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Opinions of Thursday, 28 February 2008

Columnist: Ofosu-Appiah, Ben

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Government and Public Service in Ghana

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Government and Public Service in Ghana: A Canadian Professor Preaches the Gospel of Common Sense to Ghanaians.

There is abundance of SUV’s with their gas guzzling capacity engines driven by government appointees all over the country. The poor Ghanaian taxpayer’s money is used to buy, service and fill the tanks. On the other hand there is lack of boreholes in the villages to supply good drinking water to the poor farmers whose toil supplied the money used by government to purchase these SUV’s. There are no hospitals but a hospital may cost a lot of money to put up but a borehole cost an average of 2000 dollars to construct. There are no books in our libraries but we prefer to drive in SUV’s and to hell with our children’s future. We beg for aid at the least opportunity but we misapply tem to support the ostentatious lifestyle of a few once we receive them, and then go around the world begging for more. Our President has clocked more mileage than any other President on earth and probably in history.

Do we expect the developed world to come and construct boreholes for us when with fiscal prudence and a little common sense we can achieve more with the same resources? Where lies our priorities as a nation? This is the subject of Professor Steve Chan’s write up. It is a shame it took a foreigner to point out these things to us. I am reproducing here the Professor’s write up which caused the University of Cape Coast to fire him for questioning their stupidity: Judge for yourself if he erred or he spoke up for the poor Ghanaian.

Cars that bug meFriday, February 8, 2008 (In Author: Terri, Thoughts & Ideas) Back home, there are few things that bother me more than seeing people drive SUVs in the city. They’re little more than gas guzzling air polluters. Why anyone would need them to navigate perfectly smooth concrete is beyond me. I’d be interested to look at the percentage of SUVs that actually make it off road. In Ghana, the road conditions are a little harsher, so I understand when rich people want to buy SUVs. However, it still irks me to see all the SUVs (really expensive ones) on campus that are purchased with non-private dollars. Few people I’ve asked can say exactly where the money comes from, but most suspect it’s either the university budget or the GET (Ghana Education Trust) Fund money. In addition to what I consider to be unnecessary spending of Ghanaian tax payer money, I’m concerned about the link to Canadian tax payer money. (Forgive me yet again for being Canadian centric on this post.)

Canada reportedly contributes money directly to the Ghanaian government’s budget. According to the Government of Ghana’s website, direct foreign contribution makes up roughly $350 million of their budget. In turn, the Ghanaian government funds things like the GET fund (according to the GET website) and universities. I don’t like the thought that Canadian tax dollars might be used to buy luxury SUVs to shuttle administrators around campus. (The argument that they need these luxury SUVs to travel afar in nasty road conditions doesn’t hold much weight with me. If that was the case, the Land Cruisers would be spotted much less often on perfectly paved campus roads. Also, why does everyone need their own Land Cruiser, why can’t they share and sign out the good car for the long journeys? Is that the cost of attracting top talent?)

If Ghanaians are okay with their tax dollars being wasted, that’s for them to decide. As a Canadian, I’m annoyed at the potential that our tax dollars are coming here to get wasted in the same manner. When we first arrived, there was an article on the UCC website reporting on the Vice Chancellor’s meeting with the Australian High Commissioner. A request was made for the Australians to assist in medical training as well as to drill bore holes in the surrounding communities (in order to reduce the strain on the University water system — read our posts on the frequent water outages). From the webpage, I was led to believe that bore holes must be very expensive. According to a friend here, a bore hole will run roughly $2,000 USD. Now, someone please correct my math if it’s wrong. A Land Cruiser costs in the $65K ballpark, and a Jeep Grand Cherokee is in the $35K range. Instead of buying a Land Cruiser, they can buy a Grand Cherokee and save around $30K. Use the money to drill 2 boreholes for each of the 7 surrounding villages and stick an extra on campus for posterity. Or, do Australians want their tax dollars used to subsidize luxury lifestyles?

Forgive me for feeling offended by the luxury cars bought with public dollars. The Ghanaians I’ve spoken to aren’t nearly as offended — most don’t like it but say “that’s the way it is”. Any attempt to speak out against wanton spending will earn one the wrath of the rich and powerful. As a Canadian, if we are to directly contribute to anyone’s budget, I’d like a higher degree of accountability. Call me a grouchy taxpayer, but if our money is used for SUVs, I’d rather have a tax cut (or how about taking care of our own poor?).

Now dear reader judge for yourself if this professor was wrong in his assessment but the university authorities fired him for daring to express his views about waste, fraud and abuse in government and in public service in Ghana.

Ben Ofosu-Appiah, Tokyo, Japan.

The author is a political and social analyst and also policy strategist based in Tokyo, Japan. He welcomes your comments.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.