Building National Cathedral: How Blockchain Technology could have Prevented the Scandals in Ghana

Ghana’s National Cathedral Project commenced as a promise by the President, Nana Akufo Addo, to some portions of the Christian faith during the campaigning period toward his presidency. This promise resonated with portions of the Christian faith and having been elected as President in 2016, there need to fulfill the promise of building the national cathedral.

This article would present an overview of controversies concerning the national Cathedral, how Cathedrals were funded in the medieval age, and finally how blockchain technology could have prevented the flooding scandals associated with the National Cathedral. 

Controversies surrounding the national Cathedral commenced when the land area for the project was demarcated. The site located at Ridge in Accra tends to be an area with existing buildings that served as residence to nine (9) Court of Appeal Judges in Ghana. The catchment area for the demolition also had several buildings including The Scholarship Secretariat, Judicial Training Institute, and Passport Office.

This triggered public interest in the National Cathedral Project and later worsen when it was made known that the Nine Judges would be relocated to a rented apartment whilst the government construct a new bungalow to accommodate them [1].

The contention included whether the National Cathedral Project was being funded by the state (which would need parliamentary approval) or one that would be funded by private funds. Was the state setting its priority, right? Does Ghana need a Cathedral now? In a secular state like Ghana, it is trite that such a project did not have the support of taxpayers from various religious beliefs.

The dissenting views among the diverse Christian majority in Ghana were made clear subsequently that the state only contributed land for the construction of the project and that the cathedral would be funded from voluntary mobilization.

President Nana Addo then took the step to donate GHS100,000 when he launched the fundraising campaign for the National Cathedral Project [2]. The public was upon to voluntarily donate [3] to support the National Cathedral Project through mobile money short code (*979#) and three bank account details displaying on the National Cathedral of Ghana website [4]. The skeptics were relaxed as funding for the project was made voluntary. This was understandable because it became clear how the National Cathedral would be funded.

It is important to note that every Cathedral has a history surrounding it which makes it deserving of preservation. Accordingly, a National Cathedral with a vision of serving as a place of worship, and reflection, linking people to their culture as well as serving as a tourist attraction does not need a national controversy surrounding it.

This is not the case in Ghana as the building of the National Cathedral has become more or less scandalous. The uncertainty regarding the cost of construction is the first to worry about[5]. The minister of finance, Mr. Ofori-Atta mentioned the cost to be $100 million in 2019. The secretary to the Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral, Victor Kusi Boateng is cited for estimating the budget to be $200 million in 2021. In June 2022, the finance minister in an interview estimated the cost to be $350 million at the same time the lawyer for the construction firm revealed that his team has finalized a $400 million contract for a cathedral project in Ghana in an interview with Legal500.

Again, the national cathedral project hired Sir David Adjaye and Associates[6] for consultancy service on new bids opening at a cost of Ghs32 million but in the end, awarded the project to his construction firm. Then there was Sonny Badu, a gospel musician, who denied having received any payment in a tweet when it was reported that he was paid $50,000 for his performance at the launch of the national cathedral.

Currently, the order by the finance minister to Controller & Accountant General to pay Ghs25 million as additional seed money contrary to what the populace was made to believe that the cathedral was being funded without state funds[7]. The national cathedral project has been frequented by in-flow of scandals and has moved from national controversy to begging for God’s mercy.

How do we build a Cathedral without Controversy? 

The answer to this can be determined if we enquire into the practices of the medieval ages in building and funding a cathedral. Medieval Cathedrals were at a high scale that amazes us when looking back.

The Durham World Heritage Site[8] noted that the construction of the Cathedral was an expression of faith and a channel for the creative energy of medieval European society. The financing of the Cathedral was by community effort and championed by senior clergy and bishops who make significant contributions.

There was many funding sourcing for the lavish and monumental cathedrals including contribution from the congregation, the selling of object lasting from earlier years, especially an object of historical interest, and gifts from kings, but never did the building of Cathedrals had a single source of funding or from a handful of people.

The scholarly study of Financing Cathedral Building in the Middle Ages: The Generosity of the Faithful by Wim Vroom was first published in 1981 in his native language – Dutch – and later translated.

His study relied on surviving fabric records of about eighty cathedrals that were constructed during the late part of the Middle Ages.

Vroom noted that bishops and cathedral chapters were responsible for paying the expenses of a cathedral and the fund was drawn from every imaginable funding source that could be identified. The list outlined by Vroom included gifts from founding bishops and cathedral chapters who were saddled with the responsibility of paying construction expenses; initiation fees charged on members (canons); gifts from popes, kings, and other secular rulers; tithes levied on churches within the jurisdiction for the cathedral in question; gifts given by pilgrims; profits from fairs including major feast; and other sundry sources of income.

It is shown that the circumstances of each cathedral dictated its financing pattern which affects the scope of design and pace of work.

The building of a cathedral was not an imposition but an expression of faith which is now a wonder of the medieval world and a significant reminder of the Dark Ages. Today, the cathedral serves more purposes, however, the history and circumstancing of its construction make it valuable for tourism and Ghana cannot afford to build one only for it to be a symbol of resentment exhibiting God’s kingdom on Earth.

Therefore, transparency is keen in mobilizing voluntary funds for such a project to demonstrate integrity and real-world case for incorruptible management. This would provide the needed decorum and blockchain technology is a better alternative to using public distributed ledge for transparency, accountability, and participation of the community in the decision-making process for a successful cathedral process.

How Could Blockchain Technology Prevent Scandalous In-flow, Increased Trust and Transparency in Building National Cathedral in Ghana? 

As evident in the medieval period, building a cathedral is by community effort and blockchain technology has proven to help develop a decentralized and trustless community ecosystem for any project imaginable. What is significant about the second and third-generation blockchain is the ability to build decentralized apps (dApp) and the governance feature on the blockchain.

This helps to use smart contracts to undertake the execution of real-world projects with high transparency and a high level of participation by community members. Placing the National Cathedral project to utilize Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) and leverage blockchain technology, we can focus on Cardano Blockchain which is a third-generation blockchain that has governance features at its core.

What is DAO? DAO is a form of legal structure for a common goal represented as an encoded transparent computer program with no centralized governing body[9].

Members within a DAO share in the common goal – for example building a cathedral – and acts in the best interest of the DAO. The success of the DAO is seen as the responsibility of every member not a few in a centralized position.

DAOs are used in the bottom-up decision-making approach. To put it simply, think of DAO like a vending machine, and all the processes involved in restocking and delivering value to people are replaced by codes, not humans.

With the National Cathedral Project case in Ghana, all processes involved in hiring consultants, opening bids, design of the building, budgeting, and construction would be done using codes. This makes decision and information sharing transparent and participatory.

There would be certainty of budgeting as the community gets to make budgeting inputs before finalizing the total cost. If for some reason, the budget has to be increased like, in the case of the National Cathedral, a simple proposal would be made justifying how there should be an increase in budget. The community then votes on the proposal to accept or reject the proposal. The community decides on reward distribution, with this, individuals undertaking the task for a successful implementation of the common goal – building the national cathedral – are rewarded.

The reward is given to individuals who participate in decision-making – voting – to help the project take the right decision. Hence there is little incentive for a wrong decision.

What is more significant is that community members must have a stake to vote. In our national cathedral project case, the community can define the stake as people who have donated to the building of the cathedral as people with a stake to participate as community members and vote on decisions.

However small a member contributed forms the basis of their participation and their voting power.

With DAO, more funds can be raised for a common project and executed successfully. There are no scandals as every step taken is open, and transparent, and the smart contract automates the process. This is completely decentralized and does not need a centralized governing body – the trustee of the National Cathedral in Ghana – who would decide what information to share and what not to share.

The funds contributed do not get into an opaque bank account as displayed on the National Cathedral website. No one would know how much is contributed unless we are told.

The blockchain records the provenance of transactions and there is no need to be told. You just see in real-time all the amount being donated and from what account. Click the link to observe random transaction records on Cardano Blockchain.

  • The Block 7526221 (Link here – https://cardanoscan.io/block/7526221)

The block number is 7526221 and has recorded 40 transactions totaling 1,252,473₳ as of 07/21/2022 at 3:21:45 AM at a 12.728144 ₳ in fees. According to the current market price which is $601,187.04 in the total transaction and $6.10 in fees… the Cardano blockchain is known for its low fee rate.

  • View All 40 transactions (https://cardanoscan.io/transactions?blockHeight=7526221)

This would tell in real time what amount is transferred from and to which account.

The level of transparency blockchain presents is beyond imagination and if accountability and transparency are our concern then blockchain technology is like the ‘Archimedes’ Eureka moment’

Organizing through DAO, every activity is recorded and time-stamped on the blockchain making it immutable and secure. Even when the DAO is attacked by hackers it is recorded in real-time. The first DAO to surface in the blockchain space was named ‘The DAO’[10] which raised $150 million.

As a country, we should let transparency lead in every step of our developmental agenda, and blockchain technology is the ‘eureka’ to making it a reality.

 Article By

Nathaniel Dwamena 

References:

 [1] Graphic Online. ‘National Cathedral construction; 9 Court of Appeal judges to be relocated’. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/national-cathedral-construction-9-court-of-appeal-judges-to-be-relocated.html  Accessed on 19th July 2022.

 [2] The Presidency. ‘President Akufo-Addo Contributes Gh¢100,000 To Construction of National Cathedral’. 2018. Retrieved from <https://presidency.gov.gh/index.php/briefing-room/press-releases/970-president-akufo-addo-contributes-gh-100-000-to-construction-of-national-cathedral> Accessed on 19th July 2022.

[3] Ghana web, ‘National Cathedral fundraising strategy unveiled’. 2021. Retrieved from < https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/National-Cathedral-fundraising-strategy-unveiled-1350541> Accessed on 19th July 2022

[4] National Cathedral of Ghana. ‘Donate’. Retrieved from https://www.nationalcathedralghana.org/donate-gha

[5] Ghana Business News. ‘Cost of Ghana national cathedral – Contractor’s lawyer says $400m’. Retrieved from < https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2022/06/24/cost-of-ghana-national-cathedral-contractors-lawyer-says-400m/> Accessed on 19th July 2022

 [6] Ghana Web. ‘National Cathedral: David Adjaye paid GH¢32m in 2021 for ‘consultancy’ services – Ablakwa alleges’. Retrieved from < https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/National-Cathedral-David-Adjaye-paid-GH-32m-in-2021-for-consultancy-services-Ablakwa-alleges-1552865> Accessed on 19th July 2022. Also, See; https://www.designboom.com/architecture/sir-david-adjaye-refund-millions-national-cathedral-accra-ghana-06-23-2022/>

[7] Cover Ghana. ‘Leaked: Finance Minister orders payment of GH¢25M to construct National Cathedral without Parliament’s approval. Retrieved from < https://coverghana.com.gh/leaked-finance-minister-orders-payment-of-gh¢25m-to-construct-national-cathedral-without-parliaments-approval/> Accessed on 19th July 2022

[8] Durham Heritage Site. ‘Cathedral Building in the Middle Ages’. Retrieved from <https://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/learn/architecture/cathedral/construction> Accessed on 19th July 2022.

[9] Investopedia. ‘Decentralized Autonomous Organization’. Retrieved from < https://www.investopedia.com/tech/what-dao/> Accessed on 19th July 2022

[10] Gemini. ‘What Was The DAO’. Retrieved from <https://www.gemini.com/cryptopedia/the-dao-hack-makerdao> Accessed on 19thJuly 2022

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