It may not be the ultimate, but it is certainly one of the best innovative efforts at making Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) respond to the needs and aspirations of a people. For Ghana Manganese, corporate entities should not be determining CSR projects for beneficiary communities and should also not keep CSR budgets under wraps.
So, on Saturday, June 30, like it has always done for the past 10 years, the company organised a durbar which brought together 17 different communities within its catchment area to the launch of its corporate social responsibility programme for 2012.
The expectation was that this was going to be yet another public relations stunt characteristic of mining companies seeking to reverse or at best contain the bad press that has become their lot in recent years. But, no, this was something different; something reminiscent of the kind of budget hearing that goes on in our national Parliament.
It begins with an assessment of the previous year's performance, highlighting projects and programmes that were funded during the past year. The CSR statement recounts successes and challenges of the previous year, and lays out strategies for addressing emerging concerns. It then makes a transition to announce the total budget allocated by the company for the current year. The communities then have the responsibility, through an elaborate consultative process, to identify projects and activities on which to spend the allocated amount.
This is that simple; no myth, no fuss. One just can't see a better way of managing expectations. The people know what is available to them, and are thus guided in their demands.
Reading the company's 2012 CSR statement in Nsuta, Tarkwa last Saturday, the Managing Director, Mr Jurgen Eijgendaal, who also goes by the traditional name, Nana Kweku Tieku II, noted the substantial leap in the quantum of financial resources allocated to CSR projects and activities. From a modest GHC50,000 in 2002, Ghana Manganese spent US$500,000 in 2011 on its CSR programme, a development he describes as reflective of the company's improved corporate performance.
Recounting some of the successes of the company's CSR initiatives, Mr Eijgendaal disclosed that Ghana Manganese had since 2002 operated a bursary scheme, totalling GHC344,397.90 to date for 4,722 needy but brilliant children from communities in its catchment. Beneficiaries of the scheme, he said, were from both secondary and tertiary levels of education. Responding to an earlier request from the Omanhene of the Esuaso Divisional Stool Council, Nana Atobra I, the GMC Managing Director indicated that the bursary scheme would soon be converted to full scholarship to completely lift off the financial burden that parents of beneficiaries were faced with and to encourage the youth to aspire to higher academic exploits. The company has also supported infrastructural projects such as road construction, bridges and classroom blocks in Tarkwa Banso, Akyem, Akyempim, Bankyim, Jerusalem, Enyinase and Agona Wassa.
It has built aqua privy toilet facilities at Kwamenakrom, Senyakrom, Jerusalem, Ahwitieso, Essuoso, Tarkwa Banso and Awudua to help improve sanitation and provide places of convenience.
The list indeed is tall, and as the Managing Director of the mine noted, these have been possible through the regular, reliable and predictable flow of resources from the company's CSR budget, combined with participatory decision-making on how these resources are to be used.
For 2012, the Ghana Manganese CSR budget, as announced by its Managing Director, is US$579,900. This is indeed impressive for a company that until recently was struggling to survive.
And yet, Ghana Manganese is not content with its achievement. Its Managing director is challenging the company and beneficiary communities to build upon the success story of their relationship "by working towards innovative ideas and projects that are borne out of lessons learned from all the good things done so far." He wants the Esuoso Divisional Stool Council to meet more frequently with the company within a framework of an Executive Committee that will consider and deliberate on project proposals with stakeholders for greater efficiency and faster decision-making.
But, it is precisely this type of close collaboration that tends to breed patronage and sometimes undermine the social contract that otherwise should exist between a people and their local government. Listening to the Essuoso Divisional chief's submissions at the event, one got the impression that he was addressing a local government. He had a rather tall list of demands to make.
The Ghana EITI Vice Chair, Dr Steve Manteaw, in his brief remarks, quickly pointed out that much as GMC's approach to CSR was exemplary, it must not be allowed to be a substitute for the local government's mandate. He challenged the company to provide even more information on its corporate performance, particularly on its profits, taxes and royalties paid so that the people will better appreciate its challenges, but also what share of its pie goes to Ghanaians.