Feature Article of Thursday, 4 April 2013
Columnist: Dowokpor, William
By William Dowokpor
Public Policy is “what governments choose to do or not to do” Dye (2002). Private politics on the other hand is described as “the process by which policies that have a public impact are made in and adopted by non-state actors, specifically business firms and outline how it can and should be integrated into the framework of the public policy process” Werner (2013).
It is not clear, why public policy scholars have decided to ignore the private interface in their definitions when the two evidently interact to impact on society. What ever the reason(s), it has become increasingly clear that private politics has a contribution to make in the growth and prosperity of any nation.
In Ghana, successive governments, at least since the year 2000, have openly acknowledged the role of private politics referred to as “the private sector” in their efforts to bring development to the people. In the Kufuor administration, a whole ministry for private sector development was set up to make it a capable partner to government for national development.
In the 2004 Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy guidelines, which attempted to officially integrate the two sectors in the development process, the private sector was positioned as Ghana’s “engine of growth” to indicate its importance. Unfortunately, failure to fully operationalise the guidelines denied the sector, the needed energy and capacity (fuel, body and tyres) to drive the economy to the envisaged destination.
In the Atta-Mills administration, the initiative was maintained, leading to the launch of another national policy document on PPP in June 2011, by then Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Kwabena Duffuor. The objective of the document was to set out clearly the process for all aspects of PPP project development and implementation; from “project identification, appraisal, selection, to procurement, operation, and maintenance and performance monitoring and evaluation”.
In that document, the PPP is defined as “a contractual arrangement between a public entity and a private sector party, with clear agreement on shared objectives for the provision of public infrastructure and services traditionally provided by the public sector”. It is important to note that there is nothing like “privatization” in this definition.
It is with this background and the PPP chorus emanating from the corridors of power, sector ministries, departments; metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, that I take a brief look at the PPP in Ghana.
Beyond the need, which is not in doubt, the scope, level of competence, openness, inclusiveness and accountability that must go with the process to guarantee success and mutual benefits, need to be clearly established with certainty.
So far, the marked difference between the previous PPP and the current one, is the appointment of a Minister of State at the Presidency, In-charge of Public-Private Partnerships, without a ministry. Whether it is operated under the auspices of a ministry or the presidency, the PPP will only make the desired impact if, the strengths of both public and private sectors are harnessed for specific projects and their inefficiencies, surgically removed.
Critical sectors like water, education, health, transport, roads, energy and other social services can see massive improvements with positive impact on national development if parties involved deliver to expectation. For instance in the energy sector we have the Sunon Asogli Power Plant, a typical PPP at work, which produced fifteen per cent of the total electricity generated in the country (200 megawatts of power)in 2011. With the ongoing power rationing, one can easily appreciate what 200 megawatts can do for our economy.
But in this otherwise success story of Asogli, we are confronted with the typical challenge of one or more parties to the PPP, in this case, the West African Gas Pipeline Company, WAPCo’s inability to guarantee the continuous flow of gas for the operation, with the Government of Ghana as well as the Electricity Company of Ghana ECG’s inability to pay for electricity supplied in the PPP on time. Since the WAPCo pipes got damaged somewhere in Togo last year, the over $200 million Asogli investment has not produced a megawatt of power, raising questions of sustainability about the project.
Many reasons and excuses have been given for WAPCo’s inability to provide the gas needed to fire Asogli. Apart from incompetence, one would be naïve not to consider other intervening factors such as apathy and sabotage from local and international detractors. In his book “Saints, Wizards, Demons and Systems: Explaining the Success or Failure of Public Policies and Programmes” Aryee (2000), examines why policies and programmes fail and how they can succeed in Ghana and other African countries.
He suggests “the right combination of committed politicians and bureaucrats (saints); appropriate policy analysts and available reliable information (wizards); management of hostile and apathetic groups (demons); and insulation of the policy environment from the vagaries of implementation (systems)”.
How can we remove the demons to have the gas flow to Asogli to alleviate the power crisis? Shall we pray believing God to break the power of the demons? And if we agree to pray, shall we travel all the way to the holy nation of Israel? For months we have not seen any progress report on how far repair works on the damaged WAPCo pipes are going. What are the current challenges? What is expected of government, the public partner in this challenge? Who will provide the reliable information?
It is said to be desirable for a Moslem to embark on pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca, at least once in his or her life time, if she or he can afford it. Over the years successive governments have taken it upon themselves to organize and or facilitate pilgrimages, obviously to maintain good relations with the Moslem community in the hope that it will translate into re-election advantages. There is a National Hajj Committee; that is called upon to render accounts every now and then, especially when pilgrims get dissatisfied with arrangements for a particular pilgrimage.
Officially there is no such partnership with the Christian community. So when news broke recently about a government “facilitated” package “sponsored” by a private entity to have some 200 Church leaders from Ghana to undertake a pilgrimage to the holy land of Jerusalem, it did not go down well with a large section of the Christian community including some clergy who were supposed to be beneficiaries.
While the initiative could be appreciated for its inclusive value, it fell short of openness. For instance, the government has failed to mention the private entity sponsoring the package and that is a source of great worry to many including the clergy who want to know where the money is coming from.
Had there been a consultative forum for this PPP, I would have suggested we put the $600.000 cash in a National Compassion Trust Fund to pay for the medical bills of poor citizens who can not afford specialist care, for which television stations have to raise funds with very disturbing pictures of their conditions. I believe you have your own priority areas too.
The more recent controversies surrounding the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority SADA’s GHC 15 million guinea fowl and GHC 33 million forestation projects should send the strongest signal to all prospective PPP participants, especially public sector parties that PPPs will not benefit from the popular support and citizen ownerships they need, if the processes remain opaque and extractive. Only openness; will insulate the implementation of such policies from the vagaries of suspicion and apathy.
Another success factor for PPP is its inclusive feature. In a country so sharply divided along government and opposition lines, we are all aware of the absurdities of “government versus opposition” in everything. We have NDC and NPP police, teachers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, KVIP managers and contractors, where one gets included only when their party is in power.
When policies developed for the benefit of all citizens end up benefiting only members of the party in power or their friends in opposition, if any, it ceases to be a PPP. It becomes “Winner Takes All (WTA). I have always challenged my colleagues in the media to investigate all the social intervention policies that have been implemented in the country for the past two decades from National Youth Employment programme, through the award of government scholarships, to the selection of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) beneficiaries.
There is massive corruption, exclusion and extraction of public monies there. Thanks to Manasseh Azure Awuni, of JOY FM for his recent work on the Youth Employment Programme, people are beginning to take these allegations seriously.
The Minister responsible for PPP must beware of the closed, exclusionist and extractive tendencies associated with the implementation of PPPs in Ghana and avoid them at all costs. Even at the cost of his own appointment, if Ghana is to make the most out of the PPP to close the deficit in critical infrastructure development and the provision of adequate social services for the rapid transformation of the country.
Closely related to the need for competence, openness and inclusiveness is accountability. When the confidentiality practices in corporate governance meets with the proverbial inefficiencies of the public sector in a PPP, it results in a total mess!
In the ragging 15 million cedi guinea fowl project for example, I hear arguments for confidentiality as a corporate governance principle. But I will counter that with good corporate governance practices which include openness and accountability. I think it is premature for a society with weak regulatory institutions to put confidentiality above openness and accountability in a PPP financed with public money.
The controversies surrounding otherwise useful projects SADA projects can be avoided if adequate information showing how monies spent, are made available to oversight institutions such as parliament and the general public. That is why we have public affairs departments attached to such projects. Like the PPP itself, the relevance of the guinea fowl project remain unquestionable. What is fueling the suspicion is the lack of adequate information at the right time. A word to the wise is enough!
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William Dowokpor is a member of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and a Senior Partner at Advocacy Communications. Email: [email protected]