#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION

#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION

27th November, 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION

OccupyGhana® announces that it has joined hands with likeminded Media and Civil Society Organisations to declare Friday, November 30, 2018 and every other Friday before Christmas as #RTIRedFriday against the demonstrable lack of commitment and delay by Parliament in passing the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.

We note that even though the Bill is in Parliament, there appears to be a deliberate ploy by some parliamentarians to engineer delays. That is why on consecutive occasions, Parliament could not form a quorum to discuss the Bill which is at the Consideration Stage.

As noted by OccupyGhana® a year ago, the inexcusably long delay of over 19 years by successive Governments under the Fourth Republican Constitution to pass this law suggests that Governments are simply afraid to pass a law that will help actualize a right that the Constitution has already given to Ghanaians. Unless and until the law is passed, Ghanaians are entitled to conclude that Governments will seek any and every excuse to defer the passage of this law for as long as possible.

We, and indeed many Ghanaians cannot help but notice the sense of urgency with which Government and Parliament rush to pass bills that they consider important. On such occasions, Parliament has been recalled from recess or stayed in late to work on certain bills. OccupyGhana® is particularly disappointed in this delay considering the much-touted credentials of this Government and the President as regards to the rule of law and good governance.

We remind Government that the courts have held that the right to information does not require an Act of Parliament to be exercised. Yet there remain substantive and procedural impediments to the exercise of this right. The current ‘default’ position of Government departments is to either refuse or simply not answer any request for information. This forces citizens to go to court every time they seek to exercise that right. This is unacceptable and has to be addressed to ensure a straightforward and low cost system for the public to be able to enforce requests for information.

This Government and this Parliament is at serious risk of showing the people of Ghana that they are no different from their predecessors over nearly two decades when it comes to giving the people of this country their right to information. OccupyGhana® is therefore calling on the President to rally his Government to pass this law without further delay.

OccupyGhana® further expects that the Bill, when passed into law, will set out clear parameters and instances where the government will exercise public interest privilege (this is the privilege that allows government to refuse the disclosure of a document or information which is against the public interest.) The current wide-bound interpretation of the government on this privilege is, in our view, the greatest substantive and procedural hurdle to the full realisation of the right to information. Any law that does not deal with this matter in a manner that eases the right to information would be worthless and not have been worth the wait. The law should ensure that any doubts as to whether there is such a privilege be resolved in favour or granting, rather than withholding, such information.

OccupyGhana® is calling on the public to exert even more pressure on government and parliament to pass this law by participating in the activities lined up as part of the #RTIRedFriday. We must not accept the status quo and the excuses coming from Parliament on this nearly 20-year delay.

Yours, for God & Country,

OccupyGhana®

RE: ALLOWANCES FOR BOARDS AND COUNCILS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE

14th November 2018

The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Finance
Accra

Dear Sir,

RE: ALLOWANCES FOR BOARDS AND COUNCILS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE

OccupyGhana® has noted with delight and approval Government’s directive to the Public Service through you, on the above-entitled matter, and dated 2nd November 2018, to streamline the basis for paying sitting allowances to members of state Boards, Authorities, Council, etc., and to ban the payment of monthly salaries/allowances to such persons. This ties in very much with our Press Statement dated 20th May 2018 that expressed deep concerns about such matters, and in which we called for the specific ban of such payments, among others.

While we applaud this all-important step towards reining in unjustified payment of monies, we respectfully want to bring to your attention certain wrong practices engaged in by members of such Boards for several years and which, if not checked alongside your directive, would completely erode its essence and violate its spirit.

First, with the primary aim of accumulating sitting allowances, certain Boards and Board Committees are known to meet several times in a month, even when the meetings are repetitive and meaningless. We are aware of Board and Board Committee meetings that are called without agenda, ostensibly just to review minutes of a previous meeting. Heads of such institutions and Board chairs have to be held responsible for unnecessary meetings and surcharged with any sitting allowances so paid.

Second, some Board and Board Committee members have essentially become parallel structures to those existing in the entities, and insist on undertaking work that would ordinarily be undertaken by employees of the entities. Some insist on, for instance, touring facilities or educating the public around Ghana. Even worse are the scandalous and ridiculous travel budgets presented for approval. It leaves very little to the imagination the real reason behind such ventures.

Third, you would have to take the additional step of cutting out expenses associated with the unfounded belief on the part of Board Members and members of Board Committees that they are entitled to training and conferences, especially abroad, at the expense of the tax payer. We believe that it is a person’s already existing experience and knowledge that gets that person to serve on a Board or Board Committee. That knowledge and experience are not to be acquired after appointment and at the expense of the tax payer. Thus, paying for the cost of training, costs of airfares, hotel expenses and per diem should be a thing of the past. Boards and Board Committees do not need members who are there to line their pockets with undeserved allowances, enjoy paid travel and enhance their personal curriculum vitae.

We reiterate a point we made in our Press Statement dated 20th May 2018 that no board member is entitled to monthly remuneration, an office, official accommodation, official vehicle, etc. To the extent that any such facilities have been, or are being, provided, they are unlawful.

These are only some of the things that have to be checked as part of your directive, if it is not to be defeated on the ground.

Yours, for God and Country,

 

OccupyGhana®

 

CC.

 

The Chief of Staff

Office of the President

Accra

 

The Chief Executive

State Enterprises Commission

Accra

OCCUPYGHANA® RESPONDS TO K. T. HAMMOND ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL AND CALLS FOR MORE PUBLIC PRESSURE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL INTO LAW

OCCUPYGHANA® RESPONDS TO K. T. HAMMOND ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL AND CALLS FOR MORE PUBLIC PRESSURE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL INTO LAW

13th November, 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® RESPONDS TO K. T. HAMMOND ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL AND CALLS FOR MORE PUBLIC PRESSURE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL INTO LAW

Our attention has been drawn to a news item published by myjoyonline.com on 1st November 2018 in which Mr. K. T. Hammond, Member of Parliament for Adansi Asokwa, is reported to have expressed opposition to the passage of the Right to Information Bill into law because “there will be no secret in government.” Mr. Hammond is reported to have uttered the following words:

“You need peace of mind to run a government. You need to concentrate and if you have a bill and before the ink dries on it, somebody is asking you to ‘bring this document’… to the extent that we are talking about communication between the president, the vice president and cabinet, potentially there will be no secret in government…

‘Free society’ and all that is a journalist’s jargon and until they sit on the seat of an administrator, they will not know what it feels like to be pestered for information…

Gold nuggets are in there for journalists. One single slip, ministers cannot operate, government cannot proceed effectively, governance cannot take place meaningfully with this sort of albatross hanging over our heads.”

By these words we understand Mr. Hammond to be saying that attempts to exercise the right to information that is guaranteed under Article 21(1)(f) of our Constitution constitutes some disturbance or irritation to the government. Mr. Hammond thinks that the concept of a “free society” that the Constitution guarantees is merely “a journalistic jargon.” He considers requests for information as a shackle or impediment to running a government effectively.

We have also noted that on 7th November 2018, Parliament was forced to suspend the consideration of the Bill for a second time due to alleged lack of a quorum. Again, it was the same Mr. Hammond (this time with Mr. Samuel George, MP for Prampram in support) who was too pleased to take advantage of this and thereby stultify this Bill making progress in parliament.

Mr. Hammond’s fears are not just false and unfounded, they are antiquated and out of sync with modern day democratic tenets. Mr.  Hammond does not appear to us to fully appreciate what the Constitution provides and the role of statute in shaping the constitutional right to information.

We respectfully draw Mr. Hammond’s attention to the State Secrets Act, 1962 (Act 101), which protects from all duly classified state secrets from disclosure. There is also the public interest privilege that is recognised under the Constitution as an exception to the right to information. The Constitution contains details provisions on how this privilege is claimed and challenged, if need be. Thus passing the RTI Bill into law will not affect the fact that the state will have secrets or that some information should not be disclosed because its disclosure would not be in the interest of the state. An RTI Act can and will exist side by side with the State Secrets Act and constitutional provisions, and complement each other, so that all public information that do not constitute state secrets or qualify for the exercise of the public interest privilege, should be made available to Ghanaians either by the government itself or upon request.

Mr. Hammond has to be aware that the courts of Ghana have upheld the right to information even without the statute being in place. All that the draft Bill seeks to do is to set down the mechanics and processes for interested persons to obtain information without having to go to court in each instance. The current ‘default’ position where almost all public information is treated as a state secret or as falling under public interest privilege unless the person seeking the information goes to court, is backward, unacceptable, unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Our Article 21(1)(f) on the right of citizens to information is arguably one of the most progressive in the world. Thus while the United States Supreme Court has held in the US, there no constitutional right of access to government information or sources of information within the government’s control, our constitutional provision on the right to information and its interpretation and enforcement by our Supreme Court are more forward-looking and more liberal. That is why our Supreme Court has affirmed “the right of all persons to information, as expressed in Article 21(1)(f) of the Constitution,” adding that the “right to information implies a right to access public document.” The same Court has described attempts to withhold information from citizens as “reprehensible” and “a wilful violation of the Constitution.”

OccupyGhana® is calling on the public to exert even more pressure on government and parliament to pass this law. We must not accept the status quo and the excuses coming from parliament on this nearly 20 year delay.

Yours in the service of occupying minds for God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OccupyGhana® Presents Immediate Solutions For Reducing The Carnage On Tetteh Quarshie-Adenta Highway (N4)

OccupyGhana® Presents Immediate Solutions For Reducing The Carnage On Tetteh Quarshie-Adenta Highway (N4)

9th November, 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESENTS IMMEDIATE SOLUTIONS FOR REDUCING THE CARNAGE ON TETTEH QUARSHIE-ADENTA HIGHWAY (N4)

OccupyGhana® is alarmed at the spate of pedestrian deaths on the Tetteh Quarshie-Adenta Highway (N4) in Accra due primarily to the unavailability of safe crossing facilities on the road. The latest accident in which a first-year female student of West Africa Senior High School (WASS) was reported to have been killed becomes the 194th reported death on the Madina-Adentan Highway this year.

OccupyGhana® joins the nation in grieving with the bereaved families of the deceased.

The incident, which caused angry residents to set ablaze car tyres to register their protest to the government, is deeply regrettable and would have been avoidable had government been proactive in arresting the situation sooner.

OccupyGhana® is surprised that after 11 years of the construction of the highway, none of the footbridges have been completed. This has made it unsafe for pedestrians to cross the multiple-lane highway. It is expected that footbridges, which form the integral safety of pedestrians, must be constructed before the commissioning of any highway.

OccupyGhana® is disappointed in the slow reaction of the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Roads and Highways, and the Ghana Highways Authority to handling this issue, thus causing the reported loss of 194 lives. These authorities have failed to take the required safety measures to save the lives of innocent Ghanaians who must cross the roads in the conduct of their everyday business.

Although we acknowledge government’s statement in dealing with the situation, and find it unforgivingly belated, we assure the government that we will hold them to it.

In addition to the measures proposed by government, OccupyGhana® calls for the following immediate measures to be implemented in curbing the carnage on the Tetteh Quarshie-Adenta Highway (N4):

1. Specific speed limits should be imposed and enforced on that stretch of road;

2. Rumble strips should be constructed on the long stretch of road beginning from the University of Ghana to the Pantang end of the highway to reduce the unnecessary speeding of drivers;

3. Government should replace all faulty traffic lights with modern, solar-powered lights and provide extra traffic lights with toucan crossing system to allow free flow of traffic;

4. Public education must be extended to the public on safe crossing of the highways, by the National Road Safety Commission;

5. Officials of the MTTD of the Ghana Police must be on duty at all times to control the traffic situation till all works are completed on the repair and installation of the traffic lights and rumble streets;

6. Government must provide adequate road signs and markings along this stretch, fix reflectors on the kerbs and designate and mark crosswalks where pedestrians have priority over vehicular traffic;

7. Government should fix all streetlights along the corridor and ensure they are properly maintained; and

8. Enforce our traffic laws!

OccupyGhana® is concerned about road safety measures on other highways, most especially the N1 highway that is claiming a lot of lives. Government should apply these same measures on the N1 highway.

Yours in the service of occupying minds for God and Country

OccupyGhana®

Letter to Government In Relation to KNUST happenings

29th October 2018

The Minister of Education
Ministry of Education
Accra

The Executive Secretary
National Council for Tertiary Education
Accra

Gentlemen:

RE: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS CONCERNING KNUST

OccupyGhana® has been closely observing the recent developments at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi (“KNUST”), and the issues arising from them. We have also just seen what purports to be a letter from the National Council for Tertiary Education (“NCTE”) that seeks to recognise a so-called “Interim Council” and further “direct” the Vice-Chancellor (“VC”) to step aside.

We register our strong opposition to any attempts to (i) replace the duly-constituted Council of KNUST with any other body in a manner that does not conform with the laws of the country, and then (ii) force the Vice-Chancellor to resign or step aside. It is our view that these acts by your two bodies, constitute an infringement of and affront to the law and the right to academic freedom recognized and protected under article 21 of the Constitution, and which is generally recognised to protect both university teachers and university administrators.

Our objections have three grounds.

First, it was the case that under the original formulation of the KNUST Act, 1961 (Act 80) and the amendments in PNDCL 240, the Government was the appointing authority of the KNUST Council, with the President as the Chancellor. However, as a result of the coming into force of article 68(1)(b) of the Constitution, and Parliament accepting and passing into law, the comprehensive review and consolidation of Ghana law by the Statute Law Revision Commissioner (the “Crabbe Reforms”) changes occurred in the KNUST Act, among several others.

Key among these changes, based on the Constitution and also meant to enhance the right to academic freedom, was that the President was no longer the Chancellor of that university or any other university in Ghana. As a result of this, now, the government appoints Chancellors but only where the relevant statute specifically vests this power in the President. It might also appoint Councils of universities where the relevant statute so provides. This does not include KNUST, the University of Cape Coast, the University of Development Studies and the University of Mines and Technology. And in the specific case of KNUST, the President appoints the Chancellor with the advice of the Council, and it is the Chancellor, not the Government, who appoints the chair of the Council. The Council is also made up of persons is directly “appointed or elected” by specifically named institutions and bodies as their “representatives.” And, it is the Council that appoints the VC, and may remove that person in the exercise of its implied power under article 297 of the Constitution. Neither the government nor any of its agencies including the NCTE may usurp any of those powers vested by law in those other persons.

The Crabbe Reforms have been upheld several times by our courts and most authoritatively by the Supreme Court in Kpebu v. Attorney-General (No. 3). In that case, although the Court expressed regret that Parliament’s deliberations leading to the adoption of those Crabbe Reforms were “hasty, superficial and lacked any commitment,” the Court stated that even if there had been mistakes it was Parliament’s duty to make the required changes, and not the Court’s. The Court was emphatic that “the Seven Volumes of the Laws of Ghana (Revised Edition) constitute the current state of the law contained therein.”

It does not appear that Parliament has accepted that the Crabbe Reforms contain any “mistakes.”  Further, Parliament has not taken any steps to revise the Crabbe Reforms to correct any perceived “mistakes.” Until that happens, the law is what is contained in the Laws of Ghana (Revised Edition.) The Government is bound by them, and certainly the Executive is not allowed to turn itself into a legislative authority to make up the law as it pleases, or to hunt and peck and pick and choose which provisions it would respect and which provisions it would disrespect.

Second, even if the Government is still the appointing authority of the KNUST Council and therefore may dissolve it (which position would fly in the face of the express amendment to the KNUST Act), the Government cannot purport to reconstitute the Council without affording the named institutions or bodies in the Act, the opportunity to “appoint or elect” their respective representatives to serve on any reconstituted Council. It appears to us to be an affront to democracy and the rule of law, that when the law gives to other institutions or bodies the right to “appoint or elect” persons to serve on the Council, the Government can arrogate to itself the right to do that on their behalf and select persons that the Government chooses, as representatives of the institutions or bodies. Thus the current “Interim Council” is an illegality that must not be countenanced or allowed to exist or operate. The purported ‘elevation’ of the Pro-VC to the Council, in a thinly-disguised attempt to remove the VC from his ex-officio seat on the Council, is also illegal.

Third, the “directive” by the NTCE for the VC to “temporarily handover the day to day running of the University to the pro-Vice Chancellor,” allegedly to allow the illegal Interim Council to operate is yet another illegal act in a stream of illegal acts by both the government and its agencies. The NCTE has no such power. This ultra vires and legally flawed directive has no basis in the NCTE Act, 1993 (Act 454), under which the NCTE is merely an advisory body to the Minister and tertiary institutions, and may also make recommendations and publish information on tertiary education. Surely this wrongly assumed power to issue such a directive cannot even fall under the omnibus clause that the NCTE may perform other functions “that are incidental” to its stated statutory functions.

Accordingly, the said directive by the NCTE should be withdrawn or be ignored and treated with the contempt it deserves.

We respectfully urge both the Ministry and the NCTE to respect the law and the right of academic freedom, and stop interfering in the administration of KNUST. The Government’s role, if any, would and should be to maintain law and order on the campus and to facilitate discussions leading to an amicable resolution of the problems on the campus, and not to jump into the arena of conflict, become a party to it and thereby compound the problems. The Government should allow the law to work and for the duly constituted bodies to decide on what happens on the campus. That is the law and we fully expect of the Government and its agencies that if they are unhappy with the law, they may appeal to Parliament to revise it. Until then the government must obey the rule of law, however unpalatable that may be to it.

We urge the two of you to forthwith retract all steps taken in furtherance of these clearly illegal pursuits. You do not have to compound the already volatile situation by inviting court actions and their attendant injunctions that will only adversely affect the students.

We also urge the persons named to serve on the purported “Interim Council” to do right by themselves, their conscience and the law. Just as History names and eulogises “the wise and brave and strong, who graced their generation, who helped the right, and fought the wrong, and made our folk a nation,” it also does not forget to mention, at least in inglorious footnotes, those who lent their names to support clear acts of illegality.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

cc.
The Chief of Staff
Office of the President
Accra

The Attorney-General & Minister of Justice
Accra

The Press

REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE DISPOSAL OF GOVERNMENT VEHICLES

July 17, 2018

His Excellency the President
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Dear Sir,

REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE DISPOSAL OF GOVERNMENT VEHICLES

Upon your assumption of office as President, a lot of issues came up with regards to the sale of government assets, especially vehicles allocated at the seat of government. Based on these, OccupyGhana® decided to take the issue up and ascertain how these vehicles were disposed of, and whether they were done in accordance with laid down procurement laws.

We therefore wrote to the Chief of Staff and the Administrator-General on 28th March, 2017 with ref no. OG/2017/001. Our letter demanded answers to the following, under our constitutional right of information under Article 21(f):

1. Were any government assets, particularly vehicles, disposed of between the 7th December 2016 election and the handover to the new government?
2. If so, is there a list of those assets, showing the persons to whom the assets were sold and for how much?
3. Was a Board of Survey convened with respect to those assets, and if so, who were the members?
4. Was a Technical Report on the assets to be disposed of prepared for the Board of Survey, and if so, may we have a copy?
5. Did the Board of Survey prepare and submit a report on the assets and the best method of disposing of them, and if so may we have a copy?
6. Did your office complete a Board of Survey form, and if so may we have a copy?
7. Were the Board of Survey’s recommendations approved by your office, and if so may we have a copy of the written approval?
8. Were any of the assets deemed unserviceable for reasons other than fair wear and tear, such as through accident or expiry, and if so was a procedure established by the Board of Survey for handling losses, and was that followed before the assets were disposed of?
9. Were any assets classified as “obsolete and surplus”, and if so were they;
a. transferred to other government departments or public entities, with or without financial adjustment, or
b. sold by public tender to the highest tenderer or public auction subject to a reserve price; and if so, may we have evidence of those disposal processes?

When we did not receive a response from either office, we sent reminders on January 30, 2018, with ref. No. OG/2018/004.

This time we received a response from the Administrator-General on 7th February 2018 with reference number SCR/OAG/LSP/008/V.1/P.42 providing us with a schedule of vehicles sold, who they were sold to and how much they were sold for. He however stated that he could not provide information on whether the mandatory procedure for the Disposal of Stores, Vehicles, Plant and Equipment under Part 8 of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) was followed, and asked us to seek answers to this from the Office of the Chief of Staff. We have not heard from that office.

We are concerned because with almost every political transition, vehicles belonging to the government have been sold rather cheaply to political office holders, without regard to the procedure laid down by law for the disposal of government assets. Prior to 2016, the claim was that “vehicles” were not specifically covered under the mandatory procedure under sections 83 and 84 of Act 663.

It was to address this apparent lacuna in the law that section 83 of the Act was specifically amended, and section 83A specifically introduced, by sections 44 and 45 respectively of the Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914), so that the mandatory disposal procedure would without doubt apply to vehicles.

We would find it unbelievable that within months of this amendment, government vehicles would still be disposed of without regard to the law. We do not believe that persons working for the government would dispose of, and others would acquire, vehicles under circumstances that would make them liable to prosecution under section 92(1) of Act 663.

While expressing our disappointment that we have not received the information we require on whether the procedures were followed, we have cause to suspect that the non-responsiveness is because the procedures were breached.

To ascertain this, we respectfully request that a full scale investigation be launched into how these vehicles were disposed of, with explanations on whether our Procurement laws were followed, and that these findings should be made public.

Yours in the service of God and Country

Kwaku D. Segbefia,
For: OccupyGhana®

Cc:

1. Office of the Vice-President
Jubilee House
Accra

2. The Speaker
Parliament of Ghana
Accra

3. The Administrator-General
The Castle, Osu
Accra

4. The Special Prosecutor
Office of the Special Prosecutor
Accra

REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATIONS INTO REPORTED PETROLEUM PRODUCT SMUGGLING, RE-EXPORT AND PREMIX DUMPING, UNLAWFUL PROFITEERING, TAX EVASION AND FINANCIAL REPORTING INCONSISTENCY AT BOST.

July 13, 2018

The Chief of Staff,
Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana
Jubilee House,
Accra.

Dear Madam,

REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATIONS INTO REPORTED PETROLEUM PRODUCT SMUGGLING, RE-EXPORT AND PREMIX DUMPING, UNLAWFUL PROFITEERING, TAX EVASION AND FINANCIAL REPORTING INCONSISTENCY AT BOST.

OccupyGhana®️ has received and studied the 2017 industry report of the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD). The report, which we believe has been submitted to the Offices of the President and Vice-President as well as Parliament alleges over a dozen infractions and breaches of the law by, and indicts unnamed officials of National Security, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Office of the President.

We note with concern the alleged revenue losses amounting to GHS 1.4 billion in the loss of over 800-thousand metric tonnes of subsidized fuel. If true, this is completely unacceptable. Also worrying is the allegation that about GHS 5.2 million was lost to the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) from diversions of 230 illegitimately subsidized premix trucks.

The CBOD alleges losses due to increased smuggling activities along our coasts, under-invoicing, illegal tax and regulatory margins, ESLA under-reporting, Special Petroleum Tax (SPT) transfer pricing, deliberate inefficiencies and illegalities at BOST, unlawful profiteering, tax evasion and export dumping. But what we find even more troubling is the claim that these are happening with the connivance and complicity of officials in the Office of the President, in National Security, and in GRA.

In the interest of the principles of probity, accountability and transparency, we write to request that full scale criminal and highly forensic investigations are conducted into the alleged findings in the CBOD Report. If any persons are found to have engaged in these acts we would urge the prosecution of all criminally culpable elements within the petroleum value chain to the full extent permissible by law, no matter who these culpable elements may be.

Yours faithfully,

D. Kwaku Segbefia,
For: OccupyGhana®️

Cc:
1. Office of the Vice-President
Jubilee House
Accra

2. The Speaker
Parliament of Ghana
Accra

3. The Minister
Ministry of Energy
Accra

4. The Chief Executive Officer
National Petroleum Authority
Accra

OccupyGhana® Presents An 11-Point Plan For A Comprehensive Emergency Response System In Ghana

OccupyGhana® Presents An 11-Point Plan For A Comprehensive Emergency Response System In Ghana

17th JUNE 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESENTS AN 11-POINT PLAN FOR A COMPREHENSIVE EMERGENCY RESPONSE SYSTEM IN GHANA

OccupyGhana® joins the nation in grieving for Mr. Anthony Opoku Acheampong, reportedly refused care at seven hospitals in Greater Accra, due to the phenomenon of “no beds.” His desperate family watched him die in a car in front of Lekma Hospital in Teshie, in the early hours of 10 June 2018.

That, by all standards, is utterly unacceptable. It is also inhumane and goes against every ounce of human dignity and respect for life enshrined in the Constitution of the Fourth Republic. Unfortunately, Ghana’s media is rife with such stories.

OccupyGhana® believes that this “No Beds” excuse is a cowardly cop-out, hiding a much deeper problem assailing Ghana’s healthcare system.

While it may be true that a hospital like Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, which receives the bulk of emergency cases, may suffer from lack of beds, that does not wash where some of the smaller and private hospitals are concerned.

There may be a variety of reasons for hospitals to turn patients away, legitimate or illegitimate. These can include:

  • a true unavailability of beds;
  • lack of the expertise to deal with emergencies due to (i) lack of medical personnel, (ii) medical personnel with inadequate experience to treat said emergency (e.g. trauma) and/or (iii) lack of necessary equipment;
  • the unwillingness of medical personnel to put in the time and effort to help patients;
  • the fear that the emergency case will take up much-needed resources for a long time in smaller hospitals;
  • the fear that the patient would be unable to pay for the care given; and/or
  • the fear that sub-optimal care given in sub-optimal conditions could lead to a bad outcome and lawsuits against the medical facility and personnel.

But none of these gets at the core issue.

The appalling reality in Ghana today is that the country has no functioning and coordinated Emergency Response System. People who need emergency care simply cannot call for help. Even if they can reach a health facility by telephone, there are only 54 – yes, FIFTY-FOUR – ambulances covering a nation of almost 30 million people.

Ghanaians have no choice but to transport their ill loved ones in cars or taxis looking for a hospital where they will be accepted. We see them in traffic almost every day. The apparently callous reluctance of Ghanaians to get out of the way may be as much due to our selfishness, as it may be due to the public not recognising a taxi blowing its horn as an emergency. It may also be due to the indiscriminate and irritating use of sirens especially by politicians.

In such a scenario, most hospitals could be overwhelmed by emergency cases or even surprised by cases that are uncommon in that facility. It is also quite possible that a lot of time is lost until the right hospital is found or a hospital found with beds, further decreasing survival chances of patients.

There is an immediate need for a functioning and co-ordinated Emergency Response Service with a simple telephone number that every Ghanaian can remember. A recent poll shows that only 5% of the population is currently aware of the emergency number for an ambulance.

The Emergency Response Service should connect the caller to a Command Centre set up to direct calls to an ambulance service that is in touch with all medical facilities, and connect to the police, the fire service and NADMO.

OccupyGhana® calls for an immediate action plan to be drawn up by Government to prepare an Emergency Response Service fit for a 21st Century Ghana, within two years. The following points must be included and fully-funded:

  1. An Emergency Response Service with a Command Centre that fields calls, receives data from the hospitals about bed counts and is able to send out ambulances and paramedics to assist, stabilize and if needed transport patients to appropriate hospitals. One simple emergency number is what we need;
  2. All hospitals should be able to care for emergency cases, but in the meantime, designate some hospitals as “Fit to Handle Emergencies;”
  3. Government must shore up the NHIS to allow for every Ghanaian to be given emergency care irrespective of the ability to pay;
  4. Hospitals designated as “Emergency Hospitals” should be equipped properly, including the ability to give Triage care. Equipping hospitals also means making sure they are well stocked with needed emergency drugs. This prevents delays in care that occur as family members go around town hunting for drugs to buy so that their loved ones can be treated in emergencies;
  5. There should be more community hospitals that can provide immediate basic primary and preventative care;
  6. The law should prevent hospitals turning patients away without proper reason and a strategy for dealing with that patient’s care in another facility. Facilities and personnel who refuse to offer care to patients with life-threatening conditions should face sanctions;
  7. All doctors and nurses should be trained to stabilise to a basic level emergency patients, irrespective of the availability of beds and full emergency facilities;
  8. Even though lack of beds is not the only factor contributing to the refusal of care to sick Ghanaians at our hospitals, it is an important contributory factor. In a country where in-patient care still trumps out-patient care for a lot of ailments, having 0.9 patient-beds per 1000 people is on the low side. There are several unfinished hospitals like the UGMC that could add much-needed beds to the total count and alleviate some of the pressure. Even though we support the numerous calls to open these hospitals expeditiously, we also call on government to put in place mechanisms to optimize bed usage in the existing ones or else we would simply have more hospitals that refuse care because of “No Beds;”
  9. Enough paramedics should be trained to be help stabilize and transport emergency cases to hospitals;
  10. There should be programs to educate the population on how to differentiate a true emergency from an illness that can be treated non-emergently. A good triaging system as part of an emergency response service should go a long way to help with this; and
  11. Last but not least, we ask for sufficient ambulances to cover a population of 30 million.

We are mindful of the economic challenges posed by this proposal. But that is no excuse. If Ghana can afford hundreds of government 4×4 vehicles and police escort riders to push them through traffic, then Ghana can afford adequate ambulances to deal with emergencies, AND address our list of points made here.

The tragic and unnecessary death of Mr. Anthony Opoku Acheampong is already blood on our hands. Let us not indict ourselves further; this should be the catalyst for finally building a Ghanaian healthcare service of which we can all be proud.

It is time for Ghana to have a 21st Century Emergency Response System. It is time for the government to ensure this, for medical personnel across the country to deliver the best version of it and for the Ghanaian population to demand it as of right.

Yours in service of God and Country.

OccupyGhana®

OccupyGhana® Press Statement On Issues Arising From The “Kelni GVG Contract”

OccupyGhana® Press Statement On Issues Arising From The “Kelni GVG Contract”

3rd JUNE 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT ON ISSUES ARISING FROM THE “KELNI GVG CONTRACT”

OccupyGhana® has followed the ongoing debate concerning the 27th December 2017 contract between the Ministries of Finance and Communications on the one part, and a company called Kelni GVG on the other part, to provide “a common platform for the purpose of revenue assurance, traffic monitoring, fraud management and mobile money monitoring” (“Contract.”)

DEMANDS

After our review of the Contract, facts available to us and the law, our key demands, as citizens of Ghana, are as follows:

  1. The Finance Minister, if he has not done so already, immediately lays before Parliament for passage, the Legislative Instrument required to properly put in place the monthly Communications Service Tax returns required to be filed by the service providers;
  2. (i) The deployment of the Revenue Assurance Module under the Contract should be limited to access to the service providers’ billing systems and nothing more or less,

(ii) Detailed investigation and audit by an independent expert, of the mechanism to be deployed under the Contract, particularly the Revenue Assurance, Specific Voice and Geographic Location Modules, to ascertain and ensure that any snoop and tap capability that is prohibited by law, does not exist, and

(iii) Assurance by the Government that the Mobile Money Monitoring Module under the Contract is not a wholly unnecessary replication of a regulatory function that is vested by law in, and is currently being performed by, the Bank of Ghana; and

  1. Enforcement of the law on the use of Internally Generated Funds of the Ghana Revenue Authority and the National Communications Authority for their expenses only, and if considered necessary, make the two entities direct parties to the Contract so that they have a legal say in how the Contract is performed, in their own right.

These demands arise from three primary concerns, namely, (1) how the Communications Service Tax is to be collected and paid to the Government, (2) whether the deployment of the monitoring mechanism under the Contract breaches or has the potential to breach the privacy protections under both the law and the Constitution, and (3) whether the payment of contract sums under the Contract, not by the Government (which is the party to the Contract) but, directly by the Ghana Revenue Authority (“GRA”) and the National Communications Authority (“NCA”) also breaches both the law and the Constitution.

COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE TAX

The 2008 Communications Service Tax Act provides that users of electronic communications services should pay a 6% tax. The mode of tax collection is clear: “The tax shall be PAID TOGETHER with the electronic communications service charge payable to the service provider by the user of the service.” This simply means that the user pays tax on the value of the voucher/service at the point of purchase, irrespective of whether the distributor sells or the customer uses or does not use what is purchased. The service provider collects the tax and then pays it to the GRA.

The law then provides two processes for verifying/auditing the tax collection and payment. The first is by the service providers filing monthly CST returns with the GRA. The returns form is to be designed by the Minister for Finance to provide information that the Minister deems necessary for those auditing purposes, by way of regulations under a Legislative Instrument. We are informed that the Legislative Instrument is yet to be passed, ten years after the law was passed. We however understand that in lieu of the LI, the GRA has designed its own returns form that the service providers routinely file.

The second verification/audit process is by way of the service providers giving the Government “physical access” to some “node” in their billing systems or an equivalent point, described by some as “Real Time Monitoring.” While some industry watchers and actors fault the wording of the law in this regard and describe it as “vague,” we believe that the intention of the framers of the law is obvious: the Government must be given access to an equivalent point in the providers’ networks, but ONLY to where the latter’s billing systems are connected. We do not see how this simple understanding presents any problems.

We also note that the Contract has four Modules, namely (i) Revenue Assurance, (ii) Specific Voice, (iii) Geographic Location, and (iv) Mobile Money Monitoring. We think that the Revenue Assurance Module should be easy to implement, which would comply with the law, as long as all that the Government has access to are the billing systems. We are concerned that the Specific Voice Module (“traffic monitoring”) raises questions about the potential to monitor the content of communications in breach of the Constitution and statute. We also need to be convinced that the Geographic Location Module (“fraud management”) is really relevant to the work that the Government has to do, and does not breach the Constitution and statute. And we have doubts that with the launch of the mobile money interoperability platform that is monitored by the Bank of Ghana in real time, a parallel Mobile Money Monitoring Module is really required.

Thus while we appreciate the Government’s probably well-intended aims under these contractual modules, it goes without saying that the modules may only be implemented in accordance with the law. The law as it stands now provides for the filing of monthly returns and giving access to billing systems only. Anything less than this would be in breach of the law. But, more importantly, anything beyond this would also arguably be in breach of the privacy protections afforded by the Constitution and statute.

And it is to this that we now turn.

PRIVACY ISSUES

We are very concerned about the privacy issues that this Contract raises. The privacy of communications and correspondence is guaranteed by Article 18(2) of the Constitution, subject only to the qualifications provided in either that Article itself or Article 21(4). It is in the light of these, and following concerns expressed when the idea of ‘monitoring’ international inbound traffic first came up, that the 2008 Electronic Communications Act was amended in 2009 to provide expressly that whatever “mechanisms or measures” are instituted “shall not have the capability to actively or passively record, monitor or tap into the content of any incoming or outgoing electronic communication traffic, including voice, video and data existing discretely or on a coverage platform whether local or international.”

Upon similar concerns being expressed with the introduction of this so-called “Real Time Monitoring” in the 2013 amendment of the 2008 Communications Service Tax Act, Parliament provided again that the “monitoring mechanism” also “shall not have the capability to actively or passively record, monitor, or tap into the content of any incoming or outgoing electronic communications traffic, including voice, video or data existing discretely or on a converged platform whether local or international.”

Parliament, as if to shore these provisions up and being cognisant of the provisions in Article 18(2) of the Constitution, also passed the 2012 Data Protection Act to provide what is arguably the widest privacy protections known to the law, of data, which the Act defines to include information that “is processed by means of equipment operating automatically in response to instructions given for that purpose,” “recorded with the intention that it should be processed by means of such equipment,” “recorded as part of a relevant filing system or with the intention that it should form part of a relevant filing system,” or simply “forms part of an accessible record.”

Our argument is that however laudable the government’s intentions are for entering into the Contract, and whatever assurances and pledges we receive that the government does not intend to snoop on or tap into our communications and correspondence, the law is simply that whatever mechanism is being deployed “SHALL NOT HAVE” snoop or tap capability.

We have seen a Press Statement issued by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications dated 1st June 2018, and which says emphatically as follows:

“Our informed position is that the current architecture from the NCA and Kelni GVG does not conform to these design standards. The architecture does not provide our customers the privacy of their communication that the constitution guarantees…”

The said Press Statement then lists the following “challenges”:

“a. the current architecture seeks to connect beyond the equivalent point in the network where the network providers’ billings systems are connected; [and]

  1. The monitoring mechanism has the capability to actively or passively record, monitor or tap into the content of any incoming or outgoing electronic communications traffic such as voice. The proposed connection point will risk exposing content of voice traffic.”

If these statements are true, then the deployment of the mechanism with the statutorily prohibited snoop and tap capability, is a breach of the law and the Constitution. Then we would agree with the Chamber that

“The voice transaction damp(sic) for the revenue assurance tool should be enough without risking individual customer privacy. We are minded that the law does not talk about intent but capability, which the current architecture processes (sic).”

Having said that, we must however express our disappointment that the members of the Chamber, with such a strong and informed position on the matter, neglected or failed to commence legal action against the government to have this matter resolved once and for all by the courts within the 7-day limit imposed by law. That was a letdown.

However, moving forward, we must point out that in Ghana, the 2012 Data Protection Act protects both “data” and “metadata,” i.e. data that provides information about other data. This falls under the definition of “personal data” as “data about an individual which can be identified from the data or other information in the possession of or likely to come into the possession of the data controller.” Thus in Ghana, a person’s voice communications as well as the fact that the person communicated with another person from a certain location and for a certain period (which is the kind of information that the “Real Time Monitoring” would have access to), are entitled to the same level of privacy protection under our law.

As a matter of interest, while industry watchers are awaiting a decision of the US Supreme Court on whether the US government’s “acquisition of historical cell-site records created and maintained by a cellular-service provider violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the individual customer to whom the records pertain,” we in Ghana have no such problem.

Accordingly, any system that obtains both data and metadata has to comply with the law.

In this regard, we must register our disappointment also at the profoundly deafening silence of the Data Protection Commission in all of these matters. It is important that when such issues arise, statutory bodies entrusted with responsibility to protect our rights act proactively in investigating them, speaking out and making their relevance felt by educating the public.

PAYMENT OF CONTRACT SUMS

We note that neither the NCA nor the GRA is a party to the Contract. Yet they are “nominated” by the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Finance, respectively, as their “implementation agents.” And we are also informed that the money to be paid to Kelni GVG under the Contract (“Contract Sum”) is to be paid by the NCA and GRA in a 40% to 60% divide.

We are concerned that the payment of the Contract Sum is not part of the “expenses” of either the NCA or the GRA, and therefore cannot be paid directly out of the Internally Generated Funds of either entity. Both the GRA and NCA are established by law as bodies corporate “with perpetual succession and a common seal and may sue and be sued in its corporate name.” Granted that they are authorities of the State, they are considered separate and distinct from the Government. Each of them has a Board that is, by law, the “governing body of the Authority.”

Although each of them is statutorily under the supervision of a relevant Minister of state, the law is careful to set out and delineate in specific detail, the extent and bounds of that supervision. The general rule is that the Authorities and their Boards are bound by only written “Policy Directives” issued by the relevant Ministers. And it should be blindingly obvious that those “Policy Directives” cannot contravene the law or the Constitution.

The law is clear on what the moneys that either the GRA or NCA receives are to be used for. They are only to retain specific portions of those moneys specifically for their “expenses” only, and the remainder “SHALL” be paid into the Consolidated Fund. Any use of those moneys on expenditure that does not fall within the “expenses” of the entities is illegal. Any use of the government’s portion of those monies by any person including the Government itself without the moneys first being paid into the Consolidated Fund is a breach of Article 176 of the Constitution. We reiterate that neither the Ministry of Finance nor Ministry of Communications has the power to issue “Policy Directives” that breach these provisions.

We do not think that the Ministries of Finance and Communications “nominating” the GRA and NCA respectively as agents under a contract with a private entity falls under the power to issue “Policy Directives.” We do not think that simply on account of that contractual provision, the GRA and NCA become bound to make the payments of the Contract Sums under the Contract that neither of them is a party to. We do not think that paying the Contract Sums is part of the legitimate “expenses” of the GRA and NCA, non-parties to the Contract. We would add that there is a complete lack of privity of contract, and that the Contract cannot impose obligations arising under it on any person or even an agent, except the parties to it.

It is time to end the situation where successive governments deliberately turn a blind eye to the requirement for the payment into the Consolidated Fund of moneys that particularly the NCA is bound to pay, which then gives to government the illegal opportunity to spend those moneys completely “off-balance sheet,” on the blind side of Parliament and the Auditor-General, and in breach of the Constitution.

We would add that any such spending of monies that properly belongs to the Consolidated Fund, being contrary to law, becomes liable to the disallowance and surcharge powers of the Auditor-General under Article 187 of the Constitution. It must be noted that these powers have been interpreted by the Supreme Court on 14th June 2017 in OccupyGhana v. Attorney-General (Suit No. J1/19/2016) as follows: “the Auditor-General is bound to issue a disallowance or surcharge where there has been any item of expenditure on behalf of the Government that is contrary to law.”

OTHER RELEVANT ISSUES

In this statement, we have limited ourselves to what we perceive to be the legalities of the matter. We do not examine the larger issue of whether any of this is indeed the best practice in countries with more experience and success in telecom regulation. We are still examining that point.

We also do not address the issue of value for money. Although we note a reduction in the total contract sum from the previous or existing contracts, we believe that we can only conduct a fair and accurate review when we have seen and examined the Bill of Quantities and other relevant documents that were submitted by the winning bid. We are therefore applying to the Public Procurement Authority for those and may issue a statement on them after we have reviewed them.

CONCLUSION

It is in the light of the foregoing that we have made our demands, which we consider reasonable under the circumstances. We expect the Government to accede to these demands to forestall any need to resort to court to resolve the issues raised.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OccupyGhana® Expresses Concern Over Clashes Between Board Chairpersons And Chief Executives Of Government Institutions

20th MAY 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER CLASHES BETWEEN BOARD MEMBER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVES OF GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS

OccupyGhana® is increasingly concerned about the situation where persons appointed to chair the boards of Statutory Corporations, Commissions, Services and Authorities, and government-controlled companies, assume executive powers that they do not have under any law, holding themselves out as some sort of ‘Super Chief Executives’. We are concerned that if this is not checked, it would create unnecessary clashes between board chairpersons and the Chief Executives or Managing Directors and sometimes even the staff of the organisations, which would be inimical to the relevant state entities and defeat all corporate governance principles.

No board chairperson of any of the entities mentioned above occupies an executive position as a matter of course. An executive position exists where a board member also holds an office for profit within the organisation or is specifically designated as such. That concept does not exist generally or by default under Ghana law, except, for instance, in the specific case of the State Enterprises Commission where the law makes specific reference to an “Executive Chairman” and “Executive Directors.” That Executive Chairman is specifically vested with responsibility for the day to day administration of the Commission, subject to general policy directives from the Board. He and the executive directors constitute the Executive Committee of the Commission.

The primary function of Board chairpersons is chair meetings of the Boards. They are not chairpersons over the entities. Thus no board chairperson is entitled to monthly remuneration, an office, official accommodation, official vehicle, etc., and to the extent that any such facilities have been, or are being, provided to board chairpersons, they are unlawful. Indeed, by law, all allowances paid to and benefits received by members of such boards have to be approved by the relevant Ministers, and we do not believe the Ministers would approve such allowances and benefits to non-executive board chairpersons.

Further, except where the laws or relevant company regulations expressly state otherwise, board chairperson have NO POWERS outside board meeting. By law, they only convene ordinary and special meetings of the boards and preside over those meetings. They are appointed by an appointing authority, by the board itself from among its number (e.g. Council for Indigenous Business Associations) or as the nominee of a specific entity (e.g. Auctioneers Registration Board).

In some instances, specific legal provision is made for the board chairpersons to:

  1. sign the minutes of board meetings (e.g. GNPC);
  2. notify the appointing authority of vacancies on the board (e.g. Ghana Highway Authority);
  3. authenticate the application of the seal of the corporation;
  4. sign contracts on behalf of the corporation;
  5. have a casting vote in the event of a tie/equality of votes at a meeting (e.g. Atomic Energy Commission, CSIR, Forestry Commission) although this applies to anyone who presides over a meeting in the absence of the chair;
  6. be present before a meeting is quorate (e.g. Council for Law Reporting), although sometimes it is the Chief Executive who has such quorate presence (e.g. Ghana Highway Authority);
  7. have a specifically delegated power by the Board to appoint staff (e.g. Council for Law Reporting);
  8. serve on the Executive Committee of the entity (e.g. CIBA);
  9. sign certain payments (e.g. from the National Environment Fund set up under the Environmental Protection Act);
  10. sign specific transactions (e.g. a Free Zone development licence);
  11. receive copies of internal audit reports (e.g. Ghana Education Trust Fund, the various Teaching Hospitals, GNPC); and/or
  12. submit an annual report to parliament (e.g. PURC).

In one instance, specifically COCOBOD, the law expressly limits any role of the board chairperson during the intervals between board meetings to overseeing the implementation by the management of policy decisions taken by the board, only. Even then the law is careful to add that the board chairperson does not have any other functions except as conferred by law.

Particularly with respect to the boards of institutions whose heads are guaranteed independence under the Constitution, such as the Audit-Service and the Auditor-General, it is critical that the boards and board chairpersons are not allowed to assume unconstitutional powers of control and direction.

In respect of companies, the board chairperson presides over general meetings and board meetings, signs minutes of meetings over which (s)he presides, has a casting vote where there is an equality/tie of votes at directors’ meetings, and may permit persons other than members, directors, the secretary and auditors of the company to attend general meetings. The board chairperson has no executive or other powers, except where the board specifically authorises him to exercise some its powers, or the Regulations of the company provide for it.

We think that the appointing authority in these instances, the Government, should encourage its appointees to abide by the law and not assume powers that they do not have. Going forward, we recommend that persons appointed to such offices be required to undergo some short courses at GIMPA or some other institution to acquaint themselves, not only with the law governing the entities on whose boards they are to serve, but in corporate governance principles among others.

Yours, for God and Country,

OccupyGhana®