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22.08.2017 Feature Article

Why We Are Who We Are:  What Are Retired Public Servants Doing in Gov’t Bungalows?

...’Is this a Pimper’s Paradise?’
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You’d think they’d vacate the government bungalows after their tenure or end of service. But that isn’t the case in my homeland Ghana as such bungalows are now accommodating ex- officials’ girlfriends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces, cousins and friends. Retired public servants and their cronies have been occupying government’s residences months, some of them years after the completion of their services, according to Ministry of Works & Housing.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, I can emphatically say. And I’m even inclined to believe it possibly pervades across the continent.

Samuel Atta Akyea the sector minister who made this known said there are a number of retired public servants and other unauthorized persons occupying government bungalows. He seemed upset about the situation and has therefore warned the trespassers to vacate the residences as soon as practicable or face the full rigours of the law.

Mr. Atta Akyea has also cautioned public sector workers living legitimately in state properties but not paying rent to do so or face possible ejection as well. His deputy Freda Prempeh who also spoke on the issue said:

“There are about five or six categories of people who have decided to do their own thing with government properties. One is people who have been on retirement for so many years – sometimes about five to six years – and are still living in government properties and are not paying anything to government. The other category, are those on retirement but have in turn given the apartment out to their nieces, their nephews, their friends and colleagues.”

Some too have even left the apartment and abandoned it and nobody is even living there and there are some people living in government bungalows that we don’t even have their data in the office. Those that we have their names on our data base, their data are not on that of the Controller and Accountant General so they don’t pay anything to the government.”

Indeed, we are who we are. And I guess the inescapable question is:

Would this eviction ever happen?
Mind you some of them as the deputy minister alluded to have lived in these state properties for a decade or more. Didn’t the previous administrations notice them and how come they weren’t evicted? Wouldn’t for example the MINISTER of POWER (MoP) as usual come and plead on their behalf?

Can the new cat chase the mouse out of the house?

It appears Mrs. Freda Prempeh has the touch of the Midas (with a happy ending though):

“A week ago, I wrote letters to some of the occupants, and people trooped to the office and to the Bank of Ghana to pay their rent and I raised GHS85, 000 because I gave them 24hours that if you don’t pay your rent, I will evict you.”

According to her the exercise to evict the squatters isn’t a nine day wonder. “We are coming out with the police next week (referring to this week). If you’ve not paid your rent, if you are not authorised to live in a government bungalow make sure that you pack out.”

I hope you’re still with me. Now consider the resources that would go into this exercise i.e. the personnel or man power, the vehicles, the fuel, the logistics and many more. Why do we always have to let the beard grow to the knee?

We fancy comparisons. We like to compare our democracy to that of the US or the UK. And we do so in areas such as tourism, sports, and politics you name it. But have we for a sec considered the lifestyles of the following persons?

Former US vice president Joe Biden commuted from his home state Delaware to Washington DC via Amtrak throughout his senate career. It’s understood he did that virtually every working day for35 years before he became the nation’s No.2 most prominent figure. But it was more than commuting to and fro, I learned. Mr. Biden also engaged the people on the train in conversations daily earning him the name ‘Talkative Joe’.

In March 2011, the Amtrak station in Wilmington, Del was named after him as a long –time passenger and rail advocate.

Have we also considered emulating the shining example of Uruguay president, Jose Mojica?

The media says the 78-year-old man is the world’s poorest president. BUT is he? “No I am not a poor person… poor people are those who never always want more and more…those who never have enough of anything...those are the poor because they’re in a never –ending cycle.”

Mr. Mojica’s immediate bodyguard Manuela is a three-legged dog. He opted to stay in his farm at backcountry of the nation’s capital. A dusty rural road leads to his tiny farm house. Yes, he’s shunned the luxurious house provided by the state for its leaders and opted to stay in the farmhouse with his wife a senator.

“I choose this austere life style. I choose not to have too much belongings so that I have time live how I want,” he says. And did I mention he’s also giving 90 per cent of his salary every month to charity? His assets I guess you want to know too: Two vehicles—a tractor and a WV Beatle 1978, small amount of property and his farm house. Cest fini!

Several months ago I saw two striking images: The first one was a man on a bike on his way going to work. As he rode through the city’s main streets scores waved and he waved back. He was dressed up to the nines (suit and tie). That man was Mark Rutte Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Ironically, the image next to Mr. Rutte’s was a convoy of cars supposedly taken an African president (name withheld) to go for a haircut. You may say that’s a joke. Well, I get that!

BUT when did you see an African president on commercial transport say Tro-tro, Matatu, on a motor bike, or bicycle?

What did Mr. Cameron say?
David Cameron former UK Prime Minister is quoted as saying: “If the amount of money stolen from Nigeria in the last 30 years was stolen the UK the UK would cease to exist.”

Mr. Kwamina Miaful Dadzie posted this comment on WhatsApp:

“…Very sad that often those who loot our nations already have enough for themselves, but still covert after others’ possession,” his comment followed my article titled: ‘Mam-hunt For Mr. Greed.’ published on and the social media on August 4 2017..

In 2011 Forbes an American business magazine published the name of some African leaders who had stolen billions from their people:

Africa’s Richest Dictators who were they?

First is former Nigerian military leader Sani Abacha. Upon his death in 1998 the Nigerian government uncovered over US$3 billion dollars linked to the dictator.. After a series of negotiations between the government and the Abacha family, Abacha’s first son Mohammed eventually returned U$1.2 billion to the Nigerian government in 2002.

Next is Mobutu Sese Seko the former president of the DR Congo. Over his 30 years reign as a ruler of the central African nation the dictator amassed wealth estimated between US$1 billion and US$ 5billion. Next is Nigeria’s former military leader Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda, now 76 years old is believed to have laundered close to US$12 billion earned from an oil windfall during the 1992 Gulf War.

Elsewhere in east Africa, Kenya’s former president Daniel Arap Moil who ruled the east-African nation from 1978 to 2002 also followed the footsteps of the lootees. During his 28 years rule Mr. Moi managed to loot nearly a billion dollars from his people. And was it not him again who sold the lions and the giraffes to the Muzungus for a token?

He stole lands and earned so many assets some of which are held by his children’s name in Australia according to Kroll Associates, a corporate investigation and risk consultancy company that uncovered the rot.

Next is Hosni Mubarak Egypt’s former president. He ruled the north-African nation for 30 good years. And guess what he too ridiculously looted an estimated US$ 70 billion. Forbes editors however think the figure is exaggerated. But the fact remains that he looted his people.

And how could I forget good old Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodom Obiang. In 2006 FORBES estimated his fortune at US$600 million. And there are many more you probably.

Thing is, not everyone would get the opportunity to serve his/her nations in capacities as public office holders. But it’s unquestionably an honour to be given such mandate to represent the people and serve them well. A leader must be selfless not selfish, a leader must be kind not mean a leader must be humble not arrogant. These qualities among others must be guiding principles. They shouldn’t lord themselves over the people who elected them.

A leader must learn not to be smug, sniffy, snippy and snooty. A good leader must inspire, motivate his or her people to engage with the nation’s vision and not teach them how to loot, how to launder, and how to pilfer.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2017

The author has 375 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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