12.11.2023 Feature Article

Corruption in Ghana

Dr. Kwame Aduhene-Kwarteng CastroDr. Kwame Aduhene-Kwarteng (Castro)
12.11.2023 LISTEN

After 66 years of independence from the United Kingdom, Ghana is still dealing with social and economic issues such as inadequate public investment in education and healthcare, high unemployment, low earnings, a high degree of poverty, and armed robbery, to name a few. The widespread corruption in the public sector has been blamed for the current scenario.

Corruption, also known as Protocol or "Keteashye ne Proye" (placing it beneath the bed and letting it rot), has spread like endemic cancer in Ghana, jeopardizing future generations and the country. Corruption has grown so entrenched in Ghanaian culture that it has become the norm rather than the exception. This societal blight is divided into three types: grand corruption, bureaucratic corruption, and legislative corruption. These types of crime differ mainly in terms of the person participating in them. Still, the result is the same: misallocation of resources and decreased system efficiency.

Governments have attempted to halt this societal scourge, but their attempts have been ineffective. The president, courts, members of parliament, public officials, and other state institutions are blamed by the majority of people. In fact, when the topic of corruption is brought up among Ghanaians, the Ghana Police Service takes the brunt of the criticism. Those who criticize public institutions fail to recognize that parents seeking school entrance for their children bribe school authorities. Government contracts are secretly sold, while healthcare personnel demand money before treating patients; people's fates are sealed once judges and court officials are visited and handed sealed envelopes. To increase profits, gas station attendants mix fuel with water, defrauding innocent customers; landowners and chiefs who are custodians of lands in Ghana repeatedly sell the same piece of land; and media professionals who are expected to expose corrupt practices accept "soiree" (payments) before deciding whether to air a story. Even in the church, those who contribute the most have a voice in positions and preaching.

I am not defending public officials who accept bribes since everyone is responsible for this societal scourge. This is because even young children are implicated in bribery. Some may think this writer is insane for making such a remark. When our children are unhappy with us, we don't hesitate to promise or give them things to encourage them to behave well. When we keep our word, they expect to get a present whenever they are unhappy before they will be at peace with us. Are we not bribing them to do what we expect them to do? Can't we, as parents, shower our children with presents on our own will rather than on condition?

In the current economic climate, the Ghanaian system has rendered it incredibly difficult for people with low incomes to live comfortably. Ordinary residents rely on law enforcement personnel for protection and safety. Still, regrettably, they (officers) demand payment before providing any help to those in need. Lawbreakers may avoid legal consequences by bribing their way out. Political leaders steal and distribute public funds to their families and cronies. I occasionally agree with those who argue that politicians are the primary source of systemic corruption because, as leaders, they do not set good examples for citizens to follow. Ghanaian religious leaders have failed to show why they should be considered representatives of God/Allah. Hence, they must set positive examples for others to follow but they do the opposite. Most religious leaders charge exorbitant fees for consultations despite Christ and Mohammed not charging anything for the services they provided to humanity.

How do bribes get paid?
As indicated in the preceding paragraph, children take bribes, but governmental and private sector authorities do it more. A bribe may be paid to a public official by a direct or indirect request from the public official to the service user, including a request through a third party or an offer made by the bribe-payers themselves. Another technique to pay a bribe is to express gratitude in the form of a present from a bribe-payer to a public official. Approximately two-thirds of all bribes are paid before the service is performed. Such a substantial portion of bribes are settled before a service indicates that payments to public officials are often anticipated in Ghana. It also emphasizes public officials' negotiating power since their relative authority allows them to demand money in return for the promise of delivering a public service that should have been supplied upon request and, on occasion, even free of charge.

Factors that encourage corruption
Politicians are one of the primary drivers of corruption in Ghana. Politicians seeking jobs in Ghana's Parliament who finance their own campaigns contribute to political corruption. This statement is based on the reality that affluent politicians who fund their own campaigns have stakes. At the same time, those who are supported by wealthy donors become their proxies once elected. This has created an ideal environment for government corruption. In Ghana, for example, the need to address constituents' social and economic conditions drives Members of Parliament to seek alternative illicit methods of obtaining extra monies. This technique invites political corruption.

Another aspect that promotes corruption is the inability of the state to pursue those caught up in the web of corruption. People who serve as whistleblowers or reveal corrupt activities are sometimes required to give proof. When whistleblowers feel dissatisfied, they opt to remain silent and enable wrongdoing to continue in the institutions where they work. Offenders who are unlucky enough to be punished are handled with child gloves, so the penalty meted out is ineffective in deterring others. In Ghana, the slow judicial process encourages corruption. Courts in Ghana need to process matters on time. Swift procedures have a higher exemplifying impact than those in which the offense is practically forgotten by the time the judgment is delivered. Justice necessitates appeals and warranties, but not at the expense of dragging down the administration of justice.

Furthermore, Ghanaians minimize or dismiss corruption allegations. In Ghana, organizations have minimal authority to prosecute acts of corruption in order to set a good example. This creates a climate that encourages corruption. Aside from that, there is the need for more openness, particularly at the institutional level. People are not frightened to participate in corrupt acts since they know that everything they do is unknown to others. However, suppose individuals know their actions are being watched by everyone, they are less likely to participate in unlawful activities like corruption.

Some devastating effects of corruption

Corruption significantly impedes democracy and the rule of law. On the economic front, It depletes national resources. It is often held accountable for allocating scarce public funds to high-profile programs with minimal socioeconomic impact. The most major adverse effect of corruption is on the social fabric of society. It weakens people's trust in the political system, institutions, and leadership. It breeds public disenchantment and widespread apathy, resulting in a weak civil society.

Corruption may also be detrimental to democratic stability and social fairness. For example, it is one reason for the recent military coup in Guinea. Corruption was also a significant cause of previous coups in Ghana, which disturbed democratic rule.

How Can Ghana Fight Corruption?
Fighting corruption in Ghana entails a variety of activities. To properly battle corruption in Ghana, citizens must be honest with ourselves and Mother Ghana. Leaders must, without a doubt, behave honestly. As regular people, must also review their beliefs and habits. They must begin by fostering uprightness, honesty, and patriotism in their children as early as elementary school and investigating corruption cases. Little doubt, politicians and public officials need a refresher course in ethical leadership. Ghanaian political leaders or rulers must be transformative leaders, not just rulers.

It is also critical that the nation enhance its institutions and the rule of law. This will include enacting and executing anti-corruption legislation and establishing solid and independent institutions such as the court and the media. Transparency and accountability must also be promoted. Making government information more available to the public and making government officials accountable for their actions.

Finally, people must be empowered to speak out against corruption. This would entail boosting corruption awareness and providing individuals with the tools and resources to denounce corruption and hold corrupt officials responsible for their actions.

Dr. Kwame Aduhene-Kwarteng (Castro)