Where Were You When We Were Playing Gutter-to-Gutter With Kufuor in Ashtown? "Some of us can even walk over to Mr. Kufuor, whether he is in the bathroom or not, and tell him that Auditor-General, I want such and such and such documents from you, and by word or so, I will get it from him." Mamponghene, Nana Osei Bonsu II, (a.k.a. Saint Oswald Gyimah Kessie) Energy Commission Chairman, addressing staff of the commisssion on Friday, April 8, this year. While the President and other government officials strive hard to convince Ghanaians that levies on petroleum products are used for developmental projects, and thus the increases are justified, the Chronicle can reveal that a lot of such funds are being utilized for questionable purposes. The Energy Commission is one institution where the use of the Energy Fund Levy allocated to it raises more questions than answers, and surprisingly no one is questioning the board chairman and his Executive Secretary, both claiming virtually umbilical ties to the President (Kofi Asante was the President's house prefect, whilst the Mamponghene was his gutter-to-gutter playmate.) Vehicles The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Kofi Asante, who boasts that he is mates with the President (confirmed as true), has from the Energy Fund bought for himself and the Commission chairman, Nana Osei Bonsu II ((a.k.a. Saint Oswald Gyimah Kessie), the Mamponghene, two brand new Toyota Land cruisers (VX), costing ¢650 million each, even though his previous car and that of the Chairman were barely a year old. He has bought for himself also, a brand new BMW 3 series. The Chairman's has his personal driver also on the payroll of the Commission. Whilst Mr. Asante uses the BMW for work, the Land cruiser and other commission vehicles are parked in his house, and used by his family members. Indeed, Chronicle investigations and cross investigation of workers' complaints reveal that the Commission is being used as pasture for friends and family of Kofi Asante. This is taking place while there are no vehicles for the technical staff of his outfit to undertake official duties. Even though the use for the Energy Fund, which accrues to the commission, is clearly stipulated, it is from that fund that these misappropriations by the Executive Secretary are taking place. Staff members also are enduring the excesses of his regime, and are asking for explanations as to why the Executive Secretary spent almost C500 million for advertisements when the Commission does not sell any products. Already, the Executive Secretary has this year embarked on a massive spending spree in this area, having on February 3, through Bank of Ghana cheque No. 87052, doled out ¢81.9 million, to Asare Otchere-Darko, in sponsorship of his 'Gabby's Airtime' on TV 3, 'for six public messages.' A further Ë400million went into publications and printing that were done without going through tender, and the contracts given at the executive whim. The staff, who have complained bitterly to Energy Minister, Prof. Mike Oquaye, consider as bogus a scheme of service and administrative regulations being imposed on them and want it reviewed, as it would not secure their interest. Staff attempts to raise issues of their service conditions have been met with intimidation, with both the Executive Secretary and the Chairman, driving home strongly to them their political clouts. At last December's staff end-of-year get-together, the Chairman had asked the staff where they were when they were playing gutter-to-gutter with Kufuor in Ashtown. 3. Salaries The staff are unhappy that their salaries have not been adjusted since 2001, in spite of inflation and rising cost of living, making the Commission staff the worst paid in the energy sector. This has led to obvious low morale amongst staff The Staff of the Commission were shocked to learn from sources close to the Controller and Accountant General's Department that in 2003 and 2004, government's budgetary allocation of ¢3,926,773,318 and ¢3,119,367,189 respectively for personal emoluments, which could have doubled their salaries, was spent. It did not reflect in their salaries, and therefore leaving rife suspicion that the money meant for their emoluments may have been misapplied on other things. Insensitivity The insensitivity to staff welfare, according to the staff, was best demonstrated when following petrol price increase from ¢10,000 to ¢20,000 a gallon in January, 2003, the one gallon per day allocation to senior staff, already considered inadequate, was automatically reduced to half a gallon, since the allocation was in price terms. It was not until July of that year that it was corrected, without any back pay to cover for the outstanding half gallon. The Executive Secretary, however, during the period, continued to fill all the cars he uses for himself and his family members with fuel without restrictions. IT Consultants Mr. Kofi Asante handpicked Data Source Company Limited to undertake maintenance of its computers and other electronic equipment, "without following the due process of selecting the best company through competitive bidding." That notwithstanding, the Executive Secretary disregarded recommendations by the Commission's IT team that he had tasked to review the proposals of the company, and awarded them the contract for maintenance and training of commission staff. The IT team had recommended a negotiation with Data Source for a reduction in their proposed charges. The team had also recommended the Commission to take advantage of a two-year warranty covering a number of newly acquired computers, and adopt a maintenance option where computers and other electronic equipment are sent for repairs and servicing as and when it became necessary. Finally, the team recommended that the Commission invited proposals from different computer companies and training institutions for comparison purposes. The Executive Secretary, provoked by these recommendations, had summoned Messrs. Charles Anderson and Kennedy Amankwa, two members of the IT team, into his office, and in the presence of his Executive Assistant, Ms Linda Mensah, rebuked them. He made it clear to them that he the Executive Secretary had decided to give the job of maintaining the computers and other electronic equipment to Data Source Company Ltd, and did not understand why the two officers should have the effrontery to question or criticize his decision, in classic Wereko-Brobby style! Mr. Asante thus awarded the company the contract at $28,740 per annum for maintenance, and $12,600 for training. Thus, for the first term of the contract, March 2004 to March 2005, the Energy Commission paid $41,340. The contract has since been renewed Rent allowance While staff members of the Commission are going through difficult times, with their salaries still at 2001 levels, the Executive Secretary pays himself ¢30 million a month as rent allowance, for living in his No. 5 Botwe Street house at Dzorwulu! This allowance is more than 300% of his monthly salary, which is a little under ¢10 million. The average rent allowance for a manager is ¢600,000 a month, and the gross annual salary of an assistant manager (e.g. senior programmes officer) of the commission is ¢34 million. It is not clear yet if the Executive Secretary is taking these decisions with the connivance of the members of the Commission. The Commission has three professors, who, it is believed, are too busy to effectively supervise the activities of the Executive Secretary. Energy Fund The Commission's Act clearly stipulates the Energy Fund is to be utilized for: 1.Promotion of renewable energy technologies
2.Promotion of productive uses of electricity
3.Capacity building in the energy sector. The Commission has not done much in these areas. Since 2003, stakeholders' consultation for analysis of a Danida-sponsored Strategic National Energy Plan 2000 - 2005, has not been done. The Commission is supposed to convene the forum. This is notwithstanding the fact that Danida has since 2003 paid for the Tamale, Kumasi, and Accra venues for the forum! Especially, at this time that energy prices are soaring and the need for alternative sources of energy has heightened, this is an unpardonable dereliction of responsibility. Meanwhile, as that all-important stakeholders forum was left unattended to, the 62 - page Strategic National Energy Plan 2000 - 2005 document was rather serialized in "The Statesman" newspaper. Travels While this essential policy work was left unattended to, the Executive Secretary went gallivanting, leaving the Commission with ¢800 million bill on foreign travels for last year alone. No other staff member travelled outside that year.