The financial mess in Ghana – Who is to blame?
The recent wind that is blowing across the business landscape and more particularly the financial sector is not by divine intervention as some people think.
But it is as a result of the actions and inactions of man, through the manipulations of the powers that be in the kingdom of darkness.
From the ancient of days, man has craved for survival through work for his livelihood and this will continue till we are all called to eternity.
Work has become part and parcel of our day to day life and those who cannot cope with work are either termed lazy or resort to cutting corners or robbing others to make a living.
Many businesses have folded up through voluntary liquidation or forced liquidation through legislative or regulatory non-compliance. In all these instances, the underlying factor is the absence of liquidity or mismanagement of the resources available.
All these resources are translated to a medium of exchange or a common denominator called money.
In Ghana, when we talk about money, invariably we refer to the Ghana cedi and all other foreign currencies that we use to generate wealth or capital for our businesses.
Many people have their own ways of managing their finances (money) aside the conventional way of drawing a budget for your income and expenditure or managing your inflows in a way that the outflows will be almost equal to the inflows.
Registration of businesses
To start a private business in Ghana, you must first of all register a business as an enterprise or a sole proprietor, a partnership or a company with the Registrar General’s Department.
Any person or body of persons who have duly formed a business must satisfy the basic requirements before a certificate is given, and the objectives of the business must clearly be stated in order to determine the classification of the business and the regulatory environment that the business will operate. The promoter then proceeds further to register with the appropriate regulator to obtain a license or permit to operate a regulated business.
All these controls, checks and balances are to ensure that the applicants have met all conditions to do business in a free market with other competitors.
In the public sector, however, an organisation is born or registered by an act or legislative instrument.
Appointment of board of directors
For a public enterprise, the appointment of board of directors is made by the Executive President, while for the private sector businesses, shareholders appoint themselves and other persons who qualify to be appointed to manage the affairs of the business.
The problem we have in Ghana is where the government (executive) appoints their favourites, colleagues, relatives and friends to occupy such management positions without recourse to their backgrounds, experiences, and business acumen, they tend to serve the interest of their bosses and perform abysmally. In the private sector, a similar thing happens where the owners of the business (shareholders) appoint themselves and family members as directors of their businesses.
When this happens a fundamental principle of corporate governance and ethics is breached and the separation of ownership from control is compromised.
The problem of greed
The above scenario or problem is exacerbated when greed sets in and the owners claim for a controlling interest in the management of the business.
This innate desire for the amassing of wealth has existed since the time of Adam after the great serpent of old sought to destroy man after his expulsion from heaven.
Unfortunately, this greed and avarice have found itself in the management of businesses to the extent that there no longer exists the principal and agency relationship between the shareholders and directors of companies.
There are only but a few independent directors to manage companies for fear that if the shareholders leave the entire management of the business in the hands of the independent directors, they may tend to seek their self-serving gratification without pursuing the shareholders’ interest.
Regulators must step in to appoint independent directors for public interest entities in order to dilute the shareholder/directorship and bring about effective corporate governance and accountability in these entities.
Hypocrisy and business managers
Another problem identified that exist among public and private entities is the issue of hypocrisy. The Chief Executive Officers (or Managing Directors) and other Executive Managers are invariably appointed by the President or Shareholder (Business Owner) and, therefore, the latter tends to demonstrate a serving attitude for fear of losing one’s job.
Whether an instruction is good or bad and detrimental to the growth of the business and once it is coming from the employer, the manager will just do it to please the boss without objecting to it.
Middle-level managers in both public and privately-owned businesses have often exhibited hypocritical stances in their discharge of duties and this has brought untold hardships on businesses through low productivity and mediocre results.
In the business landscape, a variety of unethical behaviours are being practiced either to gain advantage over other competitors and regulators or for selfish interest. These activities have been going on due to ineffective internal control system and lack of regulatory supervision.
Instances of exploitations of tax loopholes, over-invoicing, single sourcing of procurement of goods, works and services and collusion are some of the unethical practices that we find in businesses today. All these things happen and we ask ourselves: where is our religious and professional ethics that we pride ourselves as a country?
It is time we say no to some of these practices that are killing our businesses in Ghana. We have remained where we are today because we have flagrantly abused and exploited the systems to our advantages instead of putting Ghana first.
Regulators have in to slumber due to human capital inadequacies and lack of professional competencies to handle sophisticated and well-calculated financial crimes.
The financial and business systems need sanitisation and reforms and it will take a concerted effort and a strong-willed leadership to deal with the menace in our dear country.
Columnist: Simon Brupe