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05.02.2009 General News

After Auditor-General's Interim ReportSpending by [email protected] Secretariat questioned

By Charles Takyi-Boadu - Ghanaian Chronicle

Two years after the [email protected] celebrations has come to an end, people are still complaining about the money spent by the secretariat. The Next Generation Youth League International (NGYL), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), is the latest to raise morale and ethical questions on how some of the monies earmarked for the celebrations were spent.

In a statement, issued and signed by the Executive Director of NGYL, Benjamin Akyena Brantuo, a former Junior Common Room (JCR) President of the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon, he noted, “we rather prefer that Ghanaians engage in deliberations of this nature, by using quality airtime and productive hours at their disposal, to question the rationale behind using ¢19,691,245,200 to construct 25 toilets, and not on agriculture, since people must eat before using the toilets.

“Whilst we are equally alarmed, and concerned about the horrifying revelations coming from the report - the total cost of the celebrations (¢60,172,251.8400), fraud in the form of over-invoicing (¢432,000,000), purchases in excess of budget (¢1,080,000,000), failure to account for VAT deductions (¢3,796,575,000), failure to pay withheld taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (¢1,396,400,000), etc, financial recklessness, lack of proper cash books, no stock register of value books, no contract register, technically incompetent financial officer, etc, the total debt owed to contractors and suppliers ¢184,439,340,000 and the lack of priorities in spending, we are far more disturbed about the limited scope of the public debate, which has confined itself to the ability or otherwise of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations Secretariat to provide adequate documentations to support expenditures they have engaged in.”

The NGO has thus made suggestions for the debate to be widened to include ethical and developmental-oriented issues, to ascertain whether it was developmentally expedient and ethically justifiable, looking at the deplorable state of priority issues as health, education, poverty alleviation, etc., to celebrate an anniversary with ¢601,722,518,400.00, what impression Ghanaians are sending across to its donor partners, who pay almost 60% of the country's national budget.

It also raised questions about the historical and cultural significance of each one of the activities that the Secretariat spent money on during the celebration, to what extent it would pacify the memories of the country's forefathers, whose toil they sought to commemorate.

Whilst conceding that the 6th March Anniversary parade came close in terms of significance, NGYL noted that “the vulgar display of opulence and luxuries was not necessary at all.”

It, therefore, posited that accountability should not be limited to the ability of public servants, to legally support their whimsical and impulse actions with documentations, but the extent to which such actions have satisfied ethical requirements, which includes adding value and bringing improvement into the living conditions of the people they work in trust for.

To the NGO, anything short of this, is a proper case of causing financial loss to the state, since according to Akyena Brantuo, “we find it unacceptable that the country is consumed in a debate, which merely questions whether 25 toilets actually cost ¢19,691,245,200, and whether there are documentations to that effect. On the other hand, whether we can show proof that ¢146,097,276,000.00 was spent on cars, or whether we can back our claim that ¢129,346,994,000 went into buying souvenirs. Alternatively, whether ¢82,884,521,200 was dissipated on the AU villages.

To him, therefore, limiting the debate to these questions was a case of setting very low standard for leadership and glorifying mediocrity.

He wondered why a developing and struggling country like Ghana, could afford to invest a whooping ¢129,346,994,000 (old cedis) into buying souvenirs, when hospitals in the country lacked simple facilities like incubators, and beds for patients to lie on, when there was a surge in diseases like malaria, which is sending hundreds to their graves prematurely.

He, therefore, could not, but ask rhetorically, “why do we prefer to build AU villages at a cost of ¢82,884,521,200, in the name of pleasing foreign dignitaries, when majority of our people sleep in the streets, cannot afford education, when many are engaged in prostitution, hard drugs and violent crime, for want of a decent employment opportunities that can service their needs?”

To him, putting the debate along this bearing, is necessary, for the reason that it does not only seek to create a responsible society, and good examples of leadership for the next generation, where leaders are not only bonded by legal considerations, but ethical and developmental demands in their service to the nation, but also the fact that Ghanaians ought to do this to reassure its suffering masses that they were doing everything to intervene in their conditions.

That notwithstanding, he emphasised the need to do this, in order not to miss the wonderful opportunity in the wake of a new government to realign the priorities of Ghanaians, and compel governments to achieve them.

In its quest to seek total accountability, NGYL however asked Ghanaians to be mindful of all manner of propaganda being bandied about, with the sole purpose of not only dividing their ranks, but also compromise their stands for the truth, stressing, “we have heard a few of our guilty brothers shouting witch-hunting, as we have heard others question the motives of the Auditor-General for making his findings public at this time.

“For the sake of argument, let us concede that indeed, the findings in the report amount to witch-hunting, and is a ploy by the NDC-led regime and the Auditor-General to persecute their political rivals. Does that assumption change the fact that the whole concept of [email protected] was a fraud by a few political elites to enrich themselves?