ONCE UPON a time, a former boss of mine said to me that “none is righteous.”
That was because he saw my eyebrows raised due to an assertion he had made.
I contested his declaration initially. However, after thinking through it for a while, I remembered a task we were given by our General Paper lecturer at Extra-Mural Academy where I had my GCE A-Level education. The topic was Logic and we were requested to examine the statement: “Kwaku stole a goat, so Kwaku is a thief.”
Having been equipped with knowledge on fallacy of hasty generalisation earlier, I set out to analyse the statement. My script turned out to be one of the best. And the lecturer read it out in class.
Here is what I wrote: A thief is someone who habitually takes what does not belong to him or her. In other words, a thief is a person who steals other people's properties all the time. Therefore, Kwaku can be said to be a thief if it is his habit to steal things that belong to other people. On the other hand, Kwaku may not be a thief because he may have been compelled under this particular circumstance to steal the goat, sell and use the proceeds to address an emergency situation. Stated differently, Kwaku is a circumstantial thief.
Juxtaposed with the 'none is righteous' assertion by my former boss, one can surmise that righteous persons can be compelled by circumstances beyond control, to become unrighteous. No?
Building A House Of God
I have had to recall this matter and relate it here because the kind of revelations that keep coming from the stalled National Cathedral project keep confusing me. On one hand, my former boss' statement that “none is righteous” keeps ringing in my ears. On the other hand is the concept of fallacy of hasty generalisation which draws my attention to the need to be wary of the allegations that have been made.
Having said that, my confusion stems from the fact that right from the word go, President Akufo-Addo told us that no tax payers' money will be used in constructing the edifice. The indication was that it is a personal pledge he made to God and that the Christian community will help him build it to the glory of God.
Then suddenly, Members of Parliament on the NDC side revealed that some money from state coffers had been spent on the project. This amount, they claimed, was not approved by Parliament.
When the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, got the opportunity to respond to the issue, he said he took the money from a Contingency Vault. As a student of Public Sector Accounting, I heard this for the first time. I am used to Consolidated Fund and Contingency Fund.
Meanwhile, the oxford dictionary defines contingency as “a provision for a possible event or circumstance” or “an incidental expense.” Obviously, the expenditure on the National Cathedral cannot be an incidental expense or provision for possible event.
Former Auditor-General, Daniel Domelevo, agrees with this position. According to him, the Contingency Vault is a creation of a former Minister of Finance through which they channel money which they do not want to account for. Speaking on JoyNews' The Pulse on Monday, 23rd January, 2023, the 'chased out' Auditor-General called on Parliament to scrap the Contingency Vault because “it is unlawful.”
Indeed, there is no way the National Cathedral project could pass for a contingency item. That is because the government planned and commenced the execution of the project. Before then, public and private buildings were demolished to make way for its construction.
Currently, a private company called Waterstone Realty Apartment Complex, has sued the Lands Commission for GHȼ120 million in damages for the demolition of its two-storey building complex located on the land earmarked for the construction of the National Cathedral. Undoubtedly, this and other amounts that may be paid as judgement debt or compensation in this regard, will be drawn from the tax payer's money – The Consolidated Fund.
So, why was the required amount not captured explicitly in the budget submitted to Parliament for approval, the moment it was decided by the presidency that Ghanaians must provide seed money for the project?
So many issues about amounts paid as consultancy fees when the project is still at foundational level, have also come up. Indeed, indications are that the project has stalled because the contractor says there is no money. This was subsequently confirmed by the Director of the National Cathedral Secretariat, Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah.
So far, an estimated GHȼ339 million of tax payers' money is said to have been spent on the project. This amount, we have been made to believe, is our seed contribution. Yet all one sees in visuals available is a deep excavation on the site.
Well-meaning people have called for a cessation of the project but President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (NADAA) says, “I am very determined that come what may, I have two more years, whatever the case, the National Cathedral will be at a very advanced stage before I leave office.”
Advanced stage? But why? For who to continue? Does it mean NADAA conceived the idea and commenced the project without putting his finger on where the funding will come from? I mean you demolish all those useful structures based on a whim? I don't get it.
So, I was in the process of chewing on this statement, trying very hard to make use of the concept of fallacy of hasty generalisation so I don't get it twisted, when the North Tongu MP, Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa, revealed that an amount of GHȼ2.6 million had been transferred from the National Cathedral Secretariat's account into a private company's account.
As it turned out, the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral, Rev Kusi Boateng, aka Kwabena Adu Gyamfi, is a director of the company – JNS Talent Centre Limited. Strangely, the Executive Director of the National Cathedral explained that the amount transferred was a refund to JNS Talent Centre Limited for loaning the money to them.
“…this was not an illegal payment but rather a refund of a short-term interest-free loan made by JNS to top up the payments to the contractors of the National Cathedral. This support was sought from a National Cathedral Trustee Member, Rev Kusi Boateng, in a letter dated August 26, 2021, due to a delay in the receipt of funds to pay the contractors on time,” he said.
But for fallacy of hasty generalisation, I would have asked, an individual loaned the government of Ghana GHȼ2.6 million? Not through Treasury Bills or bonds, but a direct interest-free loan? Has money finished in the Contingency Vault? My confusion intensified when Kwabena Adu Gyamfi, sorry, Rev Kusi Boateng, reacted to the allegation.
“I wish to assure the general public that the statements made by Mr. Ablakwa are a twisted narration of events to pursue a malicious political agenda,” he said.
Like how? I expected a straight “What Mr. Ablakwa said is not true.” Why this use of grammar to bamboozle us? Once again, circumstantial 'none is righteous' popped up in my mind but fallacy of hasty generalisation kicked it out.
BY Eric Mensah-Ayettey