Nov
25

WATCH OUT! DRUG-TRAFFICKING CAN DESTROY THE DIGNITY OF ALL BLACK TRAVELLERS!

WATCH OUT! DRUG-TRAFFICKING CAN DESTROY THE DIGNITY OF EVERYONE OF US!

By CAMERON DUODU

The arrest in London of a woman called Ruby Adu Gyamfi, also known as Nayele Ametefeh, has undoubtedly put the Ghana Government into a flap.

That is understandable, because for about ten years, the Ghana Government has deliberately compromised the sovereignty of Ghana by allowing British anti-narcotics personnel to operate from Kotoka International Airport to try and stop drug-smuggling at source.

If one reads the secret cables sent by the US Embassy in Accra to Washington and leaked by www.wikileaks.org , one can see that the Ghana Government has come under great pressure from both the US and UK Governments, to try and prevent Ghana from becoming a transit point for narcotic drugs destined for Europe and America and smuggled into Ghana from Latin America and the Caribbean.

(It is a moot point whether, if Ghana was as concerned about say, the smuggling of wigs or skin-bleaching creams into Ghana from the US and the UK, after the importation of the two items had been made illegal by the Ghana Government, the Governments of the two countries would allow Ghanaian Customs operatives to be stationed at JFK airport and Heathrow, secretly to screen passengers flying to Ghana with those items!)

Yes, it is a moot point that needs no belabouring. What is undeniable, from a perusal of the Wikileaks cables, is that the Ghana Government has been co-operating in a most servile manner, with the two countries in trying to stop the export of drugs from Ghana into their territory.

Indeed, whist he was in office, the late President J A Mills went so far as to request the UK authorities to supply his Government with equipment that would enable members of his own entourage to be scrutinised before they boarded planes to fly with him abroad!

I am sure his then deputy, President John Mahama, was aware of the arrangement. Which puzzles me as to why he got himself involved in the Ruby arrest affair. Why did he defend the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) when it “invited” two top Ghanaian media practitioners to quiz them about reports they had published relating to Ruby’s arrest? Has President Mahama not got a Minister of the Interior (who should be in charge of the BNI and answer questions relating to its behaviour?)

Not that the President’s defence of the BNI had any logic to it. In a liberal democracy like ours, when a media organisation publishes a false report – such as the presumably unfounded statement that Ruby was in possession of a Ghana diplomatic passport – what the Government ought to do is to issue a statement denying the report, and providing authentic information about the matter, if possible. The UK authorities would have been more than willing to furnish our Government with such information, for a Heathrow newspaper had published a report on the arrest, obviously on the basis of information provided by British Customs.

Neither of the media organisations concerned would dream of refusing to use an official statement issued by the Ghana Government. Therefore taking their personnel in can be seen as an act of deliberate intimidation, meant to discourage the two organisations from showing too much interest in the matter.

Which then begs the question, why would the Government of Ghana want to intimidate them into silence? And why would the Government of Ghana compound the initial mistake with a defence, by the President, no less – of the BNI’s authoritarian decision to take the journalists in?

But now look! – the matter has escalated to the point where the President has ordered the dissolution of the Governing Board of NACOB!

I ask you: does the Governing Board of NACOB involve itself in the day-to-day running of NACOB? That would be extremely strange, wouldn’t it? I mean, I happen to have served on the boards of directors of three public bodies in Ghana, and unless the governing board of NACOB is completely different from the norm, then I can state with all confidence that the board members would meet only when the Chief Executive, through the Secretary, summons them to a meeting.

We never, repeat never, dealt directly with the staff. If vacancies occurred that necessitated Board participation in the selection process, we set up an ad hoc committee to deal with that.

The Government therefore needs to explain this to us: were the Board of Governors expected to take part in the day-to-day operations of NACOB, to such an extent that if somebody slipped through the narcotics control net at Kotoka International Airport, the Board of Governors would, as a body, be collectively held responsible for the lapse? Does that amount to natural justice?

If not, then the Government’s dissolution of the Board can only be interpreted as a desperate diversionary tactic. But that act of distraction cannot succeed in covering up the Government’s embarrassment over the matter. It is a crack-pot idea, in fact.

Why? Because what a serious Government ought to have done already would be to set the Criminal Investigations Department(CID) on NACOB’s staff and task it to to unearth the truth about their possible involvement in Ruby’s activities.

First line of enquiry: Who were the NACOB staff on duty at both the VVIP lounge and the ordinary Departure Lounge of the Kotoka International Airport on the night of 9-10 November 2014, when Ruby embarked on her trip to London? What sort of activities did the staff engage in whilst on duty that night? Was any curious or unusual behaviour observed by any members of staff about their colleagues?

Second line of enquiry: what took place at NACOB headquarters itself on the night in question? Did some “big” men leave the office – unusually – to make themselves present at the airport? Were there any unusual telephone conversations, especially conversations that included the frequent use of the words, “Yes sir!”? In this connection, the total silence observed on this issue by Mr Akrasi Sarpong, the normally voluble Chief Executive of NACOB, should merit special attention.

I am sure that the CID has other methods of unearthing the truth about that night – if asked to do so. Its third line of enquiry could include, for instance, a probe into the financial affairs of any key suspects that the investigation unearths: had any unusual payments been made into their accounts? Had some of them made unusual purchases of late?

If the CID was given such a task, it would have to be authorised to publish its findings itself, so as to ensure that the Government does not try to doctor it. And it must be allowed to institute criminal actions against any of Ruby’s NACOB collaborators that it unmasks.

Such an investigation would be in all our interests, for West Africa has been designated as a drug-transit centre of great concern to the US and UK authorities, and unless we do our bit to remove ourselves from the list of suspect nations, many innocent people among us will suffer for nothing.

I know what I am talking about, for one day, I had arrived at Heathrow Airport and begun to tread my weary way towards Immigration when, all of a sudden, a huge Alsatian dog darted towards me! I hadn’t seen it coming and I was absolutely stricken with horror, as I didn’t know its purpose. The dog sniffed around me for only under 30 seconds, but the unexpected manner in which it had pounced on me completely shattered my nerves. Before I could absorb what had happened, it had gone back to its female Customs handler, and they had gone round a corner and vanished from sight. I was just left standing there, shaking like a leaf. And cursing a system that could allow that to happen to ANY FELLOW HUMAN BEING. Suppose I’d had a heart attack? Is my life less sacred than those potential users of drugs whom the system has been set up to protect?

What was I to do? Complain to the airport authorities? What for? The woman probably had full authority to do what she did. But even if she did not have the authority to abuse my right to be treated with respect and dignity, of what use would my complaint be? The incident had already occurred! The scars that the one minute of sheer horror had inflicted on my psyche have, of course, stayed with me and will ever remain.

Why had I been selected for the dog-sniffing? Were the dogs specially trained to pick out only Black people? (I had not seen anyone else being subjected to that treatment!)

I don’t know. But there is one thing I do know for certain: racial profiling of Blacks – now reinforced by the Ebola scare – is pretty common at foreign airports and we should leave no stone unturned to prevent ourselves from being trampled upon at foreign airports by individuals primed to regard every Black person as someone from whom normal decencies can be withdrawn.

And that means doing our best ourselves to root out the bad eggs in our midst. I mean, President Mahama was embarrassed by the mere mention of an alleged Ghana diplomatic passport in the affair. Heck — big deal! I, who have never even smoked cigarettes, was nearly snuffed out by an Alsatian dog which darted with brutal hostility towards me from nowhere — in pursuit of drug smugglers.

Nov
22

THE BNI MUST HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH JOURNALISTS, PERIOD!

The BNI MUST HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH JOURNALISTS, PERIOD! By CAMERON DUODU
The Daily Guide November 22 2014

It Is odd that President Mahama found it wise to defend the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) on the Bureau’s “invitation” to a couple of journalists over the reports that a woman had been arrested in London for taking some cocaine to the United Kingdom.

[Incidentally, why didn’t the Daily Graphic originally publish the fact that its Editor had been quizzed by the BNI over the issue but buried it in the report of the President’s comments on the matter? This sort of flagrant suppression of news, which the Ghana media is fond of carrying out, is extremely dangerous, for if the Editor himself can be quizzed without his own paper reporting it, then what if other, more junior members of staff, are picked up? Or ordinary members of the public? When news of such arrests (call them, if you like, “invitations by the Police”) is suppressed, the organs of the state that carry out such arrests can continue to carry them out with impunity. For they know that the cowardly Editors of the media (especially the state-owned newspapers) will not publish anything about the arrests, and when no-one knows about them, then, of course, no-one can protest, or bring the arresting authorities to book!)

To continue:it is not at all prudent for a President to get publicly involved in matters that concern security/intelligence agencies.

Their stock-in-trade includes deception, and so clever Governments keep them at an arm’s length, in case the agencies embark on an “exercise” whose results could redound with embarrassment on their Government.

That is why the more efficient security agencies always incorporate what is called
“plausible deniability” into the planning of their operations. Thereby, even if things go awry, their Governments can feign ignorance of the operation(s).

Now, Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations is associated, in many people’s minds, with the unenviable political history of this country.

All manner of tyrannical and corrupt politicians/military rulers used the BNI, in the past, to achieve their political objectives, without scrupling to tar the BNI with the brush of utter shame.

It used torture, intimidation and lies to destroy the lives of many people whose sole offence was that they did not agree with the policies of the rulers of the time.

So who did President Mahama think he was kidding when he told the conference to mark the 20th anniversary of Radio Eye, at the International Conference Centre (Daily Graphic 20 November 2014) that the BNI was right when it “asked (not ordered)” two journalists “to come to the BNI and assist with investigations”? The President claimed that “This isn’t our fathers’ BNI, your father’s BNI.
This is the BNI of today”!

I am sorry, Mr President, but reputations are earned, not bestowed by presidential
fiat.

If people associate the BNI with heavy-handedness, it is because of its own ham-fisted actions. Remember the Legon road-blocking incident, huh?

The way to deal with false reports in the media, Mr President, is not to set the BNI on the purveyors of those reports. Kindly ask your Press Officers – who should be on such good terms with media practitioners that the latter would feel gratified to receive calls from the presidency – to tell whoever had carried the false report why it was not accurate. The Press Officers should then provide an accurate account for publication and correction.

I ask though: Would your Press Officers be given the true facts regarding a case like this cocaine matter? Stories were being spun all over the place by interested parties. They would lie to even their own President, in order to cover their backsides.

What has emerged as undeniable is that (1) the woman did manage to leave the Kotoka International Airport with the drugs and (2) that she had more than one passport.

NACOB apparently suggested that it knew about the shipment beforehand and had facilitated its interception in London by the British customs authorities.

This was a blatant lie and it stung the normally taciturn British High Commission in Accra to issue
an official statement, pointing out that the “UK authorities had no prior knowledge of the intentions of [the smuggler] Nayele Ametefeh,” before she flew from Accra to London on 9/10 November.”

The High Commission further clarified that although the UK had been collaborating with Ghana’s NACOB since 2006, the nature of the partnership required that potential drug traffickers were prevented
from boarding flights to the UK in order to traffic drugs. “[The] UK authorities work closely with NACOB to ensure that, wherever possible, any potential drug trafficker to the UK from Ghana is arrested here in Ghana and not permitted to board a flight in order to traffic drugs”, the British statement added.

Now, is that not extremely embarrassing to the Ghana Government, whose agency NACOB is? Will the President punish NACOB for acting in such a way that it forced the hand of the British High Commission in Accra to issue a statement contradicting what a Ghana Government agency had said on such a sensitive issue as drug trafficking? What does that say about how our Government and its agencies operate?

Now, do you realise, Mr President, that the British High Commission in Accra might not have commented on the issue at all, had the BNI “invitation” to the two journalists not turned the matter from a routine criminal investigation into one that potentially touched on the freedom of the Press, and which therefore obliged the British to clarify the facts as they knew them?

Indeed, the presidential pronouncements on the matter will ensure that the story will run and run. “Plausible deniability” has been lost, as regards this story. For if one lie has been told by an agency of the Ghana Government, why can’t other lies be told? Especially, by the BNI, which few people trust anyway?

The BNI is like the proverbial Kwaku Ananse, of whom it is said that “If he says look up and you don’t look downwards, you are already dead!” So if it says that it has “invited” a citizen to come to it to “voluntarily” answer questions, what it is not saying is that if the citizen refuses, the BNI, as a fully-fledged investigative arm of the Government, is empowered to use armed force
(probably through the ordinary police) to ensure that the invitation is accepted by force! It may in fact deprive a citizen of his/her liberty for up to 24 hours, following which it can ask a court for a period of further detention.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not defending sloppy newsmen – and alas, we do have some! – against the BNI. I am an advocate of the careful, accurate and responsible use of Press Freedom. I urge my fellow journalists to work so assiduously that their reports will, as far as possible, always be accurate and fair.

But that does not mean that if they occasionally fail – and failure is always around the corner, in the sensitive job of news-gathering – the BNI should descend on them with a ton of bricks.

Especially when everyone knows that the BNI’s only real beef is that the media have dared to expose matters that should make the BNI’s political masters hang their heads in shame. The foreign embassies on our soil can easily see through that, as can members of the public.

Nov
19

AN EVENING AT BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD, WITH LORD BOATENG “OF AKYEM AND WEMBLEY”

The Ghanaian Times 18.11.2014

AN EVENING AT BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD, WITH LORD BOATENG OF “AKYEM AND WEMBLEY”
By CAMERON DUODU

I had my first taste of the engaging wit of Lord [Paul] Boateng of “Akyem and Wembley” in a manner that made it look as if a very bomb had been lobbed at me!

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, candidate of the NPP for the 2012 election, had just given a very illuminating address at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, on the “Arab Spring”. As a former Foreign Minister of Ghana, his talk contained loads of insight, and the audience loved it.

The free-flowing discussion that followed it was stimulating and I was stirred enough to get up and say: “ Perhaps it is the fault of members of my profession (we Journalists like to use too much ‘short-hand’) but hasn’t too much been made of the “Arab Spring” and its possible effect on Africa? As if it was something unique that will be coming to Black Africa too, for the first time. Yet, if you look at some of the events that have occurred there – the struggle against General Sani Abacha in Nigeria, for instance; or the way in which the people of the Ivory Coast took to the streets and threw out General Robert Guei when he tried to steal the election there in 2001; how General Mobutu Seseseko was eventually given short shrift in the Congo; and – how the organisation in which your good self played a leading role, the Movement for Peace and Justice in Ghana, fearlessly thwarted General Kutu Acheampong’s ambition to continue to rule Ghana through his “Union Government” of soldiers and civilians – I mean, it does look as if the Black African Resistance preceded, and could, in fact, be considered as the “Mother” of the “Arab Spring?”

Nana Akufo Addo conceded the point with the utmost grace. “ I don’t think I should answer that!” he said simply.

It was an extremely impressive display of sang-froid by a politician, for I know that few of them have enough self-confidence to allow, with such insouciance, the notion that there might be an alternative point of view to their own!

I was still reflecting on Nana Addo’s urbane performance as we rose to leave the IISS hall when I was hailed by a loud voice aimed unceremoniously in my direction: “That was put on behalf of Black Africa in a most masterly manner” the voice said. I would have blushed — if I could!

I recognised the owner of the voice. It was Lord Boateng “of Akyem and Wembley,” formerly known as Paul Boateng – the first black man to sit in the Cabinet as a Minister in the United Kingdom. (He achieved that “first” when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2002. He held the post till 2005. )

Subsequently, Mr Boateng was appointed to one of the jewels in the crown of British diplomatic postings – High Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Government to South Africa (2005-2009). First elected to Parliament in 1987, Paul Boateng had also served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury (2001-2002) and before that, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of the Department for Education and Employment). His career in the House of Commons had followed a glittering performance in local government.

A lawyer by profession (Bristol University was his alma mater) he was often derided, during his tenure in local government,y by the right-wing media, which regarded him as a member of the hated “loony left”. They tried to destroy his career with relentless lampooning, but his Akyem roots had ensured that he was made of sterner stuff and he survived all their strictures to get elected as Labour Member of Parliament for Brent South.

The constituency is a working class and ethnic minority stronghold and on the night of his election in 1987 (that is, seven years before Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa) Paul Boateng voiced the aspirations of most of his constituents when he predicted – with a total disregard for what might have seemed to some to be an irrelevance – “Today, Brent; tomorrow, South Africa!”

Sometimes, history does reward the brave, doesn’t it? For exactly 18 years later, there was Paul Boateng, sitting in the first class cabin of British Airways, on his way to Pretoria to serve as Her Britannic Majesty’s High Commissioner in the land once poisoned by one of the most filthy political systems the world has ever seen – apartheid. On his return from South Africa in 2009, Paul Boateng was created a Life Peer. And guess what name he chose for himself as he commenced his sojourn in one of the most time-honoured legislative bodies in the world: “Lord Boateng of Akyem and Wembley.”

The “Akyem” in the title was a tribute to his late father, the Honourable Kwaku Boateng, MP, who served as Minister of the Interior as well as of Higher Education, in the Government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Mr Kwaku Boateng hailed from Akyem Abuakwa and his son, who was brought up in Ghana (his secondary school was Accra Academy) did not forget his ancestry in his hour of glory. It was an extremely courageous thing for Mr Boateng to choose such a title, for the British find it difficult to pronounce even “Boateng” (which some still mispronounce as “boating”, despite his having been in politics there for so long!) Adding Akyem (which they would no doubt pronounce as Ah-kyerm!) could have seemed a foolhardy thing to do: a double mispronunciation of the name of a single individual? But Paul Yaw Boateng is not the sort of man to be deterred by trifles like mispronunciations. He nonchalantly took that “cumbersome” nomenclature to the ”House of Ermine” and Lord Boateng of Akyem and Wembley he became. The title, of course, evokes a particular resonance in the bosoms of all Akyemkwaas – like yours truly!

In London these days, Lord Boateng has discarded the chauffeur-driven mode of transport to which he became accustomed as he went about his business in South Africa in, one imagines, a Rolls Royce or Bentley. He often uses public transport. Thus it was that as I was waiting for a bus one day at Trafalgar Square in London, I spotted him waiting for a bus. I went over to greet him, and as is usual in London, I was about to leave him to mind my own business when, quick as a flash, he said: “Are you going to be around in November? I am giving the Thomas Hodgkin Lecture at Balliol, College, Oxford, this year and it would be nice if you could come.”

Now, Balliol College, Oxford, is of great repute as as the progenitor of brilliant minds – even amongst such prestigious Colleges as those at Oxford. I accepted at once.

So, on Monday, 10th November 2014, I found myself at Lecture Room 23 of Balliol College. I was greeted by two gentlemen whose countries of origin bear eloquent testimony to the cosmopolitan nature of Oxford University: Prof Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Lecturer in Comparative Politics (African Politics) at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford and Professor Abdul Raufu Mustapha , Associate Professor of African Politics and Kirk-Greene Fellow in African Studies, who teaches Development Studies at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford. Prof Soares is from Portugal, while Prof Mustapha is from Nigeria.

Prof Mustapha introduced Lord Boateng to the audience of about 30 persons and Lord Boateng began to speak about the late Thomas Hodgkin, first Director of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana and a great son of Balliol College. (You can read more about Thomas Hodgkin here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Lionel_Hodgkin

Lord Boateng emphasised that Thomas Hodgkin was, throughout his life, driven to learn about life – in all sorts of places – and impart his first-hand knowledge to others. He was extremely sympathetic towards colonised peoples, and resigned his position as an official in Palestine when he realised that the British Government was about to sell the Palestinian people down the river. He was a member of the advisory council that made recommendations to the British colonial government for the establishment of the University of Ghana. It was through his instrumentality that the Workers Educational Association of the UK helped the University of Ghana to establish the Department of Extra-Mural Studies (under David Kimble) as a full-fledged Department of the University.

Lord Boateng read from the diaries of Hodgkin and some of his books to illustrate how pain-staking Hodgkin was in carrying out original research on the relationship between North Africa and Africa South of the Sahara. Hodgkin was a socialist to his very bone marrow: he travelled everywhere by the cheapest means available: on camel-back, and on trotro lorries, because by that means, he could talk to the ordinary people. In every African country he visited, he made sure that he exchanged ideas with the people who were doers – politicians, trade unionists, market women.

Lord Boateng read a quote from Hodgkin’s writings in which Hodgkin emphasised that the great Islamic scholar and west African politician, Othman Dan Fodio, enjoined rulers and potentates to ensure that they educated their wives and daughters – something that goes contrary to what some the modern Islamic zealots, such as Boko Haram, preach and practise.

I too paid tribute to the significance of the work of Thomas Hodgkin. I told the gathering that it was through the People’s Educational Association (PEA) Ghana’s version of the Workers Educational Association, that the Extra-Mural Studies Department sent me and my fellow teachers at Asiakwa a box of books every month and that I developed my reading habit from that. Classes organised by the PEA, conducted by University graduates the Extra-Mural Studies had identified from the nearby Abuakwa State College, transformed me into someone acutely interested pursuing higher learning. “I am the recipient of the benefits of adult education, as brought to Ghana by Thomas Hodgkin and others!” I declared, to enthusiastic applause.

I also told a funny story about the Hodgkins. Thomas’s wife, Dorothy, was in Ghana in 1964 when it was announced that she had won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. I quickly secured an interview with Mrs Hodgkin for the magazine I was then editing, Drum. The interview was conducted by my wife-to-be, Beryl Karikari, (the paper’s Women’s Editor) and after touching briefly on crystallography – which had won Dorothy the Nobel Prize – gave details of how one of the brainiest women in the world also tried to be a good wife and devoted mother.

“It was the first time photographs of a Nobel Prize winner had appeared alongside the normal fare of a ”girlie” magazine like Drum!” I intoned with ironic hauteur. That was greeted with laughter by those who knew what Drum.

But Lord Boateng quick wit gave him the last word: “Except for Nelson Mandela!” he pointed out. He was absolutely right. Nelson Mandela had often appeared in the South African edition of Drum – as a would-be boxer, a lawyer defending partheid’s victims, or facing charges himself as an accused person facing a possible death sentence for treason. Obviously, Lord Boateng hadn’t spent his time in South Africa masticating – boerewors or biltung! (South African delicacies) but in burying himself in the country’s history and sociology.

ENDPIECE: There was only one other Ghanaian at Lord Boateng’s Thomas Hodgkin lecture.

It was a post-graduate student in architecture, who was following her studies at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Technology with a stint at Oxford. Her name is Kuukuwa Manful, and on talking to her, I realised that she was interested in subjects other than architecture. So I asked her to send me a short report on the talk, to balance my own. She agreed to do it, but I thought she would use the heavy work schedule at Oxford to welsh on the assignment. Happily, I was wrong! Here is what she wrote:
“Listening to the lecture by Baron Boateng of Akyem and Wembley about the life and work of Thomas Hodgkin, and afterwards hearing comments by Phyllis Ferguson, an Africanist whose work has been valuable to me in my academic path, as well as the esteemed Ghanaian journalist Cameron Duodu, reinforced my feelings of gratitude to Thomas Hodgkin and other historians like him. Some of the few remaining records of architectural and social history that remain available in Ghana to a young architect, such as myself, owe their continued existence to Thomas Hodgkin and the people that he inspired and worked with.

Phyllis Ferguson recounted the story of how Thomas managed to convince IBM to donate a mainframe to the University of Ghana for the storage of rare African historical texts. This collection, which is of immeasurable value, still exists today and affords young Ghanaian historians a vivid glimpse into the past, as they struggle to define their identities and place in the continent.

Hearing how Cameron Duodu benefited from Thomas’ adult education initiative was a powerful example of how people like Thomas managed to help in reversing social inequalities and exposing important, albeit hidden talents, to the world. As the first Director of the Institute of African Studies, Legon, he was responsible for the training of an entire generation of Africanists in the continent, and more than 50 years later, Ms Akosua Adomako Ampofo, who runs the Institute, is an inspiration to me.

If I have access to histories and texts about the early lives and architecture of the people that lived in Ghana before me, it is because of the Thomas Hodgkins of this world, who did not come to Africa to loot and destroy, but to record and salvage – where possible – thus making great chunks of knowledge available to the world.”

Thanks very much, Kuukuwa. I hope your stay at Oxford enables you to be inspired enough to absorb the work ethic of – especially – Dorothy Hodgkin! The future is open to you, to crown with intellectual achievement, just as she did. Good luck to you!

Sep
30

DOES THE IMF OWE THE PEOPLE OF MALI AN APOLOGY?

DOES THE IMF OWE THE PEOPLE OF MALI AN APOLOGY?
By CAMERON DUODU

AN IMF press release reports that a mission from the Fund visited Bamako, Mali, from September 11 to 25, for discussions in preparation for a review of the Mali government’s economic programme supported under the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility, approved in December 2013.
The Mission also found that inflation remains low, and that for 2015, the projections are for “real growth to continue at 5.5 percent and inflation to remain [at] well below the central bank’s 3 percent target”.
The IMF press release then reported that “a resolution was found for the issues raised by the extra-budgetary spending—on a presidential plane and a military contract—which delayed the first review, originally scheduled for June 2014. It includes: publishing the two independent audit reports on these transactions; reporting on the sanctions process; redressing the over-billing in the military contracts; subjecting future military procurement to stringent controls; incorporating all extra-budgetary spending in the budget, and stopping such practices in the future.
The muted reference made by the press release to the resolution of the problem created by “extra-budgetary spending on a presidential plane and a military contract” will infuriate not just Malian citizens, but IMF watchers everywhere, who had hoped that the Fund was turning over a new leaf and would henceforth show ruthless transparency when dealing with corrupt governments in the world. In Mali’s case, a major scandal had arisen over the purchase, by President I B Keita, a few weeks after he had taken office, of a Boeing 737 presidential jet, costing $40m.
Many Malians regarded the purchase of the jet as insensitive, to say the least, in that it demonstrated that the new President was more interested in his own personal creature comforts than in trying to resettle the millions of Malians from the north of the country, who had had to flee to the south to escape murder and torture at the hands of Islamic extremists, who had seized parts of the north.
The Malian army was also finding it difficult to obtain adequate arms and equipment to drive out the extremists. France and other Western governments were in fact putting in their oar, at a cost of valuable lives, to help Mali out of its trouble. Yet all its President could think about was luxurious transportation! How he took money from the coffers of the country to make the purchase was itself a mystery to many Malians — including some of his own Ministers.
In addition, the President had spent $200 million on military procurements without using the laid-down procurement procedures. Most people in Mali suspected that he and his cronies had benefited from the purchases, and they were pleased when the IMF decided earlier this year to suspend its agreement with Mali. But now, all is smooth again – without the Fund specifying exactly what the President had done to change the Fund’s mind and whether there would be any punishment of those guilty of abusing the process of government procurement rules.
For us in Ghana, the IMF’s position in Mali only goes to show that if we expect international organisations to support our demand for transparency from our Governments, we shall be deceiving ourselves. Surely, the IMF office in Accra must have furnished the Fund with information regarding the one billion or so Cedis said to have been pumped into GYEEDA? What has that funding managed to produce? What about the money to SADA? And the judgement debts, many of which are coming into the public domain for the first time ever? And what about the other payments for services not performed? Did all those corrupt items of expenditure not contribute to the enormous deficits which have been sinking the Cedi once again?
Yet, as the negotiations between Ghana and the IMF commence, all we can assume will be taking place will be discussions on how to cut down the country’s huge public sector wage bill to size; how to eliminate the alleged subsidies paid to make the public utilities affordable; and how to end the under-collection of taxes.
We shall not hear much about seizing the properties of GYEEDA and SADA top guns and selling the properties to retrieve money back into the public chest. Nor shall we hear about cutting down the size of the Government itself, or reducing the burden placed on the economy by servicing Government leaders at the public expense.
Now, hovering over Ghana’s team to meet the IMF is the new Senchi Consensus” leader, Dr Kwesi Botchway, a man who has spent more years dealing with Ghana’s finances than any other individual. He will be able to talk to the IMF all right – after all, it was he who took Ghana to the IMF when the Cedi was worth 2.75 to the US dollar, and ended up reducing it to such a low rate of exchange — with so many noughts at the end — that a successor government had to artificially drop many of the noughts to make the currency less unwieldy!
One question Kwesi Botchway should answer is this: “Ei, so Kwesi, the people currently in government have so much regard for you, do they? Kwesi, they must respect you a lot — for reasons best known to themselves. Now, tell us, Kwesi –if they have such a high regard for you, why did you not warn them to stop incurring GYEEDA-type wasteful expenditure, as it would reverse any gains you made in the earlier years of co-operation with the IMF, as well as those subsequently made by successor governments? Did you advise them to cut down on the size of the government administrative setup? Did you not tell them that the deliberate and careless depreciation of one’s currency leaves a bad taste in the mouth that lasts for years and years and years? Huh, Kwesi?”-
www.cameronduodu.com
By Cameron Duodu

Sep
13

THE TELEPHONE RANG AAAAAAAAA, BUT THERE WAS NO ANSWER!

The Telephone Rang Aaaaaaaaaaaa! But There Was No Answer!

By CAMERON DUODU

September 13, 2014
Cameron Doudu

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

bank.

– 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!

• (LAUGHTER)

• 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!

• (LAUGHTER)

• 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)

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