Tue, Feb

When tyranny is legalised and practiced with impunity

Thoughts From Afar
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That double payments have been a feature of all three changes of government with the public being blinded to it gives me an indication that the only way this self-inflicted anomaly will be corrected is if as citizens we express our displeasure unequivocally and push for a root and branch investigation into all ex-gratia payments since 1996.

C.S. Lewis argues, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

Over the past twenty-five years, I have at times felt exacerbated and helpless in thought and come to the conclusion that democracy is a tyranny that we have come to live with. I have because in instances, those we have entrusted public service to have lost sight of the real meaning of our decisions and actions and have hanged around our necks like albatrosses. Significantly, we have, thanks to the over politicisation of our actions become moving pawns in their game of chess that only checkmate the electorate and puts the elected at an undue advantage.

For some time now, we have become aware of allegations of double salary payments made against some members of the previous administration. Whilst the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) try to unravel the criminality or otherwise of these allegations, I can’t help but ask what has become of morality in our society?

It is clear that the inability of the parliamentary payment system to communicate with the Accountant Generals Department has been known since 2001. Correspondence available to me indicates that in 2001, following the exit from office of the NDC government, some former ministers who were also MPs were found to have received double ex-gratia payments. Subsequently, letters were written to them resulting in refunds to the state under a scheme of scheduled payments. Yet, little was done to fix the fundamental anomaly that had resulted in this.

Interestingly, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu eluded to the fact that in 2009 following the exit of the NPP from government, he received double ex-gratia payments, one of which he subsequently returned. One wonders, how many in the erstwhile J.A. Kufuor government also received same and how many of them may not have returned to the Exchequer what clearly was a payment error. One also wonders if the new Atta Mills government with experience from the payment errors of 2001 tried to reconcile any payments made to outgoing government officials. Whilst I leave readers to ponder over this; that the minority didn’t move to get this anomaly corrected in the next parliament leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It gives me the impression that amongst MPs, there is a sacred oath that all must be morally upright. Considering that some from the august house have served jail time for all sorts of indiscretions, such a view can best be described as ill-informed.

However, if this was the case then-Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu's revelation that in 2012 he also received double payments one of which he returned makes nonsense of this view. As Ian Fleming puts it, "Once is happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action." That double payments have been a feature of all three changes of government with the public being blinded to it gives me an indication that the only way this self-inflicted anomaly will be corrected is if as citizens we express our displeasure unequivocally and push for a root and branch investigation into all ex-gratia payments since 1996.

I hold this view because till date there is no indication that any double payments occurred in 1997 when Jerry Rawlings retained power, 2005 J.A. Kufuor's second term and only one in 2013 when John Mahama was returned to government. For me, this is preposterous and can only be told to the marines. That a system that has been failing when governments change from one party to the other will function without hitches when power is retained is not only quirky but a figment of the uninformed imagination. My hunch is that similar happens occurred in the listed years.

I agree entirely with Philip Pullman in that, "I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are." To that end, I have come to the conclusion that our society has enough evil that only manifests when people are put in positions of trust and the temptations are real. I have also accepted that there is a need for a serious tightening of many of the regulations that ensure the practice of our democracy.

As a people, we need to realise that our sense of morality only applies to sex and relationships, even there our views are utopian and not real. In all other things, we have very little morality to hold out on. Yet we write our laws, guidance and contracts as though humans with scruples are going to read and apply them. If this wasn't the case why is it that our MPs (all 275) will on a rolling four-year cycle receive car loans, rent advance etc. when the citizenry do not receive same? Why is it that similarly ex-gratia is paid on a four-year cycle? How come the contract of a rector of a public educational institution will have a clause that allows him to purchase a car of his choice when clearly we are a country of grandiose ostentation? Is it not pathetic that we consistently shot ourselves in the foot and plead poverty as a country? As citizens are we so blinded by politics that we can’t even see when the systems are geared to encourage sleazing by the elite?

Yes, today its ex-ministers of the NDC who are in the firing line for their alleged indiscretions and rightly so. It should not be the case that men and women who pride themselves on using the title "honourable" will be more dishonourable than the population and get away with it. In my view, “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour ... If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?” Hence I shed no tears for them. Having said that it should not also be that if others have engaged in this, they get away with it.

On the other hand that we have a system where they paymaster general pays without questioning simply because recipients are elected public office holders must be challenged and frowned upon. In a country where monies due to retirees and deceased civil and public servants are subjected to all forms of scrutiny, one cannot comprehend the autopilot mode the elected elite seem to enjoy. We need to begin to untangle ourselves from this democratic tyranny, the animal farm approach to public life will only bring us more pain.

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