On 12th November 2014, at its First OccupyCorruption event held at the Christ The King Parish Hall, OccupyGhana announced to the world that we would not pay any monies to journalists who cover our events.
This practice is known as “SOLI,” supposedly the nuanced short form of showing “SOLIDARITY” with journalists, but has been more aptly described by the satirists at yesiyesighana.com as “Shut Our Lips & Ink.”
OccupyGhana took and announced that decision because as a nascent pressure group fighting for good governance, we were shocked and overwhelmed at the as-of-right demands for money by some journalists who covered our events.
We could not reconcile our position with distributing monies to journalists just so that our events would be given coverage. We were gratified, and then strengthened in our conviction, because some press houses expressly frown on their staff receiving such monies.
We took that risk and announced our decision. The impact was massive. Some journalists refused to report on us anymore. Before our eyes, after the announcement, one journalist began to delete pictures he had taken at the event from his camera. Although his report was later carried in his paper, it contained such shocking misrepresentations of the event, which could only have been deliberate. We reported him to his employers and at their request, wrote to confirm those incidents. We are yet to hear what happened to the investigations.
Having been through that experience, OccupyGhana is concerned about the brewing story that after a social event for journalists organised by the new Chief of Staff, Mr. Julius Debrah, envelopes containing amounts of money (reportedly GHS1,000) were distributed to the journalists. Considering the number of journalists present, it has been estimated that nearly GHS100,000 was distributed after that event.
This comes at a time when SHS’ in the Northern part of Ghana are unable to reopen for the third term because of lack of funds. It comes at a time when Ghanaians are having to struggle with DUMSOR, which is due, at least in part to the government’s inability to pay its debts to the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Volta River Authority, estimated to amount to some GHS1.7 billion.
According to the Ghanaian Times banner headline of 24th April 2015, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies owe the Ghana Water Company Limited some GHS106 million in unpaid water bills.
University students have been notified that from the next academic year, they would be expected to pay utility bills, probably for the first time in this country’s history.
Although GHS100,000 may look and sound like chicken feed to some, the country’s economic situation is so dire and desperate, that this is the time that every brown pesewa of public funds ought to be channelled into fixing our problems.
Surely, this is not the time to splurge, overindulge and grease the gravy train. It is an insult to the Ghanaian who is forced to sleep in the heat or who has to suspend work on account of the harsh effects of the DUMSOR, to read that ranking high on the Government’s priorities in these times, is the distribution of free monies to journalists for no work done. This ‘Father Christmas’ mentality ought to stop forthwith.
There is no doubt in our minds that SOLI is a wrong, despicable and repugnant act of corruption, especially when it is the taxpayer’s monies that is being used to fund and support it.
Even if it is claimed that the Government was not the source of those funds (which would be a barefaced lie), the fact of the person occupying the high office of Chief of Staff of the Republic of Ghana, doling out cash to journalists for no work done, is at the very least an abuse of power.
The Government cannot be oblivious to its constitutional obligation cryptically and poignantly captured under article 35(8) thus: “The State shall take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and abuse of power.” There must be a reason why ours is probably the only constitution in the world that mentions “corruption” by name.
OccupyGhana therefore takes this opportunity to express its righteous anger at and total rejection of what took place at that event.
We take this opportunity to throw a challenge to the President and First Person of the Republic, Upholder of the Constitution and Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces to take a bold decision, and publicly condemn this incident and rebuke the Chief of Staff in no uncertain or qualified terms.
We challenge the President to make a public announcement that henceforth there will be no distribution of monies or any other forms of inducement to any persons at any state functions.
We also challenge the President to put measures in place that will punish state officials who flout this directive, if he should make it, to erase the growing perception that the Office of the President is among one the most corrupt public institutions in the country.
Yours in the Service of occupying minds for God and County.