Dinosaurs are extinct for a reason. It is a measure of how often we don't actually read the small print, that the March 24, 2018 quietly potent announcement issued by the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) was duly reported and allowed to sink, without a ripple or comment. Until the next announcement...on April 19th, 2018, it delivered the coup de grace.
It is the Meralco Consortium, incorporated in the Philippines, led by the Manila Electricity Company and listed on their stock exchange is the preferred bidder chosen by MiDA, as the Technical Partner in a $500 million US Government funded grant. Meralco will manage, operate and invest in the distribution of power across Ghana.
According to Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection, there are four definitive stages that occur before the Big Bang; Overproduction, Variation, Competition and then Selection. So it is with matters MiDA, in a case that has mirrored natural selection.
In 2016, out of six companies who had originally entered the internationally competitive race administered by MiDA to bid for the right to partner the Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) in a new private sector participation concession, four persevered, then there were three, then two and by April 19, 2018, there was one.
Meralco's last standing rival was BXC Ghana Limited, a subsidiary of Chinese listed Xiaocheng Electronic Technology Stock Co Ltd. Registered in Ghana since 2010, BXC has a footprint in South Africa and also Ghana. The company says it has installed 320,000 prepaid meters and its associated systems in Ghana. It is replacing conductors in the Central, Western and Eastern regions and it has been previously been contracted by ECG to implement a system to reduce losses, remove overloads and audit voltage levels.
In spite of their presence on the ground, the BXC star must have flickered and waned, at least in the recent power bidding process. Per MiDA's definitive statement, by presenting the 'highest combined technical and financial score’, Meralco beat them to this contract. MiDA has said it will finalise negotiations with Meralco and present the country, at a later unspecified date, with better and further particulars.
On The Cheap
Should the MiDA agreement go to Ghana's Parliament, the institution that also approves budgets for every Ministry, the House may find it as difficult as BXC likely does right now, to fully engage. The House is currently demonstrating extremely low voltage in its accounting systems.
In a move not dissimilar to that which gripped the UK with its MP's expenses scandal, a number of current and previous Members of the House who served simultaneously as former Ministers are being investigated amidst slippery allegations of double dipping on their salaries.
Ghana's Constitution requires that the majority of Ministers are selected from Parliament. There are obvious implications for undermining the independence of the legislature and also the practical work of the House as regime after, regime, Odekro, a non-governmental organisation that tracks governance in Parliament, reports that the MPs who absent themselves serially from Parliament, are those who are also Ministers of States. The pattern is repeated by every government, without fail. There are now other repercussions to consider. Where and how often each month, does an MP/Minister draw his/her salary from? Then are we getting value for money?
Ahead of being cut adrift in the self-inflicted uncertain world of Brexit, the Government of the UK is upgrading its old friendships, even with little Ghana. The numbers and the policies on both sides are important. In 2016, according to remarks attributed to the UK Minister of State for Africa, Mrs. Harriet Baldwin, bilateral trade was recorded at some £1.4 billion.
This government has a portfolio of investments in critical infrastructure projects that require deep pockets, long-term funding and short to medium term technology and skills transfers. The UK is searching now more than ever, for opportunities to diversify its industrial output and exports away from the EU. BrexGhan. The best impetus for a marriage of convenience is the cold hard reality of vested interests.
Mrs. Baldwin announced that UK Exim Bank will more than triple its export finance envelope from £125 million to £500 million in a bid amongst others to support new local businesses to partner and trade with UK partners. Mrs. Baldwin is a sharp one. Ghana is on the march including to Asia to secure a Samurai Bond. She promptly announced a raft of other measures including technical assistance between the two central banks that she said will allow Ghana to float the cedi in local currency bonds, abroad.
Someone didn't get the memo this week. It appears that some Honourable Members of Parliament (MP), the very institution that may have to deliberate on detailed loan agreements and contracts arising from the BrexGhan breakthrough, would at a pinch, have difficulty balancing their personal cheque books. Let alone drawing, looking closely at and holding the much-needed line on spending from the public purse.
No one can or will say exactly how much MPs in Ghana earn. The details are deliberately and comfortably sketchy, across the political divide. Somewhere from Ghc4,000 a month, with infrequent tops up for Committee duties and automatic eligibility for a $70,000 car loan, repayable at $1,000 a month.
The Ghana Police Service has invited a number of the alleged doppelgängers to write statements. Parliament's press office has sensibly asked the media not to inflame passions on this matter. Even better, the Minority Leader, a former Minister, who is also accused of reportedly two-timing the public purse, has suggested an elegant solution. In short, the rule going forward should be to look forward. Never mind what may or may not have happened previously.
Wakanda Not Trade
While leaders of the Commonwealth met in London to toast to what may be their final collective hurray with Queen Elizabeth II as their titular head, Africa's last absolute monarchy, Eton educated King Mswati III has marked his 50th birthday at home in Swaziland. A country embedded in and surrounded by South Africa, their currency is pegged to the rand which is just as well, they import 90% of goods and services from them. Kindly take note, that per royal decree, Swaziland has now been unilaterally renamed The Kingdom of eSwatini. Line them up.
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