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Opinions of Monday, 2 March 2009

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.

Ghana Ministers: – Are some of them Useless?

GHANA MINSTRIES – Are some of them Useless?

By: Kwaku A. Danso

Many have wondered the value of some of our Ministries, especially during the Kufuor administration where the concept of Budgeting and financial management did not seem to come in the equation of governance as Ministries were being created for every single problem in society! It is good President Mills is cutting back and re-aligning some of them as he said. There are some more to be cut on closer examination, since they offer no added value in our economy. We should not hire people when we cannot balance our budget and go abroad begging others to pay our people! And we cannot keep increasing taxes at the ports in order to survive. Increased taxation has been found to be counter-productive to economic development, as Prof. Ishmael Cole found in his study in South America.

I do not know of Mr. Larry Bimi or much of what the current functions of the NCCE, National Commission on Civil Education are. His comments on Citifmonline of February 24, 2009 are one of the most practical proposed solutions and comments I have heard in a long while. No need for the Ministry of Communications! Of course many have questioned the Mission of such Ministries as Women and Children, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Chieftaincy, etc. For God’s sake, what are their functions and how do we measure their performance effectiveness whiles spending our tax money on them? Are the Law of Ghana, such as criminal and civil laws not applicable to women and children and Chiefs also?

It is so sad that all what most politicians, no matter their education, seem to care about is perpetuation of established institutions without careful analysis. I was so sad to read of the NPP describing their accomplishments to include the number of pit latrines built. For God’s sake! Such disgrace should never be allowed in our modern society. Pit latrines and KVIP should be abolished and our people forced to come to par with modernity! Yes, we can! - as new US President Obama said. People who cannot think of new ideas and want to continue what “Nananom” their ancestors did 200 years ago should be out of politics as the younger generation read and watch global news, and some even participate on Internet forum dialogue such as Ghana Leadership Union (GLU) forum. They have a pretty good idea of the standards we can achieve as a nation and what their own people have done overseas. Excuses are not acceptable anymore! Dancing around problems, as my uncle would put it, will not cut it!

In the report, Mr. Bimi said:

“The Ministry of Information under the colonial government and under the early independence government of Ghana up to perhaps the last fifteen years was necessary because the government needed a machinery or institution that would explain its policies to the generality of the people”. He continued that “Today government doesn’t need that to explain to the people, the television is there, so many F.M stations are there and government can set up their own T.V or F.M station like G.T.V.”

I agree totally with Mr. Bimi that in today’s world, there should be no need for government to have a whole Ministry of buildings and staff and equipment and offices dedicated to propaganda or dissemination of information. I would not even agree on the need of Government to own media such as Radio and TV or Newspaper at all. They are all used to serve the existing government. All these should be sold to the general public – just make sure we don’t sell them to foreigners who might take undue strategic competitive advantage of such media, or to cronies of government leaders. We are not a Communist nation!! For God’s sake, even former Communist nations have eased off and offer open press and media. Those who refuse are left behind.

Every Ministry should provide the media with reports of the status of their projects. Press releases are for that purpose. That is what we are paying them for! Example, the Minister of Water and Works should face the Press every month or week if need be and tell us the status of equipment ordered and efforts at restoring water to the people in different towns, districts and regions. Ghana has taken over $603 million in grants and loans for water alone since 2005 and the Minster must face the people – not pass this to another Ministry of propaganda to explain. It is time President showed leadership and fired (terminated) some Ministers who are not performing. The year 2008 witnessed how even $43 million spent could not perpetuate continuation of the NPP’s administration. In the next round of people power, the people may take the government on for action in their districts and towns and use direct confrontation of Ministers. I am not predicting doom, please, but telling the feelings of anger and the expected outcome as our society develops.

POOR PERFORMANCE – Poor performance results affect the President himself and the party they stand on. This writer is of the opinion that Nana Akufo Addo lost the elections for one of two major reasons, one of them being the inflated and egotistical reports of NPP “progress” when people are in fact suffering from poor delivery of water, electricity, road traffic congestion and other services. Why did the World Bank wait till after the elections to give a report of the actual economic situation in Ghana when the people themselves knew it! Without infrastructures working, businesses lose money, jobs are not being created, and wasted money on undefined functions of Ministries with no value contribution to the economy of Ghana. Funny thing is that most of these Ministries do not even train their people on the use of modern computers and databases of information. Most Honorable Ministers and MPs themselves are behind in Computer applications and miss the value. They are still operating like in the 1940s. For God’s sake, let us wake up!

IMPORTS and JOBS - Ghana imports about 90% or more of what we consume and the job of any Ministry should be to figure out how to solve the problems of our society from policy to infrastructural development under their areas, which will trigger investment capital and then provide our small businesses financing to survive, and compete globally in producing products and services, and in creating jobs. Problems occur under each Ministry every day and that status should not be passed to another Ministry to inform the public. No. People don’t want Ministers telling them about problems. We want solutions and plans when problems are going to be fixed! It is silly for Western educated men and women sitting waiting for young advisers from the World Bank to tell you when to jump and you ask how high! We need to anticipate problems and to solve them as they come to serve our own people!

ELECTRICITY - Example, as I write the electricity in East Legon area has been sporadic and very unreliable for the past few days or weeks. They have always been sporadic, but worse these weeks. Offices and homes in the areas, as also in other parts of the city suffer from massive financial losses due to perpetual electricity fluctuations that cause damage to appliances such as Air Conditioners, refrigerators, computers and even radios and Televisions. Tourists and foreign residents are very frustrated. It is extremely expensive to buy a Stabilizer or Regulator for each appliance, and a huge Generator. The best solution is to do what other Western nations do – provide overall stabilizing regulation for the Transformers before electricity is delivered to homes or offices. Simple capacitors are installed on each transformer as one drives in any Western nation and sees these huge transformers. The Managing Director of ECG should be on the news every morning telling the media where the problems are and status in fixing them. The Minister of energy should occasionally give the nation a status update of long term solutions to these problems and financing and time schedule. No need for a Ministry of Information on this one. No spin masters when people are suffering and need help!

WATER - Another major problem is water. What is the use of the Ministry if another Ministry has to explain to the people when they are going to get water? After massive loans for the projects, all we hear are 3,000 bore holes. What a waste and of over $603 million for water projects!

TELEPHONES – As cell phones grew in usage among individuals, what we forgot what the growth of line phones for sending large amounts of data along cable and fiber optic lines for communication. Today faxing a simple page to Ghana is next to impossible. I had to mail a document that could have been faxed in 3 minutes – the scanning would not work since electricity is out in Ghana and printer and Computers need electricity! What a shame in 2009! Do I need a Ministry of Communication, or perhaps Culture to explain?

The OPEN GUTTERS - Again how about the stinky smell in town around the Korle Lagoon? How about the open gutters that are an eyesore to the tourist public? The disgrace should require the Minister of Roads, and City Chief Executives. Minster of Health, to be in front of the Camera to explain what they are doing for the pay and benefits they are getting! No need for a Minister of Communications or Culture to explain to the Press and then the Press reports to us the people on the problems and solutions. Perhaps a Ministry of Chiefs can do the job? Folks, it is time to stop the joke of self governance and watch how others have done it, nations like Singapore!

It is quite possible the new President has not had much time to brood over and ponder on all these issues, and it is never too late to save our people the burden of budget deficit every year and borrowing more money and living beyond our means every single year! This is a disgrace on the education we had! We expect President Mills to use his powers well and fire executives in government who are sleeping on the job. The President should set goals for his Ministers and if they keep travelling and do not deliver solutions, they should be fired. Period! No need for another Ministry to give us information and spin. The people hired these people and they want direct answers, direct interaction, and want transparency to each Minister and open door to file complaints and receive courteous customer service from them.

Dr. Kwaku A. Danso

President – Ghana Leadership Union Moderator, GLU Forum Email: