The Dean of Students’ Affairs of the University of Ghana, Professor Godfred Alufar Bopkin, has said that the manner in which government reached out to the vulnerable in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis was inefficient.
According to him, corruption is likely to have played a role. He said this whiles stating the possibility of government’s inability to properly account for every transaction made for the distributed meals.
The renowned Economist, speaking in an interview with GhanaWeb explained that “…If you look at the method that government chose with reaching out to the vulnerable, is very very inefficient. Once they chose that method, then you know that people will profit from the margin and I can tell you that government can always get away with it because if they tell you that the cost of preparing the meal is GH¢20, what are you going to say? But if we had chosen cash-based transfer, we can verify. I can tell you it is very difficult to conduct such a transaction.”
Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, while presenting the 2020 Mid-year Budget before Parliament disclosed that the cost of providing cooked food for vulnerable people in lockdown areas in Accra and Kumasi amounted to GH¢54.3 million.
The Minister said that some 470, 000 Ghanaian households beneffited from the benevolence of government adding that the food distribution exercise was carried out in collaboration with faith-based organisations.
The announcement by Ken Ofori-Atta was met with criticisms from the public and the opposition, accusing the Akufo-Addo-led government of corruption.
But Prof Bopkin adding, his voice to the situation said although the move was in good standing by government, its approach was not the best because “if the government decides to prepare the food itself and go and distribute then the chances are that it is very difficult to take yourself away from corruption…It’s just like a fish that is thirsty in the sea…when they are swimming can you tell whether the fish is drinking some of the water?”
The Professor of Finance was also of the view that the best way the country’s leaders could have alleviated the impact of the pandemic was through the collection of data in an appropriate social registry where government could access that information on those who were vulnerable and in need.
He stated that having records of vulnerable citizens in the country will aid in social interventions targeted at them directly in the near future.
“So instead of cooking the meals for them…so if we had the data and knew the vulnerable, cash space transfer is more efficient. So if we determine that every household is getting GH¢50 and we have a data on the household, we send the GH¢50 to them through their mobile money and their bank account, then they themselves can decide to buy the rice and prepare it the way they want it.”
On the free water and electricity directive, Mr Bopkin lauded government but pointed out that the subsidy may not work with the water utility rebate. He cited the less flow of water and the many illegalities involved in connections.
“…When it comes too water and electricity, the problem with water is that the subsidy doesn’t solve it. The water doesn’t flow. There are a lot of illegalities.
“All over the world, governments are reaching out to their citizens in an unprecedented manner and we cannot be an exception. Since we do not have a lot of money to do mobile money transfer to them, perhaps free water and free electricity for life line consumers will be a way government will show sympathy too their situation whiles we hope to get back the economy,” he concluded.