I am not a publicist for the NPP government, and by my nature, I hate propaganda, but I would have thought that the panacea for tax dodging and motorists’ crimes is the digital addressing system.
Throughout the world, critical thinkers are full of praise for what is gradually becoming known as ‘The Rwanda Miracle’, except that it is no miracle at all but a combination of pragmatism, sincerity, selfless leadership and the application of technology.
My brother-in-law committed a traffic offence in the UK. Nobody saw him – or he thought nobody did.In less than 24 hours, he had a ticket in the mail. That is the CCTV cameras working beautifully with the digital addressing system.
In America, my Kwame Nkrumah Secondary School classmate is constantly on the wrong side of the traffic rules. He tells me that by the time the patrol car catches up with his car, the police know who he is, his address, insurance number etc. How? By courtesy of the GPS and National Identification system.
For years, our criticism of the Ghanaian economy has been that it is too heavy on the side of the informal. Not that the informal in itself is evil: the problem has been that we have not known how to drag the informal into the tax net.
The intrinsic goodness of the National Identification system and the GhanaPostGPS, however, does not mean that anybody who criticises their implementation should be seen as “enemy of the state”. Indeed, some truly beneficial criticisms, so far, have come from the likes of IMANI who have raised issues with the system’s over-reliance on Internet connectivity in a country where Internet penetration is low.
Their genuine criticisms have elicited explanations from Vokakom, the company that designed the GhanaPostGPS app. This back-and-forth is what I prefer to call “exchanges at the intellectual level” - the air, sunshine and moisture needed to bring fruits out of seeds.
This is the level to which I had expected former President Mahama to ascend in his entry into the digital addressing conversation.
Before anybody suspects I am reacting to Mr Mahama for any reason other than a patriotic contribution to a national debate, I will take off with my relationship with him. I have never met him personally and I don’t know if he has even heard of me, but in my days on the ‘Ghanaian Times’, I praised him twice for “seasoning his speeches with salt”.
A day after his address, as Vice-President, at the GJA Media Awards at the State House I did a piece that advised the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party that if they knew what was good for them, they should be considering somebody like John as flag bearer for 2012. His office (Office of the Vice-President), through the moustachio’d former GM for Radio Gold, reacted with gratefulness.
So why Mahama’s tongue has changed ever since providence elevated him to the high office of President baffles me – and I was at pains to point out, when he was President, of the un-presidential content of some of his speeches.
Take last weekend’s Unity Walk in the Central Region. Unless he has motives that have no conversation with nobility of heart, my advice to him is that he does not need to be a populist to be famous.
The GPS project is not above criticism. At any rate, the fact that a project will benefit the people does not raise it above scrutiny. In Ghana, and in Africa, government officials have been known to sit on the cushioned back of very beneficial projects to “drink soup”. Didn’t we allege “inflated cost” against good projects such as the Kasoa interchange, Kumasi Airport runway project, etc?
So Mahama has done no wrong in criticising some aspects of the GhanaPostGPS project. Had he not spoken, it may never have been revealed (by government) that a whopping GH¢3.5 million has been spent on publicity. Eish! Yours Truly has seen and read and heard the messages in the media emanating from the project implementation office. Great messages, but GH¢3.5 million is a dizzying sum.
Nonetheless, to describe the digital addressing system in the language Mahama chose is pandering to populist taste. The way he put it, claiming that the app was already available, free on people’s phones, suggested that Ghana needn’t have paid even one cedi for it. Meanwhile, it is now known, even for what the former President is referring to, that a beneficiary country has to pay Google as much as US$400,000.00!
At any rate, if it was so free, why did Mahama’s government not digitise Ghana?
Talking about salty speeches, the former President says the bus branding scam by Smarttys, in his government, involved ONLY GH¢3.6m, and that “a minister of state resigned because of GH¢3.6m”.
It is known now that the deal was concluded long before the ministry wrote to the Public Procurement Agency (PPA) for approval for sole-sourcing.
While at it, is it true that the money to pay Smarttys was taken out of a Railway Development Fund? Is it true that the board chairman of the bank in which the GH¢3.6 million cheque for Smarttys was drawn, was closely related to the owners of Smarttys?
Did former President Mahama know all these? And he is proud to proclaim that the minister “resigned”? In any society with conscience, such ministers don’t resign: they are fired.