Inside the Metro Mass Transit Company

BY: Arku Jasmine

It is regrettable that many people do not want to take good care of state property.

To this group of people, what the government owns, nobody owns, and so nobody cares for government property.

The deplorable state of many state assets reflects this mindset of our people.

A roll call of state agencies and assets that have been mismanaged paints the  picture, rather unfortunately, of a country on the path of retrogression.

The youth of today will not know about the Omnibus Service Authority (OSA) that operated an efficient public transport system across the length and breadth of the country many years ago.

Today, it is dead.

Then we used to have the City Express Service (CES) introduced by Mr Harry Sawyer, then Minister of Transport and Communications in the Limann administration.

The introduction of the CES with TATA buses from India generated a lot of debate on the floor of the then Parliament because the opposition felt the deal was not transparent enough.

Nonetheless, it helped in a few years to transform the public transport system, serving not only the urban areas but rural communities as well.

Certainly, Ghanaians who are over 40 years now can recall the pleasure of riding on the OSA buses, especially when commuters had to wait at the bus stops for their turn to travel to and from home at regular intervals.

The numbers on the buses made it easier for commuters and even visitors to Accra to identify the buses going to their destinations.

Just like the malaise confronting many state-owned enterprises presently, such as mismanagement and government interference, we looked on then, without the necessary interventions to maintain those public transport companies as profitable entities.

Again, we are not learning useful lessons from the activities of the OSA and the CES and even the pale shadow of the Intercity State Transport Company in order to salvage the sinking Metro Mass Transit (MMT) Company.

Yesterday, we carried a story that alleged that the Western Regional Manager of the MMT and four others had embezzled GHC2.5 million belonging to the MMT.
The story listed other illegal deals that threatened the survival of the company, for which a section of the workers was said to be angry with the management.

In a rebuttal, the beleaguered Managing Director of the MMT, Mr Maxwell Awuku, who the Ministry of Transport said had been relieved of his post, said the reportage was an attempt by the Daily Graphic to damage his character.

He went further to state that the amount we put out as having been embezzled was not correct and that it was only GHC4,000.

Whatever Mr Awuku says about our story, discerning Ghanaians know that the MMT has operational challenges, some imposed on the company by the illegal deals of some of the workers.

If it is possible to line up all users of MMT buses to narrate their experiences with the drivers and conductors, we are sure Mr Awuku will give the paper its ‘stone’, so to speak.

The Daily Graphic does not go after personalities but pursues issues that promote the national interest.

Our people are in dire need of the very basic necessities of life, but those of us placed in charge of public assets tend to run them down because we place personal glorification above the public good. We want Mr Awuku to explain to us why many buses are on rocks because the company cannot raise the funds to repair them.

We are happy that the Minister of Transport, Mrs Dzifa Attivor, has promised to probe the allegations. Indeed, Ghanaians are waiting for the outcome of that probe.

The Daily Graphic assures Mr Awuku that in line with our mandate to hold public officials accountable for their actions, we shall pursue that agenda to the letter, but we shall not carry out a smear campaign against public officials and individuals in the pursuit of their endeavours.

The government, as the majority shareholder of MMT, should not only retool the company to deliver to the satisfaction of commuters but also leave the members of the management team alone to execute their performance contract.

We want to know from Mr Awuku if really he is still the MD. What has also happened to the free ride for schoolchildren?

Finally, if Mr Awuku has a personal battle to fight with the system, he should not draw the Daily Graphic into it because, after all, if there is incontrovertible evidence that our facts are wrong, we will do the most honourable thing mandated by our code of ethics and the Constitution, and that is, correct the wrong impression in the minds of the people. We shall apologise to those concerned.