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11 May 2014

Reconstitution of SADA board can’t turn things around - Dr. Michael Abu Sakara Foster.

The 2012 presidential candidate of the Convention Peoples’ Party, Dr. Abu Sakara Foster says the reconstitution of the board of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, SADA, has come too late to save it from the troubles created.

President Mahama reconstituted the board this month to help the Authority achieve its’ prime aim of bridging the development gap between those in the north and south of Ghana.

But in a statement, Dr. Sakara says the reconstitution should have come earlier.

"It is therefore with a sigh of relief that recent changes in the Board of SADA are welcomed even though there has been no tacit admission that these changes are in response to the public outcry over perceived corruption in the administration of SADA.

“These changes by themselves do not go far enough to really turn around the fortunes of SADA. It has come too late to save the buoyant national support that SADA previously enjoyed!"


Restore Belief in SADA

The Savannah Accelerated Development Agency (SADA) was initiated with high hopes of bridging the development gap between Ghana's poorest areas in the north and the rest of the country. At its beginning SADA was the one thing on which all political and social fronts agreed. This laudable national initiative brought out the best in us. After all everyone had a hand in bringing SADA to fruition in its transition from NDF under NPP to SADA under the NDC administration. The very act of reaching a national consensus on bridging the north-south development divide was uplifting and felt like the healing of "gaping wound' in our national development psyche had began. It is now sad that SADA for many is tragically mired in controversy and acrimony over charges of gross misappropriation of public funds.

This is not just a disappointment, it is a crushing indictment on our capacity to seek the greater common good even when we agree on the approach. It is for this reason that we must do everything to restore our belief in SADA, because it represents our belief in ourselves and the common good of our nation.

We must not rest on our "oars" for business as usual because committees of enquiry have been set up. Investigative reports alone will not stem the tide of criticism because there is a sense that denial by officialdom is tantamount to saying changes are not needed.

It is therefore with a sigh of relief that recent changes in the Board of SADA are welcomed even though there has been no tacit admission that these changes are in response to the public outcry over perceived corruption in the administration of SADA. These changes by themselves do not go far enough to really turn around the fortunes of SADA. It has came too late to save the buoyant national support that SADA previously enjoyed! The delay allowed the allegations, discontent and mistrust to fester for too long.

Those who offered advice quietly were themselves left in a state of frustration as it seemed that Government officials and the past SADA Board dug in defensively for business as usual. If SADA is to succeed as we all wish then the new board must break visibly with the past. If the truth be told, the new Board of SADA must now work harder than ever before to restore the public's belief in SADA. They must immediately ensure that SADA's system of procurement of technical assistance and goods breaks links with the old system of service providers and suppliers. There must be greater transparency and scrutiny with less political interference to ensure SADA is perceived as being finally free from the influences of "old boys" networks and "kokofu" football tactics. The new Board must strictly ensure that those who serve as advisors are not under any circumstances allowed to serve as consultants. Additionally the Board must appoint a new CEO who is not associated with the past.

The Board must support him/her to take immediate measures that will ensure a change in work ethic and attitudes as they build a good mix of representative staff competencies based on merit and not political affiliation. Attention should be given to building credibility in the institution of SADA by asserting its independence in decision making about its orientation, focus and implementation processes.

Government officials and leaders should not take for granted the tacit public support SADA once enjoyed across the political spectrum. The silence of many who support SADA has been mistaken as acquiescence or complicity in the charges leveled against a few individuals. I urge my fellow country men and women not to "throw the baby out with the bath water". SADA is too important to our nation for it to descend from the high moral ground of political consensus into the pit of partisan politics.

Let us give the new SADA Board our support and encourage them to rise to the challenge. We however demand of them a sustained effort and insistence to right the wrongs of the past as a first step to restore credibility. A key part of that is their commitment not to bury any past wrong doing under the carpet! The benefit of doubt we give them is contingent on their resolve to ensure that SADA is turned around to serve the interests of the many and not the objectives of the few. The public irrespective of ethnic or political affiliation will not tolerate anything less than full disclosure in this particular case.

The branding of all notable persons who hail from the north as part of a complicit northern elite is a disturbing aspect of the conversations that have surrounded the credibility of SADA's leadership. Many respected persons who hail from the north sought a way of intervening to help resolve the controversy surrounding SADA. The option of giving advice precluded participation in public criticism. That approach must not miss opportunity to call for a new beginning for SADA now that it has a new board in place.

The new board must ask the right questions to lay the foundations for a new path for SADA. For example the SADA initiative was placed in the office of the vice President under the Mills administration to give it the gravitas and push needed to work across multi-sectoral lines with the vice President as its champion. Why has this not been visibly replicated under the Mahama administration as an affirmation of the correctness of that decision? Is the gravitas of a vice President as champion of SADA no longer necessary? This question and others pertaining to the focus of SADA as a facilitatory tool for emphasis on strategic interventions must be clarified for the new board to chart a correct path for new management.

The interest of all Ghanaians who whole heartedly embraced the SADA initiative is that we formulate a national tool that can be used to more effectively redress the imbalances in our national development wherever they occur. It is my vision and dream that ultimately a National Accelerated Development Agency could be established to channel ring fenced funding from our national oil reserve funds into strategic interventions coordinated from within relevant sectors by multi-sectoral task force teams.

This will provide an avenue for more effective spending of our money to reduce transaction costs for industry and agriculture so as to enhance our competitiveness through productivity increase. Such tight and targeted spending will also protect us from vulnerability to corruption and also reduce the leakages and wastage associated with mainstream budget funding.

Many who supported SADA did so in pursuit of balanced development in the national interest. Some of us will also want to see in time an operational Western Accelerated Development Agency (WADA) and an Eastern Corridor Accelerated Development Agency (ECADA). The deployment of these other initiatives to achieve a pervasive impact on wealth creation and poverty reduction in our economy depends on the success of SADA, the first of their kind.. Restoring belief in SADA should be a high priority for the new board. We should all wish the new Board of SADA good luck and God speed in our national interest.

Dr. Michael Abu Sakara Foster

Presidential Candidate 2012

Convention People's Party


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