I have had to return to Ursula Owusu-Ekuful’s case.

This time, I am putting all the niceties aside. That’s because my supposed sweetheart is being unnecessarily intransigent.

Everybody- from the ordinary Joe through technology specialists to her colleague legislators are complaining about how her SIM re-registration policy is being implemented, yet she won’t budge.

All she could say was, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” in a Facebook post. This smacks of sadism. Yes, “the tendency to derive pleasure, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.”

Otherwise, why would anybody tell this to mobile telephony subscribers, including septuagenarians who are lamenting over their inability to re-register, try as they do under scorching sun and chilly rainy weather?- “…the full scope of sanctions will be revealed. If you suffer that fate as a result of your own inaction, kindly do not blame your service provider. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

Inaction? Clearly Ursula is oblivious of the increased number of people at both SIM re-registration and Ghana Card registration centres, virtually trampling on each other to either get the Ghana Card or re-register.

Personally, my AirtelTigo line, which was registered during an outreach programme by officials of the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in our office was blocked. Now it has been unblocked. Well, my resolve is that they can have it. To leave my busy schedule and go through that time-wasting endeavor of SIM re-registration? God forbid!

What saddens me is the fact that even old ladies are subjected to these needless troubles. The other day I heard the shrill voice of a 70-year-old pensioner on Joy FM. She was found as one of those who wants a correction on her Ghana Card made to enable her re-register her SIM card. She has been at this endeavour for 5 long months.

When the JoyNews team visited, she was beside herself with rage owing to the frustrations she has had to go through all this while. Speaking with Joseph Ackah Blay, the septuagenarian lamented over her predicament.

“I am very much frustrated. You come here 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock. They will come and give you a whole lot of instructions; do this do that. If you don’t do this we can’t do anything. They tell you the system is slow. For how long can we wait for the system? The government should do something about it to let the old ones have their peace. We don’t know what to do. I managed to reach here at 8 o’clock and I am still here. They say they are coming to take the elderly people and do it for them, I am still here. It is too much stressful. We are suffering here,” she bemoaned.

And I hear H.E. John Dramani Mahama and Minority Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka also had one each of their already registered SIMs blocked. Woaa look! This is a clear demonstration of the fact that the policy was ill-planned and poorly implemented.

In my quest to appreciate the unwavering stance of the Communication and Digitalisation Minister on this issue, I reached out for a book on public policy making which I never opened after buying it close to ten years ago.

Prof. R. Atsu Aryee’s Saints, Wizards, Demons and Systems

In his book titled, ‘Saints, Wizards, Demons and Systems- Explaining the success or failure of Public Policies and programmes’, Prof. Atsu Aryee, former head of Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, identified why public policies fail.

He wrote, “Understanding why public policies and programmes succeed or fail in Ghana and other African countries requires understanding the actors involved in the policymaking process. Successful public policies and programmes are rare because it is unusual to have progressive and committed politicians and bureaucrats (Saints) supported by appropriate policy analysts with available and reliable information (Wizards) that manage hostile and apathetic groups (Demons) and consequently insulate the policy environment from the vagaries of implementation (Systems).”

Here are more excerpts:

Saints should also have four secondary attributes: ability to manage staff, skill in delegating, access to donor resources and a view of management as contingent decision making rather than control.”

“Effective delegation is also essential to success of policies and programmes. However, the administrative culture of African bureaucracies supports a style of organizational authority (termed the “hub-and-wheel”), which is highly personalized and has limited delegation. This pattern of authority centralizes work in the hands of senior officials who integrate and coordinate work.”

Public policies are also judged in relationship with how they were formulated and what sort of reception they receive within the political arena during implementation. Some policies touch off bitter and open conflict, while others are “agreeable” to those who are making and implementing them as well as those affected by the policy.”

Not all policies have a positive, beneficial effect upon a target group or interested groups and there can be resistance to accepting the change necessitated by the public policy. If they are recalcitrant and create opposition, the implementation can be slowed or stopped and the impact of the policies can be significantly lessened.”

“Political commitment means politicians must be willing to submit themselves to the required discipline envisaged by public policies and programmes. They must not be above the law by taking arbitrary decisions contrary to requirements set by policies and programmes.”

“The survival of public policies and programmes beyond their originators depends upon the appropriateness of the design and the political networks established that revere them and fear to tamper with them. Sustaining public policies and programmes requires them to be insulated from tampering by successor governments…

The decision-making tradition in African bureaucracies is one of control and not management. This tradition is not supportive of the success of public policies and programmes. Saints are needed but are rare because a management approach to decision-making is uncommon.

Prof Atsu Aryee proceeded to offer information on how to measure success of public policies:

  1. Achievement of goals and objectives. How effective is the policy? Is it attaining the goals it was set out to achieve?
  2. Adequacy and sufficiency: Is there a possibility that the policy will lead to solution of the problem to which the policy is addressed?

Ursula Owusu-Ekuful’s policy

If Ursula could publicly declare that she reluctantly granted the current extension of deadline, then I am not far from right if I describe it as her policy.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the Ministry of Communication and Digitalisation (MoCD), represented by Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, is supposed to be Saint. That’s because as mandated by the Civil Service Act, 1993, PNDL 327, (Section 13 (a)) they formulate policies.

The officials of National Communication Authority (NCA) per Act 2008 (Act 769) are the Wizards. They have all the technocrats who analyse policies and regulate the communication sector by implementing approved policies.

In my quest to understand the agenda that was set which necessitated the re-registration policy, I visited the website of the NCA. At the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page, I found these:

Why are we re-registering?

a. ID Verification –There are records of fake ID numbers as well as fictitious names for existing SIM registration databases. The integrity of existing SIM registration databases was compromised by the non-verification of the identities used for registration.

b. Pre-registered SIM cards – There is also the issue of non-verification of IDs which allowed some SIM card vendors to register SIMs before selling them. Consequently, the SIM was already activated before it was sold to the eventual user. This defeated the primary objective of the SIM registration exercise.

c. Non-enforcement of the provisions of the law – Since sometime in 2013, the NCA relaxed the enforcement of the SIM Registration Regulations due to a plan to register all SIM users following the issuance of a National Identification Card. Regulation 7(1) (l) of the National Identity Register Regulations, 2012 – L.I. 2111 (20th Feb, 2012) made the National ID card the mandatory identification document for registration of SIM cards.

The plan at the time was to conduct a national SIM re-registration exercise when the national ID registration exercise is COMPLETED. The national ID project which delayed created a long lull in enforcement of the SIM registration regulations resulting in several improperly registered SIMs being activated on the networks of the MNOs.

Why the policy is failing

Having read Prof. Aryee’s book published in the year 2000 and having witnessed the implementation of the SIM re-registration policy 22 years later, I am inclined to say ‘Ataa Aryee, baahe ot3’- Prof Aryee, you were spot on.

At the risk of boring you with repetition, please permit me to reproduce some statements above, to justify my stance:

  • Successful public policies and programmes are rare.
  • A view of management as contingent decision making rather than CONTROL.
  • The administrative culture of African bureaucracies supports a style of organizational authority (termed the “hub-and-wheel”), which is highly PERSONALISED.
  • Some policies touch off bitter and open conflict.
  • The plan at the time was to conduct a national SIM re-registration exercise when the national ID registration exercise is COMPLETED.
  • Public policies are also judged in relationship with how they were formulated and what sort of reception they receive within the political arena during implementation.
  • Not all policies have a positive, beneficial effect upon a target group or interested groups and there can be resistance to accepting the change necessitated by the public policy.
  • They must not be above the law by taking arbitrary decisions contrary to requirements set by policies and programmes.
  • Saints are needed but are rare because a management approach to decision-making is uncommon.

It’s time to go

It is exactly 11 days to September 30, 2022. If the deadline for the SIM re-registration exercise is not extended, then stop calling me Eric.

I say so because, like a blind man who threatens to stone you, my right foot is on one.

I got convinced about the inevitability of an extension after listening to the Director of Research and Strategy at Imani Ghana, Selorm Branttie and Hon. Sam Dzata George on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on September 13, 2022.

“We serve notice that if she continues along this tangent, and refuses to listen to Parliament… and she wants to run down that path, we can assure her that this will be the first time Parliament will pass an appropriation bill without an appropriation for a Ministry- the Ministry of Communication.

We will block that budget. That budget will not be approved. Because the budget is a tax payers’ money, you cannot be punishing the tax payers and expect to enjoy their largesse,” Mr. Sam George assured.

Mr. Selorm Branttie looked at the bigger picture, “Per how they have run this whole enterprise so far, it is not going to be possible that by September 30 we would have every Ghanaian who has a SIM card complying with this re-registration module. I am very curious to see what will happen after September 30. And I double dare the Minister to go by her own words and see the kind of chaos that will happen in this country.

I am saying chaos because you are talking about flirting with the fortunes of the service sector which contributes more than 45% of our GDP. You are talking about flirting and toying, making a petri-dish of the whole digitization agenda which is being run by the Vice President himself, and by so many different organisations, you are talking about flirting with our SDGS. You are talking about blocking digital access, you are talking about creating a digital apartheid where people are being made to pay for another organisation not fulfilling their obligation…when she has been the mother of all this chaos.”

Sam George again, “A deadline in itself will not fix the problem. Deadlines will not produce the Ghana Cards. The National Security is minded by this. You see she tried to block SIM cards two days in the last week. The NCA, they issued a public statement, but when they were rescinding the decision to the Telco’s they did it nicodemusly- in the quiet of the night. And now they are saying they are no longer blocking this week. I join Selorm to dare the Minister to block the SIM cards on 30th September.

If we have a national security apparatus in this country, they won’t allow that to happen. I can state on authority again, that the actions of the Minister do not just have implications for the service sector. It has implications for Ghana’s own conversations with the IMF as we speak. Because our internal revenue generations, the scenarios have been built and sent to the IMF that this is how much government rakes internally.

If you block SIM cards of about 3 million Ghanaians, you are talking of about 10 million SIM cards. Those SIM cards when they are used for phone calls generate Communication Service Tax (CST) revenue, when they are used for data, generate CST revenue. Those who do mobile money generate e-levy. All of those figures are going to drop. As we speak, the Minister of Communication has not engaged with the Ministry of Finance to look at what will be on the IMF conversation.

That’s why I am saying that the fact that we have a national security… unless they are asleep. They cannot sit back and allow the Minister. What she is doing is digital apartheid. And this is xenophobic in the digital space. The powers that she thinks she has, are regulated by Article 296.”

Need I say more? You decide whether Ursula is playing her Saintly role or she has become a member of the hostile and apathetic groups (Demons).

Somebody’s beautiful wife will be made to eat humble pie on Friday, September 30, 2022.

I wonder how the announcement will be made. Press Conference or Press Release?

As a communications analyst, I will recommend Press Release. That will spare her immediate feedback. She can even decide to tune off from the media and warn Maame Broni not to send her usual media monitoring report for one week.

My fingers are crossed. Cross yours too as we wait to witness the D-day.

Aloha – That’s goodbye in Hawaiian

Let God Lead! Follow Him directly, not through any human.

The writer works at Myjoyonline.com. He is also the author of two books whose contents share knowledge on how anyone desirous of writing like him can do so. Eric can be reached via email eric.mensah-ayettey@myjoyonline.comThe two books cost GHC80.00.