Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has said that the newly launched Ghana.gov platform, which has digitalized all government services and revenue collection will eventually chase out what he called “demons and principalities” in the public sector who siphon public funds on daily basis.
“The excellence with which the Ghana.gov platform has been designed and the critical digital infrastructural pillars it is standing on gives me the confidence that it will chase out all the demons and principalities from the public sector – indeed it is already chasing them out and we have began to see some result,” he stated amidst a loud laughter at the launch of the Ghana.gov portal.
The Vice President observed that the bureaucracies, goro boys (middle men) and the constant demand for bribes by public service workers before serving the public, has been a big worry for all Ghanaians and everyone seeking services from state institutions for decades.
He noted that at the core of the problem is the several human interventions just for a single service to be delivered and various attempts have been made in the past to minimize the human interventions but to no avail.
It is estimated that revenue leakage within the public sector stand at about GHS2 billion every month due to human intervention, false accounting processes and all kinds of unconventional schemes.
Beside that, there is also the challenge of widespread tax evasion because it was difficult to trace eligible taxpayers.
Dr. Bawumia said when the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government came to power, they observed, through consultation that the only way to stop the revenue leakage was to significantly reduce the human intervention via technology, and the way to have a successful single digital point of access for all government services and revenue collection was to first have some critical digital pillars in place on which that platform will rest and work effectively.
Firstly, he said there was a need for a dynamic national ID that bears critical data on individuals, adding that to date, the ongoing national ID registration has captured at least 15.5 million Ghanaians, which makes is a strong pillar to back the envisioned single access point.
The Vice President also said there was a need to ensure financial inclusion through an infrastructure that enables Ghanaians from all over the country to be able to pay for government services or receive payments from government easily, safely and conveniently.
“To this end we embarked on a project that resulted in the mobile money interoperability platform that now has over 15 million Ghanaians with bank accounts in the palm of their hands. The platform is hosted by the Ghana Interbank Payments and Settlements Systems (GhIPSS) and it integrates all payments platforms across the country,” he said.
Dr. Bawumia noted that the recent introduction of the GHQR (quick response) Code, also hosted by GhIPSS, has even made it easier for Ghanaians to fully access their bank accounts to make and receive payments daily without having to visit the bank or ATM machine.
According to the Vice President, government also saw the need to get tax identification numbers (TIN) for as many eligible taxpayers as possible.
“We came to meet just about 750,000 Ghanaian adults having TIN numbers, which was just about 4% of eligible taxpayers – but through a strategy of converting the Ghana Card number into a TIN number, we can now boast of at least 86% of eligible taxpayers having TIN numbers and that is a strong pillar for the Ghana.gov platform,” he said.
Again, one important pillar was to ensure that the operations of all state institutions are digitalized so that they can be accessed by the public remotely, and that has been done to a very large extent such that several critical services from the state can be accessed digitally.
Dr. Bawumia noted that in past, the passport office, for instance, used to run a supposed digital application platform, which required applicants to print out the application form online, fill it, scan it and then load it to the website of passport office, but that did not cut it. But with Ghana.gov, the form is filled and submitted online, payment is also made online and appointments are also booked online.
The Vice President also recalled how the tourism sector piloted Ghana.gov and realized a four-fold revenue from some sites that were being ran at a deficit for years.
Per the success chalked by Ghana.gov so far, in driving away what the Vice President called “demons and principalities in the public sector”, the platform, as of 4pm July 13, 2021, had registered over 624,000 users, who had done over 5.8 million transactions valued at more than GHS20.4 billion.
These were funds which came through some 37 government services and it went directly and timely into the relevant public fund accounts with full visibility and without any administrative delays as compared to previous arrangements that took several months to achieve same.
The 37 government services that brought in the funds include various direct taxes, indirect taxes, levies, royalties, and stamp duties to the accounts of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), passport applications fees and more.
Indeed, the demons and principalities are out and the Vice President was full of praise and gratitude to the three local FinTechs that designed Ghana.gov – Hubtel, Expresspay and IT Consortium.
Dr. Bawumia also urged all Ghanaians to make it a practice to file their tax returns regularly through the Ghana.gov platform, saying “even if you have zero tax to pay, just file the returns and let us know – it is better than not filing at all – this time we can find you so just file your return and avoid and embarrassment.”