I have watched and listened in utter belief, the issues surrounding the administering of Global Blueprint Excellence Awards to notable personalities like Sarkodie, Nathaniel Attoh and Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu of the University of Ghana.

Some of the personalities are being trolled online and shockingly the identified perpetrator of the supposed scam awards, a certain Dr. Kwame Owusu Fordjour almost seems to be getting a free pass.

Let me set out my arguments by saying that even the best of us can be scammed into receiving fake awards, especially when the scammers are brilliant enough to slam a global iconic brand like Kofi Annan on these awards.

Whilst not holding brief for the individuals who were scammed, it is worthy of note that as recently as January 2020, Katie Olivia Hopkins, an English media personality, columnist and social critic was delightfully scammed by Josh Pieters, a YouTube Prankster. The scam was so flawlessly executed,  Josh says he emailed Katie and invited her to Prague to accept their made-up lifetime achievement award, dubbed the Campaign to Unify the Nation Trophy.

He says Katie was “delighted” to pick up the award, and Josh and his mate Archie Manners also hired actors to join them at the fake ceremony, that they filmed with hidden cameras.

This particular scam was revealed after Katie’s Twitter was suspended, and Josh, who is a social media star took to Twitter to reveal the prank he’d pulled off on Katie.

Whether fake awards are administered as part of a personal vendetta, or for pecuniary gain, it is the award givers who I would argue, should be put under the cosh. The larger discussion I want to have on awards actually transcend this Global Blueprint Excellence Awards fiasco. In Ghana and several countries in which I have travelled to and worked in, I have heard several complaints about non-scientific modes of determining who gets an award, the quality (or lack thereof) of those who judge who gets an award, and the general notion in Africa, that in Africa, awards are bought and not earned.

I know several prominent CEOs and Business Leaders who have told me for example, I did not bother entering my company into these award nominations, or industry rankings, whatever the case may be. So, there is a general problem with professional awards and rankings the world over and the earlier we all did something about this, the better. Here are my tips for sanitizing the award giving space globally:

For the Award Givers:

  • Kindly ensure all private and institutional brands you associate with your awards have given you the right to use those associations
  • Push for robust scientific rigour in the award criterion you develop to judge who merits the award and who does not. In developing banking awards for instance, do not assemble a cache of banking professionals alone and determine how a customer service quality award should be determined. There is at least 30 years of scholarly literature on how service quality is measured in banking so the feelings and practices of banking practitioners alone might not get you the most robust measures of bank service quality to really determine who deserves the award.
  • Closely allied to point above is the need to ensure that you have appropriate an skill mix in determining who deserves to receive an award. A good balance of academic, practitioners and NGO/civil society actors is always useful to getting a good balance for award judging panels
  • As much as possible do not develop award schemes that sit outside your business or institutional remit. So do not develop Tourism Sustainability Awards if you are the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, for instance
  • Demonstrate utmost transparency in all your award development schemes and never let your award brand degenerate to the point where it is perceived as cash for awards
  • As much as you can, do not solicit donations from potential contestants for an award. The conflict of interest issues are so glaring, you demean the quality of the award for eventual winners, even when they deserve it.

For Award Recipients:

  • Always check the background of the awarding institution and have a healthy dose of suspicion anytime you are invited to receive an award
  • If you are the CEO of a Travel and Tour Agency, please do not fall for a scheme that nominates you are Financial Services Professional of the Year. Clearly even though there is some finance in the job you do, you could not possibly qualify for the award, and this should immediately tell you the basis of those awards are weak. Run for your life.

In conclusion, I would advocate that we leave Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Berla Mundi, Sarkodie, John Boadu and Nathaniel Attoh alone and let us use this watershed incident to work to clean up our award giving space. Then we would all have benefited from this unfortunate saga.

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The writer is the Acting Director, Institutional Advancement of the University of Ghana