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Opinions of Saturday, 19 July 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Re: Donor Partners have neglected us – Mahama, Really?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

President Mahama was reported to have expressed disappointment or surprise that donor partners have reneged on their promises of budgetary support to Ghana. The president speaking at a meeting with paramount Chiefs at the National House of Chiefs in Kumasi said “government expected some more support from development partners for its home grown fiscal stabilization policy. We however must learn to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps; it is in challenging things that one needs their best friends, unfortunately our development partners have not been as responsive to our home grown fiscal stabilization policy as I would have hoped” (Ghanaweb, July 17, 2014). In this article, I intend to analyse the reasons why Ghana’s donor partners have refused, are unwilling or reluctant to provide budgetary support.

When I read the news report, I was shocked that President appeared to be unaware why donor partners have refused to support his government. I wondered whether the President is either naive, has no appreciation of the geo-political interests, democracy, good governance and accountability principles of the donor partners or as usual, he is in denial and attempting to shift blame unto the donor partners for the mismanagement, waste and corruption within his government. In fact, to be sure that I was not alone with this view, prior to writing this article, I logged onto Ghanaweb and read some of the comments on the news report and majority of the 101 comments on the president’s disappointment supported my conclusion.

For President Mahama and his government, I wish to use this article to explain to them why Ghana’s donor partners are unwilling to support the fiscal stabilization policy (if they are unaware). I have had the opportunity of working in senior management roles within the voluntary and public sectors here in the UK and also had the opportunity to work with senior policy makers (both politicians and civil servants) within local and national governments; wrote reports for ministers, including drafting responses to parliamentary questions put to ministers. I am not boasting but just to indicate that I know how governance in donor countries works.

The first reason is that, democracy (good governance, accountability and the rule of law) is not perfect but it works in donor countries. As a result, the governments of donor partners are accountable for their actions and omissions (decisions on how they spend their tax payers’ money). They cannot afford and will not give away their hard earned tax revenues to governments that would waste them on non-existing projects and white elephants projects such as GYEEDA, SADA and the payment of dubious judgement debts, including the Woyome saga.

If the Mahama government is such naive or playing the proverbial ostrich, the donor partners know and understand what is happening in Ghana, sometimes, better than some ministers in Ghana. For example, in UK, there are Ghana Desks within the Departments for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These are experts on Ghana, some speak Ghanaian languages and others are Ghanaians citizens or British citizens of Ghanaian heritage. They listen to, watch and read daily Ghanaian news. In addition to what the High Commission in Accra provides to the government in what is called “In Country Reports”.

How can the donor countries justify giving Ghana millions of their taxes to pay for the un-costed and un-budgeted Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) for the ghost infested public sector workers that instantly doubled and tripled salaries of public sector workers without corresponding increase in productivity when their own public sector workers are under austerity measures and only receiving 1% annual salary increment?

Why should foreign donors support Ghana to pay poorly implemented SSSS, when at least, between 10% and 30% of public sector pay goes to ghost workers and into private pockets? As at today, I doubt if ministers in Ghana know exactly, how many workers are under their respective ministries, including other departments and agencies. Is President Mahama asking donor partners to pour water into a sinking hole as his government is doing?

How can the president expect donor partners to dish out cash to his government when the same president supervised the wanton dissipation of scare resources on GYEEDA and SADA, when fully paid contracts in millions of cedis/dollars were given to private companies who failed to deliver and all what the government has done is to agree on a schedule to recover the money? In effect, by the failure to compel the private companies to refund all the money immediately, government has provided interest free loans to private companies. If the government has enough money to give huge sums in interest free loans to private companies why should donor partners who are under austerity support Ghana?

President Mahama should convince donor partners why they should support Ghana when substantial part of the tax revenues collected from telecom operating companies is given out to Suba Infosolutions under irrational and corrupt contract with the GRA? In addition to corrupt contracts such as Suba Infosolutions, the tax revenue collection in Ghana is riddled with corruption and inefficiency (as much ends up in the pockets of tax collectors). In fact, getting rid of the inefficiency and corruption could generate enough revenue for Ghana not only to stop begging for donor support also cut tax rates in Ghana.

I wonder if the president follows the revelations at the Judgement Debt Commission hearing. If he does, how can he justify what he said yesterday, when Ghana spends billions of her resources to pay dubious judgement debts simply because politicians, senior civil servants, judges, lawyers and some organisations and individuals collude to defraud the state of most needed resources for development? The worst of it is that he decided to give all these criminals a blanket indemnity from prosecution by setting up a commission and you cry for help from donors to give more money to be looted by unscrupulous state officials and their collaborators?

Does he seriously believe that the donor countries are unaware that the trials of Woyome and those involved in the GYEEDA and SADA corruption are a cover up and that not a pesewa will be recovered from Woyome and others? These trials are a national disgrace and a waste of public resources and precious judicial time. They are an affront to justice and accountability. How can your Attorney General and Minister of Justice justify the fact that none of the key players in the Woyome saga (such as, Betty Mould Iddrisu, Martin Amindu, Mr Samuel Nerquay-Tetteh, the Senior State Attorney who recommended the payment to Woyome and Mr Paul Asimenu, the Legal Director at Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, who also advised the Attorney General to pay because it was international best practice to pay) were not called as a witness by the state? How dare you question the honesty of the donor partners when you head one of the most dishonest governments in Ghana’s history?

Mr President, how can you go down on your knees and pray to your God, when your government approves fishy loans agreements and contracts such as the $3 billion Chinese Loan and the recently approved $300 million for equipping the military and waste millions in payment of unnecessary fees with your officials probably benefiting from millions in kick backs and yet attempt to blame the economic crisis on the failure of donor partners to support Ghana? For example, with the Chinese $3 billion loan, it was reported that $3 million was paid as upfront fee to those who arranged the loan. Now that you have decided to renegotiate with the Chinese for only half of the $3 billion, will your government ask for a 50% refund of the upfront fee for the Ghanaian tax payer? If not, has your “yentie obiaa” attitude when the minority questioned the terms and conditions of the loan agreement in parliament not caused financial loss to the state?

With such government mismanagement and incompetence, how can donor partners be confident that the resources they give to Ghana would be well managed by your government to the benefit of Ghananians? They do not have that confidence and that is why they are reluctant.

I could give many more examples why donor partners have refused to help Ghana but I am sure the message is very clear by now. Your Excellency, unless your government gains the confident of donor partners by cutting waste to the minimum, fight corruption within your government and eliminate mismanagement, donor partners will pay lip service to supporting the fiscal stabilization policy. Do not attempt to apportion blame because the current financial mess in Ghana has been caused by your government’s lack of experience, mismanagement, incompetence, waste and corruption. Unless, these diseases are addressed by your government, just forget about donor partners’ support to your government. Some may find ways of providing support directly to the most vulnerable communities in Ghana through international and local NGOs where they can monitor activities to ensure the funds they provide benefit those intended for and not into the private pockets of corrupt officials through mismanagement, waste and corrupt practices.

To effectively address the incompetence, mismanagement, waste and corruption, I suggest that you instruct your ministers and appointees to conduct head count of all employees in their ministries, departments and agencies to weed out ghost workers. Any state official and staff at the Attorney General’s Department who causes judgement debt by their negligent should be dismissed, prosecuted and surcharged with the amount involved. The companies who failed to deliver GYEEDA and SADA contracts that were paid for should be ordered to refund the amounts in total immediately and Subah contracted abrogated. Allegations of corruption against public officials should be promptly and properly investigated and if found credible they should be prosecuted. The tax revenue collection systems should be improved to reduce inefficiency and corruption. For example, rates of taxes to be paid, especially at the ports should be made transparent by displaying the rates in public places so that tax collectors cannot rip off tax payers and the state and pocket the money. It should be easier for tax payers to pay direct into bank accounts of GRA and finally computerise the payments of taxes, especially at toll boots. Please get rid of your incompetent ministers and appointees. I wonder why you kept the Energy minister and his deputy when they misled you to tell the public that “dumsor” would be a thing of the past. They have not been able to supervise the delivery of the gas project or the energy crisis. It has taken the Mills/Mahama government six years, yet the project is no near completion. How long did it take the Jubilee partners led by Tullow Oil to produce first oil after the discovery?

In conclusion, Mr President, the current problems, irrespective of the global economic situation, the falling cocoa and gold prices, are mostly home grown and answers must be equally home grown. First, take the plank in your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. In other words, address the waste, mismanagement, waste and corruption within your government, so that the donor partners could assist Ghana. Otherwise, your cry for help or attempt to blame others would be treated with contempt that it deserves by donor partners. Donor partners have not neglected your government and Ghanaians, rather, you and your government have let yourselves, donor partners and the people of Ghana down.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK.