Having endured the monumental corruption that marked the rule of the NDC for nearly an entire decade, Ghanaians were justifiably hoping for a little break from the questionable practices of both their government and the individuals associated with it now that the NPP is in power. From the look of things so far, however, the people may be disappointed. There may be a new sheriff in town, but his behavior is almost indistinguishable from that of the one before him.
As an NPP supporter and one who believed fervently that the party's 2016 victory would usher in genuine change in every aspect of our national life, I find recent developments quite disheartening. The scandals related to the just-ended Commonwealth Games in Australia shockingly recalled the World Cup event in Brazil in 2014 when government and sports officials had a field day in racketeering. Money changed hands illegally, and many people who shouldn't have been issued visas to travel to Brazil got on the flight to Rio and refused to return to Ghana when the tournament ended.
John Mahama and his NDC were in charge then and Ghanaians, having grown accustomed to the sleaze in that administration, shrugged it all off with resignation as if to say: What else is new?
But things were supposed to be different starting from January 2017. The Commonwealth Games scandals shouldn't have happened on the watch of a government that has pledged to weed out corruption from the system. While in opposition, the NPP rightly took the NDC government to task over the sordid events in Brazil, but after trading places in government with the NDC, it finds within its own ranks officials who are no.less crooked or corrupt than those on the other side that it had criticized a few years ago. Although the president, to his credit, acted swiftly against certain individuals connected to the scandals, it appears that the damage has been done.
As if the Commonwealth Games episode wasn't bad enough, it recently came to light that the NPP government has nearly 1000 people on the payroll as presidential staffers at Jubilee House, slightly more than a third in excess of what the previous administration had. The size of the presidential staffers was made public following an opposition demand that the government tell the nation how many people were being paid with taxpayers' money at Jubilee House.
Of course, no government can function without a pool of administrative staff to assist in the day-to-day activities required in running a modern bureaucracy. The question is: What size of staffing is optimal to get the job done? The previous government managed with one-third less staffers, so why can't the new administration work with the same number of personnel, or even a smaller staff in the interest of fiscal discipline?
Obviously, after winning power the NPP is under tremendous pressure to find jobs for the party's so-called foot soldiers and others who contributed to its electoral success last November. The NDC also must have found itself in a similar predicament when it came to power, which makes both parties the mirror image of each other and both guilty of abuse of power for using tax revenue to placate restive party hacks. Doling out cash from the national treasury in the form of paychecks to party loyalists every month is a false response to pressure to provide jobs for the boys.
The focus must be on real job creation, which the One District One Factory proposal was designed to address. But the fate of that proposal is in limbo, having moved very little beyond the catchy campaign mantra that it was.
Heaven knows that I am far from being one of Kwame Nkrumah's admirers but I think the former president's approach to finding jobs for his followers may be worth looking at. Instead of packing the Flagstaff House with all those hundreds of people who needed help and paying them for doing practically nothing, Nkrumah came up with the communist-inspired idea of the Workers Brigade for the former CPP foot soldiers or street fighters, who were commonly known as Action Troopers.
Members of the Workers Brigade worked on farms, and even though they contributed only marginally to the national economy, they were nonetheless engaged in economically productive activities. Although the communist connotation may be anathema to a democratic government, similar agricultural projects could be established across the nation to absorb all those idle hands in the NPP who every now and then turn into hoodlums and menace court houses and other public places.
As for which of the two major political parties has a more wholesome reputation, I think many people may have a hard time deciding since officials or appointees of both the NPP and the NDC have at one time or another behaved in ways that suggest that the two organizations are merely two sides of the same coin.
But the ongoing double-dipping scandal involving a number of John Mahama's ministers seems to have dented the image of the NDC even further, making the party's name more closely identified with corruption than its arch rival's. It doesn't get any worse than government ministers knowingly and illegally collecting double salaries over a period of time and concealing their criminal behavior.