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Ghana’s fiendish equation that does not add up

By Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
Posted on Tuesday, 23 February 2016 16:40

The Government of Ghana (GoG) is in a place where even BODMAS cannot help. Ghanaians woke up to read, through the haze of the seasonal Harmattan, that the GoG has extended our famous ‘akwaaba’ hospitality into new and uncharted waters. Two former detainees of Guantanamo Bay have been transferred to Ghana. Not even their country of origin, Yemen, will have them back.

President Mahama has asked citizens – including the Christian Council who have publicly expressed their outrage – to be charitable and, frankly, Christian. The Gitmo 2 will be in residence for two years, after which they ‘may’ choose to stay longer. To survive here, they will need another short code – Well Dodge.

B is for Bracket. In December 2015 it also stood for Branding Buses. The minister of transport, Dzifa Attivor, approved a contract to brand pub- lic buses with black-and-white pictures of former presidents. In a master stroke of marketing genius by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), only President Mahama’s picture was provided in living Technicolor. It is an election year in a country flat broke and at least twice a month we are witnessing the extravagant abuse of incumbency.

The contract to brand the buses may have been improperly awarded to a friend of President Mahama’s whose husband is a member of the ruling NDC. The cost of the bus poster campaign was inflated. The minister broke cover to resign just hours before the findings of a hastily ordered investigation were delivered.

The report ensures a classic triple-sided Well Dodge. The ex-minister faces no disciplinary action for signing off on the Well Dodge, and neither does the company that perpetuated the Well Dodge – however, by asking the company to return the extra funds to national coffers with no time frame or punitive interests imposed, the presidency can say it took action against corruption. The news about the buses was broken in December by a pointed shot delivered after the very expensive fact, by the minority leadership in parliament.

O stands for Orders and Powers. This covers work-shy types bunking off work in parliament. Although the 275-member legislature is empowered with a range of standing orders to keep the executive in check, it is genetically wired by both the 1992 constitution and our political culture to serve the whims of the imperial executive – the majority of whose ministers must be chosen from parliament.

Cue in the slavish toeing of a shifting line by members eager for a second job. Voting in the House is usually and deliberately by voice, effectively preventing a track and trace of which MP voted for what. Now that it is out of office, the minority complains loudly that the dice in parliament are loaded against them. It is to the rapidly diminishing credit of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) that during the eight years they were in office precious little was done to rebalance parliament’s subjugation to the executive. In the Fourth Republic, both political parties score high on Well Dodge.

D is for Division. Can also be applied to Distraction. Fresh from the branding scandal and the signing of the controversial AMERI deal (see A is for Addition), in the wee hours before parliament retired for Christmas members approved another increase in fuel prices. As global prices hit an all-time low, oil-producing Ghana announced fuel price increases above 20%. The minority belatedly says that it only approved a 5% increase and the addition of a bewildering layer of taxes after the fact is obviously a GoG Well Dodge.

M is for Multiplication. When the Electoral Commission are counting, Ghana has a population of 25 million. Fewer than a fifth pay direct taxes. In the new year, applying the D for Distraction, the ministry of finance announced a raft of new measures designed to deepen the woes of the hapless fifth. Within the dizzying spell of a week, some of the new taxes were withdrawn, leaving Ghanaians confused. With inflation and depreciation of the cedi, only those who took and passed the Common Entrance and maths ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels using BODMAS have been left with a clue.

A is for Addition. Or AMERI. Ghanaians signed off the year with Have AMERI Christmas. The GoG signed a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement for a number of turbines that AMERI (Africa Middle East Resources Investment) would operate, to generate 250MW of electricity using fuel purchased at full commercial cost to be borne by the state-owned Volta River Authority (VRA).

Parliament, on the advice of the 17-member sub-committee, met a record-breaking three times for a cumulative less than six hours, during which they agreed to waive any form of debate in the House and proceed to a motion to adopt the contract agreement. It took 10 months for the turbines that could have been purchased and delivered directly from GE to arrive in Ghana. A Norwegian newspaper has revealed that the AMERI contract was witnessed by a Pakistani-born gentleman who wields a Norwegian passport and is currently being hunted by Interpol for fraud.

Both the short-sighted committee and the blinkered full House failed to apply BODMAS. The AMERI deal will actually cost Ghana some $200m more in hidden costs than parliament approved. Fortunately, the president’s brother, awarded a contract by VRA to provide engineering services for the AMERI turbines, will make, at his estimation, only a mere $5 million from this transaction. In keeping with their after-the-fact default position, the minority has now called the AMERI transaction a Well Dodge.

S stands for Serwaa, the middle name of Hanna Tetteh, Ghana’s foreign minister and MP for Awutu Senya West. Buried deep in the releases surround- ing the importation of the Gitmo 2 to Ghana is the quiet assurance from Ms Tetteh that Syrian refugees with family links to the country will also soon arrive. S also stands for suits – law suits that is. In pursuit of an interpretation of Article 99 of the Constitution, Lolan Sagoe-Moses intends to proceed to court to force the speaker to declare 125 seats vacant. MPs who absent themselves for a minimum of 15 sittings without prior written permission should have been automatically dethroned from their perch.

Analytical evidence provides that the sixth parliament of Ghana’s Fourth Republic has seen absentee rates increase by 58%. With a 69.57% absent-without-permission rate, Foreign Minister Tetteh is one of the top five offenders. BODMAS. It is all adding up nicely in Ghana. ●

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