As if inspired by a dose of one of those “one size fits all” performance enhancing drugs being peddled by the assorted quack doctors on our airwaves, Ghana’s Commander in Chief suddenly transformed himself from The Duke of Plaza Toro (hmm another Motown brainwash) to Field Marshall Montgomery of Alamein (not Idi Amin Dada of Uganda).
President John Dramani Mahama suddenly realised that the most successful military campaigns in history are those in which commanders have led from the front instead of propping up the rear and pushing your troops to the slaughter (ala Plaza Toro).
The fight against corruption was not going to be won by appointing ventriloquists to earn more sitting allowances on useless committees, but by invoking the full combined force of the Executive President of Ghana and the Commander in Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces.
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Over the past several months, especially after our version of the eclipse of the Supreme Court verdict had passed, I have reiterated my mantra that President John Dramani Mahama held the keys to opening the doors to the dark and murky world of the stench emanating from the cesspool of sleaze and corruption.
“What did the President know and when did he know it?” has become my stock in trade answer on every platform where my view has been sought or been proffered unsolicited.
The Constitution of Ghana is very clear and explicit on the governance system of our Ghana. The President has been imbued with the full and exclusive power to execute policies and take actions in our name and on our behalf such that our collective well-being will improve. (As opposed to that of the entire President’s Men) To this awesome power has been added the exclusive power of deciding how to spend the people’s money.
To understand the full import of the President’s control of the uses and abuses of the public purse of Ghana, let’s start by reminding ourselves of what our Constitution says in respect of who can spend our money and where the buck stops for ensuring that our money is spent prudently and judiciously.
Article 108(ii & iii) ) of our Constitution says: “Parliament shall not, unless the bill is introduced or the motion is introduced by, or on behalf of, the President -
(a) proceed upon a bill, including an amendment to a bill that, in the opinion of the person presiding, makes provision for ) the imposition of a charge on the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana or the alteration of any such charge otherwise than by reduction; or (iii) the payment, issue or withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana of any moneys (sic)not charged on the Consolidated Fund.”
The Constitution also gives the President the fulsome and exclusive powers to appoint any and every body who is paid from the Consolidated Fund of Ghana; sometimes in consultation with the Council of State the majority of whose membership is appointed by the President anyway, or Parliament, where the majority party is almost always from the same stable as that of the incumbent President.
So it is that whichever way we want to cut it, the “Buck Stops with the President” when it comes to tackling any abuses of the public purse of Ghana, no matter which individuals or groups of people or corporate entities are used as conduits to perpetrate the rape on our nation.
Let me now give my take on some of the specific measures that the President announced. The ban on the sale of official bungalows is very laudable but it needs to be given legal teeth and backing. How many good intents have we not heard in times of crises which are overturned when the time comes for the scramble for terminal gratuities and benefits on the eve of departure from office?
We have witnessed and looked on helplessly on the despicable spectacle of presidential appointees growing literally fat in both girth and assets during their period of purported sacrifice to our nation. The reason is simple; we forgot to dot the Is' and cross the Ts' of including on full public disclosure of the laudable intent and fine language of the provisions on the Declaration of Assets by Public office holders.
The President says the Right to Information (RTI) and NACAP (National Anti-Corruption Action Plan) Bills are before Parliament. So are the Public Office Code of Conduct Bill and the amendment to the yet to be implement Whistleblower Act. Very Good my President, but badly in need of an answer to the “Where is the Beef?” question (assuming we can find some to put on the bone). Let’s start by doing away with the farcical spectacle of the contents of the RTI still being shrouded in secrecy, even as it is in Parliament.
“Publish and be damned” was the guiding principle of Cecil King, who founded the Daily Mirror in the UK and extended his reach here to establish the Daily Graphic and Sunday Mirror) soon to become the Friday Mirror).
I know the President’s instinct is for openness and freedom of expression, but of course this cannot become manifest in an environment of darkness and obfuscation of the basic facts from which we will make informed opinions and choices. Darkness only begets deeper darkness and ignorance.
In case he is not aware (hmm whatever happened to that transparent fashion), the Constitution of Ghana gives him powers to push Parliament quickly from first to the 4th gear of cruising top speed to get those bills passed pronto. Article 106 (14) states: “A bill introduced in Parliament by or on behalf of the President shall not be delayed for more than three months in any committee of Parliament.” However, we need to know whether Leader turned sage Kumbuor has actually laid these bills before Parliament.
On GYEEDA, are we in danger of those supposedly in charge making decisions and the real money being chopped elsewhere as happened before? Kobby Acheampong is supposedly now in charge of the restructuring of GYEEDA. So why are the instructions not going to him but to the very minister who presided over the debacle and the unconvincing probes? Mr President, please put the guy who unearthed the bonded warehouse scandals to work with Kobby and Seth Terkper to carry out your edicts on GYEEDA & SUBA.
Field Marshall Commander in Chief, you don’t need a committee to take action against those who have been fingered by successive Auditor-General reports as having dipped their dirty and grubby fingers into our money. If they are politicians, sack them. If they are public officials, add their names to those who must refund Judgement Debts. Have your Attorney-General “go to court” and prosecute them by due process of law (we don’t need another Apollo 568).
As for the return to GV number plates, it will only accentuate and deepen abuse as it will only provide the licence for more people (including their drivers) to holler “Do you know who I am” as they engage in nocturnal and sometime daytime non-official activities in public owned vehicles. If the ministers and heads of public agencies you have entrusted with huge responsibilities cannot manage the uses and abuses of public cars, I am happy to help you out. I abolished GV plates from VRA vehicles and still managed to save a billion old cedis in fuel in one year. It is not about changing plates, but stopping abuse.
So in the style of my school mate, Joe Watusi, the Man from Manpoliwaawa, near Aparawewee Madision Square, who substituted the school’s report with his own, you have scored “A+++, but Can do Better” with your boom boom commands. Now let’s see you move from the commands to leading the actual fight against corruption from the front.
The writer is Chief Policy Analyst, Ghana Inst for Public Policy Options, GIPPO