The Telephone Rang Aaaaaaaaaaaa! But There Was No Answer!
By CAMERON DUODU
I have the greatest sympathy for the Sole Commissioner for Judgement Debts. at one of his sittings, he was informed that when his office tried to phone the Ministry of Finance to tell its officials that the Commissioner had directed that the Ministry should only send people to appear before the Commissioner who knew something about the transactions the Commissioner was currently investigating, “the phone rang and rang, but there was no answer!”
You see, in Ghana, some of the officials of Ministries and Departments do not believe that they were set up to provide services to tax-payers. Rather, they believe their institutions were set up to enable their officials to “bluff “and annoy tax-payers and show them where power lies!.
If a tax-payer approaches them, their mental attitude is this: “Who is this fool who has had the temerity to present to me, a problem he/she is facing, when I have so many serious problems of my own that I cannot cope with?”
You might have thought that in a Ministry or Department, such things can easily occur because the efficiency of the outfit is not quantifiable and cannot be monitored.
In other words, they are not accountable, except to the government.
Which means that if the government does not care about exacting accountability, then all is lost. Yes, unfortunately that is the truth.
But I am going to shock you by revealing that it happens also in the private sector!
What? Aren’t profits — or the lack of them — an unfailing indicator of the efficiency or otherwise of a private concern?
Well, that is theoretically correct. But culture is an assimilable commodity, and if the largest employer in the country, the government, does not exact accountability from its employees, the culture of impudence that it condones can infect every other enterprise in the country. So, the private sector can also be as insensitive to customers’ needs as the inefficient public institutions. Here is a situation I’d like you to look at: a public enquiry is being held and…..
(WITNESS Y IS CALLED AND SWORN)
COURT CLERK: Please tell the court what you know regarding a transaction you wanted to execute with a privately owned
– WITNESS: My Lord, I reside abroad. I was recently informed that a favourite uncle had passed away and that my family needed help with the funeral obsequies. Now, it happened that I had some Cedis in my account at a bank in Ghana and since Cedis have become so feather-weight in value that they seem to be flying towards the stratosphere……(LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT) WITNESS…. Well, I decided to utilize the ‘Internet Banking’ system that my bank says it has set up. But I found that whenever I clicked on ‘Log In’, I was taken to a page where a beautiful lady was inviting me to use the bank’s Internet Banking System! (LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT)
• WITNESS: After I had clicked and clicked in vain, I thought I would telephone the bank. So I rang the number I had for it. But the phone rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang aaaaaaaaaaaa, without a reply!
• I was using my land-line, and something asked me to try a mobile phone. And miraculously, I got through!
Someone answered but she kept saying “Hello! Hello!” When I too said “Hello, can you hear me?”, she didn’t seem to hear me! I wasn’t even sure I had got through to the bank, for shouldn’t a bank’s receptionist first of all identify the bank, instead of just saying “Hello”?
(LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT)
– WITNESS: After shouting myself hoarse, I was ready to give up. But the fact that I was going to pay for calls that had not produced any results for me was so repugnant that I decided to use a third telephone (another mobile) to try. But alas, the third phone, although equipped with a different SIM card, also produced a result similar to that of the land-line: it just rang and rang and rang……aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
• (LAUGHTER IN COURT)
• JUDGE: Three telephones to call one number, and none of them worked?
If the private sector is also not providing the services its customers need, then did we go or did we come? Thank you!
• But my Lord, I have not finished!
(LAUGHTER IN COURT)
• JUDGE: What more have you got to say?
• My Lord, I once visited home in 2013, and I discovered after a short stay that my laptop had crashed. People said it was DUMSƆ that had busted it. Well, I needed to find another laptop quickly and fortunately, I located a new one. So I took my debit card to a branch of the bank that had issued it. But after waiting a long time at a crowded foreign exchange counter, the cashier that I got to told me to go and use their ATM! Why?
Well, the ATM gave me less money than I had asked for! I was so stung that I made an angry call to my overseas bank only for it to confirm that I did have more than enough funds to cover the withdrawal. It was then that a senior chap at the bank pointed out to me that after the ATM had given me what it wanted to give to me, it had offered me the choice of making an ADDITIONAL withdrawal. So I used that to get the rest of the money I needed. But do you know something? On my return to my station, my bank statement showed that I had been charged for TWO SEPARATE ATM TRANSACTIONS, instead of one!
• JUDGE: So it’s not only the public sector that takes us for mugs in Ghana?
• WITNESS: The evidence is before your Lordship, Sir! On another occasion, Sir, a local bank with a very big overseas affiliate refused to change travellers’ cheques from the affiliate for me, on the grounds that the machine that could check the genuineness of the travellers’ cheques was “not working”! But the bank was lying! It didn’t want to do the transaction because it could not have charged for the travellers’ cheques, since they bore the bank’s own name and banks don’t normally charge for travellers’ cheques they have themselves issued. It’s something like someone being charged for using Cedis in Ghana!
(PROLONGED LAUGHTER) –
WITNESS: My Lord, if we have no regulators who are competent enough and willing to regulate businesses, then, private businesses – whether telephone companies or banks – will also take us for a ride.
- JUDGe: You are quite right. I shall include your observations in my report.
But, of course, it won’t be up to me to enforce them.
(A COLLECTIVE SIGH IS HEARD IN THE HALL)