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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

The ‘Donkomisation’ of a national fleet

You are working for a company. After a rigorous performance appraisal, your employers decide that your output is not good enough. You are fired! Immediately, you receive your dismissal letter you are required to surrender every company property in your possession, including office pins and A4 sheets. You won’t take anything away with you.

If you do keep any property of the firm in your custody, the company could start calling you a thief. No company with a passion for swelling the bottom line will decide to sell any of its properties to dismissed employees at ‘donkomised’ prices.

The just-ended elections can be likened to a performance appraisal of the Kufuor administration. Ghanaians decided that they deserve to be fired and that’s happened.

People who get dismissed are usually shown the exit with jeers – not cheers. That is why it baffles me that in this country, members of ‘dismissed’ administrations (first, it was the NDC and now it’s the NPP) want to make us feel obliged to cheer them out of office by offering them the undeserved reward of buying government vehicles at ‘donkomised’ prices.

This so-called policy of allowing former government ministers to buy their official vehicles at give-away prices irks me and wrenches my heart so. It can never be justified and it should never be encouraged. I heard a ‘management consultant’ say on radio that this flagrant thievery is supposed to help ensure that former government officials do not go about boarding ‘trotros’ – as if they are more human than the millions who commute on ‘trotros’ everyday.

According to this management consultant, former ministers will lose their respect or status in society if they go about using ‘trotros’ and taxis. Elsewhere in the world, government officials, lawmakers and army generals use the same buses and trains as ordinary citizens. In Ghana, government officials – the so-called ‘big men’ – feel they will lose their respect if they are seen on public transport. To keep their ‘dignity’, therefore, they think we should allow them to plunder the national fleet.

I have heard President Kufuor’s Chief of Staff – the man they call headmaster, for obvious reasons – insist that this policy is “nothing new”. And he’s right. When Ghanaians gave the marching orders to the NDC administration in 2001, officials of that government were allowed to go away with hundreds of ‘donkomised’ vehicles. Therefore, the ‘headmaster’ seemed to be arguing, it’s only fair that the members of the NPP administration, which has just been ‘fired’, should also be allowed to zoom away with a good number of cars at ‘donkomised’ rates.

Truth be told, they are not driving these cars away for free. They are buying them – at discounts they will never get at Japan Motors or Mechanical Lloyd. I do not understand why in times of transition such as this our government turns itself into a car dealership, which cuts prices in such a way that even the best known dealerships might be tempted to start complaining about anti-competitive behaviour. How long will this continue?

I think it must end now. I expect President Mills to end this nonsense. If officials of the former administration have enough money to buy cars – monies they might as well have stolen from our kitty – they should go to the numerous second-hand car dealerships strewn all around country and buy any car of their choice. They should leave the national fleet alone. It is wrong to ‘donkomise’ government vehicles after just about two years of use to a bunch of near-incompetent government officials Ghanaians have collectively decided to fire.

I am happy that the new government has moved to halt the reported frenetic rush by officials of the Kufuor administration to change the ownership of government cars into their names. Sending the likes of Victor Smith to go after these cars wasn’t exactly a smart idea because it reminded us of by-gone days when the NDC was all brawn. But thank God that the President’s spokesman, Mahama Ayariga, came in to set the records straight, making it clear that no government cars were to be re-registered... until further notice.

It’s a good first step and I hope that “further notice” doesn’t come. Ghanaians will like to see an end to this practise of former government officials grabbing everything they can when they are shown the exit – only for the state to spend a lot of money to buy these same items (cars, houses etc.) for officials of the new administration. Some will defend the ‘donkomisation’ as being part of recommendations in the Greenstreet and Chinery Hesse Reports. Government should be able to tell both Miranda Greenstreet and Mary Chinery-Hesse that they were dead wrong and that their recommendations deserve to be thrown out of the window.

If President Mills allows the ‘donkomisation’ of the government vehicles to go ahead, a lot of us will be disappointed and our belief that politicians care only about themselves will be deepened. But if he musters the courage to tell the officials of the previous administration that the cars are not for sale, he would be sending out a very strong signal that he is really intent on delivering on his promise of change – tackling our problems in radical ways that do not satisfy the political elite but ensure the welfare of the people who voted him to power is paramount. People voted for change – change in the way things are done, change in the way government officials are rewarded.

Ghanaians didn’t vote to change the men in charge only for the new guys to continue with the old ways of those who have been given the sack. Those cars must stay in the national fleet. They should only be ‘donkomised’ when they have been certified as unserviceable.

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E-mail: ato@atokd.com