From My Rooftop: Living beyond our means
I have always maintained, and readers of this column will bear witness, that the predicament of Ghana as a struggling nation has nothing to do with poverty.
Even on paper, for a small country with such enormous source of wealth, it will take someone out of his mind to come to that cynical conclusion that Ghana is a poor country.
I have said it several times that Ghana's misfortune is that it has had leaders who lacked the vision of our first president, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, which we dearly miss, but who have the penchant for misappropriation, frivolous expenditure and downright fraudulent deals at the expense of national development.
Whenever we need money for a good cause, we are broke and open our arms for foreign support. Things are not the same if we need funds to support the vulgar and opulent lifestyles of the political elite and their collaborators in business and public service.
I have always asked, “Who are we impressing if we claim we are poor and therefore cannot build roads, health facilities, schools and other social amenities but field an impressive fleet of expensive cross-country vehicles for top government and public officials? Why are we so eager to make the comfort of a few our prime objective, instead of the interest of all?”
Today, we are a nation in darkness because we claim we do not have the funds to expand our energy resources. Our statutory bodies are crawling on their knees for lack of funds.
A study of the annual reports of the Auditor-General will indicate clearly that the monies we chase from foreign banks and other donor organisations could be raised from our own local resources if only we could put our act together and eschew personal aggrandisement, criminal negligence and stinking corrupt practices.
Not too long ago, this country was fed with the shocking story of how the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) callously and insensitively rented an office space for $63,000 per month, and for which it paid upfront, monies in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This money, by all conservative estimates, could pay for the construction of a decent office building. So why should this be allowed in a country whose leaders have declared it so poor that it cannot offer employment for its youth, complete major road projects to enhance easy movement of goods and people nor release funds to oil the machinery of national progress.
We thought we have heard the last of such criminal misuse of public funds, but that was not the end. However, last week, there was the revelation that the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) had spent at public expense $203,500 in 37 months on rent at $5,500 per month.
That is not all. She has moved into a hotel for which the poor people of this country will pay $456.25 a day or $13,687.50 a month. In the first place, are we running a parallel economy, whereby our government pays us (workers) in Ghana Cedis, but prefer to transact business in dollars?
This is a government which quite recently placed restrictions on foreign currency withdrawals by private individuals as a way to shore up the falling Ghana Cedi. So why should the AU Village, which is a local facility, charge a Ghanaian in dollars?
Our national burden for employing just one person is not limited to hotel bills in hundreds of thousands of dollars alone. We are told renovation works on her official bungalow at a cost of GH¢183,000 is still going on. We believe by now a mighty edifice capable of accommodating even presidents would have been in place.
I believe there are many more of such abuse of the public purse in the government and the public services and we should not be surprised if they come to public notice.
How long can we continue to dissipate our scarce resources in this irresponsible manner and turn round complaining of lack of resources to tackle our development needs?
People are tempted to blame Ms Lauretta Lamptey. I think otherwise. She came to meet a system that was in place, which allows state officials to rape the economy. I may blame her for not having the courage to be different.
I would rather put the blame fully on the doorstep of those who swore publicly on the Bible to protect our national interest but who look the other way while such severe pains are inflicted on us.
If you do not believe this, wait and see whether any person or persons would answer for this blatant abuse of public office. Appointments to public office are no longer opportunities to serve but an avenue to add to the burden of the people.