The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has made a strong case for an end to the sale of state assets, including vehicles, to public office holders as part of their end-of-service benefits.
At an event to assess the 2017 Transition, a Senior Research Fellow of the IEA, Dr Michael Ofori Mensah, observed that during the transition, “cars were sold at bargain prices.”
“It doesn’t augur well for value for money as well as efficiency in this country because if a new administration comes in and needs to run government machinery, that would mean buying new cars again. This is not in Ghana’s interest,” he added.
Reports of missing vehicles, some of which turned out to have been sold to officials of the Mahama Administration, and the activities of vigilante groups chasing former government appointees who were allegedly keeping state vehicles were described by many analysts as a blot on this year’s transition.
The Transition Act was an initiative of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Ghana Political Parties Programme. It was passed in 2013 and first used after the 2012 elections but an amendment to the law passed by the last Parliament was not assented to by former President John Dramani Mahama.
The roundtable was meant to make a detailed assessment of the 2017 transition, evaluating what worked well and what did not, to identify the areas that needed fine-tuning in order to improve its practical implementation.
Going into the 2017 Transition, Dr Mensah described it as encouraging as the constitution of the transition team was within the stipulated 48-hour time frame.
“It provides a very powerful image of regime change and also serves to quell any post-election gitters and connotes a peaceful and agreeable transfer of power,” he stated.
He, however, said key aspects of the transition, including executive assets, were problematic.
Prestige Unit vs Administrator General
He called for the need to put the Prestige Unit of the Public Works Department, which handles executive assets, under the Administrator General’s Office.
According to him, the convention, instead of the law, had relegated the Administrator General’s office to the background when it should rather take control of executive assets.
He said the situation had resulted in turf guarding on the part of the Prestige Unit and starving of the Administrator General’s Office of the needed resource to execute its mandate.
“While former President Mahama did bring out a brilliant directive through which he sought to stop the sale of cars to outgoing or retiring officials, the U-turn that happened was quite unfortunate.
He said that action brought back the ghosts of 2001 and 2009 to haunt the transition process, where former public officials were chased around because of the perception that they had state vehicles.
Among the storms that blew from the 2017 Transition was the issue of President John Dramani Mahama’s accommodation.
While the former President had stated that he had reached an agreement with the new administration to occupy his place of abode while in power, as part of his retirement benefits, the government insisted no concrete agreement had been reached.
After a back and forth, the former President moved out of the house, located at Cantonments, which he had been living in since his days as Vice-President.
But Dr Mensah stated that the whole saga was a symptom of a bigger problem, which amounted to institutional failure.
“If the Administrator General had been resourced to do his job and had been in control of the estate, it would not be the prerogative of an outgoing administration or incoming administration to decide who gets what. That will be the decision of the Administrator General.”
The IEA also took issues with the failure of the Mahama Administration to complete its handover notes by November 7, which was 30 days before the December 7 elections, as stipulated by the Transition Act (Act 845 of 2012).
The notes came in batches after the Transition Team started its work.
Dr Mensah said the lack of penalties for failure to prepare the handover notes also needed attention.