As the clock ticks towards the end of 2023, it is time to reflect on stories that defined the year for The Fourth Estate. From exposing a quack midwife who is responsible for the death of babies and the maiming of others to the shedding of light on corruption in the school placement system through to the discovery of a questionable contract in the downstream oil sector that is stashing millions of dollars into the bank account of an offshoot of a timber company, The Fourth Estate has been at the forefront of accountability and critical journalism that made impacts.
Join us in revisiting the most impactful headlines that got public officeholders to act.
The GH₵ 3 billion lie
With a few days for the sun to set on the year, The Fourth Estate released The GHC3 billion lie: Government pays hundreds of millions to company in a shady deal — a-year long investigation— that revealed how the Ministry of Finance awarded a questionable contract to Strategic Mobilisation Limited (SML), a company with no history of revenue assurance to track the operations of the downstream petroleum sector. This is a job the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the National Petroleum Authority are already doing.
The Fourth Estate estimates that the company will rake in over $100 million annually with the expanded new contract.
Unconvinced by the rationalisation from SML, GRA and finance ministry, Parliament has directed the GRA to suspend payments to SML as it investigates the questionable contracts.
The Fourth Estate in September released a bombshell that shook the media and herbal medicine industry in Ghana. Through Dangerous endorsements: Exposé on herbal medicine advertising in Ghana, we sought media and regulatory accountability by revealing how the media bypassed advertising regulations to advertise a herbal medicine that was not approved by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). The story also revealed a rather lax regulatory environment, which exposed the FDA and the Traditional Medicine Practice Council (TMPC) for sleeping on their job. Flowing from the story, the Ministry of Health promised a probe into the affairs of the TMPC to find its staff who issued licenses without due diligence. The FDA took a cue from the health ministry’s pledge, and also vowed to clamp down on media advertisement of unapproved drugs.
Medical negligence is a malaise the Ghanaian healthcare system seems unable to cure. In most instances it is qualified health professionals who are accused of not living up to their professional responsibilities, leading to fatalities or injuries.
However, in 30 years of deception: quack midwife’s shocking trail of deaths and malpractice exposed The Fourth Estate discovered how the owner of a private medical centre allowed an unqualified midwife to practice midwifery in his South Odorkor medical centre with tragic results. The 18-month investigations also exposed the Health Facilities Regulatory Authority (HeFRA) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s sloppy regulatory work. In the end, HeFRA found its teeth and fined two healthcare institutions involved while two victims were compensated. The quack midwife is currently on the run.
School Placement Corruption
In the first half of 2023, The Fourth Estate put faces to the corruption that plague the school placement system, which is rigged annually by faceless people selling spots in some of the nation’s best schools to the highest bidders. The Fourth Estate uncovered fraud in the computerised school placement programme with the involvement of some top officials of the education ministry. Following our work, eight persons are currently under prosecution.
Is your sachet water safe?
Water is life. Few will disagree with that. But in Accra, water exposes hundreds of thousands to several debilitating diseases. Through a nine-month investigation The Fourth Estate uncovered 144 sachet water companies in Accra producing without FDA license and in unhygienic environments. After the publication, the FDA shut down a sachet water company for producing an unregistered brand.
Many more are out there, still operating illegally.
Do hotels qualify to be designated as factories? May be their kitchens produce enough food to take on the title of a factory. In August, The Fourth Estate unveiled a rather cunning way 4-Mac Limited, a Ghanaian company, received almost $4 million in tax exemptions after it was designated as 1D1F entity. The 1D1F is the government’s ambitious industrialisation policy to motivate the private sector to set up at least one factory in all 261 districts in the country. The story caught the attention the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament and Member of Parliament for Obuasi East, Kwaku Kwarteng, who initially apologised for what he described as an embarrassing error only to turn around and issue three rejoinders.
Asset declaration law
Asset declaration law
There were no rejoinders from Parliament when The Fourth Estate put its spotlight on public officeholders who have not declared their assets and liabilities in compliance with Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution. Rather, there was a scramble for compliance as lawmakers, judges, ministers, metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives rushed to meet the constitutional obligation. A spillover from last year’s asset declaration series, The Fourth Estate found that 294 political appointees rushed to declare assets following the publications.