Having read the government’s green paper on the SP resignation, I conclude that:
1. It is always a bad idea for the President to invite an independent constitutional officer to discuss a report prepared by the latter on activities related to the former or his appointees.
At a very minimum, such meetings compromise independence in appearance and could also undermine independence in fact. A policy that cements this principle should be put in place.
2. The budgetary system of the country is a total mess and I cannot make sense of the numbers.
For instance, focusing only on paragraphs 17 and 18, I learnt that ¢65.7M was transferred to the SP’s bank account in 2019. However, he only utilised ¢5.2M, leaving a balance of ¢60.4M. Contrary to policy, the ¢60.4M was not returned to the consolidated funds but rolled to the SP’s account for the following year. Bad!
In 2020, about ¢39.3M has been released to the SP’s account but the SP has spent only ¢308,751. So if one adds this 2020 release to the amount rolled from 2019, one expects the account to show ¢99M (¢60.4+¢39). Strangely enough, paragraph 18 shows a balance of ¢60.47M, which is the same as the 2019 balance.
It does not add up, at least to me!
3. I am unimpressed by the process for choosing a building for a newly created government department.
A committee was set up by the Presidency (this should belong to a ministry in charge of facilities) to work with the SP to find a suitable building.
First, the committee identified the Cantoment cluster. Renovation started on that cluster but the SP found something else — the GNTC building.
Renovation started on the GNTC cluster until the SP changed his mind and now wanted the GETFUND building, etc.
While the report has been written to cast the SP as a hard to please guy, my view is this is evidence of poor governance, at best, and trying too hard to please an independent officer, at worst.
We need a process to manage such facilities acquisition and it should not be at the whim of the SP who is simply an employee. I believe technocrats at the ministry of works and housing should be in charge of this facilities acquisition process going forward.
To be sure, the input of the SP or others similarly situated should be taken into account but the buck should stop with technocrats hired specifically for these type of situations.
4. I could not understand the CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) budget, estimated at ₵59M in 2019. What was this to be used for if there was a separate process to getting a building?
5. It is poor budget practice for the Presidency to be paying for the SP’s sundry expenses when the SP has a budget for these things (paragraph 22). Again, this could be interpreted anyhow but independence will counsel against such “little favors.”
6. I could not tell what happened to the ₵1M set up amount and ₵2.79 CAPEX released to the SP in 2018. Was it used? If so, on what?
7. The SP asked for ₵360M in 2019. Half (₵180M) was approved but only ₵66M was released. He only utilized ₵5.2M. So what was the budgetary rational for approving ₵188M in 2020. Approved budgets should look back and forward.
Likewise, if the SP was given an approval to hire 249 people and hired nobody, why were these red flags not raised earlier?
Releasing such information at this time of the game when the SP has made charges of interference seem opportunistic. This is not to say I do not think the SP is a hard to please guy. He may very well be. But that, to me, is neither here nor there.
We must draw the proper lessons from this episode. We need policies to guide the setting up of new departments and to govern the relationship between independent officers and the Presidency.
The Presidency does too much and should get out of the business of being in charge of looking for buildings for a department.
Above all, it must be a no no for the President to meet an independent officer behind closed doors.
I must end with the 9-person Board. Where were there when all of these crazy stuff was going on? My view is independent agencies, like the AuG, SP, Supreme Court, EC, etc. do not require a Board. We pay these Board members allowances to do nothing!!
November 18, 2020.
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