Corruption is popularly defined as the abuse of public power for private benefit. The act often consists of paying bribes to public officials by private beneficiaries as compensation for the abuse. However, not all acts of corruption result in the payment of bribes. For instance, a powerful minister can locate a new investment project in his home town which is unsuitable for that particular activity or he could influence the sanctioning of big business loans to his cronies and friends and still not take any direct bribe. However, irrespective of the types or forms of corruption the act involves subjective misuse of power, which is both bad and illegal.
In addition, the act distorts the purpose for which the discretionary power was given to the person who abused it. These distortions inflict considerable costs on the economy. The last few years have seen a growing awareness of the crippling effect of corruption on economic development in Ghana. Corruption increases inequality, distorts the state's redistribution role, wastes human and financial resources and degrades public services. Hardly would one enters a government building (office) in Ghana and not receive a signal for a bribe before any service can be rendered. Several empirical studies have shown that corruption significantly lowers investment levels and the productivity of capital. The presence of corruption inflicts substantial economic costs on an economy. It is a double edged sword that reduces both the volume and efficiency of investment and thus economic growth and development. I was very much amazed when H.E. President J.A. Kuffour started his first term with zero tolerance on corruption because it has ultimately become engrained in the very fiber of the Ghanaian society. That principle enabled various authorities to investigate many of the dubious former state ministers and public officials from the PNDC and NDC era, which eventually earned a jail term for some of them while others are still fighting with the court systems for their freedom. I think that was a step in the right direction but was done prematurely. I believe rooting out corruption permanently and in a sustainable manner has to start with education and various changes in our bureaucratic system. Fishing out scapegoats and punishing them would not solve the problem. There must be a new legislation (law), translated into various Ghanaian languages that explicitly define what constitutes corruption, boldly spell out the punishment, and educate the general public both literate and illiterate on what to do when one suspects a corrupt activity. Furthermore, the various establishments responsible for investigating and prosecuting such crimes must be strongly empowered and adequately resourced to do their job effectively. Corruption especially, bribery has been widely accepted as a normal practice in Ghana. It is a shame to say that the customs and immigration officers at the airport demand bribe in the form of money and other goodies before they can offer the various services (such as placing stamps in peoples' passports, inspections etc..) in which they have been dully paid to do. Some even take peoples' passport and demand that they will not stamp it unless they are paid a certain amount. Others have turned themselves into beggars soliciting money from various travelers and unsuspecting tourists. The Police have turned themselves into highly unprofessional and incompetent men in black and white uniform claiming bribes from law offenders, criminals, and even murderers to turn them loose if they can only pay. The MTTU police officers who are supposed to inspect the road-worthiness of vehicles and drivers do not even look at the documents the drivers present to them but the money hidden under it. It has now become a customary practice between the police and the commercial drivers. Once they stop you, just put the money at the bottom of the vehicle's documents and that takes care of everything even if there is no insurance covering the commercial vehicle. This ultimately jeopardizes the safety of our society. The irony of this is that, most of the police departments do not even own a single vehicle and when one makes a report that calls for the arrest of the culprit, the victim has to either pick the police up (if he/she owns a car) or send a taxi to pick them up to be able to arrest the criminal. Yet there are several millions of cedis that illegally go into individual pockets daily in the form of bribes and kick-backs. I strongly believe there must be a system in place that would deter offenders from giving bribes and the police from demanding bribes as well. Instead, the police should render fines and citations to offenders to be paid at a court of law or a specially designated office. The money accrued can then be used to fund the various police departments in terms of purchasing vehicles, office equipment etc… We hear of politicians and government officials complaining of lack of funds to finance development projects. Yet they get a lot of money to fund expensive campaigns and even give money to the electorate and influential personalities in the various societies such as chiefs, queen mothers etc. for their vote during election time. In the Ghanaian society, unlike the other parts of the developed world, it is rather the politician who has to give money to the voters and not vice versa. However, few wealthy individuals may donate to political campaigns for political favors should that party wins but that percentage is negligible. So the big question is “WHERE DOES THOSE BILLIONS OF CAMPAIGN MONEY COME FROM”? There is no system in place to track the source of funds of the various political parties and I think it is time we get one to be able to ensure transparency from the top-down. I believe we have two major branches of government; the executive branch consisting of the president, vice president and the ministers and the parliament, which is supposed to be the legislative body. I think some of the functions of the parliament are to enact laws and put the executive branch in order. In other words, the parliament discusses and votes on issues, projects and programs designed by the executive branch. Here is the case we have over 90% of the government ministers who doubles as members of parliament. Just imagine the same person (the government minister) designing a program for the parliament to vote on and at the same time, being part of the members who are going to vote. Can they ever come out with a fair and independent decision? That is why the opposition in parliament has been complaining about the influence of the executive branch on the issues they vote on. As long as we have members of parliament who are also ministers of state, there will never ever be transparency between the executive branch and the parliament. That is where the fight against corruption must begin so that those at the bottom can emulate their superiors. There are so many government ministers who have put up mansions worth several billions of cedis and yet there is no way they can justify where they get the funds looking at their current salary. I know the current government can prosecute the former corrupt ministers but who has the power to investigate and prosecute the current corrupt ones? Can the Kuffour administration ever get near to the zero tolerance of corruption they have been preaching about without adequate systemic changes? I believe corruption is a menace to the Ghanaian society and it is as potent as AIDS in depriving a nation of its sustainable development. Therefore, NGOs, churches, mosques, journalists, chiefs, queens, the government, and every citizen of Ghana must firmly stand up and publicly declare war against corruption just as we are doing against AIDS and defeat it now and forever more. MAY GOD BLESS THE GOVERNMENT, GHANA, AND ITS WONDERFUL CITIZENS. Charles Darkoh, DALLAS, TEXAS, USA. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.