Two panic-stricken deputy ministers in the Akufo-Addo’s administration, shockingly invaded a press conference being organized by a civil society organization, “Coalition for Democratic Governance (CDG) to question the cost and quality of the newly introduced digital property addressing system; the GhanaPost GPS App.
The Monday press conference at the International Press Centre, was to counter claims by government that, it acquisition of the Ghana Post GPS, costing the taxpayer some $2.5 million, was never a scam and that it was rather, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that was being mischievous.
Just when the media had settled in and the programme was about to commence, government officials, including two Deputy Ministers of Communications, George Andah and Vincent Sowah Odotei, both Members of Parliament (MP), appeared from nowhere and took seats at the hall, waiting for the organizers, to start the media engagement.
The uninvited deputy ministers, were accompanied by the Managing Director (MD) for Ghana Post, James Koffie, head of cyber security and director of NiTA and others.
Interestingly, the man, who was awarded the US$2.5 job from the government, Nana Osei Afrifa, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vokacom, was missing.
Their presence took many journalists and organizers aback, but everyone kept their cool until a presentation by an IT expert, Kingley Komla Elikem Mortey, ended his presentation and the MC asked for questions.
Mr. Mortey, who had since the announcement of the system by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, raised objection, said the app already existed or was a copycat of an app on Google play, called AsaseGPS, owed by Vokacom.
Vice-President Bawumia, has not been comfortable since ex-President John Mahama spoke on the digital property addressing system describing it as scam; “419”.
Head of policy think tank, IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, had also said the country’s digital address system, is not novel, contrary to what government is trying to make Ghanaians believe. He described it as amateurish.
The Vice President, had prior to the launch of the system, showered it with lots of accolades, saying it surpasses the ones used in the United States and the United Kingdom.
A confident-looking Mr. Mortey, in the course of the presentation took time to demonstration how the system works, describing the whole arrangement by the Akufo-Addo government as a “scam” or “419”.
“The reason why I say Google GPS is the same as Ghana Post GPS is that they just used the same thing that is already available to us and try and make it personal to them and Ghana Post someway somehow decided that, they are going to buy from them. It is available already, you don’t need to download anything.
If you have codes made available already for you, if you are a responsible government, if you are responsible country, what you do is that you take advantage of it because, it is there for use already, it is free”, he said.
Mr. Mortey, also argued that claims by Dr. Bawumia that the services of the GhanaPost GPS, were unique to the country was false, because there was a website called plus.com offering the same services for free.
According to him, it was the responsibility of government to develop physical address system and discard the idea of digital addressing system.
“If I am living in this house, it is the government duty to tell me your address it is not the other way round. Which country do you go to and the government tells the people you know what, I am handicap, I can’t come to your place with your address so you just stay in your home and tell me your address. It is not done”, Mr. Mortey argued forcefully.
He also did not understand why a job which could be done in just a day could took the Akufo-Addo government, a whole eight months with so many shortcomings saying it would take only a lazy government to do that.
“But if you tell me that it took a government eight months to write these codes that anyone can do in one day, you are a lazy government. That was just a poor work.
You sit down behind the computer, you write your codes, throw a fish net over the surface of Ghana, make sure that you use the cursor to pick the ends carefully…Whiles you are done you give a dimension to the fish net. It should be five by five meters and you would be able to generate this. One day. Eight months to do this work? That’s a lazy government.” he said.
Mr. Mortey, wondered why government was all over the place defending the “fraud” when those who it contracted, were unable to speak to the issues. “If people have done something wrong take them on. If you don’t know something, don’t be defensive”, he said.
Then he turned his gun on journalists, saying it was important for them to ask the critical questions, instead of allowing government officials to bombard them with the importance of the system.
When the IT expert finished his submission, and the Coalition asked for question from journalists present, Mr. Andah, quickly raised his hand and he was offered the opportunity to ask his question.
However, when he was handed the microphone, he decided to use the platform to explain issues and counter parts of the submission.
He started by saying that, government had no problem taken the views of others because ‘We are a listening government”. He went on saying, government was committed to “create a smart economy” for all.
The organizers at this juncture still kept their cool, until Mr. Andah veered into attacks, saying if the system was as simple as the speaker was making it look, why did the John Mahama government not do it in eight years before leaving office?
Here, tempers began to go high, but some of the organizers, including the communication officer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Solomon Nkansah, tried to calm nerves, saying the deputy minister has a lot of explanation to do.
He accused Mr. Andah, of attempting to disrupt the programme so that the attention will be shifted from the real issues.
He then ordered that, Mr. Andah speaks, but under five minutes which the minister agreed.
At this point, Mr. Andah said “None of the issues they have raised are issues of substance. It’s clearly propaganda talk show, they ask why the vice President, Madam Ursula Owusu and myself are the ones that are talking about the Ghana Post GPS, of course, if you have a competent team you don’t need an IT person to talk about it, because we understand what is going on, so leave the technical people to do their work, so that we also talk about the policy”.
He maintained the app was developed to enable the country to be able to give every property a digital address.
His comments were later challenged, but in the course of the response by Mr. Mortey, the deputy minister left the venue leaving other officials and Mr. Sowah Odotei, who kept murmuring and speaking to those who had ears to listen to him.
Before the event started, vehicles of GhanaPost, were continuously seen at the premises of the press centre and so some of the journalists got confused, because they knew it wasn’t the state agency that was organizing the event.
Others were also amazed, why government officials could storm a press conference uninvited and sort to speak at the same time.