At the crack of dawn, while most people are still in bed, Ama Djoleto (not her real name) wakes up at 4 a.m. to get ready for her street-sweeping job.
Draped in her blue and orange uniform, she drags herself out of the house and walks through the dark streets of her neighbourhood with a broom in hand.
She has her fears, fears of being harmed in the early hours of the morning because of recent happenings in her area. But she cannot afford to miss work.
It is not the kind of job the mother of two wanted. The salary is bad, she says. Her monthly take-home is GH₵ 180 or $30. The job comes with a lot of contempt from road users and the danger of being hurt.
So, for about GH₵ 6 a day, she sweats her dawn away, risking being knocked down by vehicles on the Achimota-Ofankor highway for what she describes as a pittance.
Ama is among the 45,000 people across the country who are working under the Sanitation Model of the Youth Employment Agency (YEA). The YEA recruits them but they are supervised by Zoomlion to sweep. This contract has been running since 2006 when the National Youth Employment Programme was first initiated to provide hope for the teeming unemployed youth in Ghana.
The sweepers are paid GHc 180 out of the GHc 600 Zoomlion is paid
The government allocates GH₵ 600 to each sweeper. Out of this, GH₵ 180 goes to the sweeper and GH₵ 420 to Zoomlion as logistics and management fee monthly.
This means, out of the GH₵7,200 allocated to each sweeper annually, they receive GH₵2,160, while the lion’s share of GH₵5,040 goes to Zoomlion.
The amount allocated to the beneficiary used to be GH₵500, out of which GH₵ 100 went to the beneficiaries and GH₵400 went to Zoomlion. The review in the allocation happened about two years ago.
But the Auditor-General’s report on 2020 Management and Utilization of the District Assemblies Common Fund and other Statutory Funds said this was done without any documented approval.
“This allowed Zoomlion Ghana Ltd a monthly entitlement of GH₵ 500 management fees for each of the 45,000 personnel on the Module in the sum of GH₵ 270 million per annum. The fee was increased to GH₵ 600 in 2019, raising the annual fee payable from GH₵270 million in 2018 to GH₵ 324 million in 2019,” the Auditor-General’s report said.
The figures also mean that the management fees went up by GH₵54 million out of which the sweepers take home 30% of the amount allocated, while Zoomlion takes 70%.
The Audit Service said it did not get any relevant documents to authenticate the payments. However, the Auditor-General said the payments were made on the instruction of the YEA Executive Director.
The District Assemblies Common Fund made the payments and told the state auditors that “the implementation and supervision of work done were within the domain of the YEA,” the audit report said.
With that in mind, the Auditor-General wrote to the YEA, requesting evidence of engagement of personnel and related employment records for verification.
According to the report, the YEA confirmed that a new contract was signed between the YEA and Zoomlion Ghana Ltd in 2019.
However, the Auditor-General was not convinced.
The report, therefore, recommended to the Administrator of the District Assemblies Common Fund to “suspend further payments on the module until we are provided with the related employment and performance records by YEA for our validation.”
The Auditor-General continued, “We also recommend to the Administrator to make future payments based on submission of certified work performance by YEA countersigned by the Coordinating Directors of Assemblies or their representatives.”
Meanwhile, various investigations into the implementation of the programme have revealed that the sweepers sometimes have to buy their own brooms—the main tools for their trade.
In 2013, after the GYEEDA Scandal by Manasseh Azure Awuni, the government set up a committee that reviewed the contracts and found many anomalies with the Zoomlion contract. The Committee recommended the discontinuation of the contract, but the government did not do it.
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the time put pressure on the Mahama administration to terminate the contract. After winning the 2016 election, however, the NPP government rather increased the management and logistics fee for Zoomlion.
That is not all the concerns the latest audit report found.
The Auditor-General also said the DACF paid a little over GH₵ 3.8 million to Zoomlion for fumigation and SIP services for 38 newly created assemblies that had not begun operations.
Zoomlion asked to sustain fumigation of institutions
The Auditor-General says Zoomlion was paid, although it did not fumigate assemblies that were yet to be operational
The assemblies were not inaugurated in March 2018 and their agreements with Zoomlion took effect from April 2018.
The payment is 2018, the Auditor-General said, contravened Regulation 39 of the now-repealed Financial Administration Regulations, 2004 (L.I 1802) which required heads of accounts to ensure that payments were cleared.
“We considered the payment to be unjustified and loss to the Fund, as the allocation to the newly created assemblies did not warrant payment to Zoomlion Ghana Ltd for no work down,” the report said.
It explained that the assemblies indicated that Zoomlion Ltd would perform extra services to recover the amount.
It, therefore, directed the administrator of DACF to provide evidence of the scope of work undertaken by Zoomlion Ltd to offset the payment to recover the GH₵3.8 million from Zoomlion.
In yet another deal, the Auditor-General asked a Jospong company to cough up GHc 95 million, which one of its waste management subsidiaries, Sewerage Systems Ghana Limited, received from the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF).