Easy access

BY: Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
Daniel Yaw Domelevo, — Auditor General
Daniel Yaw Domelevo, — Auditor General

We are a country that is deeply promiscuous with the truth and disingenuous with Prominent Public Piety (PPP). 

At the last count, 147 responses to Certificates of Surcharge had been delivered.  A further 200 public servants in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), alongside contractors, had been issued with notices to demonstrate why they should not be served with Certificates of Disallow for the payments for goods and services they had allegedly improperly signed off on in the financial year ending December 2016. 

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By June 30, 2018, the Office of the Auditor-General (OAD) will submit updated accounts of MDAs and other statutory reports to Parliament. We should know if there has been progress in protecting the public purse, retroactively.  I am particularly interested in the audit findings of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD); it should have been completed in September 2017. We must also be truly forensic in real time, from preventing continued easy access to the public purse by brigands armed with ill intent.

Phantom roads

Former President John (IV) Mahama has easy access to the media. Quite rightly. His informed views and demonstrable skill in leadership, both at home and abroad - Kenya and Sierra Leone were such a success - must always be taken into consideration; and deeply examined, always. Mr Mahama has recently reportedly asked when the numerous projects, including roads, hospitals and schools initiated under his record-breaking one-term administration, will be completed. Quite right. 

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Former President Mahama was leading yet another Unity Health Walk. He must have been out of breath when he apparently cited in particular, the non-existent Bolga-Bawku road in the Upper East Region as a case in point of a stalled project. If he can hang on until the OAD fulfils its constitutional duty to update the House, we could also perhaps find out exactly where the GH¢5.1 billion worth of phantom 'cocoa roads', 230 contracts signed over three years, also went. Was there really a deficit of GH¢3.5 billion on the cocoa roads alone left by his administration? 

Talk true

Let's be reasonable. Even if the asphalt on these shadow roads has evaporated, hopefully the funds for these contracts - some allegedly hurriedly signed after the December 2016 election had clearly been lost - did not migrate to Burkina Faso alongside the guinea fowls from the Savannah Agricultural Development Agency. Perpetrated with easy access during the Mahama administration, SADA too was a worthy project. 

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On paper, it was designed to coordinate development projects, including increasing crop yields, providing opportunities for women and other disadvantaged persons, as well as protecting the fragile ecosystem in the three northern regions. The communities who could and should have benefitted included many in the Upper East Region, the new sweet spot for rhetorical true talk. Mr Mahama won 59.22 per cent of the overall votes from the region.

If the OAD refuses after June 30, 2018 to give former President Mahama and the rest of us details and answers, we can join hands and choose our choice to get around the OAD by means of Occupy Ghana, Citizen Ghana Movement, essentially by legal means and/or hopefully via the Right to Information (RTI) Bill. After all, if there was no cocoa roads hooliganism or malice in other MDAs, then there should be funds to finish all stalled projects. 

RTI Bill

Yesterday, being Tuesday, May 8, 2018, a week before Parliament resumes, the Joint Committees (JCs) on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications should have met with civil society, relevant public institutions and experts on this much-delayed potentially critical tool in advancing governance. The notice issued by the Public Affairs Department of the House said the objective of the meeting was for the JCs to receive oral presentations. How does that work? You talk, they hopefully put their active listening ears on, then you go. So not even power point?

Committees of the House are represented by both members representing the New Patriotic Party, again in government and members of the National Democratic Congress, again in opposition. When the debates on the RTI ensue in the House, we should watch very very carefully how much and how deeply each side of the JCs and the House queries, hyperventilates, obfuscates, fights for or challenges our easy right to access information.

Long vacation

I still want to know when our guinea fowls will return to nest from their perpetual vacation in Ouagadougou. There is such a thing as overstaying your welcome.

I still want to know what, if anything, went bump in the dingy dark at COCOBOD when we were not looking. The OAD's findings and the RTI, when enacted, must give us a live broadcast on the Bolga-Bawku road, for starters; I have a list of others. What we should also be armed with is easy access to what is happening in real time in every MDA funded by the public purse. 

It is easy to walk every weekend - although based on the published pictures no evidence of weight loss has at yet been sighted -, and dare we break our long vacation from the truth?

The hustle is on

There are 15 constituencies in the Upper West Region. In 2016, Mr Mahama won 59.22 per cent  of the overall votes and his party romped home with 12 seats in the House. While this is impressive, there was no change in his party's MP numbers from 2012 and the presidential vote stalled and dipped from 66.4 per cent. In 2016, President Nana Akufo-Addo won 34.17, up from 29.3 per cent in the previous election and his party brought home three seats. Skip the Progressive People’s Party (PPP). The hustle is on, with easy access to headlines.