- I am not sure there is a very new me from when we last spoke. I think it’s more the case that the Author side of me has been asked to proceed on leave, hahaha, and my more vocal and politically inclined self, awakened. Both have always been there.
Marricke Kofi Gane (MKG) is a chartered accountant by profession, a corporate coach, and an International Development expert, with experience managing several aid funds for European governments in over 30 countries.
He is an accomplished author with well over a dozen books and counting to his name, a lecturer in Public Financial Management, and a well-known commenter on topical Ghanaian issues on Facebook. He is regarded as one of the new breeds of critical and creative thinkers, with a burning desire to see Ghana capitalize on its natural and human resources etc. to reach its rightful place among the developed nations of the world. He is a firm believer in the potential of today’s youth, has a strong penchant for motivating excellence in all, and challenging the status quo.
Based on several of his recent comments and posts on Facebook, myghanalinks.com’s Abena Alice (AA) reached out to him for a brief interview on a couple of topical Ghanaian issues.
However, the exchanges took a different turn as his blossoming political aspirations brimmed to the fore; and the result, unfortunately, was a lengthier than planned three-part interview, with several solicited questions from individuals, who have chosen to remain anonymous.
Read also: The Marricke Kofi Gane Interview
AA: How has the writing world been treating you since our first interview that focused mainly on your books?
MKG: Rather slow and quiet I must say. But all my previous books are still in print on all Amazon Worldwide Channels, so, that’s a good thing. I have just completed my first short book (it is a very short book) in Ghana - it is the 1st book I have physically written from start to finish in Ghana - “7 Dwarves And A Bridge.” And it is Not for sale, except outside Ghana. It can also be downloaded here.
AA: Looking at your current activities on Facebook, it seems as though you have moved beyond the ‘writer’s world’, in which we first met and interviewed. You seem more involved in Ghana’s politics, economic affairs, and have become an advocate against corruption etc. Consequently, how would you describe the new you, especially to those who will be reading about you for the first time?
MKG: Hahaha, I am not sure there is a very new me from when we last spoke. I think it’s more the case that the Author side of me has been asked to proceed on leave, hahaha, and my more vocal and politically inclined self, awakened. Both have always been there.
AA: Having relocated to the motherland for a while now, how is life in general compared to your previous abode?
MKG: I love it back here. There really is no place like home. I gave myself 6 months within which if I didn’t run back to the UK, it meant I was back for good – I am in my 11th. I went back to the UK for 3 days recently to deliver a PFM M&E course and surprisingly – I didn’t miss being there one bit, so it’s safe to say – Home is where my heart is now. Am back!
AA: There are many Ghanaians abroad, young and old, who would perhaps like to return home and settle, but they worry about the lack of modern health facilities, alleged corrupt dealings of the immediate past and current government, plus they feel a strong disconnect between the way things work abroad and in Ghana. What advice would you give them?
MKG: Wow! I feel I could almost write a book on that. In my experience, the biggest thing to keep in mind on the journey back is to psyche yourself on 3 things (1) Things will NOT be the same as it is abroad and that there is a different level of quality, customer relations, interactions to expect here – if it won’t kill you for glossing over it, don’t stress it. The only warning to give you is – there are instances where “non-straightforward” way of doing business will come your way – make sure you are always doing the right thing yourself, that way, you can also demand the right thing to be done from others. Don’t budge – after all, we are and must be the change agents, not the ones to entrench any rot (2) don’t feel pressured to show off to anyone that you are from Abrokyire. I think most people return with false minds that they are expected to live a certain CLASS of lifestyle and this puts them under unnecessarily intense pressure – listen, BE YOU and like we say here in Ghana - “free your mind” (3) Before you return – build a network of like-minded positive connections – friends in Ghana, family and other returnees. It will ease your return and they can steer you off some not-too-obvious mistakes.
AA: Shifting gears into the political realm etc., after 24 plus years of Republican governance, 16 for the National Democratic Congress, and 8 for the New Patriotic Party, the problems of underdevelopment, corruption, and unemployment remain almost the same. Any thoughts on why?
MKG: Well, it’s not an easy one to put a finger on, because there are several angles to it – but 2 things are very clear to me – (1) We haven’t really had any major visionary leader in the last 25 years, sadly. Power within the 2 main parties have been handed down from one set of old men at the top to the next batch of old men at the bottom and effectively, we have continued to have old political leaders whose vision is as old as they themselves and as such are out of sync with where the rest of the world is going and so CANNOT position Ghana in that fast-speeding world. I may sound blunt, but it is what it is - we seem isolated; (2) Our political focus has been mixed up. By that I mean we still have not been able to separate the POLITICS of winning power, from the BUSINESS of running a country – so we have politicians being appointed into positions to run the business of Governance without the recognition that the latter requires expert skill, diplomatic finesse and strong powers of judgment and NOT the ability to simply shout during campaigns, on TV or over Radio stations. In effect – you find square pegs in triangular holes who can neither critically assess societal or global problems nor creatively solve them. I mean, Some! But governance is a synchronising Art - so if core elements are out of tune, the whole suffers.
AA: Filtering through the posts and comments on various social media sites, several Ghanaians seem resigned to the notion that the major difference between the NDC and NPP is the personality of the actors, party colours and logo. Everything else in terms of corruption, suspicious contract awards, a seeming unwillingness to tackle core issues as it might alienate supporters, and a lack of selflessness on the part of many politicians. Any thoughts on that?
MKG: Haha, I think I have very well covered this point in my last response – first our politics is largely inheritance biased and is based on populism and not competence – that sums it all. Then there is the issue of greed and entitlement – “everybody’s time to chop will come” – you just have to stay in there long enough.
AA: On the issue of lack of clarity in the awarding of contracts within the public space, you recently touched on the award of a sole sourced contract for streetlights, worth GHS 100 million by the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to a company by name XYZ. Of course, the company won the bid, but a lot of interesting observations were made by you and several others. Can you please give us a brief rundown on what all that was about?
MKG: Well, as you rightly put it - the contract was awarded to the wife of the MP for Assin Central, Mr Kennedy Agyapong. Her name is Stella Wilson and her company Imperial World Ventures as a Sole sourced Contract on the website of the PPA. 20 Hours after I broke the news, the PPA changed this contract and other contracts from the classification of Sole-Sourced to Restricted Tender Contracts.. But there was everything wrong with it. Firstly, why were the contracts suddenly changed on the PPA Website - all of them a mistaken classification? Secondly, Restricted Tenders are still for items that cannot largely be gotten on the open market, that were urgent and only which a specialist supplier could deliver – none of these applied to streetlights. Thirdly, the company winning the award was registered with the Registrar General as one whose core business was “Computer Training, sales and services and ICT consulting.” – What on earth was such a company doing getting Street light supply contracts to the tune of GhS100 Million? Sadly – nothing will be done about it because – this is Ghana. And there are many, many more like these.
AA: Sole source, restricted, unrestricted etc. The terminologies can indeed be confusing for us the uninitiated. Any recommendations on how these contracts should be streamlined to ensure transparency, so Ghanaians are not the big losers in the end? Also, who ensures that the streetlights are delivered, installed and working etc.?
MKG: I wish I could go into much detail, but the starting point is already there. Ghana has a procurement Act – it states very clearly in what scenarios anything can be procured using what route. The President has also said he has asked for there to be a reduction in items that are sole-sourced, which is great, BUT the president shouldn’t be the one to have to step in before these guidelines work. There needs to be some PENAL measures for persons who willfully circumvent the procurement laws. Monitoring procurements is the exact reason why the PPA was set-up, but it appears it has just become blackboard to write contract details from respective MMDEs. It leads me to conclude that the systems are there – it’s the people who are overriding it – and they do it because the cost of being caught doing it is less than the reward gained from non-adherence.
AA: Any views on the recent $179-million Kelni GVG contract that had many Ghanaians crying foul?
MKG: I think there are good sides and bad sides to it - I think it is a good thing that it has forced some level of interaction between Government, the Judiciary, Citizenry, Civil Society, Private sector and of course Government. I think it is a good thing that it puts Government on the alert that it can no more get away with barely everything even though it still wields phenomenal power in terms of final decisions. What I do find interestingly strange is Government appears to have taken a posture of entirely ignoring some revelations about the History of GvG in other countries - if we want to do Due Diligence that in itself should be a grave concern on its own. And ignoring such red lights make it appear as though a decision has already been made to contract Kelni-GvG and everything else must align.
AA: Do give us a couple of policies of the current government that have impressed you the most.
MKG: I have been impressed with the resolve to channel some of its energies towards Digitising some of the Public sector services. It’s a step in the right direction. Whether they are functioning as should, I cannot say - I am yet to come across a post-implementation review report on same. Free-SHS was necessary, although if you ask me, it would appear we rushed into the “All-For-Free” element of it and then later started looking to find the funding to sustain it. So, those are policies that have NEEDED to be done. I am not commenting on how well they have been done or their sustainability. I am not in a position to.
AA: The establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, led by Mr. Martin Amidu was received with joy by many with the hope that several alleged corrupt cases will be brought to light. Interestingly, it is all beginning to look like a mere afterthought, as nothing of significance has been heard from his office. Any thoughts on that?
MKG: Well, the full complement of Governing staff of the OSP has just been announced and inaugurated by the President. So yes, although it’s been slow in coming, we can only wait and see how it unfolds. That said, I personally do not believe it should have taken another structure outside of our current structures of the Police, Attorney General, CHRAJ, BNI, Judiciary, Auditor General and EOCO, to prevent or investigate corruption and other related issues - it actually highlights the inherent lack of collaboration between all these state offices. That's what we should have been fixing, because take it or leave it - the OSP will depend on these very organisations listed to get its job done. We are trying to create a small Efficiency arm outside a seemingly uncoordinated body.
AA: From afar, it seems as though the government is not doing enough to nurture startup companies - small and individual business growth - which can be a huge source for stimulating the economy. I say this because of the high interest rate for borrowers, the potential businessman, whose video on the tariffs etc. that were heaped on him went viral, the case of an individual who had to pay one hundred and fifty percent of the cost of a sound mixer he imported, and a letter from one Kenny Senaya to the Minister of Finance, in which he asked, “How could one be made to pay between 150-300% of the value he purchased a car for abroad with embedded tax components like NHIL, EXIM, and other dubious levies?” Even the very outspoken Rev. Angel Daniel Obinim has had reason to lament rather than pray the problem away, saying, “… Ghana is a ‘foolish’ country, because no country that has sense will charge an import duty of 5 billion Cedis for just one car no matter what…” Any thoughts on this?
MKG: Let me start by saying I cannot speak to the dubiousness or not of taxes levied on imports. What appears to be the case for me and this is not just for imports but across all our tax regime, is that each government that has come in over the years and realised it needed to expand its tax earnings has simply either added new layers of different taxes and/or increased the rates of existing ones. It’s almost becoming a maze of tax-mountains. It is more than possible, that we can restructure our tax regiment to be much simpler for government to administer, less complicated for businesses to comply with and still generate sizeable revenues. The question is, are we willing to STOP and take a more creative look at what pertains or are we just trying to answer the question - "what is the next source we can deploy for more taxes?" The issue of interest rates being high is a bit tricky because it cannot simply be lowered - our current inflation comes into the picture and as long as inflations are at the rates they are at, interest rates will tend to reflect same. The trick in my view is to holistically improve productivity across-board because everything else is a reflection of that - whichever way the bread is sliced.
AA: Any comments on the promised One District, One factory (1d, 1f) that was supposed to help alleviate the job situation in the District capitals etc. that is yet to fully materialize? Some have described it as a mere election gimmick and our affinity for slogans.
MKG: Hahahaha! It’s beginning to look that way and I must confess it’s becoming more and more difficult to believe when and whether it will take off as at today 14 June 2018. We can hope - at least that’s an option haha
AA: Given the direction of this interview, it is unavoidable to talk about the youth of the country, who are central to the fortunes of any political candidate. You have, on occasion, traded comments with Kwame Asiedu Sarpong about the Ghanaian youth, with KAS, saying something to the effect that, “We have failed the current generation of youth.” What exactly does he mean by that?
MKG: I can’t say what EXACTLY he means, I think he would be the best to answer. But in the context of the conversations he was having with me when those remarks were traded, our common understanding was that - we need to see Ghana as part of the world, not isolated from the world and more intuitively, to UNDERSTAND that we are in competition with the rest of the world, whether regionally or globally. IF we see the world in that manner, then it is up to our generation and our current governments to ensure that the youth have everything they need and every protection that is required to evolve and develop to the degrees that the youth of other countries are evolving. Because truth be told, the career or employment competition for our youth is no more just the other unemployed youth in Ghana - his competition is the unemployed youth in Ghana and those from regional and other countries with better education who are willing to come down here. If it is not the case yet, it will soon be and it requires getting them ready.
AA: Professor Joshua Alabi, who has declared his intentions of contesting for the 2020 flagbearership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), recently stated that the youth are not ready for the prime role of running the country. Not sure how old you are, but what is your take on his comment?
To be continued