That was the name of a billy goat the Damoah family owned when I was very little, at Abavanna Down, Kotobabi. Joe was the proud owner of a sparkling white beard with streaks of black. Reminds me of Wofa Kapokyikyi’s proverb: Abodwesɛ tintin na yɛ de yɛ kramo ni a, anka aponkye yɛ mallam, that is, if the only qualification for being a good Moslem was having a long beard, the goat can be a mallam. Joe Louis would have certainly been a scholar! Anyway, Joe could be gone from the house for days providing community services to the area’s nanny goats (see, our family has always been philanthropic) but none of us worried because we knew he would be back. And when he decided to come back home, we could smell him miles away and would go to the main street, ‘flowing’ him ‘fans’: Jooooe Louis! Joe the Billy Goat had no wife but most of the nanny goats were proud to call him husband. Wofa Kapokyikyi greets you all, with a touch of aponkye flavour.
“How much does an egg cost?”
That may seem like a simple question but it is quite complex. The answer depends on who is asking: an individual or the State.
During the early years in my career, I used to travel across Ghana on trade visits, to customers and markets, to monitor quality in trade and also pick up some market intelligence. Once, we visited this trader in a kiosk in Saltpond. We asked her the prices of the products of my organisation.
“It depends,” she replied in Fanti.
We probed and she explained that the prices depended on who was asking.
“How much will this product be for someone like me?” I asked.
Without batting an eye, she responded “Awoa? Enkyɛ me dze bɛ bo wo tirim!”, meaning she would have sold it at an exorbitant price to me, since I was with a Trooper, and well-dressed.
So how much an egg costs depends on who is asking. If it is the government, then you know what’s up.
One “GH¢2.50″ for your pocket.
In 2014, a group of friends, spearheaded by a Facebook group I am part of, decided to renovate a primary school building in Apagya, Ghana, which had had more than half of its roof ripped off during a rainstorm in early 2014. The other classrooms which though had their roof intact experienced leakages when it rained. That initial idea expanded to include repairing the foundation of the building and the floors of the classrooms as well as repainting the entire building. We later painted the adjoining block for the junior secondary school. We raised funds from friends and family via social media (and a group of Apagya citizens in the diaspora) and delivered the project within five months. Fund-raising started in July, actual work began in August, works were completed in November and handed over to the community the same month. In all, the team spent GH¢22,466 out of a total of GH¢23,074 raised. The project also had support from the Apagya community, which provided timber for the works and communal labour, as well as donations in kind of paint and bags of cement from the District Chief Executive and some Apagya citizens. The scope of works comprised removal of existing roofing sheets and carpentry; re-roofing of all six classrooms plus headmaster’s office; installation of fascia boards; masonry works to foundation and floor screeding; installation of doors and windows; and painting of walls, windows and doors.
The question has been asked, and quite rightly: how much money would have been needed for this project, had it been done by either the District Assembly or central government? And how long would it have taken? The second question is easier to guess: much, much longer. The situation that needed fixing, at least the roof part, had existed for at least four months until we decided to fix it. Initially, even getting the district engineer to visit the school to assess the damage and give the planning team estimates for the costing proved futile. The District Assembly supported only at the tail end, with forty bags of cement. The first question cannot be answered correctly, but one can guess. It would have taken at least twice the amount we spent.
Eggnomics at work. After all, it is aban (government) money.
The role that public procurement plays in the rape of our nation’s resources is like the elephant in the room: we all see it but fail to talk about it. A friend once said that when public servants and politicians are excited about a project, one just needs to scratch the surface to realise that what really tickles them is the procurement bit. And the 10 per cent. Only the dumb politician or public official steals all the funds for a project. The smarter ones skim off the project and yet deliver it.
The story is told of two classmates, one European and the other African, who finished their studies in Europe and each went back to his country, ending up in politics. After ten years, the European guy (let’s call him John Bull), invited his African friend (let’s call him Yaw Mensah) to his home. John had built a magnificent edifice as his home and Yaw was so impressed.
“How did you manage to do this in ten short years?” Yaw asked.
John smiled and led him to the window, pointing through the glass:
“You see the bridge over that river?”
“Yes,” Yaw replied.
“2 per cent” John told him.
“You see that tarred road on the left? 3 per cent. You see that community hall? 2.5 per cent”.
Yaw nodded…and returned to his country and continent, promising to return the favour by inviting John one day to visit him.
A year later, Yaw did exactly that. When John got to Yaw’s house, he was lost for words!
“How did you deliver this in just a year?!”
Yaw smiled and repeated the drill.
“You see the bridge over that river?” Yaw pointed.
“But there is no bridge!” John replied, puzzled.
“Exactly,” Yaw agreed, “100 per cent!”
The Daily Graphic of 18 March, 2015 (page 60), reported that a six-unit classroom block and a teachers’ bungalow had been inaugurated at Agyareago in the Konongo-Odumase Municipality at the cost of GH¢409,000. Funded by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and the District Development Fund respectively, this classroom block included a staff common room, an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) centre, a store and a library.
In October 2014, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, his wife Mrs Yvonne Nduom and Groupe Nduom (GN) handed over a three-storey ultra-modern dormitory to his alma mater St. Augustine’s College in Cape Coast. The total cost of the project was GH¢500,000 and included the main dormitory (with a capacity to accommodate 150 students), accommodation facilities for teachers, an Information Communication Technology (ICT) centre, study room, library, visitor’s room and a courtyard for recreational activity. This total cost also included mattresses for the dormitory and beds and sitting room furniture for the teachers’ flats. The project was delivered in 12 months.
The Headmaster of St. Augustine’s College, Mr. Joseph Connel, remarked: “In fact this dormitory is a dormitory with a difference. Looking at all the ten dormitories we have, this is the only dormitory with a stairs in-built and upgraded with modern facilities and very spacious with staff accommodation attached for housemasters to be able to check on the students.”
The question to ask again: for how much would the government agency have delivered this same project?
To answer this, let me give you some more instances and reports, using the example of six-unit classroom blocks, consistent with what the Daily Graphic stated earlier. I have used two main sources: the official Government of Ghana news portal whose reports are mostly from the Information Services Department (ISD) and Ghana News Agency (GNA), with respective dates indicated:
28 February, 2011 (GNA): GH¢261,000 six-classroom block with office for the Maabeng Senior High Technical School inaugurated by the District Chief Executive.
21 May, 2012 (GNA): GH¢162,318 six-unit classroom block, store, office and library for the people of Nkyesa and surrounding communities in Asante Akim South district of Ashanti region commissioned and handed over by the MTN Ghana Foundation. An additional GH¢10,000 was provided for procurement of furniture for the classrooms and library.
22 February, 2014 (GOG/ISD): “The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Ebo Barton Oduro, yesterday said government was committed to education, and will do everything possible to enhance teaching and learning in schools. Mr. Oduro who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Cape Coast North, said this when he commissioned a three-unit classroom block worth more than GH¢220,000 for the Kakumdo Metropolitan Assembly (M/A) Basic School in Cape Coast.”
23 July, 2014 (GOG/ISD): “The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Techiman, Mr. Phillip Oppong Amponsah has inaugurated a six classroom block with ancillary facilities for the Methodist Primary school. The six classroom block has ancillary facilities such as a library, ICT Centre, furniture, two (2) urinals and four (4) seat water closet (WC) toilet facilities as well as a [sic] burglar proof. The project which started in 2009 was funded by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GET Fund) at the cost of GH¢230,000.00.”
23 September, 2014: “The Ashanti Regional Minister, Hon. Samuel Sarpong has inaugurated a new six-unit classroom block for Krapa M/A primary school in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipality of the Ashanti Region. The project, valued at GH¢450,000 was initiated and funded by GETFUND and would accommodate school children and teachers who for some time now had been studying in temporary structures.”
14 November, 2014 (GNA): GH¢ 183,000 six-classroom block with ancillary facilities for Roman Catholic Primary School at Wagambu in the Mion District of the Northern region built by the Catholic Diocese of Yendi and handed over to the authorities of the Ghana Education Service.
3 March, 2015 (GNA): $61,820 six-classroom block and community toilet facility built by Compassion International Ghana, an NGO, inaugurated and handed over to the chiefs and people of Breman Jamra.
11 March, 2015 (GNA): GH¢280,000 six-classroom block, with an office, library and store, built and donated by the children of [the] late Jacob Bonful and spouse Mrs Elizabeth Bonful, built for the Methodist Model school at Sokoban-Ampabame, Kumasi.
Take particular note of the differences in costs when done by a private or corporate entity versus when done by government. The Opposition has had cause to complain about this and we shouldn’t disregard it.
We have still not forgotten the hullabaloo that greeted the news that Ridge Hospital was to be rehabilitated and equipped at the cost of of $250 million. The expansion was to provide the Hospital with ultra-modern facilities and a 420-bed capacity. In the heat of the discussion, I could only remember that for $60 million, my organisation in Nigeria had built an ultra-modern 1000-ton per day palm oil refinery, tank farms, packing hall, equipped with about five packing lines, utilities such as sub-stations, boiler house – the entire works.
We have only finished the debate on the $29 million rehabilitation works at the Kumasi Airport, taking into consideration that the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE) is planning to construct three new airports in Ethiopia at an estimated cost of $64.5million.
The official residence of the Head of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), which was previously occupied by her predecessor Justice Francis Emile Short, was being redesigned with several variations and renovated at a cost of GH¢182,000. A critical assessment of what constitutes that cost buildup will be an interesting journey in amazement.
We shouldn’t forget so soon, the episode of the former Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes, who illegally took away furnishings from his official residence at the end of his tenure. These items would have been replaced, at cost to the State, with the principle of eggnomics.
As the nation seeks to plug holes in its burgeoning expenditure, procurement is a low hanging fruit, easily plucked through inflated project costings, and suppliers’ mark up (to also cushion against late payment from government). We must look at the quality of work and whether we even get value for money. How many times have we not seen road projects deteriorate as quickly as they are completed?
I even speak of projects which actually took place. Some projects don’t. But the expenditure takes place.
So how much does an egg cost? Tell me when you get to know the answer when government is buying it.
Till I come your way with another sebitical, I remain:
*An excerpt from Sebitically Speaking (2015), by Nana Awere Damoah