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Opinions of Monday, 27 July 2020

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

Ken Ofori-Atta, the Kroll scandal and a lack of critical thinking


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The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) includes essays that involve a real world scenario, specifically, the newspaper extract of something some CEO has said.

The candidate will then be required to give a critique of that quote, while suggesting what additional information will be needed to make the quote complete and solid.

Watching Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Minister for Finance, in that viral three-minute video extract of an interview he granted on Peace FM’s “Kokrokoo” programme on Friday after the mid-year budget review presentation, we are amazed by his blatant whataboutery on the Kroll scandal; Ken Ofori-Atta is influenced by and immersed in rudimentary groupthink.

Speaking in a mishmash of Twi and English, Ken Ofori-Atta told Kwami Sefa-Kayi, the host:

“The Senior Minister [Yaw Osafo-Maafo] said that the way the evidence is, it is not something he could release so if you like come to the office and examine it.

So I also do not properly understand why this Kroll matter alone should be an issue.

On the matter of six billion or so that could not be validated, that one too there were plenty of people to be surcharged on the local level and mostly would have been the past government’s people.

How come COCOBOD’s matter alone has resulted in this?

When we do our work, we should allow a bit of mutual respect and discuss things before we escalate it…..because it is not every wrong I see that I bring out otherwise I won’t be able to focus on my work.

So I hope we can understand each other and move forward.”

Ofori-Atta’s response shows not only a lack of respect for the interview process through his poor preparation, but also the “whataboutery” typical of ghanaian groupthink within the corridors of power, among the middle class, in the media including social media, and “everywhere else you turn”, as my mentor has sadly observed.

Ofori-Atta’s response was flawed; he knew the listeners had no evidence of the particular comparisons he provided for them to make informed judgements; and he was pleading an alibi in a post hoc fallacy.

In a nutshell he implied, admitted and justified wrongdoing at the same time.

Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, the current administration’s chief apologist, had explained on Face to Face on 21 July on Citi TV that “when the Akufo-Addo government took office” Ofori-Atta submitted to the auditor-general for vetting “I believe….11.8 billion” which had seen prior approval within various ministries, and when the auditor-general “did the audit….over five billion” were “questionable” and were not paid.

“The auditor-general would have normally, ordinarily seen it after it had been paid,” Gabby explained,

suggesting that the current administration has been transparent to a fault.

Then he charged: “I will also question the auditor-general, who is on leave, that why, how come, with all the stuff that he has to do, your focus has been on Kroll and Associates?”.

Now, there are “3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking” courtesy of Helen Lee Buoygues the renowned business leader.

“1. Question assumptions 2. Reason through logic 3. Diversify thought”, she wrote on hbr.org on 6 May 2019, adding, they “may sound easy” but are “rare in practice, particularly in the business world, and too many organizations don’t take the time to engage in robust forms of reasoning. But the important work of critical thinking pays off”.

She also warned against “groupthink” and emphasised the importance of diverse perspectives.

Many decades after my mentor has warned and continues to warn students and the ghanaian middle class “Don’t think, just know; you do not know enough yet to think”, public discourse has still not risen to where the media and the middle class know the rubrics of asking and answering simple questions.

Clearly, we can only start making sustained progress when we all embrace the methods that allow us to engage in critical thinking, otherwise the mediocrity will continue.

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