Indeed, the deal perpetrated by Alfred Agbesi Woyome is horrendous and will remain as such for long. However, it is nothing new or spectacular in our country except that it has happened at a time that nothing seems to be working well for the political party in power that he finances.
This Woyome fraud is just a different form of the thievery that has been going on in our part of the world over the years, although it is peculiar because it seems to have generated much heat and public interest (or anger) for several reasons. What makes it particularly intriguing is explicable in many ways:
i. The manner of its execution, which is amateurish and the fact that it left traces behind for it to be detected long after it had been completed;
ii. The category into which it falls—being a judgement debt, which raises a red flag, especially because those to defend the state considered it a “bad case” and flopped to create the impression of a conspiracy to dupe the state;
iii. The personality involved—Alfred Agbesi Woyome’s being a major NDC financier, which provides ample opportunity for political opponents to harvest political capital from the scandal, especially considering their suspicions that part of the windfall might find its way into the NDC’s coffers to boost its political activities;
iv. The controversy surrounding the payment itself, especially after it had been disclosed that it was done in violation of President Mills’ two directives against it—an obvious occasion for political opponents to ratchet up their vilification of President Mills as being a weakling and an ineffective leader who is not in control of affairs; that his appointees can flout his order with impunity without any fear of being disciplined because he wields a clout that he can’t use to stamp his authority on his administration.
We can tell from the opponents’ bad-mouthing of President Mills and calls for him to resign that they are relishing the negative fallouts from the scandal and wish it drags on. Definitely, it is a bumper harvest for them.
But the real issues behind such a fraud paint a bigger picture. The Woyome fraud itself is nothing strange because it is the order of the day, occurring in different guises and perpetrated by different personalities at different times. To me, several instances of scheming by characters of Woyome’s type (especially public office holders) to rip off the national coffers don’t really differ vastly from this one by Woyome. All fraud against the state is fraud, regardless of the manner in which it is consummated.
Woyome’s has been exposed, which makes the only difference between his kind of fraud and others that succeeded without attracting so much public interest or disapprobation. Or others that will happen hereafter. Had Woyome covered his tracks properly, his fraud would not have been discovered; at best, it would have been rationalized as a matter-of-course. Many others have gone that way before. If you doubt me, consider the following instances:
i. The divestiture of state-owned enterprises under the Rawlings government for which his own wife and others were prosecuted and some jailed, only to be pardoned by Kufuor for no clear reason except that he knew he wasn’t himself immune to the very vice of fraud and couldn’t be the first to cast the stone at others. We saw how fraud was redefined and blessed as a fait accompli under his rule, especially with such fraudulent moves as rebranding of Ghana, redenomination of the Cedi, and many more, even verging on moral decadence (Gizelle Yajzi, where are you?);
ii. The disposal of state vehicles and other landed property as end-of-service benefits to ex-functionaries of the Rawlings government when Kufuor was to assume office in 2001. We saw what happened and how vehicles were later retrieved from such beneficiaries, including Rawlings and now-President Mills. Then, the same kind of fraud was re-enacted when Kufuor was leaving office. We remember how a state vehicle was forcibly taken away from Akufo-Addo too long after he had resigned from office and wasn’t entitled to it.
iii. Kufuor’s cunning means to award himself an end-of-service package that alarmed Ghanaians when he appointed the Chinery-Hesse Commission to cushion him for life. If the package was not mired in fraud, why would President Mills nullify it (even though a new package was later worked out for Kufuor through the backdoor—Did I hear he rejected it?)?
iv. Manipulation of contract awards and inflation of costs for high kickbacks. Will we ever forget Haruna Esseku’s direct lambasting of Kufuor in this case, for example?
v. The rampant and pervasive spate of bribery and corruption bordering on the abuse of public office, though not directly related to stealing from the national coffers as Woyome’s case is;
vi. Kufuor’s stealing of 41 million Cedis for the refurbishment of his private residence under the pretext of using it as his official workplace to justify his allegation that Rawlings had desecrated the Osu Castle only to turn round to cause over a billion Cedis to be spent renovating the Osu Castle but yet refusing to occupy it;
vii. The fake loan negotiation with the Chinese barber salon owners and the dubious IFC by Yaw Osafo-Marfo and others in the Kufuor government. Some money was taken from the national coffers and paid to those faceless swindlers to facilitate the transaction before the fraud was detected and halted under intense public protest;
viii. Troubling circumstances under which the Ghana@50 celebrations were held and the culprits (Wereko-Brobby and Kwadwo Mpiani) freed on technical grounds;
ix. Begyina Sekyi-Hughes, former Speaker of Parliament openly stole state property running into millions of Cedis and justified his theft with the claim that it was part of his entitlements; and he is walking about a free man!
x. MPs’ car loans since the first Parliament of the 4th Republic—clever arm-twisting tactics to reap where they haven’t sown anything nor will they re-pay the loans. The poor citizens have no power to force them to re-pay. When they lose their Parliamentary seats, the matter ends and the debt is written off as bad!
xi. Happenings in the Mills-led government that have aroused deep concerns about impropriety on the part of office holders.
There are many other ways and forms of fraud, which are brushed under the rug. If the Woyome case is deplorable, so must all others that qualify as fraud against the state be. So, what is the fuss over this Woyome one if not only for political jingoism, especially by those in the NPP presenting themselves as angels?
Our problem is that we have too many SAINTS who manipulate the system and go scot free when not caught and exposed; they become the bad nuts (as this Woyome is) only when their fraud backfires. For as long as their fraud succeeds, they parade themselves as SAINTS clad in an all-white attire to be deferred to by the poor ones in the society whose toil, sweat, and blood generate the funds that they feed fat on through such fraudulent manouevres.
Until we become vigilant enough to weed out all these so-called SAINTS, let no one deceive himself that our country will not see any more of the Woyome fraudulent deals. The Woyomes have been with us all along and will continue to be with us for as long as they know how to operate to our blind side.
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