CSO leaders march 1.7km to demand recovery of GH¢17bn in taxpayer funds

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“What kind of nonsense is that?” lawyer Akoto Ampaw, cast a bemused stare at the rusty gate of the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park.

Akoto Ampaw is a lawyer and a friend to President Akufo-Addo: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

This was supposed to be the converging point for the #RedMonday protesters. But a security man at the gate said he had instructions not to allow protesters to enter the public facility.

“The manager is afraid to lose his job,” Akoto Ampaw offered sarcastic sympathy at the unlawful disallowance.

Disallowance.

That word was why more than twenty civil society organisations (CSOs) and other citizens want the Auditor-General’s Department to disallow and surcharge all those named in the latest report that revealed serious financial malfeasance.

A number of them abandoned their offices today to set up camp in Accra to demand the collection of GH¢17billion ($1.7bn) in public funds from a government that wants $1.5billion from the IMF.

Dr. Kojo Pumpuni Asante is Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement · Ghana Center For Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) : Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

If money, they say, is blood, then the latest Auditor-General’s report is a terribly bloodied report showing rapidly depleting red blood cells from ruptured vessels of Ghana’s public purse. A financial heart attack on the economy is imminent.

“The moment we are quiet, the stealing will continue,” Brynn, an energetic young man from #FixTheCountry paced up and down the front gate of the children’s park, doing what appeared to be a Facebook live.

Brynn, an activist: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

The protesters waited in the slight Monday morning showers for other Ghanaians to make that democratic sacrifice and join the protest.

Without the superstructure of highly organized political parties and their power to bus protesters, the CSO leaders were always going to struggle to pull numbers.

Prof. Kwadwo AppiagyeiAtua of the University of Ghana Law School explained that Ghanaians shied away from protests because everything was politicised in the country.

But what the protest did not get in numbers for eyeballs, it got in authenticity from the heart.

A pregnant woman marched right from the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park to the Black Star Square, formerly the Independence Square, a sort of rude awakening for the unborn child that Ghana is not a children’s park.

Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

Lawyer Akoto Ampaw, in his black jacket like a young and wild western biker, was a subject of recurring media interviews. Yes, he was the president’s lawyer, but, for the umpteenth time, he was not his stooge, he indicated. “The sycophancy in this country is too dominant,” he said.

Yes, at his age he could just sit back and grant media interviews, but no, nothing changes without “mass political action,” the youth in his old age showed up in his voice.

While the police, media and the protesters waited for a signal to start, a small ‘Newsfile’ broke out by the gate. CSO leaders; Samson Lardy Anyenini, Martin Kpebu, Kofi Bentil, Dr. Kojo Pumpuni Asante and Akoko Ampaw traded conversations on pet topics.

 

Kofi Bentil [in the middle] is Vice-President of IMANI Africa and Martin Kpebu, a lawyer: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

Bentil explained why the much-vaunted Chinese cash for bauxite is not happening. Samson Lardy expressed shock at the salaries of CEOs and remarked that some had conditions of service which included DSTV subscription and replacement of their spectacles.

Another CSO leader could not shake off the reality that Ghana had over the past three years lost GH¢48billion  in “financial irregularities” and voiced a common conclusion among the protesters that if the government could recover about a third of these monies, there would be no need for an IMF program.

“The math is simple,” he said.

Riot control police in full gear lined up in this makeshift studio. There were at least 16 of them. “We call them robocop,” a senior police officer teased and assured the protesters that “the police are your friend.”

A section of the crowd control police officers: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

At about 10a.m., the demonstration took off.  The engine of the march was about a dozen jama leaders who belted out popular songs. “Halleluyah eeiii Yesu d) me,” and other popular Twi gospel songs appeared to suggest it was still Sunday on Monday.

“Ei, ei slow down,” Martin Kpebu begged a platoon of protestors who were advancing at a pace most likely to end the march in perhaps 20 minutes.

Some of the  young women in the crowd held placards stating, “We are not spectators” and then held their phones up with a smile that said “We are selfie makers.”

One of the CSO leaders was concerned that the protest was stalling vehicular movement in Accra. Shamima Muslim replied that the march was in their interest. Kofi Bentil added that the inconvenience of the protest was also their contribution to getting results.

Taking a more brutal no holds barred line of thinking, Brynn, the #FixTheCountry activist said, “We don’t do demonstrations for people to feel comfortable.”

It was at the ”Independence Square” that the deputy Auditor-General, Lawrence Ayagiba, received a petition and rattled off a few lines that struggled to convince the crowd that the Auditor-General was serious about the rot.

He said there would be a meeting “somewhere Friday” and then thanked the protesters for “drawing our attention” to the need to recover billions of taxpayer funds.

And as he spoke briefly, a CSO activist remarked, “All this won’t be happening if Domelevo, [the former Auditor-General] was here.”

Executive Director of African Center for Energy Policy, Ben Boakye in a conversation with Martin Kpebu: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate
Linda Kwafo, is executive director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate
Samson Lardy Anyenini is a, lawyer, host of JoyNews Newsfile and a big fan of Occupy Ghana: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate
PC: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate
PC: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate
PC: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate
PC: Clement E. Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

4 COMMENTS

  1. How would you describe a nation or country that has solutions to its social problems but refuses to do anything about it all in the name of politics!?

  2. Interesting read and a great story. Thank you for giving such a concise update of the protest. As for Ghana something must definitely change

  3. A good report, but it is more for the family photo album than inspire political action. “All this won’t be happening if Domelevo, the former auditor-general was here”. And the story ends there? What difference would he have made? Good or bad? A little more background of previous auditor-generals’ reports rubbished by the government would have been helpful to international audience.

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