GHAMRO Under Pressure!...MUSIGA Demands Drastic Reforms

The Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) led by its President Bice Obour Osei Kuffour has demanded massive reforms in the operations of the Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO)led by interim Chairman Carlos Sakyi. In a letter dated 16th April 2014, the umbrella body of musicians outlined a number of issues and the need for reforms as soon as possible after two and half years of operation without any tangible benefits for musicians. Read the unedited letter below: 16th April 2014 The Chairman Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO) Former COSGA Building ACCRA Dear Sir, NEED FOR REFORMS AT GHAMRO AFTER TWO AND HALF YEARS OF OPERATIONS I write in reference to the transitional provisions in GHAMRO�s constitution which states: �TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS Towards the realization of its objects and to ensure consistency and prevent deviation from its vision, and prior to the full implementation of its Constitution and full scale operations of the Organisation, the first Directors of GHAMRO shall put in place interim measures consisting of a Board of Directors and a Management Team to administer the Organisation, including setting up proper systems and structures to ensure firm grounding, consolidation of its mission, realization of its vision and fulfilment of its stated objects. The interim period shall not exceed two years, after which the Board will make recommendations on the way forward based on a comprehensive evaluation of the prevailing situation. A General Meeting of all registered members of the Organisation shall subsequently be convened to elect a permanent Board, in consonance provisions of the Constitution INTERIM BOARD The Interim Board shall consist of the Organization�s first Directors and any other member who in the opinion of the Board possesses the requisite knowledge and competence, who shall steer the affairs of the Organisation. It shall give policy direction, set and approve budgeting, be in charge of the Organisation�s long term vision, appoint, supervise, monitor and review the operational performance of management. It shall also ensure ideals of the Organization including good governance principles of accountability, transparency, integrity, responsibility and trust are upheld. These ideals shall constitute the bedrock of the Organisation�. In view of the above provisions, I write to register my utmost displeasure/disappointment with both the leadership and the interim board of GHAMRO. There is the need to take immediate retrospection on our work as members of the interim board and to take collective responsibility for our success or failure. I became a member of the interim board by virtue of my election as the President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) to replace Diana Hopeson (my predecessor) and attended my first Board meeting on 25th January, 2012. It is unfortunate to state that the current direction and focus of GHAMRO as an organisation does not guarantee the utmost benefits to right owners and members. I wish to remind you that, we are not working for ourselves but for a larger number of rights� owners. If the current trend continuous, a lot of � will be done to the larger community of rights owners for whose benefit and well-being Ghamro was set-up to pursue. There are a number of issues I want to highlight: So far, Ghamro (and by extension the interim board) has failed to ensure a fair royalties distribution system where rights owners will receive royalties based on commercial usage of their works. As you are aware of, there are many rights owners whose musical works have, for some time now, filled the airwaves (radio and tv), night clubs, bars, spinning events, hotels etc but who receive little or no royalty at all. This is because, unfortunately, some of these right owners have not officially assigned their works to GHAMRO. However, as Ghamro is the only licenced collective management organisation in Ghana, and on that basis collects all the royalties (including those of unregistered rights holders) it is expected that such rights owners are accounted for in the royalties and blank levy distributions even when they are not readily available to collect. This is because, those distributions are their legal entitlements which they can at any point in time demand. Secondly, there has been inadequate education on works registration process and rights assignment. At present, most right owners do not even know how Ghamro functions and how they can register their work and assign the collecting rights to Ghamro. Also, no provision has been made to assist prospective rights owners on how to access services of Ghamro. Linked to point 2 above, no form of education or guidelines for right owners on works registration and the migration from COSGA to GHAMRO has been made public for existing members or prospective potential members. Thus, a lot of the rights holders who were registered with COSGA have not properly migrated to Ghamro. Ghamro (as the only licenced collecting organisation) is unknown to many rights owners, prospective rights owners, users and the even the general public after nearly three years in operation. Though Ghamro legally commenced operation on 18thMay, 2011 the society�s visibility remains confined. It is only a few well positioned people, who understand the purpose and the operations of the organisation. As an organisation, there has been a failure to effectively publicise and disseminate information about the organisation to all stakeholders. This in my opinion, was a key role the constitution envisaged that the interim board would perform, so that by the time the interim board�s tenure expired, the organisation and its structure will be well understood by all stakeholders. We are nearly into three years after the interim board started its work (the term of the interim board by virtue of the provisions of the constitution has expired), however such an important organisation like Ghamro remains obscure and is even unknown by the very rights holders it is supposed to work for. No General Assembly/Meeting has ever been held since the inception of Ghamro though the constitution requires that an Annual General Meeting be held yearly. Nearly three years in office and no single capacity building activity for Board and management members has been held, even though, it is general knowledge that none of the current members of the interim board or management members has had any previous collective management organisation (CMO) management experience.. It should be recognised that management trends continue to evolve and the business changing dynamics in this modern day requires continuous training for even the most experienced managers. The interim board�s resolve to get radio and television stations to log the use of musical works has so far not yielded any visible results. At least a pilot programme with a single radio or Television station will have provided some sense of direction and some degree of hope for the immediate future. At present,, there are modern technologies that can be employed to assist in this process, yet no clear commitment and vision has been exhibited for us to follow. Can I say that, as a board we are not doing enough to ensure right owners get royalties commensurate to the commercial usage of their works? As far back as February 2012, a policy and procedure manual as well as a strategic plan was promised to be unveiled. These documents are yet to be seen as majority of members do not have any information about the status of these vital documents needed for our forward and collective growth. It is on record that, during one of our board meetings a circular from the Ghana Association of Phonographic Industry (GAPI) dated 5th February 2012 requested for among others things; the formation of two committees to oversee the elections and the revision of Ghamro�s draft constitution for eventual adoption by the General Assembly. I also recall a requisition in 2012 for an emergency general meeting to adopt the draft constitution of GHAMRO signed by over four hundred right owners across the country who were members before, during and are still members after the transition from COSGA to GHAMRO. Though the people who requisitioned for the meeting included myself and other board members, the leadership of the board and management failed to treat our concerns as a matter of importance. As I write, rights owners are yet to see the formation of a constitution review committee and an elections committee before our expected maiden general assembly after nearly three (3) years in operation. It is unfortunate that leadership of such an important institution appears not to be responsive to the genuine and sincere crying demands of members for whose interest they have been appointed to serve even when due processes are followed. On the issue of board meetings and minutes, I have on many occasions expressed my displeasure at the untimely, irregular and unprofessional manner (without signatories) that minutes of our board meetings are handled. This practice of delay in circulating accumulated minutes of the board is unfair and a deviation from standard administrative and board management practices. It also affects productivity of board members since they don�t have such records to refresh their memory. Moreover, because board members are representing the interests of right owners in their respective organisations, such vital documents are relevant for their reference. In view of the above, during our board meeting on 5th December, 2013, I requested for copies of the minutes of our last four board meetings which had not been circulated but you have still not provided me with a single copy as I write. Again, the agenda for most of our board meetings never include the reading of previous minutes and acceptance of same by members. In instances where minutes are circulated, it also had no signatories to authenticate them. Minutes of meetings serves as both reference and legal documents of the society and must be treated with the importance and urgency they deserve. Ghamro�s inability to sign any form of reciprocal agreement and also unable to provide international standards recording codes to registered works in Ghana continuously causes music rights owners to lose the opportunities to receive monies due them through the commercial use of their works outside the borders of the country. There is the need to work for the economic improvement in the protection of members rights not only in Ghana but worldwide. Ghamro�s over reliance on Blank Levy for distribution for the last two years is a demonstration of the current management�s weakness to effectively collect royalties from the numerous users of musical works. Already known and identifiable users and other targeted users continue to use our music without paying for it. In the 2013 distribution for example, 100% of the amount distributed came from blank levies as confirmed at our meeting on 5th December, 2013. As a board, our inability to challenge our employees to maximize collections from the numerous sources of revenue available e.g. Radio and TV Stations, Spinners, Hotels, Restaurants, Bars, Gyms, Banking Halls, Airlines, Commercial Vehicles etc can be said to be a reflection of leadership weakness or failure. Though I am aware of some efforts being made, the pace is too slow in comparison to modern business dynamics and the opportunities currently available to the society. How soon can we bring all these users into our tariff / licensing bracket to ensure right owners get a commensurate compensation for the usage of the works? It looks very strange to have a financial management organisation like Ghamro operating without any annually approved budget by the interim board and equally fails to produce annual reports to members after nearly three years in operation. Is this a clear case of non-transparency and non-accountability against the ideals that form the bedrock of our organisation? As a member of the interim board, preceding the distribution of royalties on 5th December, 2013 I requested a monthly financial statement as well as an annual financial projection in terms of income and expenditure of the organisation at the time to inform our decision regarding the administrative component of total monies available for distribution for the period. Unfortunately, after nearly four months after this harmless request none of these documents have been given to me. I believe this is certainly unfair and is not a responsible management practice as the accounts department are supposed to generate at least regular monthly income and expenditure statements. Currently, as an interim Board, we have overstayed our provisional constitutional mandate which clearly states that our stay in office should not exceed two (2) years. There is the need for us to respect our own set rules of governance. We should as a matter of urgency put in measures to legally exit so that a more permanent board is set-up to run the organisation within the confines of the constitution. I was very surprised when two prominent composers and members of the interim board resigned from the Board and as a responsible board, we never took any time to discuss their issues to learn any lessons or come to terms with their resignations collectively. The absence of an annual board meeting calendar does not auger well for planning and effective membership participation. For a board that has resolved to operate a governance system where board members are in-charge of the day to day management and operations of the society, I expect in addition to regular planned board meetings, an open communication channel to update members on latest development and events. Is it not surprising that a Board of this caliber could operate for nearly nine months without any meeting (knowing that the Board serves as trustees and need to take collective decisions in managing such trust)? The above are some of the concerns. My colleagues on the board can testify that I have raised these concerns on many occasions during our meetings. I expected the leadership of the board to take the necessary steps to address some of these concerns even if not all but to no avail after nearly three years. As the President of the MUSIGA which accorded me the opportunity to serve on this Board, I am equally accountable to rights owners who are members of MUSIGA whether registered or yet to be registered with our Collective Management Organisation � GHAMRO. Therefore my interest for this board to succeed double as a responsibility and the current situation appears volatile and gives me sleepless nights because as the president of MUSIGA, the members look up to me to protect their interest and to offer quality leadership. It is not uncommon to find musicians unions and collective management organisations working hand in hand for the common good of their members. I am however of the view that if nothing is done about the current situation and the concerns raised, some aggrieved rights owners we least expect will stand up against this board and I will not be an exception. I hope these genuine concerns I have raised will be accorded the needed urgency and the appropriate response will be given for the good of our Collective Management Organisation- GHAMRO. Yours Sincerely, Signed Bice Osei Kuffour President, MUSIGA Member, Interim Board of GHAMRO NB: Mr Chairman, I request an emergency board meeting to discuss these concerns. Cc: All members of the Interim Board of Ghamro