Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Book of Efficiency, Chapter One - Part Two

Part Two of this post discusses the issues that deal with implementing such a system in Ghana.

These issues I believe are best covered under definite topics (Policy and Implementation, Infrastructure and Human Resource, Uses) but you do need to forgive me if some of my topic areas and discussions overlap. Also I’m fighting a bout of Malaria (Round Two and no winner yet), so I was unable to get info on schemes implemented by our Government but I will update this post as and when I do.


I believe in all honesty that the greatest driver of GPC Visa’s success is the policy of the UK Government by pushing
General e-targets, that is, make as many processes as possible and feasible electronic
E-procurement, buy using electronic payment and purchasing systems
Efficiency, enact Prompt payment legislation.
The UK government therefore pushed out a broad agenda; Make these core areas in the operation of the Public Sector more efficient and thus better serve the people by making savings and eliminating waste.

Please name an economic policy that was promised and has been delivered. I can’t because the Government always uses vague expressions such as ‘Macro-Economic stability’ to talk to us instead of “the cedi will longer jump up or down so much but by little bits”. Yes! I remember The Public Sector Reform Ministry proposed an electronic punch card system and I also remember something about the Finance Ministry proposing some electronic accounting scheme for all departments. What have they done? I will update, websites anyone? Good Luck to ME!

Listen to your Boss:
The Treasury as the department mandated to oversee the economy, took up the issue and decided to find a way to implement these policies and help the other departments achieve their targets.

OK, His Excellency’s the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (I hope I got it right, they keep changing the names), you must lead the charge for better financial and economic efficiency among the other departments.

Test the Waters:
The Office of Government Commerce(which I assume is under the Treasury), started a pilot purchasing scheme around 1997, with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and a few other departments. Based on the success and lessons learned, they launched on a wider scale and targeted the whole Public Sector. In both occasions Visa Europe won the strict EU compliant tendering process to execute the contract. Most of the information I present comes from this second contract starting somewhere around 2003 and implemented by Government Departments and Agencies (GDAs) (OGCb.s), Visa Europe and a consortium of Seven (7) Visa issuing Banks.

Sell the Facts: and the National Audit Office (NAO) pushed out the facts about the success of implementing the GPC Visa scheme. Each year an Annual report about the Scheme and the total figures in terms of monetary savings and efficiency and other Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are released on both OGCb.s and the Official UK GPC Visa website. These also help GDAs to compute their savings internally through standard values and figures. For example, a standard of £28 is approved by NAO as the savings per transaction.

Who is selling the facts about our policies to the people who need to use them? Have you been to a government site and read outdated information? I have, yet I’m sure the contract for the development and hosting of the site is honoured each month! As for answering an enquiry through the website, I won’t begrudge them, try most Ghanaian websites and the same results occur.

Please Don’t reinvent the Wheel!

This is one of the most important aspects of the information drive which insures the success of GPC Visa year in and year out. Don’t make the mistakes others made, use the simple approach and borrow from Best Practice. Several documents exist for new GDAs to use as a standard Guide to implementing the Scheme. Example; Her Majesty’s Government Procurement Card Best Practice Guide 2005(everything must be at the behest of Her Majesty, don’t you just love that!). All the issuing banks also have their own Guides for following. If you miss the path, it just means you really want to miss it.

YES! It has already been done. Another government has spent money and time, so let’s ask them to provide us with this information. We ask for money so why not research data? I have seen a number of tenders for consultants for Information Parks and E-Governance Projects. I hope they don’t duplicate information that already exists free of charge. I concede that some aspects must be relevant to only Ghana, but a larger part might just be general to all such projects. I got more free info than I can digest; imagine if President Kuffuor asks Gordon Brown!

CHANGE: Acceptance not Resistance:
GDA’s and other public sector organization must hate change as much as we all do, but some change is inevitable. The Public Sector has therefore learned to accept the scheme and embrace it. They have with open minds found problems and solved them in ways they won’t have imagined if they were bent on resting. This change in all cases came from the top. In some cases it poured down and sometimes trickled down, but it still came down!

Change is the single hardest idea for most people to accept on a large scale. In Ghana it is the same, but change we must. I want each and every one of us to imagine ourselves paying for goods and services with a card. No way! Yet it exists in several places, restaurants, supermarkets yet we have all chosen to ignore it because we feel it is just not us or worse we assume it just won’t work! If you have a VISA® ATM card you can purchase goods and services with it in Ghana TODAY. Do I do as I say? I use Ghana Commercial Bank; we don’t have VISA®, pretty good excuse huh! We all have one! CHANGE!

Data and Information:
Data: information, often in the form of facts or figures obtained from experiments or surveys, used as a basis for making calculations or drawing conclusions

Information: the meaningful material derived from computer data by organizing it and interpreting it in a specific way

I simply want to show that information and data depend on each other. You acquire data, make it meaningful and you have information, the most powerful tool available in the world today.

The single scarcest resource in Ghana is information (which means data is also scarce). A system that would allow a visibility of data on the performance and use of resource by Government and Municipal Agencies would certainly improve efficiency and governance. Going electronic would allow an easy capture and storage of date for interpretation by experts into information. Most critics of going electronic cite security as their reason for being against it. Does security stop people from buying $100,000 dollar cars and houses? No, instead they get a security company to protect their assets. Connect the dots!

Sorry Guys! It seems this is turning into a Mini-Series. Too many Mexican Soap operas I guess. HMM! Actually I think it’s more Ghanaian, any movie with only one part around.

I will provide all the sources from whence came this knowledge at the end of the series.

The Dilemma of a Blogger

Monologue: a long tedious uninterrupted speech during a conversation.

Guys, I seriously need for this to turn into a dialogue or to even know if someone out there (UFO’s welcome) reads this blog. Please POST a comment to let us know at least people read this. We need motivation. Thanks

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Book of Efficiency, Chapter One - Part One

Efficiency is the degree to which something is done well or without wasted energy, that is the productive use of resources.

Ghana as a nation as we are told by the Government lacks adequate resources for delivering all the services citizens expect and demand. I believe it is not just a ‘lack’ of resources but the inefficient application of the little we have which is the main problem. As the Government of Ghana tries to formulate and implement policies on e-Governance, using a Public Private Participation (PPP) approach in hope of improving efficiency in governance, let us together discuss successes and failures in improving efficient governance from other countries.

The Government of UK is promoting efficiency in Government Departments and Agencies (GDA) by requiring GDA to achieve certain targets in efficiency-targets and prompt payment legislation and also through the National e-Procurement Strategy.

This post is about a program introduced by the Treasury, in partnership with Visa Europe and a consortium of seven visa-issuing banks, which introduced a card purchasing programme called the Government Purchasing Card (GPC).

The GPC Visa programme was formally launched by the Treasury in October 1997 as a tool to purchase and pay for low value goods and services efficiently and cost effectively. GPC provides substantial benefits for users by providing a streamlined process for low value, ad hoc purchases. Improved management information allows users to monitor and evaluate purchasing activity and to collaborate with others to secure improved terms with suppliers.

GPC Visa 2005 in figures
No. of GPC Visa schemes in operation: 526
No. of GPC Visa cards in use: 70,078
Total spend on GPC Visa cards: £527,287,340
No. of transactions on GPC Visa: 2,882,974
Average spend per transaction on GPC Visa: £182.90
Monetary savings: £80,723,272 (Average of £28 per transaction)
Paper savings: 28,829,740 sheets of A4 paper

Top 5 Merchant categories of GPC Visa Spend in 2005
Travel 24.22%
Office Stationery, Equipment and Supplies 19.46%
Hotels and Accommodation 10.12%
General Retail and Wholesale 9.09%
Miscellaneous Industrial/Commercial Supplies 6.35%

It has been identified that in order for a GDA to implement the scheme successfully, three sections are involved;

 Senior Management should be the driving force behind the programme, pushing strong implementation practices
 Relevant departments such as Finance and Procurement should be involved as early as possible.

 A simple straight-forward process for purchasing, which must be relevant and convenient for cardholders.
 Cardholders must be trained in use of GPC prior to implementation and cards issued to end-users(the people who make the actual purchase)
 Relevant financial thresholds set to capture a large percentage of low value purchases with appropriate controls, but minimizing restrictions.

 Centralized policy / guidelines and a central competence centre used to disseminate Best Practice information and discuss common issues/opportunities and also share knowledge with other GDA
 Supplier strategy to devise recruitment strategies, assess the data and communication capabilities of suppliers.
 GPC should be used as a catalyst for change to re-think accounting and purchasing procedures to leverage the opportunities it presents.

The benefits of GPC Visa are numerous;
1. Prompt payment The City of Edinburgh Council managed to use a tailored web-based solution involving GPC Visa and additional software to reduce payment periods to contractors from above 30 days (which is the legal limit set by contractors before charging interest in Edinburgh) to 36 hours or 48 hours depending on the contractor’s bank.
2. Administration/Paperwork reduction; The City of Edinburgh Council expected to cover works amounting to about£13million in 2005 which meant about 14,000 invoices to be processed with a cost of about £65 per transaction. Using the solution mentioned above they processed only 12 invoices, 1 each month from their bank.
3. Better Management Information; GPC Visa provides management information (minimum being card number, transaction date, merchant details, currency of transaction and amount.) delivered in a variety of ways including the internet and tailored to the specific requirements of each programme. In the case of the Metropolitan Police (UK’s police service, aka The Met), which has processes about 6,000 flights per year, a significant portion being outside UK, this information is useful to The Met in knowing how and where there is scope to negotiate discount fares and find further ways to economise, a notable advantage with travel booking on such a large scale.
4. Empowers workforce; GPC Visa replaces bureaucracy and is a simple to use payment system which can have appropriate levels of control added, and therefore empowers end users utilising appropriate levels of control. Accountability is key with centralised electronic reports producing a clear audit trail identifying exactly who has made each purchase. Since each programme is fully customized the end users get to choose processes they want and are comfortable with and not someone else’s ideas.
5. Small and Medium Enterprise friendly; Significantly, GPC Visa allows public sector bodies to trade effectively with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which are essential to the economic vitality of a locality or region. Increasing use of e-procurement solutions by the public sector is sometimes seen as a threat to SME suppliers. However, making Visa payments through an e-procurement system is no different from paying for goods online using a supplier website. Suppliers taking Visa payments are therefore more able to engage with an organisation’s e-procurement solution. Again this is mutually beneficial because the buyer receives greater control and spend compliance, whilst the supplier can retain their trade with the Government organisation by trading electronically.

PART TWO will delve into issues of the implementation of such a system in Ghana.

Monday, June 11, 2007

An Innovation Worth Noting -

An Internet facility that allows farmers and traders in agricultural commodities in Africa to transact their business through the use of mobile phone Short Message Service (SMS) has been launched in Accra. The facility, known as, is a website developed in Ghana by Busylab with an 11 million-dollar USAID support. It is intended to enhance trans-border trade between farmers and traders in Africa. The USAID support was provided under a three-year market information systems project meant to improve the regional agricultural marketing systems in Africa to help increase intra-regional trade in agricultural products.

The services of are completely free for users, except the normal sms messaging charges by the mobile phone service providers. Mr Mark Davies, the architect of the website, said the service was operating in 12 countries and 300 markets in Africa and in some countries in South America. He said the tradenet facility basically provided a platform for sellers in agricultural business to display their profiles and information on their commodities, prices and locations on the Internet, with the view to attracting potential buyers through the net. He said the facility also offered individuals and traders associations the opportunity to establish their own website within the tradenet platform at not cost to constantly display their commodities and prices.

"Potential buyers looking for a specific commodity only need to compose SMS message on their mobile phones stating the code of the commodity in question and the country from which they want the results and send it to tradenet number 911344' for Areeba users or 024649999 from any other network and get instant results." Mr Davies said traders could also register to receive regular SMS alerts on commodities from markets of their choice.

The tradenet platform comprises both regional and country portals. Regional portals display commodities and prices from a collection of countries from a particular region in Africa and country portals display markets in a particular country. It lists prices of commodities from local markets in various countries. For instance, it has prices of commodities from Nima, Agbobloshie, Techiman and other local markets in Ghana. He assured potential users that the platform was effectively protected from fraud.

Dr Kofi Debrah, Chief Coordinator of the USAID project, said since the introduction of tradenet, various participating buyers and sellers had chalked a trans-border trade value to 350 million dollars. He said the facilities had helped several farmers across Africa to sell their commodities to sellers outside their countries and therefore prevented their commodities from getting rotten on the farms. "This promises to be an effective means for Busumuru Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary-General) to realise his dream for food security and promotion of agricultural business in Africa."

Dr Debrah said the facilities, however, faced a few challenges such as the high level of illiteracy and poverty among farmers and traders in Africa, which made it difficult for them to acquire computers, mobile phones and even be able to use them. He said the project had therefore included training for the literate children of farmers and traders to assist their parents use the facility. Mr Hugh Dake, an official of ECOBANK, assured traders that the bank would provide the necessary funds for them to be able to trade among themselves more efficiently. A cassava farmer from Nigeria gave testimony of how she reached several buyers across the continent through the tradenet platform and recommended it to farmers on the continent.

From Ministry Of Communication Ghana

Will post more information on how tradenet was born in Ghana next.......

Innovation - A Social Response

So, for a few months we have been trying to get some ideas and information across. With the blogs on Ogua and Busy trying to get people started i realized that what this country needs is innovation. The problems we face as a nation in terms of growth are not ones we can solve with existing solutions like some sort of template we apply.

The PSI was a good idea but...... There have been others who are trying to bring something new into the system and it's not been easy. Might talk about some of these new but struggling ideas later.

Now to bizness, Innovation as i came to realize is the successful exploitation of new ideas, therefore one to solve social issues will be social innovation : innovation in response to social needs or challenges, typically diffused by organisations whose primary objectives are social rather than economic, and where ‘profit’ is re-invested. got this from Nesta.

A little change to the definition will best best fit our country. We don't really need to be creating new ideas. At least for the past decade all things techy are still new ideas to the country except fancy mobile phones. So there's no need re-inventing the wheel. We are a lucky country in that we are trying to develop at a time when information is around. Gone are the days when development ment bringing forth new brilliant and yet sustainable ideas in the field of economics, technology, agriculture etc.

Can we look at our past and pin point ideas that were innovative, most of them were implementations of ideas tried and tested. Africa and for that matter Ghana are quite unique. We need not a American speaker flying all the way here to organize seminars only to tell us how to apply the internet and ICT to attain our 2020 dream. A country that does not enjoy broadband and hotspots with everyone loging on and out might need a different approach towards applying the internet. This we have to find out for ourselves.

Enough talk, so what are our basic needs, according to Maslow , food, shelter, security are prime. And looking at these carefully which do we have. Ghana as a nation cannot feed herself yet we are pressing on farmers to export(IN: dolls And Pounds) and then we rely on business men to import foods again (OUT: dolls and Pounds). An innovation was growing rice and selling on our own markets, but hey what happened. Funny enough even the rural folks preferred 'Perfumed' rice. What prevented us from investing a little to upgrade our rice. Untill we match international qualities, which is what the people have been made to prefer we'll always loose out.

It's not enough labling it 'Made In Ghana', which one of us ever saw a local rice advert on TV. On the other hand the local gins and bitters are doing well alongside the cream products. These folks are obviously exploiting an idea but is it new? Nope, the idea of aphrodisiacs and skin beauty have been before i was born (2.5 decades)

So are we being innovative enough, if anyone knew how mobile phones used to be a luxury they'll understand what i'm driving at. The people needed to communicate and someone provided it. It didn't take long and it was the new definition of ICT.

This post is a calling, a calling to help move the nation by breading innovative ideas. I'll identify ideas i find innovative and post them. It's our social responsibility.

Friday, June 8, 2007

My Exams

hi everyone,
Officially i'm done with exams and will be great to anounce to you all that i passed all of it, and i'm moving a step closer closer to my primary dream (Medical Practioner). Will be posting all i've gathered so far and this time it's a long time till another exam so guess it'll be a spam. lol


Ps. Check the Blog Soon

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Job Hunt Saga

Hi everyone

This is an unusual post to this blog as there has usual been an attempt to abstain from posting personal activity unless it directly impcats the blog.This falls under that category. I've been Job Hunting and it has as such slowed down my research into the stuff needed to post here.

I'm discussing a review of the material we can post on this blog with my co-author today. I want to be able to post views on current issues ( which deviates from our original goals), so i need his consent.

I'll post our final decision here.

Oguaa Business Incubator got a mention on Timbuktu Chronicles, which is a really good blog on businesses in Africa so check it out.