SOTN address: Verify Mahama’s pronouncements – Policy Analyst

General News of Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Source: Public Agenda

Dr Steve Manteaw ISODEC

A policy analyst and chairman of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, Dr Steve Manteaw has advised Ghanaians not to take the account of progress on the various development projects contained in the President’s 2015 State of the Nation Address at face value.

Rather, he said, Members of Parliament, the media and constituents of the various beneficiary districts owe a duty to help verify the existence and state of completion of the said projects, as part of efforts at giving the annual state of the nation address more credibility and relevance.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Top Radio, Dr Manteaw admitted that the list of road and infrastructure projects, social support programmes, health and educational improvement projects reported by the President were pretty impressive, but added that, the address itself becomes meaningful only within the context of a credible assurance or verification mechanism to confirm the veracity of the supposed progress made.

He recalled that, in 2014, shortly after the President’s state of the nation address, His Excellency, the President issued a directive to all ministers to submit their work programme on how they were going to deliver on the commitments made, particularly those that affected their respective ministries.

The directive, according to Dr Manteaw, also indicated that the ministers will, following the approval of their work programmes, submit quarterly reports showing the progress they were making towards the realisation of the President’s Better Ghana Agenda.

He intimated that, though most of the ministers responded to the directive and submitted their work programmes, some did not. Again, even though there was supposed to have been quarterly reviews of these reports, they did not happen; therefore raising serious questions about the quality of the monitoring and evaluation tools put in place to gauge performance.

The real worry, Dr Manteaw said, is that without an open performance monitoring framework involving the citizenry with feedback to the presidency, the President risks being misinformed by his ministers, advisers, and speech-writers.

He wondered how the President will feel if some of the projects he enumerated happen not to be in existence. In the particular case of water, Dr Manteaw said he had made his checks on the supposed improvement in water supply to areas including the Akuapem Ridge as a result of expansion works on the Kpong dam, and has found the President’s report on the supposed improvement to be doubtful.

“The water situation in Akuapem is yet to experience any improvement. This is precisely the reason all of us must get involved in validating what the President says is the state of the nation” he said, adding that, “That is the way to restore credibility to the exercise”.

Dr Manteaw also spoke about energy, and the efforts government was making to arrest the incessant power crisis.

He said he was confident that the government will rise up to the occasion, but as to how soon, will depend on the extent to which it opens up to suggestions. For instance, he said: “while I am enthused about the planned 200,000 rooftop solar systems programme announced by the president, I think in the medium to long term we should be looking at working with Chinese investors to manufacture the panels here, using the abundance of silica sand in the Aboso area in the Western Region to bring down the cost of the panels”.

He regretted that government has not handled the power crisis with the required sense of urgency, but at the same time, happy that it is beginning to wake up to the urgency of the situation the country faces.

On the sale of the Electricity Company of Ghana, Dr Manteaw said he did not believe that, the decision had been willfully taken by the government of Ghana. Rather, he is convinced that, the government is acting under duress from the U.S. Millennium Compact, whose agenda is to open up new opportunities for U.S. businesses, such as General Electric.

He challenged the advocates of ECG’s privatisation to show one successful case of privatisation in Ghana. In his view the best approach to introducing efficiency into the operations of ECG will be to first pay off all debts owed by government institutions to ECG; and then prioritise all ministries, departments and agencies in the distribution of the announced solar systems. “That way, we would have dealt permanently with ECG’s debt overhang and free up resources for retooling in order to engender efficiency.