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Opinions of Sunday, 24 February 2008

Columnist: Ossei, Nana Yaw

This Practice Must Stop

I have over the years, observed a practice that I strongly believe is a pure waste of resources and tax payers money. There is an ongoing practice whereby, anytime the President of Ghana is leaving the shores of Ghana to travel abroad, the State apparatus is mobilised to see him off at the airport. Sadly, the same process is repeated when the President returns to Ghana. Recently, when the President returned from Ethiopia, the Vice President of Ghana, Ministers of State, the IGP, the Chief of Defence Staff, members of the Council of State, public officials etc were all at the airport to meet him. Such a practice, is repeated year after year and in my estimation, such a practice is unnecessary and should stop immediately. I have vividly searched through the 1992 Constitution to ascertain for myself whether such a practice was Constitutional but, there was no such provision. I am really at a loss as to why all these public officials could gather at the airport to either see the President off or meet him. This practice really beggars beyond belief.

Question is, when did this practice start and what is the rationale behind such a practice?. Is it a prudent way of utilising the scarce resources of the State and is it value for money? In 21st century Ghana, do we really need such a practice? For me, regardless of any explanation espoused, I fervently do believe that, such a practice is unnecessary and a waste of State resources and tax payers money. These Ministers of State must have time on their hands to be seeing off and meeting the President on a frequent basis at the airport. If these public officials have time on their hands to undertake such frivolous tasks, question is, should their work loads be increased if they have time on their hands? For all these public officials to see off and meet the President at the airport, you can imagine the costs in terms of bodyguards, petrol, cars, blocking of roads, wasted time, cancelled meetings etc that will inevitably accrue to the State. My advice is that, the little resources that we have, we need to use it wisely and manage it well so that, we derive maximum returns. Can you imagine the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretaries of State, public officials seeing off and meeting Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the airport on a regular basis? I guess not.

On the very day that President Kuffour had the unfortunate accident last year, I watched a GTV news bulletin which stated categorically that, a Paramount Chief from the Eastern Region was at the Castle to meet President Kuffour and the reasons for the meeting were two fold: firstly, to personally thank President Kuffour for creating a new district in his area and secondly, to show appreciation to the President for making their local Member of Parliament a Minister of State. Sadly, this is story is unbelievable but true. Was there a need for the Paramount Chief to travel all the way to Accra to say thank you to President Kuffour? Couldn’t he have said thank you through a letter or fax or a message through the Eastern Regional Minister, or Chief of Staff? This occurred on a day that the President of Ghana escaped death via an accident on his way to work. Why is such a practice encouraged? Does it mean that, the President of Ghana has time on his hands to indulge in protocols which are unnecessary? After all, the President was exercising his Constitutional obligation by creating districts and appointing Ministers of State, hence, was there really a need for the Paramount Chief to travel from the Eastern Region to the Castle to say thank you to President Kuffour? Mr President, please do not encourage such a practice and culture because, sooner rather than later, it will become an unwholesome norm.

I recently observed on GTV news when the bereaved family of a Paramount Chief trooped to the Castle to inform President Kuffour of the passing away of the said Paramount Chief. The contingent amounted to over 25 people. For me, I am at loss as to the rationale behind this practice but regardless, I find it unnecessary and should not be encouraged. Question is, should the bereaved family travel all the way from Ashanti Region just to tell President Kuffour that, Nana has passed away and subsequently inform the President about the funeral arrangement?. There is no need for such a practice. The President must have enough problems to contend with such as children selling pure water on the streets of Accra, 40% of Ghanaians do not have access to clean portable water, 800,000 school children of school going age do not attend school in Ghana today, 7000 children dieing of malaria every year in Ghana, poverty, unemployment, corruption and infrastructural development and the citizenry should not waste his time with unnecessary protocols which can be dealt with by for example, the Chief of Staff, Regional Minister or even a District Chief Executive. Let us spare the President with such unwholesome practice and please Mr. President, put a stop to such practices.

I humbly suggest that, instead of the bereaved family of the late Paramount Chief trooping to Accra to see and inform Mr. President of the death of the said Chief, they should either inform the District Chief Executive, Regional Minister, Regional Coordinating Director or the District Coordinating Director who will forward a message to the Chief of Staff or President’s secretary who will alternatively pass on the message to the President. Any message for the bereaved family from the President will go through the same format via the Chief of Staff or President’s Secretary to the Regional Minister or District Chief Executive for onward transmission to the bereaved family. This system or a better system could be devised because, never should we troop to the Castle, which is the seat of government on matters bordering triviality. We should hold and treat that office in “high esteem”.

Another observation I have made is that, any Tom, Dick and Harry official from the IMF or World Bank, CEO of a multi-national company or even foreign investors when in Ghana, gets the opportunity to meet the President of the Republic of Ghana at the Castle. As much as I accept that, I may not be privy to certain information, I strongly hold the view that, these people should rather hold meetings etc with the various sector Ministers. Recently, I watched a CEO of a mining company in Ghana visiting the Castle to introduce himself to the President as the new CEO of a particular mining company. I am sorry but, this cannot be right. Where was the Minister of Mines, Lands and Forestry, Chief of Staff or Minister of Finance? They should rather be meeting the said CEO rather than the President of Ghana. Surely, the President must have enough on his plate to contend with, rather than be bogged down with unnecessary photo opportunities.

This article is not directed at this current government or the past government but rather, an observation of certain practices that, I strongly feel is not and cannot be right which needs to be done away with. Remember, the interest of Ghana reigns supreme over all other interests..


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