Holding State Institutions Accountable in 2011
Everybody says 2011 will be an interesting year. Aside from individual resolutions, which usually border on personal morality and lifestyle changes, institutions and organisations have been prolific these last few days in flooding the ether with various brands of promises, prophecies, professions, prognoses, and ... threats. We also want to jump into the fray, the dutiful citizens that we are. 2011 shall be the year we at IMANI focuses on public institutions as part of our broader emphasis on the quality of socio-economic policymaking in Ghana. We are launching the “Count Me” campaign today, so that the first week of January can be adequately devoted to popularising the concerns of the hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians who apparently were neglected during the national census. The anecdotal evidence makes nonsense of the claim by the Statistical Service that 90% of the population were reached. Does that mean that the Service already had a pre-determined figure in mind? How then did they come up with the 90% figure? If they used statistical techniques to produce the said percentage, can they kindly share the details of those extrapolations? At any rate, we dispute the figure. Many of the people we know assure us that they were not counted. A sizable number of these people live in some of the best laid out parts of our most affluent cities. If these folks remained unreached at the end of the census, can we sanely assume that the millions of Ghanaians living in the poor and decaying suburbs of our crumbling urban centres and in the remote extremities of rural Ghana were counted? The census was an extremely important exercise. The numeration of citizenry was only one aspect of a complex process designed to support policymaking with good quality data. Given how badly the enumeration exercise went, one can hardly be confident about the other components of the exercise. And yet, our ability to measure many factors regarding our socio-economic circumstances, performance and progress will be dependent on the exercise. As we enter the dying stages of the compilation, review and analysis phase, it is imperative that pressure be brought to bear on the Ghana Statistical Service to depart from their usual manner. The hand-waving, axiom-bandying, and jargon-spewing should end. Otherwise a time shall come, and some believe that time is already here, when their data would be routinely ignored by a savvy market and discarded at every turn in the vital decision-making that goes on in the private sectors of our economy where wealth-creation actually happens. We urge all Ghanaians who were neglected in the census, if they see this article or hear about it, to go to our website: http://www.imanighana.org/?q=node/195 , and fill in a brief form. We shall convert the data we collect into petition format and appeal to decision-making institutions to review the conduct of the census, to the extent that it is relevant to their functions, and strive to make amends where possible. Our tolerance for deficiency as a country and as citizenry cannot increase any more beyond its present unacceptable level. We have been treading a dangerous path wherein the worst excesses of institutional incompetence, so long as cheap political points cannot be scored therefrom, are excused in the misguided notion that a developing country should not expect value for money from those to whom scarce resources are entrusted to produce a difference in the lives of the longsuffering masses. And in that regard, can we spare some remarks for Ghana Television (GTV), the terrestrial broadcasting unit of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). That particular unit of the GBC is no longer a bonafide public broadcaster. They have fallen far short of the glory however attenuated by limited resources of Ghana Radio (and here, we must bestow some of our rare praise for the Affail Monneys and Owusu Addos of that world) and their cousin institution the Ghana New Agency. This is an institution that has developed a bizarre and arbitrary notion of what deserves to be treated as “relevant to public interest”. Unless an event, episode or development passes this dubious test, GTV insists on being paid more than a thousand dollars before providing “coverage”. Is this public interest broadcasting? We call on the National Media Commission and GBC Management to institute prompt investigations into this conduct in order to fully evaluate the tenability of the state broadcaster’s criteria for covering events and developments in this country. Increasingly its news and current events programming and portfolio of products have grown insipid, inward-looking and thus much less educational and informative than can be deemed acceptable by any objective Ghanaian. As an institution “subvented” through taxation and partly funded by compulsory television licenses, its attitude to its duties and the far from satisfactory fare it serves cannot be justified on any basis. No doubt they have taken shelter behind the lack of a credible viewer ratings system in Ghana to evade accountability. But there is no doubt that the broadcaster has been bleeding resources and losing audience share to more responsive broadcasters for quite a while now. What specific use is their denuded mandate then? Why do we need them if other free-to-air broadcasters are offering superior coverage of events of importance in this country, and saving us precious tax money? If our money wasn’t being used to subsidise this farce, they would have been at liberty to perpetuate their eccentricities all they want. But with our tax money they daren’t.
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