaku A. Danso

President - Ghana Leadership Union (NGO) & Moderator-GLU Forum

Livermore, California, USA - East Legon, Accra, Ghana