03.12.2020 Feature Article

Corruption: a determinant of the 2020 election?

Corruption: a determinant of the 2020 election?
LISTEN DEC 3, 2020

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves…. Self-discipline with all of them came first.

The Greek word for self-control comes from a root word meaning “to grip” or “take hold of.” This word describes people who are willing to get a grip on their lives and take control of areas that will bring them success or failure.

Aristotle used this same word to describe “the ability to test desire by reason… to be resolute and ever in readiness to end natural vent and pain.” He explained that people who are not controlled have a strong desire which try to seduce them from the way of reason; but to succeed, they must keep those desires under control.

One of the largest evils plaguing our nation is the “curse of corruption”. Corruption within the Ghanaian society has prevailed from since time immemorial in one form or the other. That was why the ex-president Kufuor famously said, “corruption is as old as Adam and Eve” and will always exist”. It will therefore be unrealistic to state that corruption can be eliminated by Nana Akufo-Addo or John Mahama because they cannot know nor control the mindset of everybody they appoint to public office.

The growing trend of scandals that hit political administrations in Ghana appears to have come to stay. Year in, year out, accusations of bribery and corruption are flung far and wide by politicians, their opponents, and therefore the neutrals who observe each side and pass judgments.

However, the litmus test is how they deal with corruption, whether real or perceived, any time corruption scandals occur in their government.

On December 7, 2020, Ghanaians will head for the polls to participate in the seventh General Election since 1992 to elect a president who will be at the helm of affairs for an additional four-year term.

Elections are one amongst the foremost important events which afford citizens the chance to cast a verdict on a political party or government’s policy through the ballot. Here, citizens are clothed with the power of a constitutional right to choose who to represent them based on their personal and communal benefits non-hesitantly.

Interestingly, the presidential candidates for the two major political parties; Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party and John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress have had a taste of political power, thus, resulting in a competition of legacy and accomplishments. So, therefore, what really will inform people’s voting decisions come December 7, 2020? Would corruption determine the 2020 election?

Akufo-Addo, whilst campaigning for the Presidency in 2016, literally begged Ghanaians to try him. During his political campaign, Akufo-Addo made Ghanaians believe that he had zero tolerance for corruption and that no appointee or member of his government would be spared if they were caught engaging in acts of corruption.

Nana Addo, the then flag bearer for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) also made Ghanaians believed that the private sector was where to make money and not within his government. He succeeded in tagging Mahama and his government (National Democratic Congress) with a “dog chain” as the most corrupt people in Ghana and that he was incorruptible and was therefore the better candidate to deal with the canker of corruption.

There can be little denying that corruption is still prevalent in Ghana and numerous cases were seen in recent years.

Some of the prominent examples of corruption allegations that made ex-president John Dramani Mahama and the NDC (National Democratic Congress) lose the election to Nana Addo during 2016 includes:

Sole-sourcing and inflating of contracts

There were a number of accusations of corruption under Mahama's NDC leadership relating to Government contracts awarded to President Mahama's brother, Ibrahim Mahama, as well as over-inflating costs on contracts. NPP alleged the pair were connected to the almost $600 million-dollar Ameri Power deal. The two Norwegian investigative journalists alleged a fraudulent deal on 10 power turbines from Ameri Group of Dubai, after the NDC Government entered into a Built, Operate, Own and Transfer agreement with Ameri Energy of Dubai for the supply of 10 turbines with 230-250MW capacity of power. There were strong accusations the project was costed at a lot more than it was worth – experts said, the turbines should cost $220 million, leading the N.P.P to quiz where the extra $360 million had gone.

"Overpricing of contracts, through the use of sole sourcing, is a corrupt procurement method of choice very typical of the Mahama-led NDC government," the NPP said in its 2016 manifesto.

Smartty's Bus branding saga

News headlines in late 2015 were dominated by the Smarttys bus branding scandal , where 116 Metro Mass Transit (MMT) buses were rebranded at a cost of GH¢3.6 million.

The cost for rebranding these buses was seen as ludacris and the Attorney General got involved, demanding refunds be made. The outcry led to the resignation of the Minister of Transport, Ms Dzifa Attivor, in December, 2015.

GYEEDA Scandal

Also under the NDC was the 2013 GYEEDA scandal , uncovered by Joy FM's Manasseh Azure Awuni, whose investigation led to policy change in the running of the agency. The reporter found millions of cedis were paid illegally to contractors of the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Agency (GYEEDA).

When the ex-president Mahama was made aware of the corruption, he instructed the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to retrieve the money illegally paid to individuals and companies through contracts with GYEEDA, the Savanna Accelerated Development Agency (SADA) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

He also asked the Minister for Youth and Sports to suspend, with immediate effect, all payments under all GYEEDA contracts, except the payment of arrears to workers up to the end of the year.

The government set up a five-member committee to probe the allegations further. The committee’s report largely corroborated with Manasseh’s (a Ghanaian journalist of Joy FM) findings and made various recommendations to government. As part of the reforms, parliament passed a law to regulate the operations of GYEEDA, which was later renamed Youth Employment Agency (YEA).

SADA Scandal

The same reporter (Manasseh) who found mass corruption in GYEEDA also looked into Ghana’s Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and realised that millions of dollars allocated to the programme had been misappropriated.

The investigations showed that, SADA paid GH₵32,498,000 to ACICL to plant five million trees in the savannah zone, but could only account for about 700,000 trees.

It also found that SADA spent GH¢15 million on guinea fowls, but could only account for a few of the birds.

Ford Saga

In later part in 2016, Manasseh reported about the former president John Dramani Mahama accepting a gift of a Ford vehicle from a construction firm bidding for a lucrative government contract. The contractor from Burkina Faso, who had previously built a wall on Ghanaian Embassy land in Ouagadougou, gifted the Ford in 2012.

NPP said the gift was a bribe to get a road-building contract in Ghana's Volta region that the same contractor later secured.

However, this scandal came out in 2016 and became a thorn in flesh for the NDC governing machinery to defend.

Mahama himself called the accusations "baseless" who said that the vehicle was a gift and had been added to the government car fleet.

Mahama was later cleared of the corruption allegations by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) which said in a 78-page report that, a claim of conflict of interest against Mahama "has not been substantiated".

Judges Scandal

The year 2015 was defined by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas' investigations into widespread corruption in the judiciary . His undercover reporting in the film ‘Ghana in the eyes of God; Epic of Injustice. His findings were global - shaking Ghana's reputation’.

Anas collected evidence of a range of Ghanaian judges allegedly taking bribes and demanding sexual favours in return for favourable judgements.

Some 22 lower court judges and 12 High Court judges were captured on video in a two-year long investigative piece, allegedly taking bribes to influence justice.

So far, twenty (20) of the lower court judges and three (3) high court judges have been removed from office.

Alfred Agbesi Woyome’s Gargantuan Judgement Debt

The name Alfred Agbesi Woyome dominated in the headlines of every media in Ghana prior to 2016 election. He was accused of swindling the taxpayers of Ghana of millions. A seasoned Ghanaian journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni, explained that, the Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) under late President John Evans Atta-Mills, fraudulently paid a financier of the party GHc 51.2 million cedis between 2010 and 2011. A Supreme Court Judge, Justice Jones Dotse said, “it appeared those who facilitated the payment entered into an alliance to create, loot and share the resources of this country as if a brigade had been set up for such an enterprise”.

Martin Amidu, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General under the NDC regime, also took on the case to retrieve the money fraudulently paid to Woyome.

In July 2014, the Supreme Court ordered Woyome to pay the money back to the state, but the businessman did not do that.

The state pursued the criminal aspect of the case but lost. It appealed and lost again. Government officials argued that Woyome received the money legitimately.

The Attorney-General has also filed to discontinue the case, meaning she was no longer interested in examining Woyome in court.

Political corruption remains a problem, despite legal and institutional frameworks to counter it, plus active media coverage and government anti-corruption initiatives (Freedom House 2018). The previous Mahama-government faced a number of high-ranking and highly publicised cases of corruption in office, which shaped its public image and contributed to its downfall. Aggravated by economic problems during the last years, corruption seems to be increasing and public perception of how cases are dealt with has become increasingly negative. Thus, these corruption scandals have weakened the legitimacy of democratic institutions among the broader population (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2018).

There is an adage in Akan language, “ma tricky wo” meaning, I have tricked you. There is also an adage I usually quote in church when given a sermon, “Not all that glitters are gold.”

Prior to the 2016 general elections in Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo Addo was perceived to be a great leader who had the potential of turning the fortunes of the country around. Some people even claimed he was incorruptible, but subsequent events have proven otherwise after Nana Akufo-Addo won the 2016 presidential election and became President of the Republic. His administration has witnessed new-fangled levels of corruption never experienced since days of old.

Ghanaians, rather sadly are waking up each day to the very issues the Akufo Addo/Dr Bawumia 2016 campaign claimed it would not engage in when given power.

According to the then candidate Akufo Addo, his government would protect the public purse, punish officials who dare engage in corruption, will avoid a government of family and friends, fast-track development of the country among others. The reverse as we speak is the case.

I have sampled some of high-profile scandals that have come to the attention of Ghanaians since the New Patriotic Party (NPP) won the 2016 elections:

1. Contracts for Sale

1. The suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), A.B Adjei, has been reported to the Commission on Human Rights AND Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Office of the Special Prosecutor, after the release of a documentary titled Contracts for Sale.

2. PDS scandal:

The minority side in Parliament has called for a thorough investigation of what has come to be referred to as the PDS scandal.

This follows the abrogation of the contract between Ghana and the Power Distribution Service with regard to the management of power supply in the country owing to allegations of financial misappropriation.

3. Cash-for-seat scandal:

In early 2018, the Ministry of Trade and Industry was in the news for the wrong reason after allegations of sale of seats became public.

Expatriates reportedly colluded with the Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF) to sell seats close to that of the president for between $25,000 and $100,000.

4. Kelni GVG scandal:

Imani Ghana, in June 2018, disclosed that the communications ministry had engaged the services of a Haitian company, Kelni GVG, to monitor the revenue streams of telecommunications companies in Ghana. The deal was branded as a waste of Ghana’s resources.

5. Commonwealth Visa Scandal:

In April 2018, Australian officials arrested over 50 Ghanaians who participated in the Commonwealth games as journalists.

Per investigations, it was established that they were not there for media duties but were part of a visa racketeering ring.

6. Ghana Maritime Authority scandal:

Former director-general of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), Kwame Owusu was accused by political activist, Kwame Asare Obeng popularly known as “A plus”, of financial misappropriation.

The documents revealed that Mr. Kwame Owusu allegedly spent GH¢135,000 on a staff end-of-year party in 2017.

7. BOST GH15m contaminated fuel scandal:

The BOST scandal resulted in the loss of about GHC15 million revenue after the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST) sold contaminated fuel to non-existing oil companies such as Movenpinna Energy and ZUPOIL.

8. Ameri scandal:

The Ameri deal was signed by an NDC administration at the height of the power outages that rocked Ghana from 2014 onwards.

The then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) declared that, the deal as fraudulent and vowed to cancel if they win power in 2016.

The NPP however failed to abrogate the contract after assumption of office, but instead attempted to renegotiate it.

This led to the dismissal of the then energy minister, Boakye Agyarko, after it became clear that Ghana had to pay more than the initial amount for the deal.

9. The government's plans to sell the rights to most of the country's precious metals royalties to Agyapa Royalties Limited, a special-purpose vehicle company registered in the British Crown dependency of Jersey.

This transaction (Agyapa Royalties) made Martin Alamisi Burnes Kaiser Amidu, former Special Prosecutor resigned after he investigated the deal.

Based on Akufo-Addo’s claims of being incorruptible, Ghanaians voted for him in 2016. Fast forward to 2020, Akufo Addo has now been tried and tested in his four years as President, so let us look at how he (Nana Akufo-Addo) has dealt with corruption, and compare this against what John Dramani Mahama did to help us to decide who is in a better position to deal with the canker of corruption in the next four years.

Mahama’s response to corruption.

In the Bus Branding saga, the Minister for Transport resigned and monies were refunded to the State.

In the SADA/GYEEDA scandal, the Attorney General was instructed to retrieve all monies wrongfully paid to individuals and companies involved in the scandal. Abuga Pele the CEO of GYEEDA was found guilty by a Court of Competent Jurisdiction and jailed for six years. Philip Assibit, a businessman, was jailed for 12 years. GYEEDA was subsequently restructured and reformed to prevent the occurrence of future scandals.

In the Ford Bribery case, CHRAJ was directed to investigate the matter and subsequently issued a 78-page report on the incident.

In the Judges Bribery exposé by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, 20 judges found guilty were removed from office.

In the Brazil 2014 World Cup matter, a Commission of Inquiry was set up, a white paper was issued accepting some of the Commission’s recommendations and the Sports Minister was subsequently removed from office.

Akufo-Addo’s Response to Corruption.

In the Number-12 exposé by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, GFA was dissolved, a Normalization Committee was set up but the main character at the centre of the scandal, Kwesi Nyantakyi has so far been cleared and absolved from any act of corruption.

In the BOST contaminated fuel saga, a committee was set up to probe, no report has so far been issued and the BOST MD was cleared and absolved from complicity in any act of corruption by National Security.

In the AMERI scandal, the Minister for Energy was removed from office and no further investigation was conducted.

In the “Cash for Seat” issue, no one was indicted even though a committee was set up.

In the USD2.5million Ghana Post “Jack Where Are You” digital address matter, no investigation was conducted, and nobody was sacked or compelled to resign.

In the USD178million Kelni GVG saga, no investigation was conducted and the Minister of Communications is still at post.

In the Australian visa scandal, a probe was conducted and the Deputy Minister for Sports was cleared and absolved from any act of corruption without a report being issued.

In the GHS800, 000 website saga, nobody was suspended or compelled to resign.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Thursday, August 22, 2019, suspended from office, with immediate effect, Mr Adjenim Boateng Adjei (the CEO of the Public Procurement Authority) after he was unmasked in an exposé over the alleged sale of state contracts.

In the PDS/ECG scandal, no investigations have so far been conducted.

In the Agyapa Mineral Royalties scandal, the Special Prosecutor voluntarily upon public pressure decided to investigate the deal which the President has so far ignored and has not issued any official comment on the incident, unlike the Airbus scandal which he hurriedly reported since it was alleged to be linked to the Mahama government.

From the above, it is clear that John Mahama tackled and appropriately responded to alleged corruption scandals in his government, Nana Akufo-Addo on the other hand has also done his part in the fight against corruption. Akufo-Addo has either ignored or cleared officials associated with alleged corruption scandals in his government and has overtime earned the nickname and tag, “The clearing agent” of corruption.

With the detailed analysis of the performances of both governments (New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress) with respect to corruption, the ball remains in the court of readers to make informed decision on the 7th December general elections, if readers are to vote on the basis of corruption.

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