THE 32nd edition of the Total African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament is only nine days away and the grit expectation of conquest – after 37 years of searching, is irretrievably embossed on the minds of every Ghanaian.
Winning the trophy, certainly, will be the sweetest thing to happen to Ghana football in decades.
Grippingly, in several quarters too, the expectation goes beyond hunt for the ‘famished’ trophy, with many pointing to the amount of cash that the nation is splashing on the tournament. It has become a big issue – just as it was a little over two years ago – ahead of the Black Stars’ participation in the Gabon Nations Cup tournament.
Indeed, the episode two years back was even more tempestuous and boisterous as the Ghana Football Association (GFA) for the second time presented a blank budget to the Ministry of Youth and Sports – without the usual detailed financial figures.
“The GFA has sent yet another blank budget to the Ministry of Youth and Sports for the Black Stars participation for the 2017 AFCON. So, they are going to assign figures to the items we have given. We don’t want the situation that the MOYS (Sports Ministry) will say we have presented an inflated budget,” Sannie Daaraa, the former FA spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Daara’s confirmation was a tear-away with widespread reports in the media indicating that the FA submitted UD$5.4million budget to government for the Nations Cup.
Admittedly, there was ‘cold war’ between the sector ministry and the FA, but it tells you how stormy the situation was then. The budget was really an issue – a big subject of monumental proportions that saw Ghanaians subjecting both FA and Ministry to an amperage of bashing.
Fast forward, today, there is a googol of pressure on the Sports Ministry to disclose how much of the taxpayer’s money is being sent to the Nations Cup in Egypt for Black Stars’ participation in the one-month biennial tournament that starts from June 21-July 19.
It is all-too anticipated!
Perhaps, the disclosure of the Egypt budget has become more pronounced and critical in view of the speculations making rounds in the traditional and social media.
Figures ranging between $7m to $15m-plus have been flying all over as budgets earmarked for the tournament – with the Sports Ministry tight-lipped on the disquieting situation. To hear that an amount of $15 million has been approved for the campaign with $3.7 million alone catering for supporters, “ways and means”, spiritualism and referees, is even more distressing.
Indeed, the breakdown of the supposed $15million budget as speculated in the media might seem preposterous, but many may have gulped it away. That is why the sector ministry should come out officially to release its budget for the trip. Truth is that the stillness and motionlessness of the ministry at this critical moment is too loud for comfort.
It is breeding a lot of suspicion and mistrust among Ghanaians and this is not the best for the image of Isaac Asiamah’s ministry that has received lots of plaudits in the last two years.
Some have quizzed: of what significance would declaration of the budget be? Would it win the Cup for Ghana? Answer: not really! However, it would be a lucid expression of good governance, transparency and accountability and also serve as strong pointer to Corporate Ghana and football fans that we are getting them relevantly apprised of proceedings as regards our national teams.
As someone pointed out, the Black Stars’ budget is not a classified document and we must not be fetish about it and keep it under wraps.
Disclosing to Ghanaians how much you are splurging or disbursing on the Stars would flush out all lingering doubts with regard to the speculations that have now crazily gone viral. It is not good for the image of the sector ministry. Perhaps, they are yet to realise it.
When the budget was demanded a fortnight back, we were told it was being put together.
“I can say that there is no budget approved yet or in place for the AFCON. There is a delegation currently in Abu Dhabi trying to get a camping facility for the national team, so there is no way we would have come up with a budget once that is not even sorted yet,” the ministry’s statement signed by Adjei-Baah, the Public Relations Officer, hinted.
According to the PRO (you won’t want to be in his position at this time), once everything was concluded and was appropriate, the ministry would communicate to the good people of Ghana how much budget had been presented or approved.
A budget, as we are all aware is only an evaluation of possible expenditure; which is why there should be no cause for alarm if only you can defend the spending. So, what is the sports ministry afraid of? That is the 64,000-dollar-question everybody seems to be asking.
If for any reasons, the Egypt budget cannot be made available to Ghanaians, nothing stops the ministry or the GFA from making us aware of this development.
We have had conflicting reports of winning bonuses of the Stars being restored – with the ministry insisting that the players would be pocketing $5,000 for victory instead of double the amount. However, some other reliable sources are claiming $10,000 for the result. Which is which?
Fortuitously, player bonuses have not been a key issue in the media, this stanza. Though it is good for player focus, it is equally imperative that Ghanaians are told how much players are going to pocket in winning allowances. It is the taxpayers’ money and they have every right to know how their moneys are expended.
Indeed, let us be careful how we handle this budget issue before it explodes fatally in our faces. For the powers-that-be, the situation is all-too innocuous to trigger any aftermath Nations Cup controversy. Well, we hope so!
We have been searching hungrily for the Holy Grail for nearly four decades now and the men spearheading our campaign in Egypt must do everything humanly possible to ensure the dream is accomplished.
BY JOHN VIGAH