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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Yamson Was Close But No Cigar!!

The summary of the Ishmael Yamson Committee report (review of ex-gratia benefits for ex-president) as published by Joy FM online got me scratching my head. While I totally agree with a few of the recommendations, I have serious reservations with others.

The NDC is turning out to be no different than the NPP. We don’t need moderation in decadence or profligacy. We want decadence and profligacy at its barest nadir. In the context of economic meltdown for our sponsors, hitched or hinged to arrant suffering in the land called Ghana, I don’t understand why we should be discussing ex-gratia awards for a job that attracts endless candidates cum opportunities. Ex-gratia cannot bring dignity to the presidency if all it does is to provide luxuries for ex-presidents even as the people suffer endlessly. Our dignity will be measured by our collective wellbeing not how fat our ex-presidents are. Neither Rawlings nor Kufour are poor. Why can’t they provide for self? Every piece they grab takes away from the poor!! Why can’t these alleged leaders get it?

In a previous article, I made the case that Kufour and his protégés have anchored their end of service demands so high that an undiscerning committee will end up giving them more than they deserve. Obviously, my message did not mean a thing to Yamson and his coterie. Unlike Prof. Ayittey, I won’t call my effort intellectual vindication for I am no intellectual. Instead, I prefer the plain old refrain, “I told you so.”

Kufour does not need 4 cars in a HPIC country like Ghana. Kufour does not need 4 fueled cars in a country where kids study under trees and are infested with tapeworms. Why can’t these so called leaders contextualize their dictates and demands to the telling and relevant needs of our suffering masses? How many people in Ghana have one car at their disposal, let alone four? One thing the Yamson committee did not do or say is to justify the need for 4 cars! Is it based on assignments from the ruling government or just any frills that tickles Kufour’s fancy? What do we know of Kufour’s tendency to overindulge and abuse opportunities if given the slightest wedge or crack? Will the press monitor to make sure that this does not become another gravy train for Kufour and his family?

A better idea, in my view, is to create a state carpool from which Kufour can check out cars to meet the demands of whatever assignments he is given by the state. This way, other state officials can use these same cars for state duties as needed. The latter idea will also ensure efficiency, effectiveness and proper maintenance of these relatively expensive vehicles. Indeed, it is a prudent way of maximizing resources in a context of severe needs and scant resources. I will write a much more elaborate article on this idea at a later date. I believe the above idea represents a better arrangement than dedicating these fueled and chauffeured cars to Kufour and his family. How will we know that Kufour is using these cars in the interest of Ghana? How will we review the results of Kufour’s efforts? Is it not amazing that all the talk is centered on what goodies Kufour can get but absolutely nothing is said about the expected and defined results and how it will be measured? Amazing! Why can’t we make the culture of responsibility part of all that we do?

The goal here is not to provide permanent luxuries for Kufour! We don’t owe Kufour and his family a living! Enough already! Kufour needs just one car! No more than that! I mean is he going to work harder now, than he did when he was president? I have a pinching feeling that Kufour will abuse this privilege just as he did the per diem system while in office. Listen to his latest interview with a radio station in Ghana and you will understand where I am coming from. This man Kufour thinks we should give him big enough accommodation to accommodate his twelve grand children! Can you believe that Kufour’s concern for his grandchildren was part of his motivation for the presidential mansion? Lord have mercy on us!!

Kufour’s need for cars, if he is really working for us, will obviously vary. So, why dedicate at his disposal, a fixed number of fancy cars for family and self? Are we not better off providing a system that will and can modulate with whatever varying transportation needs he encounters? Therein lies the state carpool idea. BTW, this carpool idea is prevalent in organizations that maintain a fleet for official use. The US federal, state local governments all use this carpool idea.

Here we have a country that can’t pay its doctors, nurses and teachers to stay but can lavish on an ex-president whose son is rich enough to own a hotel and daughter, alleged to be savvy enough to own part of a mall. Where is our sense of priority and moral values? Shouldn’t we focus on what is needed and urgent before we bother with what is fitting?

Kufour’s use of state property should be based on what assignments he is given not what he wants to do. I don’t for a moment believe that lavishing state property on ex-presidents gives them any more respect and credibility than they deserve. Respect must be earned from the work that was done not conferred on demand. As it stands, a lot of the sand castles that were built by Kufour continue to crumble. Maybe Kufour should ask the chiefs to provide him with all these niceties that he demands. The lazy masses of Ghana, as he called them, are tired of taking care of him. Enough!

Can anyone explain to me why a former head of state should be given an allowance for living in his own house? I mean what kind of colonial mentality is this? How many people have a house in Ghana, let alone get an allowance for living in it? Why do we continue to lard on those who have? Does anyone think the promise of house allowance made Kufour work any harder than he did? Does anyone think house allowance stopped any backroom deals from going ahead? I mean for what do we give Kufour an allowance to live in his own house? Haven’t we paid enough to renovate that house? Is Ghana all about Kufour and his unending demands? Come on! Is the NDC doing this just so that their people will also benefit when out of power? Even America, the richest country on earth does not give its ex-presidents house allowance. All they get is security! This recommendation ought to be stanched immediately. When will this end?

The Yamson committee was right in recommending that the state should not provide more than one house. It was also right in saying that the state should not fund whatever foundation Kufour had in mind. Indeed, they should have gone further to say that Kufour should find his own funding from the foreigners (Ghacem and others) he gave contracts to left and right. The state has enough to deal with as it is. It should not spend its manpower in finding resources to fund a foundation that will be nothing but another bastion of corruption, tribalism, royalty and cronyism. Let Kufour for once, prove that he can be successful in the private sector. An ex-president should have everything in his power to find resources for whatever work he wants to do. I am very skeptical about Kufour’s ability to be a force for good after leaving office. I base my skepticism on what he did in power. It will be nice to see Kufour play a role similar to what president Carter or Clinton have done but I doubt if Kufour can live up such lofty expectations. The reason is that he never has. And if all he wants is to do is be an elder statesman, then he certainly does not need funding for that. The man never dirtied his hands as president and will not do so now! He is king!!

Another recommendation that I strongly support and perhaps was the best thing to come out of this ideas-starved effort is the idea that, “In addition, the policy which allows public office holders to purchase their duty vehicles upon leaving office must be abolished.” This is a great step in the right direction if accepted and implemented. This is the kind of move that will take the wind out of the corruption sails that continues to harass mother Ghana. There is absolutely no rational basis for this putrid practice and it ought to be permanently expunged from the retinue of legally corrupt practices in Ghana.

I am worried that the Yamson Committee did not talk about the repossession of state property should Kufour pass on. There is no way that state property should stay with Kufour’s family when he passes on. This will be a bad and costly precedent that should be avoided at all cost. Our commitment should be limited to Kufour and the ex-first lady not his entire extended family.

Let me sum up by saying this, the Atta Mill’s government is letting us down big time. It is not moving rapidly to create conditions for the kind of change that motivated the unseating of the NPP. I think I am right in saying that Ghanaians are fed up with more of the same and the continued leeching by the elite few. Time is running out and enough of the dithering and excuses. We need bold and visionary action and we need it now. What we really need is a complete no-nonsense overall of the entire civil/public service system. The time to change is now! Surely we can! Cut out profligacy and focus on the majority poor. Our human capital is our most valued asset and we ought to channel our resources into developing it instead of spending it on ex-presidents. Enough!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman

(Also known as the double edge sword)

I don’t give the hell, I just tell truth and they think its hell. H. Truman