Welcome, Sports Minister, To Most Controversial Seat

Land Economist and SportBusiness Consultant, Magnus RexDanquah believes describing the Youth and Sports Minister portfolio as controversial is apt. How else do you describe an office with one of the highest churn rates? In this article, Rex welcomes Hon. Mustapha Ussif, the new Minister for Youth and Sports to the hot seat, and asks him to “please pray often.”

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE OF 66+ YEARS, I took time off my daily routine to watch the television during the vetting of the Honourable Minister for Youth and Sports – designate and I must admit or confess that I am very, very sad that I had not done this before for the previous ones in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017.

I guess I now appreciate better the other dimensions of what CIVIC RESPONSILITIES are or constitute; and why it is the responsibility of all of us as Ghanaians to pay particular attention to these acts or omissions and that we should not just restrict attendances to only the husband or wife of the nominee, the immediate or extended families, townsmen or constituency or party supporters but even more importantly WE SHOULD ALL BE INVOLVED (remember the revolutionary times of ‘we are all involved’?) in everything, including vetting of Ministers and Chief Justices.

So finally I sat behind my small 24-inch television on Thursday, 25th February, 2021 and watched the motions and intrigues of the vetting of Hon. Mustapha Ussif, Minister for Youth and Sports – designate.

There were the usual questions to be expected, the bit of his tenure of office as the CEO at the National Service Secretariat and the allegations surrounding the busing of NPP supporters and sympathizers during the compilation of the 2020 New Elections Register with the Secretariat’s buses.

However, what the vetting did for me was to assist me work on a WELCOME BOUQUET for the new Minister for Youth and Sports, HONOURABLE MUSTAPHA USSIF (Member of Parliament) from all of us as Ghanaians to one of the perceived most controversial Ministries in the country with the most number of journalists covering its activities by the second, minute and hour.

The Missing Toyota Pick Up Vehicle
ONE of the issues which came to light during the vetting and based on your assurances we would, anxiously, be waiting on you for a statement on the matter was the MISSING TOYOTA PICK-UP at the National Sports Authority (NSA). The mystery surrounding this matter has to do with the silence of your predecessor, Hon. Isaac Kwame Asiamah, MP, and especially so that after the rumors had started, one of those think tanks issued a statement reporting the loss as well as make a demand on the then Minister to set up a Committee to investigate the matter. This was most important for the number of different stories surrounding the loss plus the absence of a properly issued POLICE REPORT on the matter so we could have some sort of CLOSURE.

Thus, based on the assurances you proffered to the Appointments Committee of Parliament, we are expecting a public issuance of a Report on the matter or in its absence, a setup of a new Committee to investigate the matter and submit a Report on the matter to your office; whichever way, you promised to make such a Report public as well as take punitive action against any culprit for the loss.

Alteration of Award of Contract for Supply of Waste Bins after Procurement Processes
There is also the matter of the restructuring of a Procurement Process for the supply of services, which the National Sports Authority (NSA) undertook from a single supplier and splitting into multiple suppliers, very much against the spirit of the Public Procurement Act 2016 (Act 914). Again, you promised on your word to investigate this matter and make public the findings.

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Visa Scandal 2018
The third issue was the scandal in relation to Ghana’s participation in the XXI Commonwealth Games - Gold Coast, Australia from 4th to 15th April, 2018 and the associated Visa Racketeering matters.

You gave your word to the Appointments Committee that as soon as you assume office, you will follow up with the Police and National Security for copies of their respective Reports and possibly make both or respective Reports public, as and when they are available.

At this point, whilst welcoming you to the ‘HOT SEAT’ at the Ministry of Youth and Sports with our ‘Bouquet of Issues’, starting with those that you promised to deliver during your vetting, there are others that were contained in the series of the articles I published under the heading: ‘AGENDA FOR GHANA SPORTS (2021 – 2024)’, in the hope that you will last the four years.

Hosting & Organization of Maiden Biennial Sports Congress 2021
The immediate task that I would wish you to give it your fullest and most urgent attention is the organization and hosting of the maiden edition of the BIENNIAL SPORTS CONGRESS by the National Sports Authority (NSA) as envisaged under the Sports Act 2016 (Act 934) by the end of the third quarter in September, 2021 (all COVID – 19 protocols permitting).

In my estimation, the hosting of the Congress would give you the singular, most unique platform to address ALL STAKEHOLDERS of the emerging sport industry at once at the same time and thereby outline your vision, expectations, showcase your management style for delivering the mandate of your Ministry to the public as well as hear at first hand the extent of problems facing the industry with all the limitations.

It will also offer the opportunity to listen and find out from the players themselves how the COVID – 19 Pandemic has impacted on the industry and all players, and what type of stimulus package you could evolve for the consideration of the Cabinet for implementation.

As part of the preparations for the maiden Congress, all Federations are enjoined to submit copies of their audited accounts as one of the terms for participation. Thus, this composite audited accounts of all sports disciplines as well as the Authority shall provide the Ministry with a fundamental document that would be used to assess sport’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); and thereby position sport as a major player in the economy of the nation, particularly if we are also able to determine the number employed both formally and informally and incorporate same in the composite.

This will also provide the Ministry with the opportunity to meet with all federations of good standing to discuss policy directions and the ministry’s vision for sports for the next four years. I believe, it will also be necessary to invite other key stakeholders like the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), the Ministries of Finance, Local Government, Tourism (for sports tourism) and Employment, as well as the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to such a Congress for good reason.

The National Sport Policy and The National Sport Fund
If the first edition of the Congress comes by September this year (with progress made on the COVID-19 vaccines for all Ghanaians by then), it will give the Ministry the unique opportunity to use the platform for the final stakeholder engagements on the NATIONAL SPORT POLICY before its submission to the Cabinet for approval as well as the NATIONAL SPORT FUND, where it should be estimated that the final work on the shape, form and mode of operations would have been concluded for the setup.

The National Sport Policy and the National Sport Fund are key to the success of the operations of the Sport sector of the Ministry as against the Youth side, which seem to have chalked quite some successes.

Review of The National Youth Resource Centres of Excellence Concept

It will be very important for you, Honourable Minister, to set up a Technical Committee of varied expertise to review all the processes, concepts, locations and implementation of the on-going construction National Youth Resource Centres of Excellence in all the sixteen (16) regions of the country.

This will give you a proper appreciation and understanding of the projects against an internal Report on the Ministry’s own Monitoring and Evaluation Unit so that the projects would be placed in the proper context of the new National Sport Policy. It will also ensure value for money as now there will be the need for a SUSTAINABILITY PLAN as critical part of their management and operations going forward.

Whilst I wish you every success at this Ministry and will back you up with prayers, please understand that there will be a lot of work, engagements with various stakeholders both national and international. However, I will plead with you to give the National Sports Authority (NSA) the space to work as per the Sports Act 2016 (Act 934) and shy away from the past canker that will see its Director-General (DG) spending 70 per cent of his working time at your office: this has been the bane of the industry as it kills initiative and drive at the NSA, same way that I would expect them also to do the right things always that would not warrant them being called over to any admonishing.

Well, well, welcome, to quote my senior, Mike Eghan (Mighty Emperor) and one of the finest hosts on GBC Television then, to the Ministry of Youth and Sports and please pray often.