Many are those whose faces would contort in distaste on seeing this headline. The reason is not difficult to find.
The best children’s book published in the United States in 2006 was The Higher Power of Lucky. The book, which targeted children between nine and 12 years, was the 2007 Newbery Medal winner. But many libraries and librarians rejected it. Their reason?
The book had the word “scrotum” in the second paragraph of the first page. Well, the difference between Susan Patron, the author of that book and the boy from Albert Abongo’s Bongo Constituency is our target audience. My target is definitely not nine and 12 year olds.
Besides, our wise elders have so much regard for sanitized speech and would not tolerate any form of profanity. But they seem to have okayed this word, which has 279 other euphemisms. For inexplicable reasons, it is one part of the human anatomy with a dozen African proverbs.
Have you not heard about the Akan proverb that “it is only the fool whose testicles are trampled upon twice?” You may also have heard that “a child can play with its mother’s breasts but not with its father’s testicles.”
I don’t know why our sages of old were so infatuated with that part of the human anatomy, but in most instances, it captures the essence of the wise admonition or warning better than any other expression could.
And as I thought about the enormity of the task confronting President John Dramani Mahama in the wake of the testicle-shrinking GYEEDA revelations, I realised one such proverb aptly captures it: “It requires a lot of carefulness to kill the tsetse fly that perches on the scrotum.”
Anyone who has lived in a tsetse fly infested environment would know how terrible that insect stings. If you have not, the passage in the Primary Six English Course Book, The Elephant and the Tsetse Fly, may give you an idea. If this insect settles on your balls, you’re faced with two difficult tasks. You must slap life out of the little devil. At the same time, the white pigment in your skull ought to remind you that the pesky fly is not perching on your thighs. You are likely to collapse if you hit the storage facilities of the human seeds carelessly.
That, in my opinion, is the same challenge facing the President of our republic, as P.V Obeng and three others help him to pore over the Ministerial Committee’s Report of the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA). To be fair to those who have been listening to the GYEEDA expose in bits and pieces, let me paint you the full picture.
The GYEEDA rot
It all started with a phone call to the boy from Bongo and with a charge: “I have a story for you. I’m not giving it to anybody else because I think you will do a good job.” The informant didn’t end there.
With a grim face it warned, “You must be careful. It is not only dangerous but at some point in time, they may try to stop you with all manner of offers.”
And what was the story? It was a bad story, one which deprived thousands of miserable youth their source of livelihood while officials of GYEEDA and some “successful” businessmen built empires out of their sweat.
The initial story involved some few officials of GYEEDA, who were siphoning beneficiary funds with the connivance of bank officials. But as I delved deeper, I realised the true meaning in the words of our old sages: “If you find a bird dancing in the middle of the road, don’t assume that it is mad. Its drummers are in the nearby bush.”
A National Security Report I intercepted in the course of the investigation named the officials as: Joseph Osborn Djeni, Robert Lartey, King George Fokuo and Peter Anderson Sarpong. The rest are Tabsoba Alhassan, Omar Ibrahim Nyamiya and Samuel Azure. Samuel Azure was the acting branch manager of the Agona branch of the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank while the rest are GYEEDA officials. Joseph Osborn Djeni has resigned to take up a new job as the community relations manager of the Ghana Gas Company Limited.
And what was their offence? They allegedly forged the signature of then GYEEDA National Coordinator, Abuga Pele, and withdrew money from an illegal account opened at the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank. The account number was 1032200000660 (or simply NO.660) with account Name, NATION YOUTH EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM at the Agona Branch of the Bank. They successfully withdrew GH¢23, 490 from that account.
Another such account was opened at the Pankrono Branch of the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank by the Kwabre East District Coordinator of GYEEDA, Bismark Adu Ansre and his deputy, Abdulai Badaru. The National Security report again cited Umar Ibrahim as an accomplice in this transaction. I intercepted an unsigned letter to the bank instructing it to transfer an amount of GH¢120,000 into that account.
In the course of the investigation, I discovered the practice was widespread. It will be recalled that some GYEEDA officials in Bawku and Garu were recently arrested for similar fraudulent deeds.
With my voice recorder I set up to meet the officials one after the other, including authorites of the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank. Some spoke. Some declined to comment. Some spoke on record. Others, off record. Some confessed, others denied the charges and tried to prove their innocence.
“Tomorrow, meet me and let’s go to Better Ghana Management Service. Abuga Pele once asked me to lead a team to retrieve appointment letters with forged signatures. If I were corrupt would he put me in charge of that?” That was Tabsoba Alhassan.
Better Ghana Management Service Limited? The first time I heard the phrase “Better Ghana” was when a certain political party was desperately in search of power. Never mind, the parameters for determining a “better Ghana” have never been clearly defined and one can therefore measure how better our republic has since been.
But that’s not the headache. Not long after that party won power, I met 22-year old Davis Sename Agbeve, who described himself as a health promotion assistant. Where did I meet him? Ministry of Health. What was he doing? He was checking blood pressure. Who sent him? His company, Better Ghana Management Service Limited. They had signed that contract with the Ministry of Health. Ministry of HEALTH? It’s like taking guinea fowls from Mankesim to Zebilla to sell.
Another thing which struck me was the name of the company, “Better Ghana” Management Service Limited. I concluded that this company belonged to a die-hard NDC activist. But why would he or she not bother to hide it a little.
So while in Tabsoba Alhassan’s Toyota Hilux Pick Up heading for Ajiringano, my curiosity grew as I tried to figure out how exactly Better Ghana Management Service was related to GYEEDA. Before leaving that afternoon, I learnt that the company was owned by Mr Joseph Siaw Agyapong, the chairman of the Jospong Group of Companies, and not one of the NDC bigwigs as I had thought.
That visit was not enough to prove Tabsoba’s innocence. It opened another chapter of the investigation.
When I later got a copy of the Better Ghana Management Service’s contract, I realised the nation was in trouble. The details?
The government allocated GH¢250 per month to Eric Baduwoh, a visually impaired beneficiary of GYEEDA and a father of three. Only GH¢60 went to him at the end of the month. The rest went to Better Ghana Management Service Limited as Management Fees. That’s what the contract said.
Better Ghana Management Service was supposed to deduct GH¢5 from Mr Baduwoh’s meager GH¢60, add GH¢5 from the GH¢190 it made every month from the poor man’s allowance and pay into a provident fund.
My investigations, however, revealed that Better Ghana Management Service deducted Mr Baduwoh’s GH¢5 but did not pay it into the provident fund. And that has been the fate of some 69,000 GYEEDA beneficiaries since Better Ghana Management Service Limited took over their payment.
Other companies whose contracts and performance I later investigated included Zoomlion Ghana Limited, which was paid GH¢500 and only GH¢100 went to the beneficiaries per the contract. The “waste management experts,” I later found out, did not provide the equipment beneficiaries needed to work.
In the West Gonja District of the Northern Region, it became so severe that World Vision Ghana had to sympathise with the Beneficiaries and give them protective equipments to work. The Eastern Regional Coordinator of GYEEDA, Joshua Atta Mensa said beneficiaries in his region were “going through hell” while the Upper East Regional Director of GYEEDA said beneficiaries in the region had to use their bare hands to collect refuse.
Mr Roland Agambire’s AGAMS Group of Companies is also one of the key players in GYEEDA. The AGAMS Group alone has run 16 different modules in GYEEDA, some of which are still ongoing: hairdressing, dress making, drum carving, auto mechanics, mobile phone repairs, basket weaving, guinea fowl rearing…name them. And these contracts were fraught with issues.
Last year, for instance, RLG Communications Limted was awarded a contract of GH¢51 million to train and set up 30,000 beneficiaries, 15,000 this year and another 15,000 in 2014. My investigations revealed that only 4,222 are currently being trained even though all the GH¢ 25.5million due him for this year was paid as far back as November 2012.
Asongtaba Cottage Industry and Exchange Programme, which was awarded the contract to train youth in guinea fowl rearing in the three regions of the North did not also know they had been paid for that project until I confronted them with evidence of payment.
Another big shot in GYEEDA is Seidu Agongo, whose Zeera Group of Companies, runs a number of modules. Critics say his operations are more visible on television and other media commercials than on the ground. For instance, in the Youth in Road Maintenance module, he is paid for the number of youth he has and not the amount of work they do.
The Ministerial Committee on GYEEDA has said all GYEEDA contracts were awarded based on unsolicited proposals and they were skewed heavily in favour of Mr Roland Agambire, Mr Joseph Siaw Agyapong and Mr Seidu Agongo. These are the high profile entrepreneurs whose contracts, the committee has faulted and made strong recommendations.
These are the people President Mahama has to deal with. He must also deal with the GYEEDA officials, who the committee recommended for prosecution. Others include the immediate Past Minister for Youth and Sports, Clement Kofi Humado, the Chief Director of that Ministry, Alhaji Abdulai Yakubu and immediate past GYEEDA Coordinator, Abuga Pele. The committee says they have significant questions to answer for their role in the GYEEDA rot.
If one is permitted to call PV Obeng’s “team” a committee, then that is the FIFTH COMMITTEE sitting on this GYEEDA’s rot. The President needs a lot of skill, tact and diplomacy to stop more sucking of blood from the national coffers. Party big shots are involved.
Some school of thought has said such business moguls cannot be touched. Others say the officials implicated are party members, who cannot be sacrificed so easily. Some say the little flies will be used as scapegoats while the big boys walk scot-free.
But Ghanaians seem to be waiting, watching and humming a unanimous chorus: “Mr John Mahama, how you deal with this GYEEDA rot will define your presidency.”
Indeed, it doesn’t require only a lot of carefulness to kill the tsetse fly that perches on the scrotum. One must also have the balls to damn the consequences and, for once, show commitment to fighting the excessive greed, wickedness and corruption with which our nation is plagued.
Over to you, Mr President.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a Senior Broadcast Journalist at Joy FM.
The views expressed in this article are his own thoughts and do not reflect those of Joy FM or Myjoyonline.com.
Writer’s Email address: [email protected]