21October2014

Articles

That Is The Way To Go, Mr President

The decision by government to abrogate all existing contracts with some service providers under the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) is in the right direction, except to say that it has come rather late.

The expectation of all is that this is only the first step. The second step should be the prosecution of all who would be found to have shortchanged the people and the government of this country.

It should not be taken lightly when gauged against facts from the GYEEDA report that suggested questionable partnerships between GYEEDA and some service providers.

The President has said that the fight against corruption is at the top of his priority list and by this move, he is backing his words with action.

It is not only good for the image of the President who has been criticised for not being committed to fighting corruption, but for the country at large as an end is brought to a disastrous and embarrassing failure.

For so long, this country has continued to lose so much money through dubious transactions sometimes involving the very people who have been put in charge of the nation’s purse.

We have in place now the anti-corruption legislation, including the Whistle Blowers Act, the Public Procurement Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, while the Code of Conduct for Public Office holders was also approved by the Cabinet not long ago.

We must take advantage of these legal passages to ensure that the country is not deprived of its scarce resources.

As the fight against corruption is pushed up a higher gear, there is need also to quickly pass the Right to Information Bill that is before Parliament  and expect that the Witness Protection Bill that is also being worked on by the Attorney General's Office will receive due attention.

The penchant for people to use their positions of trust for dishonest gains must be fought on several fronts and seriously too, because it is a ‘Goliath’ that will not go down easily.

Besides GYEEDA, there are other equally disturbing dealings involving SADA, ISOFOTON and SUBAH / GRA and over a US$100 million oil revenue loss between 2011 and 2013 as reported by the Public Interest & Accountability Committee as well as doubtful judgement debt payments that must be looked into and resolved to put people’s minds at ease.

At no other time has corruption become so topical in Ghana than today. And that is because while the people cannot make ends meet, they see traits of extravagant spending.

Is it not a shame that at this point in time in the nation’s history when we have oil and also export other natural resources, have bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with countries in West Africa and elsewhere, 83 senior high schools in the North have remained closed due to lack of feeding grant?

The difficulty the economy faced last year was blamed on the Supreme Court case, one which I have persistently disagreed. This year, there is no such court case and so we hope to see the economy improve.

But it is not only corruption that pulls the country down. There are other less perceptible acts on the part of government officials in their dealings with foreign counterparts that also sets the country back financially by way of unskillful negotiations.

Take the three billion Chinese loan for example. Over the past three years since the government began sourcing for the loan only $600 million has been received by government and yet the country has over the period been paying commitment fee of about $30 million annually to the Chinese.

How could we not see through this and ensure that we were not hoodwinked at the end of the day? Could we not have included in the agreement a clause that said we could begin to pay commitment fee only when the full amount was delivered or  when more than three-quarters of the amount had been received?

As it is now, before the full amount is met, the Chinese would be laughing happily to the bank. It is no wonder that President Mahama is mounting pressure on the Chinese government to expedite the process for the release of the loan to support development projects in Ghana.

In fact, there is cause to worry because of a similar agreement that involved the STX Korean loan that failed.

But, it must be understood also that in diplomatic negotiations, completion dates are likely to be delayed because along the way, a government may fail to meet activating conditions, causing disbursement to temporarily cease.

Such challenges not only delay the early completion of projects, they also eventually end up increasing the cost of the projects either through inflation or surcharges.

This is an important issue that must be addressed by the government of Ghana. It must negotiate better terms for Ghana and meet agreed activating conditions to avoid disbursements being delayed or suspended or yet still cost the country a lot more in terms of commitment fees.

Source: Daily Graphic