Sunday, July 22, 2012

A game of judgments, debts and a trophy

It feels like a nightmare, but the rooster's crow that will usually rescue me from the horror of a never ending bad dream remains deafening silent, a sign that this is for real. Any residual illusion that the sun would soon smile away the dark clouds and send me looking for my toothbrush was quickly dispelled when the words of a US Supreme Court Judge, Justice Louis Brandeis, were re-echoed – sunlight is the best disinfectant- to stress that that the sun will only bring more painful revelations of judgment debts. And after the learned attorney general of Ghana appeared before parliament's public accounts committee and told us to brace ourselves for more turbulence in judgment-debt-sphere, I have resigned myself to be drowned in screaming evidence that our elected officials, past and present, have failed to protect the public purse with our tacit support.


The nightmare began with accusations that business man and financier of the ruling NDC party, Alfred Woyome, was paid fifty-one million GHC he didn't deserve as judgment debt. Some government officials vehemently attempted to swear us to the belief that he had a valid contract with the republic which was broken by the past NPP administration, an argument that shamefully prostrates before the subsequent arrest and prosecution of Woyome for fraud by the NDC government and its efforts to retrieve payments already made to him. Since then, the judgment debt saga has taken enough twists and turns to take viewers away from the most enthralling soap opera.


As ordinary citizens struggle to come to terms with the fact that this and future generations have been mortgaged to the greed and misdeeds of the political class, NPP and NDC have shamelessly reduced our pain and anguish to a political game, so much so that the deputy minister of information, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa , has resorted to producing, hyping and staging serialized press dramas of judgment debts to gain political equalization of whatever advantage the NPP got from the Woyome saga. To our politicians, the judgment debt brouhaha presents a unique opportunity to grab the trophy-political power. Every ace they strike is crucial to the outcome of the game. To them, it has less to do with opportunity cost of development of a poor country masquerading as a middle-income state. They find little connection to the many women who in the twenty-first century, lose their lives just for attempting to have babies, or the many villages and towns that lack potable water. That is the reason we do not have a single apology from any politician or their parties for the mishaps of Woyomegate, Waterville, CP, AAL (I &II) and Isofoton. There is nobody responsible for any of these! Their well-oiled communication machinery are encamped at every print and electronic media outlet to shout themselves hoarse till the pendulum of blame is magnetically attracted to the other party. Yet we all know that somewhere in the mist of the accusations, the counter-accusations, the insinuations, the politic of equalization, the spins and the outright nonsense, lies the truth, who is usually the first to be sacrificed when accountability calls.


What our politicians have successfully done so far is to get into the laboratory, crush what is good, what is bad and what is ugly about contract terminations, in a single crucible, creating enough smoke to keep us blind to the truth and choke the speech out of our vocal chords. But we have heard enough to understand that this nation has lost and will lose more millions through the actions and inactions of our elected officials. Without a doubt, there are good grounds to terminate contracts, and if the other party feels aggrieved and heads to court, we meet him there fully armed. But when there seems to be too many contractual disputes leading to too many awards against the state, it raises very serious questions. What we can glean from the current season of the debt soap opera is a series of events that leaves the nation bleeding.


Firstly, contracts are awarded to political cronies in such a hurry that important documentation and processes are overlooked. Then the opposition party takes the reins of government and introduces a powerful man who attempts to cut to size some untouchable suppliers to the previous regime. With reckless enthusiasm, he abdicates contractual obligations as if there are no consequences in law, and the supplier heads to court. Unfortunately for the State, some of these contracts will be found binding and we had no business tossing them into the sea water behind the castle. Then the first government comes back to power and feels a sense of responsibility towards their cronies whose businesses were affected, so they refuse to defend the State even in situations where the State may have strong grounds for defense, the result is gargantuan judgment debt and spurious settlement debts. Seeing that the new government is in a benevolent mood to dole out Ghana money at settlements, an opportunistic business man, being a good entrepreneur smells an opportunity to manufacture and sell some settlement debt to equally eager State and government officials, and he grabs it with alacrity. When the s..t hits the fan, the party communicators take care of the rest.


It is difficult to understand how partisan politics has become an alibi for criminal behavior and ineptitude, but the only reason people get away with this nonsense is that there are too many of us who will find excuses for the misdeeds of our party men, even when we have no benefits from the outcomes of their adventures. There is enough blame in this judgment debt saga to go round all the governments of the fourth republic, yet the architects of these gargantuan debts receive massive endorsement from their parties, underscoring the view that our political parties are mere electoral machines rather than any organization built around values. 

Until the rank and file of the NPP and NDC indict their own leaders, for their part in this mess, there is no pressure on the political parties to take this nation seriously. It will take an extra ordinary circumstance for the government in power to put their own on trial, and when a member of the opposition is prosecuted, his party will scream, Political Persecution! With this dichotomy, the climate is perfect for politicians to play their game, and what a trophy to play for- the key to a nation's safe whose contents will not be accounted for. Maybe, as usual, we need a solution from our so called development partners. When they cease all donations and loans to this country, then we will understand the value of every cedi and we will fight to retrieve every pesewa wrongly applied.

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