OCCUPYGHANA® – 2019 IN REVIEW

23rd December 2019
OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT
OCCUPYGHANA® –  2019 IN REVIEW

As the year draws to a close, we at OccupyGhana® reflect on what we have done this year, what is left to be done and where we want to go next year in the service of God and our dear country Ghana, as follows:
1.    We started off the New Year by congratulating the Auditor-General on the first ever Special Audit Report on Disallowances and Surcharges. The news that he had saved the country the net total of GHS5,445,676,134.53 in disallowances and recovered GHS67,137,517.86 in surcharges was very good. We also urged the prosecution of all persons found culpable in the Auditor-General’s Reports. That is yet to happen, to the best of our knowledge.
2.    Later that month, we sent a letter to the Minister of Finance in which we raised concerns about the new Fiscal Responsibility Act. We are yet to get an answer to any of the 14 questions we posed.
3.    On 1st February, we issued a statement that condemned the violence during the bye-elections at Ayawaso West Wuogon. We also demanded a commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the events that occurred that day. In a subsequent letter a few days later, we also questioned the legality of the National Security Council deploying armed personnel during the violence that marred the elections, stating firmly that any armed force operating in Ghana without parliamentary approval was an unconstitutionality.
4.    We were glad when the President announced a commission to investigate the violence during the elections a few days later. We note that the Commission’s Report was aligned with our position on the unconstitutionality of having an armed force operating without parliamentary approval. We demand that the government should either disband the NSC force or obtain parliamentary approval for it. We also urge Ghanaians to continue following the Commission’s Report to ensure that we end partisan and electoral violence once and for all.
5.    On 31st March, after a rather horrific and fatal accident involving two passenger buses on the Tamale-Kitampo road a few days earlier, we asked for measures that would reduce the carnage on our roads in a statement that elucidated the possible steps that could be taken. We can only hope that the authorities are considering those suggestions seriously.
6.    April saw us issuing a statement that disagreed with comments the Senior Minister, Hon. Yaw Osafo Marfo, made about the deportation of the Galamseyer and Chinese National, Aisha Huang. We were shocked at the justification given for that, especially when she was only properly charged with substantive offences after our intervention with and petition to the Attorney-General. We still disagree with the government on this. And as things turned out, the government now disagrees with its own action in this matter.
7.    In May, we saluted the President and Parliament on the Right to Information bill.
8.    On 13th June, we announced the inaugural OccupyGhana v. Attorney-General Anniversary Lectures. The event celebrated our work towards the Supreme Court decision that ensured that the Auditor-General now fully exercises disallowance and surcharge powers.
9.    In July, we joined most Ghanaians to question Parliament over its plans to build a new 450-seat chamber in light of all the other problems the nation faced and also since it did not appear in the annual budget. Those plans were rightfully shelved.
10.    Later on in the month, we questioned the circumstances surrounding the flouting of Afoko’s bail orders. We felt rightfully that those actions encroached on his civil rights.
11.    On 23rd August, in response to revelations by the journalist Manasseh Awuni on the Public Procurement Authority, and the collapse of several financial institutions that seemed to have no end, we demanded that the government enforces the laws to bring order in the procurement and financial sectors.
12.    We followed that with a statement a few weeks later that highlighted the importance of public officials appreciating the importance of avoiding Conflicts of Interest in the course of their work. We are still demanding the passage of a comprehensive legislation on the conduct of public office holders.
13.    Also in September, after the President finally expressed regret about Aisha Huang not facing trial before her deportation, a position we had advocated, we strongly expressed, once again, our disappointment with the government over that turn of events. In our view, that deportation, its justification and then its condemnation, all by the same government, marks one of the lowest points this year.
14.    A month later, we issued a statement condemning the heavy-handedness of the police against demonstrating law students in Accra. We hope that such acts of senseless brutality against Ghanaians will become a thing of the past.
15.    We followed it later with a statement demanding assets and liabilities declaration by over 40,000 public officials, who have flouted the constitution by not declaring. We urged the government to assist the Auditor-General in developing a robust software for assets and liabilities declarations.
16.    In mid-November, we demanded the government make good on the promise to set up an effective emergency response service in Ghana. To that effect, we asked for the release of the ambulances parked in front of the State House into use and also for the set up of command centers. We received a not-wholly satisfactory answer and will continue to demand more information and action on this.
17.    On 1st December, in a letter to the Attorney-General, we stated our view on the unconstitutionality of the 6-month extension given to public officials for asset and liabilities declaration. We expect the government to effect the necessary amendment of the extension provision in the law to bring it in line with the Constitution, without us having to resort to a court action on the matter.
18.    A few days ago, we reiterated the issue of the constitutional independence of the Auditor-General, and the need for the continued exercise of his disallowance and surcharge powers. We raised again the question on why no one was being prosecuted.
We cannot end this release without making two specific demands of government, and in respect of which we require answers before the end of the year:
(i) the Attorney-General must present a full update to Ghanaians on the status of the high profile corruption cases that are being investigated or prosecuted, including the status of recovery and enforcement in the Woyome and the Assibit/Abuga Pele cases; and
(ii) a full investigation into the alleged unauthorised development of a property at the Airport Residential Area that attracted the public ire and intervention of the Minister of Road and Highways, and the much publicised arrest of the developers.
As one can see, we have been busy. From the formation of this organisation, we have emphasised on a fight for hearts and minds, and we have stuck to that with a lot of successes chalked. We believe that our strength lies in the fact that our efforts are based on using, primarily, the law to enhance governance. We believe that the victories won this way are longer-lasting and more effective.
We will continue to stay vigilant and fight for good governance for our dear country. We cannot take on every fight. That’s not what we seek to do, and we do not even have the capacity to do that. Within our means and abilities, we occupy our space and have combined as a group into something formidable.
As we wish every Ghanaian a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, we urge each one to occupy his or her space and in so doing, help right the wrongs that plague our land and put this country on a true road to becoming greater and stronger.
For God and Country!
OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® HAILS CONSTITUTIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF AUDITOR-GENERAL

12TH DECEMBER 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® HAILS CONSTITUTIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF AUDITOR-GENERAL

OccupyGhana® has closely followed the story about the Auditor-General disallowing a one million dollar payment and surcharging the Senior Minister with that amount.

We have also seen a statement dated 11th December 2019, issued by the Senior Minister in which he states his disagreement with the Disallowance and Surchage and communicates his intention to challenge them in court.

We do not think that these momentous developments in our history ought to pass without comment.

This is probably the first time in this Fourth Republic (and possibly in Ghana’s political history) that an Auditor-General has dared to issue a Disallowance and then Surcharge a minister; and no less a minister than the Senior Minister.

And under the constitutional dispensation that we are blessed with, the Auditor-General who issued the Disallowance and Surcharge cannot mysteriously disappear. He cannot be shut up. He cannot be arrested or lose his job for doing his work. Rather, people he surcharges (whoever they are) have no option but to work under the principles of constitutionalism and the rule of law, and to challenge the Auditor-General in court.

When in November 2014, OccupyGhana began the fight to compel the Auditor-General to exercise the constitutionally-mandated powers of Disallowance and Surcharge, our biggest obstacle was the several naysayers who were convinced that we had no case and would lose. But we were confident because our cause was just and our course was right. We were fortified in our simple argument: that where the Constitution donates a power and prescribes the circumstances under which the power is to be exercised, it is a breach of the Constitution if that power is never exercised. We were convinced that especially where the Auditor-General himself issued annual reports showing the routine illegal dissipation of Ghana’s resources, the non-use of the power to check that wrong was in and of itself an abuse of the power.  We therefore urged the Supreme Court to interpret the empowering word “may” in the Constitution as the imperative “shall,” so that whenever the Auditor-General discovers what he considers to be a wrongful use of Ghana’s money, he would be mandatorily required to disallow and surcharge.

When on 21st June 2016 the Supreme Court came out with a judgment that granted each of the five reliefs we had sought, we knew that the history of public sector accountability in Ghana had changed forever. But the Supreme Court was not done. It gave one further relief that we had not even asked for, as follows: “Finally, the Attorney-General is hereby ordered to take all necessary steps to enforce the decisions or steps taken by the Auditor-General…to ensure compliance including in some cases criminal prosecutions.”

 

Going to court cost us a lot in terms of energy, time and resources. But Ghana was and remains the winner from our convictions and resolve.

We do not know as yet the legal route that the Senior Minister plans to take in his promised challenge. However, if it is an appeal under the new Order 54A of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 (CI 47), then we are even more gratified because we were proud to work on and submit the original draft that gestated into the Bill, which was adopted by the Rules of Court Committee and passed by Parliament as the High Court (Civil Procedure) (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules, 2016 (CI 102), and which we have happily named “the OccupyGhana Rules.”

We believe that in the final analysis, if the Auditor-General erred in the Disallowance and Surcharge against the Senior Minister, the court will say so. However, if he was right, the court will also say so and hold the Senior Minister liable to pay the money paid under the transaction to the state.

That is democracy. That is constitutionalism. That is the rule of law. Ultimately, when the story of Ghana is told, it ought to end with three words: “…and Ghana won.”.

Yours in the service of God and Country,

OccupyGhana®

GHANAIANS WILL NOT BE SPECTATORS OF PARKED AMBULANCES

17th NOVEMBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

GHANAIANS WILL NOT BE SPECTATORS OF PARKED AMBULANCES

Last year, the direness of medical care in Ghana was heightened significantly after several high-profile deaths due to a lack of beds in our hospitals and/or lack of a functioning emergency response system.

In the brouhaha that followed these deaths, OccupyGhana® and Citi FM petitioned the President on 27th July, 2018, to among other things, complete and operationalise several uncompleted hospitals, set up a bed management and a functioning emergency response system. Regarding the emergency response system, we did not only ask for ambulances and paramedics but we especially noted the need for the establishment of a Command Centre to coordinate and direct the supply of emergency services. We saw that as the first step in setting up an emergency response service.

In the year since then, a few of the hospitals have been completed but not fully operationalised. According to the Special Development Initiatives Ministry, 500 paramedics are being trained and due to graduate soon. The government has taken delivery of 48 ambulances out of 307 that have been budgeted for. However, since their arrival several weeks ago, they have been parked in front of the State House. Also, contrary to what the President promised last year, there is still no Command Centre. We also do not know the status of the bed management system.

Like most Ghanaians, OccupyGhana® wonders why in light of the fact that the country has so few working ambulances, these new ambulances would be left idling before the State House instead of being out in the constituencies being used to save lives. In a recent interview, even the Public Relations Officer of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) had no idea when the ambulances would be released by the government for deployment.

Finally, we heard this last Friday from the Minister of Health who said that distribution was delayed because the ambulances were being received in batches. More clarity came from the Special Development Initiatives Ministry which gave a rough timeline of when the ambulances will be deployed and why they are still parked in front of the State House. Three of the steps being taken deserve further consideration. According to the ministry the ambulances have not been deployed because:

– they are being fitted with trackers;

– receiving points are being set up; and

– paramedics are still being trained.

We can excuse the fitting of the trackers. We can even excuse the training of the paramedics. But what cannot be excused is the lack of receiving points for these ambulances.

In emergency care, the stepwise care of the critically ill or injured goes by algorithms that are known as the “ABCDs.” They are important because following them leads to the saving of lives.

In establishing an emergency service, that same order is needed to prevent chaos. Ambulances are a very important part of an emergency response service but even more important are the receiving points or what we termed “Command Centres” in our petition to the president a year ago. Once you have that, the pieces that make up an emergency response service are easier to arrange as you get them. If we had a Command Centre, we would have been ready even before the ambulances arrived. Instead, these ambulances are gracing the courtyard of the State House in all their splendour. They have become eye candy for a desolate populace whose voices precipitated a rapid acquisition of these ambulances.

This demands us to ask these very pertinent questions:

– Are there plans afoot to set up a central command centre or is the national Ambulance Service going to be the de facto Command Centre?

– Are these receiving points going to be command centres or just places where the ambulances are housed?

– Is there a bed management in place to allow the ambulance drivers to take patients to facilities that have available beds?

– Will the ambulances be equipped with suitable mapping technology to help them find patients?

– What plans have been made for constituencies with no hospitals? Where will their emergency cases go?

We did applaud the government for its response in making these ambulances available in the first place. But we equally express our disappointment that the ambulances since arrival have been inactive. Thus, we ask these questions because these ambulances just sitting there while people are dying, is a mark of gross irresponsibility and paints a vivid picture of lack of completeness in the thinking that went behind acquiring the ambulances in the first place.

It is enshrined in the Constitution, Article 34(2) that the citizenry has a Right to Good Health Care. How does parking the buses in front of the State House ensure that?

We rallied behind the President to his clarion call to be citizens. We will not settle to be spectators, especially to parked ambulances. Accordingly, we demand answers and no excuse but prompt and immediate action.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®