May 24, 2019


Duke Mensah Opoku writes: Milking the cow till the mammary glands run dry

Duke Mensah Opoku writes: Milking the cow till the mammary glands run dry

mammary gland is an exocrine gland in humans and other mammals that produces milk to feed young offspring. These glands are functional in female mammals particularly because of their role in nurturing and providing nourishment. It is no wonder that in management and business strategy, the unit which produces huge returns is often described as the ‘cash cow.’

So in our public sphere, it will not be out of place to refer to an institution which is always receiving dividends and proceeds from its carried interests in various investments as a cash cow as it appears to be making huge gains from these ‘investments.’

It is even clearer when this institution is juxtaposed against others which are always cash-strapped.

That institution is the GNPC.  It has really never been spared from controversy for too long. In almost every regime in the fourth republic (especially when there is a change in those at the helm of political power) there is a ‘big’ political case that emerges from its stables.

The GNPC, established in 1983, is the state agency responsible for the exploration, licensing, and distribution of petroleum-related activities in the country.

The Corporation in the fourth republic has had at least two major political controversies coming up from its operations.

The travails of its former Chief Executive, the renowned Lawyer, Tsatsu Tsikata, is well documented. The matter of willfully causing financial loss to the state and misapplying public property in connection with his stewardship at the GNPC got him a 5-year jail sentence in 2008.

Fast forward, a few years later, a student of Tsatsu Tsikata at the then University of Ghana Faculty of Law, K. T.  Hammond, was also in the news for his role in the sale of a drill ship belonging to this same entity GNPC in 2001, when he was Deputy Energy Minister in the Kufuor administration.

Other minor instances such as the recent brawl for control at the top echelon of that entity between the current Chief Executive, Dr K. K. Sarpong and Board Chairman (also ruling party’s national Chairman), Freddie Blay, over matters of management and who has power to hire the occupant of the procurement manager portfolio in the Corporation, are fresh in our minds.

In our country, the one who controls procurement is very important!

Allegations of misapplication of funds in that entity are almost legendary.

Everywhere in the world, state agencies that deal in hydrocarbons deal in big bucks and with big bucks come big problems. It is therefore not surprising that Ghana’s state-owned version of a hydrocarbon dealing entity has had its fair share of controversies largely to due to millions and billions of dollars in the budget it controls annually.

The scandals associated with other national petroleum companies such as PETROBRAS in Brazil where about 80 top politicians are facing trial with some including Former President Lula Da Silva sentenced, point to the challenge of potential corruption associated with such firms.

With the striking of oil in commercial quantities and the production of first oil for Ghana in 2010, the GNPC’s role has even become much more pronounced and crucial. But with that has also come the increasing notion that the corporation has become a cash cow being milked by governments of the day to achieve political ends some of which have no bearing or whatsoever towards ensuring that the country at large benefits substantially from the God-given gift of oil.

As part of its oversight role, parliament every year is required to scrutinize the work programme of the GNPC and approve the same for implementation. The debates associated with these work programmes of the Corporation are always interesting to observe especially when the report of the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament is up for discussion at the Plenary.

This year, during this ritual, the minority raised some issues with the outlook of the GNPC essentially to make the point that the corporation was heading in the wrong direction. Already, the committee had slashed the budget of the corporation by some 80 million dollars.

The Minority cites the purchase of land valued at some 8.5 million dollars for a new 60-million-dollar petroleum hub in the Western region, government’s decision to borrow some 250 million dollars on the balance sheet of GNPC, a Corporate Social Responsibility budget estimated at close to 50 million dollars and other expenditure as testament to their argument that the GNPC was drifting away from its core mandate and mission. The  Corporation’s mission as stated on its website is ‘To lead the sustainable exploration, development, production and disposal of the petroleum resources of Ghana, by leveraging the right mix of domestic and foreign investments in partnership with the people of Ghana’. 

I found the arguments interesting more or less like a flipping of the script back to similar debates when the current Minority was in government and the now majority was in opposition.

A major contention would always come up about how GNPC was utilizing its budget especially that of Corporate Social Responsibility not forgetting the heated debates on the sponsorship of Black Stars with GNPC money. Today, the GNPC may not be sponsoring the Black Stars anymore but a careful perusal of the Report of the Mines and Energy Committee reveals some very interesting details.

The spending of some  two hundred and twenty thousand dollars on paraphernalia, headline sponsorship and other accompanying payments for a sports competition, sixty thousand dollars for the rehabilitation of an office for a national institution, three million dollars to an unclassified item on sports after a projected spending of another three million on the construction of astro turfs and the refurbishment of a proposed clinic for the Corporation at 1.5 million dollars, are some items on the expenditure of the GNPC that made me wonder if indeed the money being doled out from an institution which had come to parliament with a funding gap was being spent on the right things.

Time has shown that Ghana’s political duopoly (NPP and NDC) acts alike when it comes to the use of GNPC resources and expenditure. The mammary glands of the cash cow that the GNPC has become is filled with milk at each turn to be drained, but the fact of the matter is that the oil we have is not an infinite resource. It will run out one day and when it does, which significant investments with lasting dividends would have been made to sustain the country? Those with the power must begin to ponder and seriously brood over the verdict posterity will pass on their stewardship when the resources of today are no more.


Post source : Duke Mensah Opoku

The Writer is the parliamentary correspondent for Citi FM/TV and

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