Random thoughts of a rural farmer (24): Responsible use of mass communication media


We had closed from a hectic day on the farm, harvesting palm fruits. It had been an intensely rainy day but we could hardly abandon the exercise of picking the bunches and loose nuts, fearing the wrath of invasive hard biting black ants which could make anyone undress from their wicked bites, if the harvest was postponed to the next day.

So, we gathered to watch television in a crowded rural room only to see this senior journalist in his usual abrasive, gesticulating elements alleging some humongous daily imprest figures of the Chief of Staff at the Presidency and the Governor’s office, respectively.

We watched in total disbelief (both NPP and NDC sympathizers as usual) how these state agencies were alleged to be wantonly dissipating national resources.

As a retired banker with knowledge of accounting practices, my beef was not so much about the figures being bandied about but the forceful imputation or inference that these were daily expenses incurred by the two institutions, which, when computed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, amounted to such colossal waste!

I would leave paid stewards in the respective institutions to respond to the apparently wild assertions of imputed improprieties regarding the amounts mentioned AS DAILY EXPENDITURES.

However, I consider it a public duty to explain the concept of accountable imprest and its application in organisations, in order to prevent unnecessary resentment and incitation against otherwise innocent officials, at least, until an audit process finds them culpable of mismanagement.

First, an imprest (properly described in accounting terminology as an accountable imprest), is a sum of money allocated to a responsible official in a firm to help in defraying recurring but comparatively small, defined expenses on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The imprest amount and reimbursement cycle are determined according to the size and nature of the organization against receipts and authorization by a higher authority.

Second, a cash imprest is NOT NECESSARILY an expense in itself to be made at the sole discretion of any official; the principle of dual controls over its use prevails. Unspent portions of this imprest is often subjected to unannounced audit to ensure that funds are not dissipated at the whims and caprices of any individual official.

It is these authorized expenses that are subsequently recorded in the income statement according to budgeted line items and subject to the audit process.

Periodically, the official handling the imprest prepares a reconciliation statement to a higher authority for the respective expenditure items to be incorporated into the income statement.  A re-imbursement is made to the accounting officer to restore the amount spent to its original figure in a cyclical fashion.

Regrettably, this TV presenter was at his wit’s end forcefully giving the unfortunate impression that the state institutions mentioned had such colossal sums to spend recklessly on daily basis!

With the patently ignorant multiplication of these amounts on daily basis, one could easily discern the mischievous motivation to incite the public for “the wanton recklessness of these state officials”.  Why the exaggeration when it is clear that the allegations cannot be substantiated, or have simply been skewed to cause disaffection?

This calls into sharp focus the motivation of some journalists in spewing falsehood to deepen the already deep polarization of the populace and unnecessary resentment against political office holders.

We all have a collective duty to hold public officials to account but let us not bastardize anyone with unfounded allegations. These officials have human rights, just like any other citizen.

Every journalist has a moral and even legal obligation to verify the authenticity of news items before disseminating same to the public. They must also recognize the power of modern mass communication media to create unnecessary tensions.

Professionalism, rather than sensationalism, must undergird their reportage, if their integrity is to be sustained. A popular journalist and a notorious journalist connote different perceptions.

No one is against disseminating credible, verifiable news items. However, we must acknowledge that this information age is anchored on strong technological forces, (where anybody with a mobile phone is effectively carrying an incredibly and easily accessible mobile library in their hands). Intentionally spewing false or ignorant information, therefore becomes a monumental disservice to the public.

It is also worthy of note that the higher the regularity of recanting earlier unfounded, inaccurate news reportage and apologizing for same, the more the credibility of a news outlet suffers reputational backlash.

Giving credit where credit is due fosters national cohesion.

This writer prays for the day our politicians would learn to give credit to their predecessors for projects undertaken. This will help to ease the heightened tensions on the airwaves about which government initiated, facilitated or completed which project.

It is also highly disingenuous for a government past or present, to claim credit for a project while distancing itself from the debt incurred as a result of the same project.

Collectively we owe it a responsibility to explain to those who are less fortunate  literacy- wise, that the  national governance process is a continuum. Loans contracted for various projects automatically become part of the national debt to be paid by succeeding governments.

We cannot claim credit for a project while lambasting a current government which takes over the responsibility to borrow to repay loans previously contracted to initiate or complete earlier projects.

It is helpful to explain to the public that the public debt is a continuum…. a flow until subsequently discharged by a succeeding government that borrows to extinguish prior loans. In effect, no government pays for all its debts before they exit. Thus, it is not fair to talk about national assets without mentioning the related liabilities.

Those who are financially literate owe it a duty to the public to explain the basics   of public financial management. Hopefully, this will tone down the unnecessary heat generated by the partisanship with which we address national issues.

Bank liquidity management(Part I): Defying the 2:1 current ratio in accounting
Photo: Francis Owusu-Achampong,

The writer is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, an adjunct Lecturer at the National Banking College and the Chartered Institute of Bankers, a farmer and the author of “Risk Management in Banking” textbook. Email; [email protected]  Tel. 0244 324181

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