25 January 2013

Ghana: Without NPP Members, the Vetting Is Becoming Rubber Stamp -


This country is an interesting society. Yesterday, good old Ghana Television beamed what was billed as the grilling of ministers-designate to our living rooms and work-places. It was an interesting spectacle bordering on the mundane.

With the decision of the New Patriotic Party to boycott the proceedings, what was served to the people of this country and foreigners interested in the affairs of Ghana, was at best, the slapping of kid gloves on the body of hardened professionals.

One needs no ghost to tell us that the absence of the minority seriously undermined the exercise. As a social commentator, I am disappointed that NPP Members of Parliament have decided to stay away.

I thought the issue of the legitimacy of the President is before court and that until the Supreme Court pronounces officially on the complaint, before the highest court of the land, the verdict as pronounced by the Electoral Commission is what this nation has to work with.

When the NPP decided to stay away from the inauguration of President John Dramani Mahama, some of us nursed the feeling that it was a legitimate symbolic sign of protest.

Chinua Achebe once wrote: "When a handshake goes beyond the elbow, it is no more a handshake." I believe by staying away from proceedings of the House, members who arrived in the nation's law making body on the back of the elephant, are stretching the issue too far.

The Ghana Bar Association and the Alliance for Accountable Government, most of whose memberships are drawn from the NPP, have expressed their disappointment with the minority members of Parliament for failing to take part in activities of the House.

I do not believe NPP Parliamentarians are serving the interest of their own constituents by continuing with their boycott. I urge my good friend, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, the Minority Leader in the House, to engage his colleagues on the issue and end the boycotts.

In the absence of the NPP in the vetting process yesterday, the whole exercise descended into the quagmire of rubber stamping. Questions failed to ignite the passion in the whole exercise.

The presence of Mr. Ebo Barton-Odro in the chair did not advertise the regime of President John Dramani Mahama as interested in ridding this society of corruption.

I do not know what informed the elevation of the Member of Parliament for Cape Coast North to the status of First Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Appointment Committee of Parliament.

But the stigma attached to his presence, following the events leading to the Woyome scandal, does not register the name of Ebo Barton-Odro as capable of safe-guarding the public purse.

When he sat in the chair, surrounded by fellow National Democratic Congress members of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee to quiz those appointed by President John Dramani Mahama to head the various ministries, it looked like something was just not right.

Here is a person, whose action or inaction contributed to this nation losing a whooping GHc51 million, in a very scandalous manner. For me, the appointment of Mr. Ebo Barton-Odro as First Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, advertises the intention of President Mahama and his NDC administration to continue with the business as usual attitude of doing nothing to minimize corruption.

I am sorry if I have offended the sensitivity of the committee and its members. That is my honest opinion. I do not think, as a Ghanaian, I am barred from holding an opinion on such a major issue, bordering on the safety of the public purse.

There was something about the assembly of questioners at yesterday's sitting, which told its own story of what to expect in the new administration of President Mahama.

The President's victory itself is being challenged in court by the leadership of the largest opposition party, which in itself is an innovation in our democratic experiment.

There was Mr. Barton-Odro sitting in the chair. His submission of "no case" on radio in the aftermath of the outbreak of the Woyome scandal has done its worst in galvanizing the stand of Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome, who was given that whooping amount for doing nothing.

The attempt to retrieve the money is currently stalling in court, as bungling state prosecutors appear to be uninterested in ensuring that the loot is returned to the state.

Not too long ago, Mr. Woyome was beating his chest that the case would come to nothing. Reading the various epistles written about the scandal by Mr. Martin Amidu, the only Attorney-General to have been publicly sacked for daring to retrieve the Woyome millions, one gets the impression that officials at the Attorney-General's Department at the time of the outbreak of the scandal, including Mr. Barton-Odro, were not in a hurry to retrieve the loot.

I am afraid, not many Ghanaians are enthused about Mr. Barton-Odro leading the inquisition into the suitability or otherwise of Mr. Mahama's men and women to direct the various ministries.

The inquisition team had Baba Jamal, former Deputy Minister of Information, who came up with the theory of super natural powers of deceased President John Evans Atta Mills.

On a visit, in the company of the late President, to flood lands in the Birim Basin in the Eastern Region, Mr. Jamal told Ghanaians that the late President Mills rebuked the floods waters to recede and they did.

Jamal is also remembered for allegedly telling staff of the Information Services Department that anytime the NDC Government of the day bought a black goat, they could magnify the purchase to read a white cow.

In other words, under the NDC administration, a goat was equated to a cow. It is interesting to note that throughout the first four years of the NDC administration, officialdom spent man-hours turning illusions into reality. The so-called 'Better Ghana' agenda was flogged as if this society had been touched by a magic wand.

My good friend, Samual Okudzeto-Ablakwa, Member of Parliament for North Tongu, was very conspicuous in his questioning yesterday. I must confess his questions had more substance than a number of people on the panel.

All his efforts though, failed to mask the perception of fortune associated with his ¢250 million booty, said to have been stolen at a car wash in Accra.

The episode tells much about the development of class systems in the country. The image of GH¢25,000 tucked away in a vehicle heading for the car wash at the Yuletide, was at variance with the lot of many Ghanaians who could not afford chicken to feed the family at Yuletide.

There was veteran Yieleh Chireh, one-time Minister of Health, who announced the dismissal of Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng from the Cardiothoracic Centre the latter set up from scratch at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and which seems to suggest that in the new political dispensation, it is not worth dying for Ghana.

One interesting addition worthy of notice about the Member of Parliament for Wa West is that at the time Mr. Yieleh Chireh applied to late President Mills to be given a rest for ill-health, he was seen actively campaigning in his constituency. Deep throats in the administration say that was why his romance with the striking doctors ended abruptly.

Yesterday, when television footages captured former Minister of Sports, Alhaji Mohamed Muntaka Mubarak asking questions on the suitability of ministerial nominees, I recalled former President Mills in my mind's eye, asking newsmen to tell him which ministers in the history of the Republic of Ghana, who had never travelled outside without their girl-friends.

The expanded vision of the deceased President in my mine's eye trying to justify the inclusion of a certain woman in an official sporting delegation, representing the nation outside the shores of Ghana, headed by Alhaji Muntaka, is convincing enough that this nation needs the NPP members on the Parliamentary Appointment Committee to take their rightful places at the vetting table.

I am afraid, without the minority, the exercise has the semblance of a rubber stamp vetting.

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