Only ‘Occupy Jubilee House’ can halt the rot
Once again, an Auditor General Report is out. Revelations galore! The 119 page COVID-19 audit report confirms one fact about the inordinate greed that has gripped Ghana in the last decade or so.
For every multi-billion dollar project funded by government, someone in government or a cabal of untouchable civil servants who sign off on the expenditure, and politicians whose names never appear on invoices, receipts or vouchers - will build a private mansion that can never be traced to them.
In the name of “saving lives” during the dangerous days of the COVID-19 pandemic, while there were sounds of wailing in many homes as the lives of loved ones were lost, some Ghanaians in privileged positions (as accountants or faceless power-brokers) were living off our suffering.
According to the report, the Ministry of Health paid an amount of US$120,192,379.80 to United Nations Children’s Fund/African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (UNICEF/AVAT) for the supply of vaccines; however, “just 5,109,600 doses of vaccines valued at $38,322,000.00 were supplied to the National Cold Room."
Another; A total of US$607,419.02 out of US$4,049,460.12 was paid for the purchase of 26 ambulances that were never delivered.
As usual, as is our custom, Ghanaians are kicking up a storm. We are beating the air, swearing and gesticulating, beside themselves with rage. For how long and to what effect?
To all of the above and much more rot in the report, hear the nice words of assurance by the Finance Ministry: “Government will continue to apply its best efforts to enforce and enhance expenditure management and accountability to ensure proper utilisation of tax revenue to the full benefit of citizens, using established budgetary and accountability systems in government.”
To avoid hearing the laughter of intelligent thieves gloating over their loot, I have a suggestion to organised labour and civil society organisations. Left to governments, stolen state money will never be recovered: the thieves are always left to be dealt with by the next government formed by a different political party.
Organised labour and civil society groups can do it. I am calling on this class of people to be angry enough to mobilise in their masses and refuse to go to work until concrete action is taken by government to retrieve stolen monies belonging to the state.
For instance, workers should picket and continue to occupy Jubilee House until:
1. Chairman Wontumi is brought to trial
2. Ghana is told the details of the contract with the company that collected the COVID-19 money at the airport
3. The Airbus scandal is fully and thoroughly investigated and the culprits punished. How can we live in a country where one political party warns that reprisals will be visited against any judge who handles the airbus scandal?
Exposing corruption is all we have specialised in. It is not enough. People must, IN ADDITION TO going to jail, cough out the stolen money.
Going forward, we need a law that will ensure that officials pay back all ill-gotten monies – a law akin to the one on narcotic drugs, in which case the drug baron not only goes to jail but loses all his property to the state.
We all pray that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) money will come. When it does come, we will see many projects. But will infrastructure development solve our number one problem of greed and corruption?
The writer is Executive Director, Centre for Communication and Culture.