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Opinions of Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Columnist: Akomea, Nana

The smarttys bus branding saga

The smarttys bus branding saga: A clear case of bad governance, waste, corruption and non transparent government

The recent Smarttys bus branding saga provides another clear case of bad governance, waste of taxpayers’ monies, corruption, non transparency and weak government response to corruption that has become typical in these seven years of NDC governance.


In the light of the acute poverty and dire hardships in Ghana, the decision to invest taxpayers monies into putting President Mahama's picture and pictures of his fourth republic predecessors, on hundreds of public buses is a clear case of misplaced priority and insensitive decision making that is out of touch with the real needs of the Ghanaian people. The space on those buses could have been readily taken out by advertising companies who would have paid monies in to the national treasury.

The decision to rather put President Mahama's photos on the buses has not only deprived the poor taxpayer of good money, but also actually caused the taxpayer to pay out millions of Ghana cedis.


The excuse for this decision to put the photos of President Mahama and the other fourth republic presidents on the buses is ludicrous. We have been told the decision was to recognize their contributions to Ghana's progress.
If this is indeed a pressing need of Ghanaians, then it should be the images of the past presidents which should be on the buses since they have done their bit as presidents and gone. President Mahama is still president. Indeed he has told us he is now going to fulfill his great promise to put monies into our pockets, so he obviously has not finished his contribution, i.e. his best contribution is yet to come. He has not finished his contribution to Ghana's progress. So his image should not be in a display of those who are being recognised for their contribution. But rather strangely, his picture is even more prominent than those who have finished their contribution and left. In fact the others are in black and white (and not very visible) and his in full colour!
It is therefore clear that this venture is nothing more than a poor venture to project President Mahama ahead of the 2016 elections, and have the poor taxpayer pay for it!!


Ladies and gentlemen, as indicated, the decision of the NDC government shows awful bad judgment. The decision causes the poor taxpayer to forfeit revenue. It also causes the poor taxpayer to lose money in payment, all in a bit to project President Mahama.

As if all of this is not enough, the execution of this very bad decision is also mired in wanton corruption, and brazen illegality.
According to the Attorney General, even as the poor Ghanaian taxpayer was made to pay for this horribly misplaced decision, the taxpayer should not have paid more than GHC 1.7 million. Instead, the poor taxpayer was made to pay an extra ghc 1.9 million (19 billion old cedis) for no work done whatsoever.
This wanton dissipation and clear looting of public funds take place at a time when Korle Bu is closing major units for lack of ghc 700, 000 to buy medical consumables.
There is absolutely no mercy for the poor taxpayer in this President Mahama’s NDC government. The taxpayer is made to forfeit revenue, he is also made to pay for a misplaced project which doesn't benefit him in any way, and he is also made to pay more than twice for this ordeal!

To be able to inflict this big corruption on the taxpayer, many of the provisions of Ghana's financial laws were brazenly broken.

According to the Attorney General, Smarttys sprayed and rebranded the buses EVEN BEFORE the procurement process (as required by law) was started;
Payment processes to Smarttys were started EVEN BEFORE Smarttys had submitted a quotation!

The request to the Public Procurement Authority for clearance to award the contract on sole sourcing basis,(as required by the law) WAS DONE AFTER the contract had been awarded and executed!

So proper and legal procurement processes were not observed, and no value for money audit was conducted.

Indeed, the work was awarded and executed EVEN BEFORE A CONTRACT was signed!
Whew!!This is better Ghana at work. This is transformational governance indeed! The real l care for you government!
Before one may take comfort that this may be one terrible event, one should remember that this pattern is repeated in other NDC government contracts, which we will bring to your attention. The Telco interconnect saga or the so called Afriwave contract, is another case in point.

As indicated, this bus branding saga also illustrates President Mahama’s NDC government weak response to corruption.
The Attorney General recommended the retrieval of ONLY the amount of ghc1.9 million it determined to be the overcharge.
The NPP believes the interest of the poor taxpayer would be better served if the entire sum of ghc 3.6 million is surcharged against all those who took this non beneficial decision to put President Mahama's photos and others on these hundreds of public buses.

Be that as it may, the NDC government has subsequently directed Smarttys ltd to refund the excess payments of ghc 1.9 million. Also the then sector minister who superintendent this deal has resigned from her position.


But ladies and gentlemen, the Attorney General also recommended the further investigation and prosecution of all the public officials involved in the procurement and payment process in this bus branding saga.

President Mahama’s government has not taken any action at all on this most crucial recommendation.

This failure of President Mahama's government reinforces the great disappointment among Ghanaians on the government’s commitment to fight against corruption.
The government itself told Ghanaians that the Attorney General determined that the procurement law and processes had not been followed. This straight away calls for prosecution as there are penalties for breaching the anti corruption laws of the country.
Indeed in this country, in this NDC government, we have seen the government rightly embark on vigorous prosecution of former cabinet ministers, on suspicion that they had infringed the procurement laws.
So how come that now, the NDC government of president Mahama will not prosecute officials who have been deemed to have infringed the same procurement laws?
Especially when that determination of infringement has been made by the Attorney General herself and the government? Is it one law for some and another law for others? Is it Animal Farm again?


What Ghanaians are being presented with as the fight against corruption, as exemplified in this bus branding saga, is this new found plot called REFUND OF CORRUPTLY PAID OUT MONIES.

In this plot, NDC government officials go into collusion with individuals (who invariably have NDC affiliations), to misappropriate poor taxpayers monies, (create, loot and share).

When these corrupt collusion become exposed, plot two is activated. The NDC government, in plot two, goes into negotiations with these partners in the plot, that they should refund the monies.
In plot three, the NDC government comes to tell the taxpayer that oh some of the monies have been refunded.
And the poor taxpayer is expected to be grateful and clap for the government.
At worse, the NDC connected individual co-plotters, knowing the joke; do not bother at all to follow through with any payments.
At worst, after the exposure, the NDC government itself doesn't bother at all with the exposures, and just move on.

Mind you, ladies and gentlemen, in these entire spectacle, there is no talk whatsoever of interest payments.

So the new most profitable game in town is-- collude to misappropriate taxpayers monies, deposit the monies into high yielding instruments or investments, if alarm blows, you will be required to pay back the principal, at your convenience, and if out of the goodness of your heart, you do some refund, you get to keep the huge interest, even if invested in treasury bills!
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Ghanaians, this is the state of the fight against corruption in Ghana today: the application of Animal Farm rules, and the plot of refunds.
To see through this sham, all one has to do is look across to neighbouring Nigeria, where corrupt people are in a queue, to report themselves and begging to be allowed to refund the monies they stole! No wonder an arch critic like Wole Soyinka, recently remarked that he had never seen such vigour in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

That is the lesson for all Ghanaians. That is the example for my good friend President Mahama.
Ladies and gentlemen, we demand, on behalf of taxpayers that in this bus branding saga:
1) The practice of using taxpayers’ monies to put pictures of President Mahama and NDC slogans on public buses should be stopped. The NDC should pay the full cost of ghc3.6 million for this political advertising.
2) Negotiated refunds of corruptly paid out and received monies should be stopped in favour of court orders granted out of prosecution, as required by our laws.
3) The chief of staff should publish the full report of the Attorney General into this bus branding saga, in the interest of full disclosure, transparent government, probity and accountability.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen

Nana Akomea