Purging public projects of commission agents

Like many African countries, Ghana faces an overwhelming infrastructural deficit that requires massive investment every year to clear.

While access to funding remains a challenge, the quality of the projects executed with available funds has been an issue of concern for decades. 

The Auditor-General’s report has become an annual book of lamentations on how public funds are siphoned through inflated contracts, diversion of project funds, shoddy work, among others.

As a result, critical growth poles such as water, food, education, transport, health and trade facilitation remain underfunded, leading to a drag on national development. 

Given the importance of the value for money question on public projects and investment in general, the need for sustainable solutions cannot be underestimated. 

While many solutions have been proposed to deal with the canker, not much attention has been paid to the impact that commission agents and project promoters have on the cost and quality of public infrastructure across the country.

For industrialist and Founder of the Tropical Cable and Conductor Limited (TCCL), Tony Oteng-Gyasi, it is an issue of grave concern.

Delivering a lecture at the University of Ghana’s 2023 Alumni Lecture in Accra on Tuesday, the Board Chairman of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) said that system undermined the competitiveness needed to enhance quality and value for money in the delivery of public projects and infrastructure in particular.

Consequently, the former Chairman of the University of Ghana Council said such projects should be devoid of promoters and instead be open to international competitive bidding.

He also advocated the best national teams, made up of seasoned public servants, and aided by salaried consultants to negotiate the best terms for the nation. 

Mr Oteng-Gyasi’s intellectually stimulating lecture also touched on the role of the Bretton Woods institutions in national development, economic development and policy formulations, public sector procurement, rent seeking and natural resource endowment and their exploitations.

On the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the experienced entrepreneur said the lack of discipline to follow and implement policy recommendations made it difficult for Ghana and other African countries to progress under their watch. 

He said the general refrain in Ghana that “no country has developed under the watch of the IMF and World Bank” was “patently false”, referencing the economies of China and other so-called Asian Tigers as having first triumphed under the watch of the two international financial institutions.

For us at the Daily Graphic, Mr Oteng-Gyasi was spot on in drawing the nation’s attention to two critical issues that have not received the desired attention.

As a nation with limited resources and thus relying largely on borrowed funds to develop, one would have expected that prudence and national interest would be prioritised over personal interest in the formulation and execution of national projects.

Sadly, however, various private interests have often competed against the national good in the allocation of resources, resulting in poor projects at exorbitant amounts.

As Mr Oteng-Gyasi said, there was no need having commission agents and promoters for national projects that could be conceived and handled by salaried consultants and the public service.

We, therefore, join the statesman in demanding an end to commission and project promoters to give state institutions the free will to conceive, package and execute projects.

With an IMF programme underway, we also ask the government to pay adequate attention to policy recommendations and discipline itself to implement them.

We will be better off as a country if we discipline ourselves and take the necessary policy prescriptions for the economy to thrive rather than taking them piecemeal and prolonging our development.

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