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Opinions of Monday, 30 June 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is Mahama Government’s Incompetence Killing Ghana?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

The global shame and ridicule brought on Ghana by the incompetence of the Mahama administration and the Ghana Football Association regarding the appearance fees for the Black Stars at World Cup in Brazil is a matter that should be of concern to all Ghanaians. Reading the coverage of the debacle within Ghana’s camp in the international media saddened me, though was not surprising. The events leading to the group stage exit of the Stars from the World Cup have taken away the worldwide acclaim Ghana gained at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This made me to ponder on the question whether the Mahama administration (including the Mills/Mahama period) is capable of getting anything right in Ghana. In this article, I want to discuss a number of management and decisions that have gone wrong under the Mahama government. In fact, I am tempted to believe that the incompetence and mismanagement of this administration are unprecedented in Ghana’s history, are costing Ghana in millions of dollars if not billions and making Ghana a joke.

It appears whatever Mahama and or his government touch/es become a disaster or fiasco. The first that comes to mind was the STX housing project which the then Vice-President Mahama led the negotiations on behalf of government of Ghana. Despite millions of dollars spent on the project and a sovereign guarantee given to the Ghana-Korea partnership, not a single block was laid. No one has told Ghanaian tax payers how much Mahama’s incompetency cost the state and no one has been held accountable for the failure.

The Single Spine Salary Structure implementation which the government rushed into implementing without fully costing the policy and posing questions such as, the total number of public sector employees, total cost of the policy implementation and where would the money come from, etc. For political expediency they implemented the policy and were naively claiming credit for doubling or tripling public sector wages in election propaganda only to turn 180 degrees after the elections to blame the same policy for the financial mess their incompetence and mismanagement caused. I was dumbfounded to hear President Mahama claim that the software used to implement the policy did not allow them to know the full cost of the policy. This was in an answer to a question at the Chatham House lecture he gave in London in May 2013. The President’s answer was an indication of the highest level of incompetence and ignorance about what government is about.

The ongoing energy crisis in Ghana that Mahama, his ministers and officials assured Ghanaians that it would be a thing of the past by now has bedevilled them if not haunting the government. It is abundantly clear the Mahama government is incapable of resolving the energy crisis in the short, medium and long terms and would continue to take ad hoc measures. The government has no clue how to strategically address the problem.

The delay in the gas infrastructure development project is another example of government incompetence and mismanagement. Six years after the Mills/Mahama government took over the reins of government in Ghana, they have been unable to complete the project. Because of the energy crisis the country was experience at the time they assumed office coupled with the fact that the natural gas from the Jubilee Oil field was 100 percent for Ghana, one would have expected that the government would have made this project the topmost priority. Sadly, because of self interests within the ruling NDC, incompetence, mismanagement and corruption, it took over two years to even select the preferred project contractor. This is a self-financing project and a strategic national asset that any serious and effective government would have done anything and everything possible to ensure its speedy and efficient delivery. Until a couple of days ago, land for the project was in dispute so the incompetent government had to compulsory purchase the land in the middle of a legal challenge under an Executive Instrument, a potential interference with the judiciary.

Then the fiasco with the Chinese $3 billion loan for infrastructure development projects which has caused delays to the gas and other projects and millions or billions in increased project costs to Ghana. I have written about the bad deal that ministers who negotiated the loan got for Ghana through incompetence and corruption (see “NPP Abstention on $3 billion loan, a political opportunism or a miscalculation?” and $3 billion Loan: Is China Defrauding Ghana?, Ghanaweb August 29, 2011 and January 13, 2014 respectively). The President now claims he will travel to China in August to sort out the problems delaying the release of the loan. Mr President, that is unacceptable and you should have gone to China over a year ago. Please know your priority or that of the nation you preside over.

The mind bogging incompetence, mismanagement and pure day light robbery by state institutions and agencies since Mahama ascended the presidency after the untimely and unfortunate death of Mills and his subsequent election in 2012 are inexplicable.

First, the President and his ministers appointed unqualified, incompetent and corrupt individuals and handed to them millions of hard earned and scarce state resources to waste as they wish under the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). Ghanaians are witnesses to mess SADA made, which I need not further deliberations on.

The same level of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption were prevalent in the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Authority (GYEEDA). In both SADA and GYEEDA, contracts were signed with private companies and paid in full without any due diligence. SADA and GYEEDA became de facto banks and granted interest free loans to private companies that were engaged to deliver contracts, yet most of these contracts were not delivered. Instead of the state ordering the private companies to refund such illegal loans with interest immediately, they have been asked to repay the loans over a period. What do you call a government in very serious financial crisis and unable to even meet its statutory obligations but pre financing private companies to the tune of millions of dollars? Madness, incompetence, mismanagement, corruption or misplaced priorities?

The ease with which government appointees through state institutions enter into dubious contractual arrangements to steal millions of state resources such as the Ghana Revenue Authority/Subah Infosolutions contract to monitor revenues of telecom operators for tax purposes is simply nothing but a scheme to siphon millions of tax revenues into private pockets for no work done. Another example is the cost of office accommodation for the Ghana National Petroleum Authority at a cost of $63,000 per month to the state. Why is the state paying rent in dollars when the government blames the dollarization of the economy on the current economic mess and when it is discouraging such practices?

The direct consequences of these incompetence, mismanagement and corruption are the free fall of the cedi against all major foreign currencies, the rocketing inflation, high cost living and the billion of arrears in subventions to state agencies including Parliament, GET Fund, NHIS, Metropolitan and District Assemblies, etc. Yet the incompetent government wants Ghanaians to believe the causes to be the global financial situation.

It beggars belief that President Mahama has allowed such unprecedented level of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption by his ministers and appointees and the wanton dissipation of scarce state resources whilst education, health, sanitation, water, energy and other strategic infrastructure development programmes are starved of funds.

The president has surrounded himself with inefficient ministers and appointees who seem not to know and understand their roles. They lack the intellectual, managerial and leadership capacity and skills for such positions. For example, some of the ministers do not know what is happening in agencies and departments under them. Typical example is the energy minister who was unaware that Ghana Petroleum Authority was paying monthly rent of $63,000. This is a policy and not operational decision that the Board should have informed the minister or the minister should known through whoever represents him or his ministry on the Board. Ministers are only in-charge but not in control of affairs.

On the World Cup fiasco, what stopped the sports ministry from going to Brazil, liaising with Ghana’s mission in Brazil or their counterparts in Brazil since Ghana qualified for the World Cup in November 2013 to arrange suitable accommodation for the supporters? What hindered them from agreeing in advance with the players the appearance fees and the payment modalities prior to their departure from Ghana? This is Ghana’s third consecutive participation in the World Cup, yet it is obvious that no lessons were learnt from the first two. These are simple administrative duties that any damn fool could have carried out with ease but Ghanaian ministers failed abysmally. Is Ghana becoming incompetent, indiscipline, chaotic and corruption prone nation?

What is unfathomable is that, many, if not all of these incompetence, mismanagement, confusion and reactionary management approach are so elementary that the obvious explanation is that they are deliberately orchestrated for personal gain by those who are in charge of affairs. This is manifested by the revelations at the Judgement Debt Commission hearings as it evident that state officials (politicians, civil servants and judges) collude with lawyers, individuals and organisations to defraud the state of millions in judgement debt payments through deliberate negligence, sabotage and dereliction of duty.

The President’s inability or unwillingness to dismiss his ministers and appointees for incompetence, mismanagement and corruption is part of the problem. The reassignment of the sports minister and his deputy is nothing but reward for incompetence, mismanagement and failure. Leadership among others includes the ability to take tough decisions, including even offending your close supporters and friends such as sacking a minister who played a key role in one’s election but incompetent. The failure of Mahama to sack the minister and his deputy but reassign them is a sign of his weakness and an admission of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption at the very heart of his government, the presidency.

The incompetence, mismanagement and corruption of President Mahama, his ministers and appointees is not only destroying Ghana but also subjecting Ghana to ridicule in the international community. Ghanaians should tell Mahama and his government that they are fed up with their incompetence, mismanagement and corruption. Enough is enough.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK