President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo met with journalists at the Jubilee House yesterday. For the first time, the focus shifted from the criticism of journalists for their poor questions to the defects in the organization of the programme.
The president spent most of the time extolling the virtues of his government and repeating the achievements and the excuses we have heard over and over again. When it was time for the journalists to subject him to scrutiny, he announced the programme would not travel beyond 7pm. When he said this, it was 6:07pm so we had about 53 minutes to interact.
He took a lot of time to respond to the questions, cracked jokes and sometimes invited his ministers to answer some of the questions. The journalists were pushed to ask their questions in a minute, but there was no sense of urgency in the responses. This means the number of journalists who had the opportunity to ask questions was limited a little over two dozen. More than 100 journalists were present.
My biggest disappointment was his jab at former President John Dramani Mahama when he responded to his predecessor’s criticism of the medical drones deal.
“I prefer drones flying to deliver essential drugs to our people to investment in guinea fowls that allegedly fly off to Burkina Faso without a trace,” President Akufo-Addo said.
I find this pronouncement very unfortunate, to say the least. I was the journalist who investigated and exposed the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) corruption scandal. SADA had given GHC15 million to Asongtaba Cottage Industry and Exchange Programme to undertake a guinea fowl production and marketing joint venture project. Before that arrangement with SADA, the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA), now the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), had paid GHC1.7 million to the same company to train 2000 youth in guinea fowl rearing. This was supposed to happen in the Upper East, Upper West and the Northern Region. My investigation revealed that the company took the money but did not train a single person.
In all, we have lost at least GHC16.7 million in this shady deal. I find it distasteful that we have reduced this serious scandal to a joke, which people laugh about as evidenced in the reaction that greeted the president’s remark. I say it is a joke because the guinea fowls did not fly.
At no point did it emerge in my investigation that the guinea fowls had flown to Burkina Faso. And nobody said that anywhere. The guinea fowls frying to Burkina Faso was one of the jokes we make out of serious issues as a country.
The president should not be joking about this unresolved fraud against the good people of Ghana. Two years after coming into office, the President and his government have not deemed it fit to take any steps to recover the stolen money and prosecute the persons who dissipated the funds allocated from the tax payer’s purse to alleviate poverty in the northern part of the country. No investigation has started in the guinea fowl scandal. There’s no prosecution. All the people who took part in the deal are free.
The President and his party made a lot of political capital out of the guinea fowls scandal. They campaigned with it when they talked about how corrupt the Mahama government was. They cited it when they told people of northern Ghana how insensitive their own brother had been to their plight. They said for that reason, we should vote out the Mahama government.
When they became custodians of the power to prosecute, they have done nothing about it. This means they just took advantage of the rot to push their political agenda and forget about it once they achieved their aim. It is now only important in funny comments and jabs. But this is not an isolated case.
The President and his party campaigned on the GYEEDA corruption. Under their watch, nothing has changed from how it was when the Mahama government left office. Two years into office, the government still pays Zoomlion GHC500 cedis and the company pays each worker GHC100 and keeps 400 cedis as management fees. Zoomlion claims it manages 45,000 workers. So every month, the company earns a management fee of GHC18 million from this contract while the poor workers battling with the nation’s filth go home with GHC100 or $20 a month. This is happening despite the fact that the contract for this unconscionable arrangement expired in February 2013.
One thought this wickedness and exploitation would end when the government changed. But it did not happen. President Akufo-Addo rather went to visit the Zoomlion CEO and encouraged him. The president described the corruption allegations against Joseph Siaw Agyepong and his companies as “controversies that come when you’re in the forefront of doing things.”
In 2017, I investigated acts of corruption in sanitation contracts involving Zoomlion and the Jospong Group. The fraudulent waste bins and fumigation contracts I uncovered are worth GHC530 million cedis. These contracts were signed in 2015 and 2016. More than a year and three months after the police started investigations into these deals, nothing has been heard about it.
I was shocked when I found out why the case had stalled. The Local Government Ministry and the District Assemblies’ Common Fund Secretariat are withholding vital information and documents from the Police CID and the Attorney General.
These are the issues the president should be concerned about if he wants us to take him seriously on his fight against corruption. If you cannot prosecute the corrupt cases from the past government, then we cannot expect any meaningful impact from you in dealing with persons within your own government.
President Mahama’s “sins” are not new. They are well-known and documented. Repeating them and not doing anything to bring the perpetrators to book only portrays the president as an opportunistic politician who took advantage of the rot in the previous government to campaign for power, but failed to do anything about them when he had the opportunity to do so.
That is the hallmark an opportunistic politician, not a leader.
BY: Manasseh Azure Awuni