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June 2009

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It so happens that I care deeply about people’s emotional well-being. I hate to see people suffer in relationships that are supposed to fill their hearts with joy. So I have been counseling a few of my friends who experience the occasional emotional roller-coaster. In preparation for this year’s ‘Joy Bridal Fair’ the organizers asked me to go public and advise a few people who have sent SOS messages to the station – seeking answers for their emotional problems. As usual, I obliged, dishing out soothing pieces of practical advice. That, apparently, makes me Ghana’s only ‘Agony Uncle’… another feather in my cap, I guess! The following is published in the 2009 ‘Joy Bridal Fair’ brochure. Enjoy…

GIRLFRIEND’S TEXT MESSAGES

Dear Ato Kwamena,
I have realized that my girlfriend has not been faithful to me. She receives love messages from four other different guys. I have confronted her several times but she always denies having any relationship with these men. I asked for a separation till further notice and she got annoyed. What should I do about her?
– Hunk of a man

Ato’s Advice
Please, you are jumping to silly, hasty conclusions. If your girlfriend is as beautiful as my wife, she’ll always be admired by men – and they will keep proposing love to her, sometimes with text messages. That’s the opportunity cost of being with a pretty chick. Live with it – and with her. It’s a competitive world, my friend, and so it’s up to you to make sure that you win the contest for this woman’s heart. The fact that she doesn’t want a separation is sufficient proof that you are miles ahead of your competitors. So cheer up and do your best to assure her that she’s better off placing her heart in your hands. A good starting point is for you to stop reading her text messages. That’s childish!

MY HUSBAND WANTS A DIVORCE

Dear Ato Kwamena,
My husband is always talking about divorce. It seems like he wants to divorce me but we have been married for only six months. I don’t want a divorce. What should I do?
– Ewura Efua, East Legon

Ato’s Advice
Please, give him what he wants. Otherwise, the story of your marriage will not end in “happy ever after”. Obviously, he’s not the guy for you and having been married for just six months, starting over with someone else might not be so difficult. Just kick him out, tell him to get a life and move on with yours.

VISITOR FROM THE PAST

Ato,
My husband and I have been happily married for ten years. Recently he received a call from a former girlfriend and he has called her back on two different occasions. I am not comfortable with this. Please help me take a decision
– Afriyie.

Ato’s Advice
You are over-reacting. After all, he’s called back just two times. All my exes (there are just about five of them) are still my friends. I call them every once in a while to find out how they are doing and we meet occasionally for a drink or two. Your husband’s ex is not his enemy and I will advise that you try to make her your friend as well. She can give you some great tips to improve your relationship with this guy. To start off, ask your husband to bring her home for dinner.

SHE’S ALL OVER THE PLACE

My fiancée is always going out with other men. If I don’t call her, she won’t call me. Even last night she lied to me that she was attending an all night. I love her very much and want to marry her. What should I do?
– Desperate Fiancé, Accra

Ato’s Advice
How do you know she lied? She did go for an all-night! Your problem is that you don’t know where. The fact that she fails to call doesn’t mean she is not in love. Maybe, she doesn’t even have “flashing units”. Get her some credit and see if she’d call you. My gut feeling is that you love her but you don’t trust her. That means you can’t marry her. It’s that simple. If this is the woman you really want to marry, you must start trusting her – even if you don’t know where she attends all-night.

STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY

We are in deep financial crisis but when I try to discuss it with him he says it will be okay. Meanwhile our kids are out of school, our electricity supply has been cut and we are always hungry. What should I do?
– Hitched and Broke

Ato’s Advice
I wish I knew how you got into this crisis. Life is tough, my friend. The economy is in such bad shape that it’s now called “ecomini”. But it shouldn’t be this bad if either of you is employed. Much as I admire your guy’s optimism that the crisis will end, I think you should find a way get him to spell out how things are going to get okay. He just can’t wish your situation into “okayhood”. The first thing to do is to get some food to eat. You can’t think on an empty stomach, you know. Get a trusted friend to help you out with a few cups of rice and other ingredients.

MADLY IN LOVE

I started dating my wife when we were in Senior High School. I married her because she got pregnant by another man and I didn’t want her disgraced. Now she is pregnant again! By that same man! I love my wife but her unending affair with this man is beginning to bother me.
– Troubled Husband

Ato’s Advice
Her affair is now “beginning” to bother you? That means you are not bothered yet? Geez! I can see you love your wife more than Joseph loved Mary. Even Joseph was bothered – and angry – when his wife-to-be was impregnated by another Man. Keep on with this girl if you think she’s going to give birth to the next messiah!

SHE’S OUT OF SHAPE

When I married my wife she was very slim and cute. You know what I mean? I know I have a bit of a pot-belly now but now after only two children she has no waist at all. For better for worse, for slimmer, for fatter and all that but I want to divorce her and marry a younger and slimmer woman.

Ato’s Advice
And you think the “younger and slimmer” woman will be happy with your pot-belly? I am thinking it’s your pot-belly that chased your wife’s waist away. And don’t tell me you don’t know how? I will suggest that the two of you sign up with a gym and make time to work out together. Trust me, sweating together is so romantic – not just in the bedroom. So work out as a couple, get a six-pack and your wife’s waist will return. She will get “slim and cute” again and the two of you will live happily ever after – in shape, of course!

HE WANTS NO BABY

We have been married for three years and I recently found out that I was pregnant. My husband is not happy about the pregnancy because he said I was the one who wanted to get pregnant. He has stopped caring for me. What do I do?
– Pregnant, Deserted and Frustrated

Ato’s advice
You married a jerk! But then, I guess you know that already. Do what my mum did and dig deep into your heart. You will find the strength to start taking care of yourself and the sweet angel you are about to bring into the world. You will put this idiot to shame – like most abandoned, rejected women do. I’d say a prayer for you.

 

I thought initially that this document had been widely publicised on the web. That’s why I didn’t put it out earlier. But it seems many visitors to this site have not seen or read it. So here is it in full. After reading help clear the "cobwebs" (ahem!) in my head by answering this question: how does this report exonerate Muntaka Mubarak Mohammed? >>>

Investigations by National Security into the allegations against Hon. Muntaka Mubarak, Minister of Youth and Sports, have been completed and a report submitted to the President.

The following could not be established:

  • The Minister collected US$2,000.00 imprest for the finals of the 1st CHAN tournament in Abidjan.
  • The Minister collected US$10,000.00 for landing rights for the aircraft which took the government delegation to the CHAN finals in Abidjan.
  • The Minister personally arranged for accommodation and feeding of the Black Star players in Kenya and Sudan.
  • The Minister was paid GHC15,200.00 as refund for meat and food items
  • The Minister’s wife was allocated VW Passat No. GT 1351 Z.
  • The Minister demanded immediate payment of or was paid GHC1,000. per match for the services of a Mallam.
  • The Minister requested or collected GHC12,000 for gifts for the Minister’s constituency on his last trip to Kumasi.
  • The Minister allocated to himself or was allocated five (5) official vehicles.

The following were established:

  • The Minister collected a per diem allowance of GHC2,000 for the Ghana-Benin match. This amount was authorized by the Chief Director, Mr. Albert Anthony Ampong, but the Minister had no knowledge of what his per diem for the travel was supposed to be. 
  • Ms. Edith Zinayela (Secretary to the Majority Leader in Parliament) was part of the Minister’s entourage to the finals of CHAN tournament in Abidjan at the expense of the Government. After the delegation returned from Abidjan, the Minister sought the advice of the Chief Director of the Ministry who instructed the Principal Accountant to purchase the ticket for Ms. Zinayela by raising a memo for the purpose.
  • The Minister received a letter from the National Sports Council requesting the release of GHC1,410,051.58. The Minister minuted the letter to his Chief Director for the necessary action. The Chief Director presented the Minister with a duly prepared letter for his signature which the Minister signed after being convinced that due diligence had been followed. This amount was not released by the Ministry of Finance to the National Sports Council.
  • The Minister requested that arrangement for accommodation and feeding of the Black Stars players in Kenya and Sudan should be done by Tour Operators to enable the Ministry make some savings. This did not go down well with the Ministry officials. The Principal Accountant, Mr. Adim Odoom, and an official of GFA had earlier visited Mali to make arrangements for the Black Stars without the knowledge of the Minister. They were about to do the same for Kenya and Sudan when the Minister found out and ordered them to stop.
  • The Minister requested for he and his family to travel to Kumasi by air. The Chief Director endorsed the request by the Minister. The request was backed with a memo. The Chief Director did not advise the Minister that his family was not entitled to these tickets.
  • The Ministry refunded to the Minister an amount of GHC674.02 for items the Minister was entitled to as protocol and entertainment. The Chief Director or the Principal Accountant should have vetted the receipt and exempted items which were not allowable. Items like baby oil, baby food and mouth wash should have been disallowed even though they formed a seemingly insignificant part of the bill.

The Minister on discovering that this amount had been refunded demanded to withdraw the receipt but the Principal Accountant Mr. Adim Odoom assured him that everything was in order and that he had paid the refund from the imprest which was normal.

  • The Minister’s driver presented for refund a receipt for the Minister’s household items totaling GHC1,520 and not GHC15,200 as alleged but this amount was never refunded.
  • Ms. Edith Zinayela was part of the Minister’s entourage to Germany on the invitation of Souito Sports Management Group. Her visa fee was paid by the Ministry.
  • Alhaji Abdulai Yakubu (Director of Finance and Administration at the Ministry) authorized a certain payment because the Chief Director was in Tamale and would be away for a week. The accountant objected to his authorization. The Minister directed that the documents be re-routed for the approval and authorization of the Chief Director.

The following were also established:

  • Under the close eye of the Minster, savings were made as a result of the payment of graduated bonuses as well as cuts in the payment of bonuses to officials. These monies were returned to government chest and the Chief of Staff was informed in writing.
  • The Chief Director, Mr. Albert Anthony Ampong, acknowledged that Mr. Ebenezer Lomotey, another Accountant at the Ministry, handed over US$10,000.00 to him (the Chief Director) to be given the Minister. The Chief Director could however not recollect exactly where he gave the money to the Minister neither could he show any documentary proof of having handed the money over to the Minister. The Minister denied having received any such money.
  • The Principal Accountant, Mr. Adim Odoom, indicated that he gave US$10,000.00 to the Chief Director for onward delivery to the Minister for payment of landing rights for the CHAN finals in Abidjan. There is no evidence that the Chief Director handed over this amount to the Minister. The Minister denied having received any such money.
  • The Vehicle VW Passat No GT 1351 Z was formerly used by Dr. Emmanuel Owusu Ansah, Director of Sports Development at the Ministry. The decision of the Minister to take that car did not go down well with Dr. Owusu Ansah to the extent that he decided to retire before his retirement date. This source of conflict between Dr. Owusu Ansah and the Minister apparently caused him to team up with others like the Principal Accountant Mr. Adim Odoom to create problems for the Minister. 
  • Mr. Adim Odoom typed his allegations on Dr. Owusu Ansah’s laptop in Dr. Owusu Ansah’s office. Dr. Owusu Ansah admitted that he took copies of the allegations to Mr. Kofi Adams for the attention of former President Rawlings. He also gave copies to other persons.

His Excellency the President has accepted the findings of the National Security and has decided as follows:

  • The Principal Accountant, Mr. Adim Odoom, indicated that he gave US$10,000.00 to the Chief Director, Mr. Albert Anthony Ampong, for onward delivery to the Minister. Mr. Ampong acknowledged receipt of this amount. However, there is no evidence that Mr. Ampong handed over the money to the Minister. Mr. Lomotey, another accountant at the Ministry, indicated that he gave the Chief Director US$10,000.00 for onward delivery to the Minister. Mr. Ampong acknowledged receipt of same. However, there is no evidence that Mr. Ampong handed over the money to the Minister. His Excellency the President has therefore directed that the Chief Director of the Ministry of Youth and Sports refund the amount of US$ 20,000.00 to Government coffers.
  • The Chief Director and the Principal Accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports failed to follow laid down administrative and financial regulations and procedures required of Civil Servants. The President finds it particularly outrageous that the Chief Director and the Principal Accountant, if they are to be believed, paid out sums of money as large as $10,000 on two separate occasions without any documentation and without any evidence whatsoever. On the other hand, if the moneys were not paid, then their allegation would amount to a fabrication against the Minister, an equally serious offence. On either score, the conduct of the two officials would be conduct unbecoming of the high positions they hold in the Civil Service. His Excellency the President has accordingly directed that the Head of Civil Service should apply appropriate sanctions against Mr. Albert Anthony Ampong and Mr. Adim Odoom. Pending the decision of the Head of Civil Service, the two officials are to be interdicted.
  • His Excellency the President has also ordered an audit into the affairs of the Sports Division of the Ministry of Youth and Sports covering the period 2001 to 2009 as well as a review of the organization, role and structure of the Ministry of Youth and Sports as recommended by the National Security investigation report.
  • The President is satisfied that the Minister’s actions in cutting down on waste and curtailing frivolous expenditure is what incurred the displeasure of some officials of the Ministry and caused them to gang up against him. The President commends the Minister in this regard.
  • His Excellency the President is dissatisfied with the conduct of the Minister in his decision to embark on the German trip with Ms. Edith Zinayela and in particular in his decision to apply for a visa for her in circumstances that amounted to a mis-description of her official position. The decision for the Ministry to pay for Ms. Zinayela’s visa fee was equally improper. It was an error of judgment on the part of the Minister from which it is hoped all other appointees will learn. Consequently, His Excellency the President has decided to accept the Minister’s decision to resign his position as Minister of Youth and Sports and to thank him for the services that he has rendered to the state.
  • The President has also accepted the Minister’s offer to make good to the state all liabilities incurred on account of Ms. Zinayela’s trip to Germany including the cost of the visa fee.

Signed: Mahama Ayariga
Presidential Spokesperson

It was the Chief Executive of Multimedia Broadcasting (parent company of JOY FM) who called to tell me about the breaking news on Sky News.

“They say Michael Jackson had suffered a heart attack,” KT said.

I tuned to Sky News immediately.

They were showing pictures from the hospital to which he had been taken. I turned the channel to CNN. They were showing ‘World Sport’. Then I went to BBC World. They were showing a documentary on potatoes. I quickly switched back to Sky News. They quoted TMZ (an internet news website popular for Hollywood gossip) as reporting that the ‘King of Pop’ had died!

Then I switched back to CNN. Wolf Blitzer was reporting that Michael Jackson had fallen into a coma. I went back to BBC and they were reporting that Michael Jackson had been rushed to hospital with suspected cardiac arrest.
As a newsman, I found the coverage of unfolding situation by the three networks quite intriguing. One of them, Sky News, had concluded that Michael Jackson was dead and they had lined up several people who were speaking about Michael Jackson in the past tense.

The two others – CNN and BBC – were more cautious. CNN reported the superstar dead about an hour-and-a-half after Sky News and even then they were quoting the Los Angeles Times and NBC.
“CNN cannot confirm this,” Wolf Blitzer kept saying.

I realized that CNN was trying hard to play it safe. They stopped mentioning the LA Times only after they had spoken to a surgeon at the UCLA Hospital, where Jackson was pronounced dead.

The quest to be the first to break the news and get it right the first time is the dilemma of every journalist. One false announcement and your reputation will suffer a dent, which might be difficult to fix. In the end, Sky News took the risk and got it right, leaving CNN and BBC biting the dust. The guys at Sky New must be very happy with this but like millions around the world, I am sure, they might have been surprised and shocked to see Michael Jackson go this way.

He was the self-proclaimed “King of Pop”. This is not how kings die, is it? King’s are supposed to die valiantly in battle or peacefully in their sleep – usually after prolonged illness. There was nothing valiant or peaceful about how Michael Jackson died. That’s the sad part.

On the other hand, however, I can’t help but feel happy for him. I think that for his troubled soul, death must have come as a blessing. I believe he’s gone to a better place and he’s found the solace he never had on this planet. He must be very happy that the tragic contradiction that was his life has come to an end – albeit in such an abrupt manner.

As a child, I adored Michael Jackson. I bought a lot of Michael Jackson ‘choongam’ (chewing gum) photos. I had two of my favourite Michael Jackson photos stuck on the inside of the lid of the ‘trunk’ I used in secondary school – along with a sticker which read: “Oh Lord, help me hang in there”.

Sadly, years before his death, I just couldn’t bear to look at him anymore. The handsome black chap on whose pictures I spent my hard-earned infant ‘income’, had turned himself into grotesque plastic white doll. He had become the whitest nigger on earth – and he looked barely alive. That, sadly, is one of the unsavoury ways Michael Jackson will be remembered – the genius who was born black and died white!

No doubt, he’d be remembered, first and foremost, as a fabulous entertainer. He was a musical legend. No musician will ever sell as many records as he did. And there will never be another like MJ.
Thank God!

The world does not need another Wacko Jacko enjoys tucking himself in bed with infants, under the pretext of sharing “love” with them. He was lucky to have escaped jail time for child molestation. But settlements he reached with all those little boys who lined up to accuse him of molestation – along with his profligate spending) took a heavy toll on his finances. As a result, a talented man who should have been one of the richest on the planet became submerged under a deep sea of debt.

Surely, the story of Michael Jackson should have ended on a happier note. The tragic contradiction that was his life and the manner of his passing (possibly abusing a cocktail prescription drugs) diminish his legend. But a legend he will forever be.

Muntaka Mubarak Mohammed has been covered – not cleared. Last night, Mr. Mubarak tendered in his resignation as Youth and Sports and President Mills gladly accepted it. That’s ironic considering that he resigned on the same day government issued a statement which suggested that he had been exonerated of allegations that he had made irregular and senseless expense claims. Government’s position is based on the report of a National Security Agency investigation into the allegations.

On one hand, the report stridently defends Mr. Mubarak. It even goes to the extent of asserting that a former director at the ministry, Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, teamed up with Mr. Mubarak’s main accuser “to create problems for the minister”. “Mr. Adim Odoom [the accuser] typed his allegations on Dr. Owusu Ansah’s laptop in Dr. Owusu Ansah’s office,” the government statement says.

On the other hand, the report confirms some of the allegations that were made against Mr. Mubarak. For example, he actually made claims for diapers and mouthwash and took more per diem than he was due. He also has in his possession a government vehicle – the one his accuser claimed he had allocated to his wife and he also charged the state for flying his family from Accra to Kumasi.

On all of these, the minister’s wrongs are incredibly blamed on his accusers. On the issue of per diem for example, the presidency takes the untenable position that the “amount was authorized by the Chief Director, Mr. Albert Anthony Ampong, but the Minister had no knowledge of what his per diem for the travel was supposed to be.”

On Mr. Mubarak’s decision to make the state pay for his family’s air fares from Accra to Kumasi the report states: “The Minister requested for he and his family to travel to Kumasi by air. The Chief Director endorsed the request by the Minister. The request was backed with a memo. The Chief Director did not advise the Minister that his family was not entitled to these tickets.”

The government therefore has taken the position that by failing to advise the minister, the chief director engaged in some wrongdoing. This is utter rubbish. In any case, why would government take the minister’s word that he wasn’t advised (or he didn’t know)? What if he was actually advised and he failed to heed wise counsel?

The reason is simple. Politicians have a way of covering their own. Government has been so embarrassed by this scandal it needed to make an example of someone. However, making an example of the man who should actually be punished will give fodder to the opposition and that’s the last thing the young administration needs. So they decided to pounce on the whistle blower (the hapless accountant) and the chief director of the ministry. They have been interdicted and the head of the civil service has been instructed to apply “appropriate sanctions against them”.

Meanwhile, the (former) minister – who illegally made claims for mouthwash and diapers – walks away with a mere reprimand and an order to refund the monies he forced the government to spend on his girlfriend during a trip to Germany.

“The President is dissatisfied with the conduct of the Minister in his decision to embark on the German trip with Ms. Edith Zinayela and in particular in his decision to apply for a visa for her in circumstances that amounted to a mis-description of her official position,” the government statement says. “The decision for the Ministry to pay for Ms. Zinayela’s visa fee was equally improper. It was an error of judgment on the part of the Minister from which it is hoped all other appointees will learn.”

I think “mis-description” amounts to fraud and on this score alone, Mr. Mubarak deserves to be punished. He should have been pushed out of office but he has simply been helped to jump off – just to save his face and save the government from further embarrassment, his grave misdeeds watered down to “an error of judgment”.

He should also be sanctioned for making those illegal expense claims – whether he knew or not. Last time I checked, innocence was not an excuse. Is it now an excuse under the NDC? So now anyone can take whatever they like and turn around to say that they were not aware of what they could or could not take?

Mr. Mubarak unwittingly (and very foolishly) gave the president an opportunity to show us that he (the president) is more serious about dealing with corruption than his predecessor did. That opportunity has been squandered and now public officials have even been given a couple of extra excuses to indulge themselves. With “I didn’t know” and “I wasn’t advised” and they can practically do anything they want.

The president has also silenced a good number of those who were getting ready to blow the whistle on corrupt officials by ordering that the (former) minister’s main accuser and the chief director of the ministry should be sanctioned.

It is, indeed, “outrageous” – as the presidency says – that the “Chief Director and the Principal Accountant, if they are to be believed, paid out sums of money as large as $10,000 on two separate occasions without any documentation and without any evidence whatsoever.”

But this should surprise no one. I am taking the position that Muntaka went to the ministry like a dictator, making demands left, right and centre without listening to anyone. It is possible that the monies were paid to him and he pompously refused to write receipts for them.

If I make payment to my boss from the company kitty and he refuses to give me a receipt, what do I do? I either shut the hell up or report to his superior. In this case, the accountant reported the case to the (former) minister’s superior and this is a crime for which he is interdicted, with the sceptre of sanctions looming over his head? The chief director confirms the accountant’s claims that he took monies to be given to the minister. It’s the minister who claims that he took no such monies. Once again, his word against his accusers. Reading the investigative the report, I want to stand behind the accusers. The decision to sanction Mr. Odoom for not taking receipts from the minister sound absurd to me.

It’s equally absurd that the president is annoyed with the chief director and the accountant for allowing the minister to make expense claims for monies he spent on mouthwash and diapers.

“The Chief Director or the Principal Accountant should have vetted the receipt and exempted items which were not allowable,” the presidency says. “Items like baby oil, baby food and mouth wash should have been disallowed even though they formed a seemingly insignificant part of the bill. The Minister on discovering that this amount had been refunded demanded to withdraw the receipt but the Principal Accountant Mr. Adim Odoom assured him that everything was in order and that he had paid the refund from the imprest which was normal.”

If I had been in the (former) minister’s shoes – as stupid as I am – I would have insisted on the right thing being done despite the accountant’s assurances that everything “was in order”. He didn’t do what he knew to be right. For this as well, he should have been punished and not let off the hook in such a manner.

So Mr. Mubarak has gotten a white-wash and whistle-blowing in this country has been dealt a terrible blow. Government’s handling of this matter will effectively force a lot prospective whistle-blowers – in the public service, especially – to tuck their whistles in their pockets. You dare not bring that whistle anywhere near your mouth. Otherwise, the dogs of national security will be set loose on you. They will intimidate you and turn around to accuse you of wrongdoing – for failing to advise your boss on what he can or cannot take or do. They will take your boss’ words over yours and leave you to rot under interdiction. If this is “probity and accountability” then I will have none of it!

After the collapse of Ghana Airways, I took the position that we don’t need a national carrier, and that, in fact, we can’t operate a world class airline. The Kufuor administration thought otherwise and on a wave of inexplicable optimism, decided to set up Ghana International Airlines (GIA). Almost five years on and GIA is as inefficient as its predecessor. I like to call GIA “your ‘trotro’ in the sky.” I share the sentiments expressed in the following piece in the Daily Express – that the airline should be, at least, suspended. I think the whole thing should eventually be shut down! >>>

Government has decided to appoint a Transaction Adviser to help it take a decision on what to do with the debt-ridden and badly managed Ghana International Airlines (GIA). The airline which started operations some four years ago has been nothing but a conduit for enriching an aircraft leasing entity while government continued to drain the tax payers’ money to keep the leasing entity’s books good.

The dailyEXPRESS after carefully analysing information and financial details available to it agrees with some industry watchers and calls on government to take immediate steps to suspend the operations of GIA. The suspension would not only save government as a shareholder but also save it from incurring more cost and worker agitation in the very near future.

GIA, which is supposed to be a joint venture business owned by government and a GIAL-USA consortium has been a loss making entity since it started operations, and as at today there is no indication that the quantum of loss it makes every month will reduce.

As at April 2009, the total debt of GIA was $60.8 million, out of these government gave out $47.4 million while it owes other creditors to the tune of $11.7million. GIA also owe Stanbic Bank $0.10 million and has to pay $1.60 million to SSNIT, IRS and other such statutory bodies it owes staff contributions and other taxes.

Out of the loans given out by government, $15million was from SSNIT while $32.4million was from the Ministry of Finance. I am not sure why it is been treated as a loan instead of a dash or freebie, because GIA can never raise or make enough to pay back these loans. All it has done since inception is to pile up debts and no revenue.

If you add the $4.9 million that government paid as its contribution as a share holder, it has so far wasted in excess of $52.3 million. Interestingly, the other shareholder has not spent even a tenth of this. It is no secret that out of the $2.1 million that they were supposed to have paid as their share capital, they on the blind side of the majority shareholder withdrew some $1.9 million from it for some transaction the majority shareholder is still not clear about.

With a total staff strength in excess of one hundred and sixty, usage of a single aircraft which is under wet lease, a debt situation in excess of sixty million dollars ($60m) and no clear management direction, the continuous operation of the GIA will only worsen the financial burden on government.

It is also important to point out that GIA failed even before their first flight in 2005. Go back and look at the various agreements signed prior to the commencement of operations and you will realise that there was an undertaking that the new company will only start operations after the managers secured some $55million to support the operations of the airlines. Did they?

Clearly, the business plan for GIA, if there was any, is redundant and the needed funds were not raised. This means that the Board and Management failed right from the onset to meet the goals of the airline and government would only be wasting money keeping it in operation.

A most likely question would be whether the airline cannot be saved. We on the dailyEXPRESS are of the view that with an already weak financial base, things cannot improve in anyway even if government increases its ‘help’. They have too many staff for a single-aircraft and one route operation and their liabilities are also too many. GIA is currently running a very expensive wet-lease agreement which we have learnt is mostly used as a stop-gap measure.

The leased aircraft from insider information does not also allow for large volumes of cargo business to supplement the revenue from passengers. It is also important to state that the ownership structure of the GIA Company remains murky and under what authority and basis will government continue to bail out the airline.

It is good news that government has discontinued the practice of doling out $1.5m every month to cushion GIA, money which is used to pay the leasing company and other debts. But government must go further and suspending the operations of the airline, by first stopping the sale of tickets and drawing out a plan with management to either fly out persons with tickets already or pass them over to another airline. It will be interesting to even find out what the monies that accrued from the tickets sold were used for.

At a time government is reeling under a crunch caused by both global situations and the domestic mismanagement of the economy, doling out freebies to a business that should rather be helping shore up government revenues is sickening. These GIA freebies would do a lot when passed on to our farmers even as interest free loans or used to strengthen our industries.

But why this argument to suspend operations at all, was a question posed during a conversation on this piece recently. The answer is simple. With all these debts and loose operational plans there’s nothing good in sight. If it has since 2005 and despite a ministerial directive not been able to complete its certification process, can GIA ever secure an Air Operators Certificate (AOC)?

What it simply means is that GIA is a charter business not an airline operation. They are running charter services, the type that many Ghanaians got used to, especially on the Ghana- UK route in the wake of the collapse of Ghana Airways.

They could not even continue where the defunct Ghana Airways left off, which was in line with building the Accra Airport as a regional aviation hub by developing a number of regional routes to and from Accra. Today, Slok Air, Virgin Nigeria, Aero, Air Iviore etc have taken over that business.

Once government suspends its operations, it can then take time to find out how to settle any liabilities arising and also resolve issues, if indeed there’s any with the minority shareholders.

We have been told for instance that suspension is better than liquidation because that will give government enough time to negotiate and settle creditors, passengers who are holding tickets etc.

Should government rather liquidate, all the airline’s creditors will lose their entitlements because GIA has no significant assets. And since government will surely want to have a national carrier again someday, it is important to ensure both passengers and the business community have confidence in government.

[Culled from the Daily Express… email editor.express@gmail.com]


About two years ago, my very good friend, J. A. Fukuor wrote the following letter about the devastation caused by the annual floods in Accra. The message is as relevant today as it was then. We have a bunch of recycled problems in this country…

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I am outraged (to say the least) and ashamed (to say the least) that once again, I have to write about the subject of the annual flooding of our national capital. Almost every year, for the past four or five years, I’ve written about the urgent need for a permanent solution for this problem. All my advice and calls to action have apparently fallen on deaf ears and the situation persists.

I’m currently not in the country. As you are very much aware, I am travelling around the world – not just enjoying myself but lobbying seriously for Sikaman to be made a member of the G8. I’ve been to every one of their summits for the past three or four years and we are tired of just coming in as observers. It wouldn’t be out of place for us to be made a member of the group even though we are not as advanced and forward-looking as most G8 countries are.

I was in Brussels, when I heard the news that Accra had been flooded (again!) after more than 24 hours of persistent rainfall. The rains are quite timely, I must say. We need the waters in the Akosombo Dam and I know that most of you have been “praying without ceasing” for God to open up the heavens and fill the dam so that we can have electricity. If we had been wise, we would have known that if God answers our prayers, we might not be able contain the waters. In preparation for the rains therefore, we would have either taken action to forestall any flooding or asked God not to open up the heavens so wide. We did neither and now, so far, I hear about eight people have died as a result of last weekend’s floods. What a pity!

Let me use this opportunity to express my heartfelt condolence to the families of those who perished in the floods. I hope that their deaths will not be in vain and that the so-called ‘authorities’ will have their eyes opened to the fact that we can’t lose anymore people to a problem we can very easily resolve.
Preventing floods, my brothers and sisters is not as difficult as producing electricity. If government cannot save its people from the elements by simply taking steps to prevent flooding after it had woefully failed to generate and distribute electricity, then I suppose many of you will be wondering what governments are supposed to be doing.

For years, I have heard many government officials threatening fire and brimstone on those who have built on waterways. Apparently, one of the contributing factors to the city’s flooding is the construction of houses on waterways. We’ve known this fact for a very long time, yet, no action has been taken. Illegal constructions continue to block the free flow of flood waters and people are helpless when it rains. I have heard the Minister for Local Government threatening to take action. Sorry to say that we’ve heard this before and as Dasebre Dwamenah said recently, “once bite, twice shy.”

In essence, I am not very optimistic. But, as usual, I will be very happy if I am proved wrong. I will be more delighted if the minister goes ahead to take “action”, as he’s promised, against illegal land developers and the city planners who issue permits for houses to be built on water ways. However, even before the minister puts his act together, I have read on the internet that the promised “action” against illegal developments on waterways will be “difficult”, according to a deputy Interior Minister. In other words, nothing can be done and as long as it rains, the city will be flooded and come next year, we will be having this same discussion about floods and how to prevent them – again!

Seriously, I am issuing this warning to whoever is responsible for preventing floods in Accra that inaction is not an option. Something has to be done (and immediately!) to prevent any further loss of lives. If it’s too late for us to save lives this year, I want us to be absolutely sure that next year we will be ready for the rains and they won’t cause any havoc.

The first thing to do is for the ‘authorities’ to use their authority to demolish all the buildings in waterways. Of course it will be a difficult thing to do. But that’s why we are the ‘authorities’. We were elected to take tough decisions. Some of these decisions will not necessarily win us votes but we need to do what we ought to do. If our decisions/actions are unpopular but do not cause people to ‘swim’ to their deaths in muddy waters, then that’s the way to go. Any government that is afraid of tough decisions is not worth the name. So, please, someone should take this issue by the balls and deal with it once and for all.

The second and the most important thing, I think, is for government to take the issue of drainage very seriously. If the gutters were not so small and were not so choked with garbage, we wouldn’t have this problem. Forget about those houses in the waterways for a moment. Accra’s gutters are absolutely useless when it rains. Just take a ride around the city on a rainy day and you’d see how the waters wash out plastic bottles and all sorts of garbage from the drainage system.

I suppose that as a people, we’ve decided that we cannot (and will not) stop littering. That’s not wise but in a situation like this, I believe that it is government’s responsibility to protect the people from bringing death and destruction onto themselves. That is why I think that instead of squandering money on needless ventures like building presidential mansions and so-called jubilee parks and erecting useless marble statues, we should think seriously about constructing bigger drains in the national capital.

Furthermore, it is imperative that we embark on a very serious exercise to cover all (not a few, not some – but all) the gutters in the country. You see, when the gutters are covered, people cannot turn them into trash bins and so they won’t be choked. And when the rains come, the waters will flow freely and there will be no floods. This is common sense that the ‘authorities’ should be aware of. You don’t need your busy president to tell you this and please, no one should make the mistake of thinking that I will follow in Jerry Boom’s trail and jump into a gutter to help get rid of garbage. I respect my office very much and I won’t do anything beneath me.

In the meantime, countrymen and women, I believe that the floods should teach us all a lesson: we need to stop littering. Is this too much to ask, if we want to save lives? Remember, the banana peel you throw into a gutter might cause a flood, which could take your life or that of a person close to you. Think about that and keep safe.

Before, I sign off let me advice those staying in the so-called low-lying areas to consider taking swimming lessons. Until we put our act together, your backstrokes and your breastrokes might be your only hope for survival.

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor

Call it the Accra Auto Show and you may not be far from the truth. The various car dealerships in Accra have turned much of the space around Parliament House into some sort of an exhibition centre where they are displaying their four-wheel merchandise to lawmakers.

Last Friday, instead of sitting their bums down to do the work they have been elected to do MPs spent a lot of time moving from one dealer to another checking out the latest automobile models.

“I want to get a VW Touareg or a Nissan,” one MP said.

From his tone and the way he pronounced Nissan (“Nissain”, he said), you can tell he is an MP from the hinterland (not very exposed to the automobiles) and until that day, all he could do was dream of owning a luxurious 4-Wheel-drive. Now, his dream is about to become reality – thanks to government’s decision to approve an auto-loan of 50,000 dollars for each MP.

The cash will not be drawn from the national kitty. What is going to happen is that government will guarantee the loans from a couple of banks, which will release the funds directly to the auto dealers after each MP had driven away the luxury sedan or SUV of his choice. Then over a period of four years, the MPs will repay the loans from their salaries.

It sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? But it’s not!

We have seen this before. Under John Kufuor, MPs were given a similar facility. In fact, under Kufuor loans were much smaller at just 20,000 dollars. Yet a good number of them failed to pay back, leaving government with the burden of clearing their debts at the expense of the taxpayer.

When this happened, President Mills was not helping with the repair works on the international space station. He hadn’t taken a vacation to the moon. Perhaps, he was somewhere receiving medical treatment but he was right here on this planet and he knows about the backlash that greeted Kufuor’s mistake of guaranteeing car loans to MPs.

Most Ghanaians saw it as a scheme by our political leaders to fleece the nation. It was the issue of MPs car loans that made most Ghanaians realise politicians have the ability to bury their petty differences to act for their common good.

President Mills’ decision to repeat the mistake of guaranteeing auto-loans for MPs (and grant them even more than Kufuor did) will only make sense to those who will benefit from it.

Rumour has it that the President didn’t actually want to guarantee the loans but MPs from his own party wrung his hands and forced him to do it. If this is true, it only adds to the perception that the pair between his legs is as soft as dough. If he knows that the right thing to do is not to guarantee the loans, why will he bow to pressure and do what he knows to be wrong?

As it was under Kufuor, this decision to guarantee loans for MPs should be condemned because it demonstrates once again that our politicians see themselves as better human beings than the rest of us. When teachers, police officers and civil servants do not get government guaranteed loans, it is unfair (even immoral) for MPs to be given such preferential treatment.

We should not fall for the deception that this is just a loan and it will be paid back in due course. Realistically, few MPs can afford to repay this facility from their parliamentary salaries over the four-year period. The average MP earns about 3,000 dollars per month. Interest rates are hovering around 30 percent. By law, people (including MPs) are not allowed to spend more than 40% of their monthly earnings on servicing loans. So do the maths!

And this is where the politicians pull a fast one on us. It is inevitable, therefore, that the taxpayer will eventually have to pick up the tab for clearing the MPs’ debts. According to the arrangements being worked out, MPs who fail to repay the loans will have monies deducted from their ex-gratia for the purpose.

With the public outrage that greeted the publication of the ex-gratia awards for MPs and Kufuor, a good number of Ghanaians expected President Mills to bring this ex-gratia nonsense to an end. But since ex-gratia is being mentioned as an integral part of the auto-loan deal for MPs, we can assume that nothing has changed. We are going to be forced to dole out hefty sums of money as “gifts” – for that’s what ex-gratia means – for men and women who voluntarily opted to stand for election as MPs, supposedly to serve us.

This is not the change Ghanaians voted for, is it? Here, once again, is proof that politics is the easiest road to privilege and wealth in this country. Our politicians are still determined to use their positions to enrich themselves and get all of life’s niceties whiles the rest of us struggle to even get water to drink.

This idea of government guaranteeing loans for MPs is sickening. It doesn’t make sense that a government – proclaiming austerity – has taken on the extra financial burden of spending 11.5 million dollars on luxury cars for MPs. It’s a mistake. They are literally taking us for an expensive ride and most of us will not enjoy it. It’s a mistake for which we are going to pay dearly.

I love Lucky Dube. For me, he’s the best reggae musician of all time and I have every song he ever sung on my ipod. I was sitting and thinking last night and these lyrics came to mind and put everything in perspective for me. Thanks, Lucky. >>>

She got outside one morning
To see what’s going on
‘Cos she heard all the noises
In the night,
It’s a celebration

Even though she was old and grey
It didn’t mean she was deaf and dumb
She took one look at the man
Throws her hands in the air
And said God help us all
Too much power in one man’s hands
Is dangerous

She has never tasted freedom
And all the things
We take for granted
Then she looked at me and said
Son, is this the end of our suffering?

Chorus:
Is this freedom?
Is this freedom?

We have just witnessed
The change of power
From one fool, one liar to another
Our lives are on the line again

She had lived through the wars
She didn’t wanna go through it all again
Oh God

She has seen injustice
She has seen corruption
She has seen racism
Any other kind of suffering
You can think about
Oh God

Then she said to me
Son, Is this the end of suffering?

Chorus:
Is this freedom?
Is this freedom?

The Mills administration has set a new record in shameful profligacy. And for a government that has vowed to keep needless spending to the barest minimum, this is as shocking as it is disappointing.

They tell us that democracy is not cheap. We get that. But what are we to say or think when the processes involved in making the transition from the Kufuor administration to Mills administration cost the taxpayer more than 360 thousand Ghana cedis? That’s a whopping 3.6 billion old cedis!

Much of the amount was spent on hiring office equipment and paying the honoraria of members of the ‘transition team’. What is most shocking, at least to me, is that more than a third of the 3.6 billion (that comes to about 1.3 billion old cedis) was spent, on what we like call ‘item 13’ – refreshments, pastries, water, tea and expensive lunch packs.

Considering our dire economic circumstances and the government’s own pledge to avoid “profligate” expenditure, this is more than absurd.

In fact, the total amount spent on the whole transition programme – as short and one-sided as it was – should justifiably raise some eyebrows!

First of all, why on earth will government with all its bureaucracies go around hiring office equipment? There are fax machines and photocopiers and a lot of stationery at the Castle and in several other government agencies. Couldn’t some of these have been temporarily brought in for the transition team to use? Why go and hire when you already have the items in abundance?

Secondly, the fact that members of the transition team took so much in honoraria leaves me wondering if any of them can get on radio to talk about patriotism and selflessness. These are men and women who are relatively well-off. What on earth does PV Obeng need our 2000 dollars for? Couldn’t he have worked for the government for free for just a few weeks? Your party has won power and you have the privilege of helping to ensure a smooth transition – after which you may even get to work in government. It shouldn’t be so difficult for you to forego honorarium, should it?

Thirdly, and this is the most irksome of all, it’s just inconceivable that a transition process as short as it was cost the taxpayer 1.3 billion cedis on refreshments alone! That is worth more than the contract for which Steven Asamoah-Boateng is being pursued by the BNI. That can build school blocks for hundreds of school children who study under trees.

If officials of the Kufuor administration had actively participated in the transition process, the money on refreshment (and the entire transition) could have been more. Can you imagine that? It makes you want to say “thank you” to them for boycotting the transition, doesn’t it?

And what at all did they eat and drink over the two-month period that cost us so much? Certainly not ‘konkonte’ and ‘tuo zaafi’. They didn’t drink ‘pito’. And I am sure there was no ‘kooko’ and ‘bofrote’. But there were a lot of Chinese cuisine, scented tea and a wide assortment of exotic fruit juices. The transition team really had a good time.

No wonder, they were complaining that the transition period was too short. And, indeed, it was. So there are moves to make sure that future transition arrangements last longer. Can you imagine how much they will spend on pastries if the transition processes had starts in late November or mid-December? God save us!

Six months into retirement and former President Kufuor has not received a single pension. He joins a long list of Ghanaian pensioners who hardly get their pensions on time. Some of those who retired before Kufuor often travel over long distances, say, from Tarkwa to Accra, to get a meagre pension – half of which might be taken up by the cost of travelling alone. Some of these pensioners, presumably, should be smiling that Kufuor is suffering the same predicament. But he’s not! Kufuor’s delayed pensions do not bother him at all.

Kufuor came to office a “self-made” man – or so we were told – and he most certainly retired as one of the wealthiest men in the country. His kids are successful business executives – their success, undoubtedly, spurred (in so many ways) by their dad’s eight year presidential tenure. His son has a luxury hotel right behind his house and he can drop-in at the restaurant anytime of the day for a sumptuous meal.

Whiles in office, he took a hefty salary which he hardly spent on because the state paid all of his bills. He got truck loads of gifts and, if Haruna Esseku’s words are to be believed (and I see no reason not to), Kufuor personally received and kept sacks full of kickbacks. That’s not all. Kufuor also travelled a lot as president and for each day he spent out of the country, he took a per diem of about 3000 dollars.

Kufuor, therefore, is not your typical pensioner. He came to the job rich (or so we were told) and left richer. That doesn’t means that if he gets more he will not take. That’s why he meticulously sat down with his special advisor and decided, quite unwisely, on the pension he felt he deserved – houses, cars, paid holidays, loads of cash and several other perks. If his party had retained power, he would have walked out of office with a retirement package George Bush and Tony Blair would have gone to war for. That package was immoral – to say the least – and it was very prudent that Kufuor’s successor decided to review it.

But that is no excuse for government’s failure to pay Kufuor’s basic pension (which should be the salary he retired on). That means Kufuor has gone without pay for six good months. Now, that’s more than your regular pension can bear.

Government officials claim that they didn’t know that Kufuor had been denied the right to draw any pension. It has been explained that the situation might have arisen out of a directive (issued much earlier in the year) for a freeze on all payments from the national kitty. Did that freeze halt the payment of the pensions of our other former president, Jerry John Rawlings?

When the question was put to deputy information minister, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, he couldn’t give a definite answer. “I will have to check on that,” was all he could say. He is still checking. But you can be certain that Mr. Rawlings has been smiling to the bank for his pension for every one of the past six months.
So on one hand, Mr. Rawlings – from the ruling party – is getting his pension and, on the other hand, Mr. Kufuor – from the opposition party – has had his pension frozen. Clearly, there is something wrong here.

It is easy for anyone to assume that someone deliberately tried ‘squeeze’ Kufuor and show him where power lies. The story doesn’t get any prettier with government’s that a genuine mistake made it impossible for Kufuor’s pension to be paid for six good months, whiles Rawlings was drawing his – all, according to Okudzeto-Ablakwa, on the “blindside” of government. It makes one wonder what else is happening on the “blindside” of the Mills administration.

Whatever the case might be, the government has decidedly played into the hands of it opponents. Now, Kufuor’s supporters have an extra leg to stand on to accuse the administration of a deliberate ploy to make his retirement as hellish as possible.

This may not be entirely true because government was right in freezing the retirement package Kufuor cooked up for himself. There was nothing wrong with the decision to take away the BMW salon cars he took to his garage and the government’s decision to kick him out of the building he had allocated himself as his retirement office is entirely justifiable.

But it’s impossible to defend the failure to pay his pension for six good months. That should explain why government is not even trying to make any excuses for it. The decision to swiftly order the release of funds to Mr. Kufuor is commendable but it’s not enough. Whoever allowed this issue to get on the “blindside” of government must be severely sanctioned.

Ultimately, however, government needs to hasten to resolve the issue of Kufuor’s retirement package once and for all. The committee which was set up to review Kufuor’s senseless retirement package has just submitted its report. Now, we are told the president is studying the document before taking it to parliament for ratification.

The sooner the document gets to parliament the better. Kufuor says he can wait for as long as it takes for government to come to a decision on what he deserves. Yes, he can. With all he made for himself while in office, he can wait for an entire presidential term – even more. But he needn’t wait that long. It’s time for the government to give Kufuor what he deserves and get on with the task of fixing all the problems he promised to fix but failed!