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Ghana’s Perpetual Bermuda Triangle

It’s a well-established fact that Ghana has a profound love for the sport-soccer.

I rephrase; Ghana has immense love for the senior national team the Black Stars.

If you could describe it in human terms, it’s like that wife who makes you fall in love all over again and is quick to drill Valyrian steel misery down your heart every once 2 years.

As we speak Ghanaians, have their blood pumping and still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that the Republic has spent over 4.5 million American dollars at the 2019 Nations Cup and have nothing to show for it.

But do we have genuine cause to rant?

The Saddle

Before we analyse, a bit of context in the saddle must be unpacked.

Since 1982, Ghana is yet to lay claim once more to the African Nations Cup. I will admit I wasn’t around when Ghana last lifted the Nations Cup but it’s a thirst we have nursed for 37 years and the wait continues.

Come end of club season 2019 and all eyes turned to the elusive hunt for the golden cup. Before the 30 million-strong national coaching academy could talk tactics and selections, a rumpus erupted. Captain of the Black Stars Asamoah Gyan issued a statement announcing his retirement from the senior national team and his reason was Coach Kwesi Appiah was about to strip him of the captaincy.

The new captain eventually will be Fenerbachè midfielder Andre Dede Ayew. That set the stage for the mood to be poisoned and later Mr President intervened. The consensus- Gyan rescinds retirement and becomes General Captain; Andre Ayew remains Captain and Kwadwo Asamoah his deputy.

Then on June 1 this year, when the team had jetted off to Dubai, the 29-member provisional team was published.

The announcement was via a list circulated on the Football Association’s social media portals. No press conference was held to explain the choices and a holistic brief on the extent of preparations.

That was the first time such a stunt was pulled.

Two preparatory games were played in the UAE after camping and the squad pruned to 23.

Ghana headed to the tournament with eyes on several indicators- the quality of play, tactical shape, conditioning of team and most of all how better we’d perform compared to our last showing in 2017 (all the way to semi-finals losing to Cameroon and placing 4th beaten by Burkina Faso).

Our Showing

Many expected anything less than a semi-final berth. As the results showed, we drew 2 all against Benin, drew goalless against defending champions Cameroon, won by 2 goals against Guinea Bissau and beaten by Tunisia in a 5-4 penalty shootout after a one-all draw in 120 minutes.

This meant Ghana had crashed out at the Round of 16, two places worse than our last outing in 2017 and the worst record since 2006 (when we crashed out at the group stage).

The Surgery

Once the dust on our participation settled, the 30 million strong coaching academy returned in full force and the focus was on one man- Coach Kwesi Appiah.

All manner of stories (the logical and the atrocious kinds) emanated as the tricky question of why we had just slumped found expression.

The pundits believed the team was just not good enough, there was no real show of tactical nous from the manager and some other off the pitch issues including the captaincy row had caused a split in camp with power play being a major issue.

But as seen at the press conference, the captain Andre Dede Ayew accepted responsibility, as did the coach with all else.

All eyes then got focused on the one issue, which was shrouded in secrecy since our journey to the tourney- at what cost did this entire showing at Egypt pinch our nation’s purse of?

The Money

This week Sports Minister Isaac Asiamah presented the breakdown of the money spent for the preparation and participation of the Black Stars at the 2019 African Nations Cup.

– Total funds spent stands at four million five hundred and fifty-four thousand three hundred and fifty two US dollars ($4,564,352)

– The breakdown indicates that 924, 168 dollars was spent on airfare (flights for team to Dubai, Egypt and back to Ghana).

– Almost 190 thousand dollars (187,050) was spent as per diem for the 23 players.

– The technical staff also pocketed almost 130 thousand dollars (129,600) as their per diem.

– Then there was additional technical staff also taking almost 91 thousand dollars (90,750) as per diem.

– As far as rewards for winning games go the 23 players took home cheques of almost 42 thousand dollars each (41,974) totalling almost a million dollars (965,405). Kindly note that Ghana won one match and the ministry says this represents the win against Guinea Bissau, which qualified us for the round of 16.

– For the technical staff, they collectively walked home with 347 027 dollars.

– The additional technical staff was not left out as they walked away with 177 thousand dollars.

– Ghana spent one million one hundred and forty-three thousand five hundred and nineteen dollars (1,143,519) to ensure players and the entire team had the best of places to rest while they prepare and participate at the tournament.

– The team had to eat well and so that meant the nation doled out four hundred and nineteen thousand three hundred dollars (419,300) to ensure that happened.

– The games had to be watched and so we paid forty-one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars (41,750) for match tickets.

– Some forty-four thousand five hundred and seventy-four dollars (44,750) was paid to ensure the team were kept in the best of medical conditions.

– Visa fees for the team had us spend eight thousand five hundred and forty-one dollars (8,541).

– The commute for the team (internal transportation) from hotels to training pitches and match venues set us back another forty-three thousand and ninety-two dollars (43,092).

– The last item on the expenditure list is INCIDENTALS. That’s forty-two thousand five hundred and seventy six dollars (42,576).

Making sense of the data

Once the Sports Minister told the nation how much had been spent, he proclaimed this run 1.8 million dollars short of the 6.3 million dollars dedicated for the tournament. He added that a detailed and comprehensive budget would be presented in the coming days.

I then proceeded on Morning Starr (the morning show I host) to seek clarity ahead of time.

Speaking to the Sports Minister’s aide and Communications consultant for the ministry, Ahmed Usmanu Ali, he explained this budget presentation was without the expenses for the supporters who were airlifted to Egypt which number close to five hundred. He was definite that some of the supporters are still in Egypt and are due to return by August 4.

Also, the INCIDENTALS refer to unplanned expenses, which came up during the preparation and participation (details not given).

For the winning bonuses, the amount mentioned is tax inclusive and was paid via cheques by the accountant who was with the team.

When I finally asked if this expenditure represents money well spent considering the winner of the tournament received 4.5 million dollars as prize money, his reply- “this was money wisely spent”.

The Questions

There are a number of questions this situation presents for all 30 million members of the national coaching academy to ponder over:

– Why did the Sports minister fail to present a budget to parliament for approval ahead of Ghana’s preparation and participation to the tournament?

– Why did the Sports committee fail to summon the minister to present the budget before the start of the tournament in fulfilling its oversight responsibility?

– What source of funding was the over 4.5 million dollars drawn from?

– What informed the rationale for paying over 40 thousand dollars for the players in winning bonuses when two years ago only 5000 dollars was paid (more than eight times jump)?

– Why are payments of per diems and winning bonuses for technical and additional technical staff paid separately?

– What kind of food prepared cost the nation close to half a million dollars for a tournament of less than a month?

– Why is there no accountability given as yet for how much has been spent on the almost 500 supporters who were airlifted to Egypt?

– Did this expenditure glean any lessons at all from the 2014 World Cup episode in terms of payments and lack of transparency?

– Why has the Normalization committee been dead silent on what budget they presented to the Sports ministry and their accountability to the Ghanaian people?

– Why will we budget for a tournament for which our expenses will outstrip the prize money? (Uganda spent 2 million dollars and crashed out at the same round as Ghana)

I’m sure you can add to the plethora of the questions bugging the minds of the Ghanaian citizens.

Conclusion

It’s clear that the passion of the nation has been the zone where monies are pumped and accountability is never guaranteed.

Until date, no one has been held responsible for the fiasco in Brazil and the Dzamefe Commission report sits cold and waiting. The Maputo report also adds to the cold reports freezing away into oblivion. Some have argued that every time Ghana participates at any international sports tournament, questions of questionable expenses pop up and no accountability.

It remains to be seen if this latest episode from the land where civilization started will follow the same pattern.

Until and unless Ghana decides to put in place proper structures, which guarantee transparency, accountability and value for money, Ghana’s senior national team (Black Stars) will be the nation’s perpetual Bermuda Triangle; where the state’s funds feed an elusive dream and the investment will always disappear into thin air with no consequences.

Someone once said Ghanaians have a short memory. Maybe that’s why this black hole has come to stay.

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