Notes from the Ghanaman File: It’s Public Funds; chop and Pay Later

Over the weekend I asked some of my friends what would make them leave the private sector to take up jobs in public service and I was shocked to the marrow with their responses. Ei, our country is in trouble oo! Almost all my five friends who are doing well in their businesses would still love to take up public service appointments with the sole motivation of getting freebies as pecks of their offices. They all, like several Ghanaians do not find jobs in the civil service at lower levels attractive because of poor remunerations and low self-esteem of some of the workers. But to be at the top in the service is more attractive to them.

These guys asked me why I think most people are ‘dying’ to join political parties if it is just to serve. They asked if being successful in the private sector and doing philanthropic deeds to provide potable water, food, shelter and medical care to the poor would not be more blessed and more recognizable than becoming an MP, Minister (with or without portfolio),Chief Director etc which would guarantee the office holder free use of fueled V8 4×4 SUV, free state bungalow, police escort, diplomatic passport, great social recognition among other benefits.

In fairness, not all office holders seek material benefits for serving this nation. Some genuinely take up appointments to share their expertise, experiences and knowledge to help the development of our land. Recent disclosures, however, are very worrying and make me think that it is easier to rise in public service, grab some state funds and invest privately and enjoy life till the law catches up with you. The initial shame of being the subject of public scorn in the media, a few visits to the BNI and/or EOCO and that’s it! In Ghana, you will be asked to return the stolen money and voila; you are a free rich man!

The recent revelations have come to top up the complaints against the workings of the Public Accounts Committee which ‘catches’ public thieves but is powerless to prosecute the offenders. Year in and out, the committee puts people before it to answer questions but because the system deals with previous years, a Minister or Chief Director may be summoned to answer questions about actions of the predecessor and the result is usually not beneficial to the state.

It raises the question of our systems and how well they are working or not working. If our systems were working well, thievery in public service would almost be impossible or very difficult. But we either deliberately have lose systems to make it easier to exploit it or those working with the systems make them unworkable for the same reasons.

Those who break through the weak systems also hide behind political patronage to cover up. Else, why is it always the case that it is only when there is a change of government before the offenders are exposed? Sad enough too is that, they have political backers to cry that they are being witch-hunted.

To make it worse now is the practice of asking such people to pay back what they concede to have stolen from the state purse and ‘go and sin no more’! This is what makes our country an interesting country. The culture is what I have always blamed for this. Since those in Government and those who have exited have some relationships through old students unions, Religious links, tribal connections, business partnerships etc, and can also run to seek support from chiefs, pastors and other religious leaders among other influential citizens they get charges against them dropped and the cycle continues. Our president assures us that not even his wife can get him drop charges against such thieves.

This ‘chop and pay later’ syndrome must not be allowed to continue because of the dangers in emboldening more people to steal and pay later but it is just very unfair to the citizens who suffer great want in food, education, health, good roads etc and particularly those who need small financial backings to begin new businesses or push their businesses to the next levels but who are not able to access loans with low interest rates from the banks. If some can have access to state funds to invest freely and pay later without any interest, then as one so called man of God was quoted to have told his congregation that if after several sermons against fornication and adultery, if no change comes he too would join them to enjoy the sexual sins, then let’s open up the system for everyone to ‘chop small and pay later’.

That is how to be fair to all.

By Kojo Ackaah-Kwarteng

Head of Station,Onua 95.1

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