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07.06.2009 Feature Article

Ghana Police, CHRAJ, SFO, and Institutional Corruption!

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……It is high noon for crime and justice in Ghana. Begin the anti-corruption fight by reforming the Ghana Police Service. Begin and complete the “radical reform” that was executed by the NPP only in words…DISBAND the SFO and integrate personnel into the Ghana Police Service…Above all, increase significantly resources committed to the Service….And if it the case that the NDC administration has slashed the police budget, we must all tell Prof Mills that he has the wrong priorities…. Also, does Prof Mills think that Ghana will go under if there are hundreds of Mrs. Elizabeth Mills Robertsons in the Ghana Police Service?.... Why can't we begin to make it very unattractive for a policeMAN to take a bribe?....(Prof Lungu, 28 May, 2009)

In a recent piece on corruption in the public sector, Mr. Vitus Azeem of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) identified “lack of an unwavering determination by our political leadership to tackle corruption…weak systems…lack of checks and balances…(and)…a general state of moral decadence” as factors at bottom, (Ghanaweb, 24 May 09).

As many would expect, Prof Lungu will quickly eliminate “moral decadence” from the corruption equation if only because that is not an intellectually sound way to look at the problem, if our intent is to argue that Ghanaians are in a “state of moral decadence,” as Mr. Azeem did. Point is, no school of public administration worth its name would advocate solving public-centered problems by moralizing and under-playing the legal. And if we were to start arguing that all Ghanaians are morally decadent, where would that get us?

We agree that beyond talk, the Mills administration has up to date not provided a grand presidential strategy to address the terrible corruption canker even though his administration has had many opportunities to provide an over-aching policy. Consider that up till now, the people do not know where Prof Mills stands on the ex-gratia awards and the contrived, self-serving “Constitutional” provision that promotes that type of abuse of the public purse. Meanwhile, Mr. Alban Bagbin is crying foul and asking that all MPs receive brand new cars regardless of cost, that Mr. Sekyi-Hughes can simply return the appliances and furnishings he illegally removed from the public housing unit. Not to be outdone, Vice President John Mahama had nothing new to say the other day, just that “…the current crime wave needed a well equipped, efficient and highly motivated police service to act professionally…” Just jive talk and no demonstrated commitment of resources, no prioritization of a workable action plan.

Integrity conquers corruption! Like Mr. Azeem, we also agree that lack of integrity in public sector organizations is a result of the absence of workable checks and balances which are at bottom of what we all see as symptoms of corruption - lack of accountability/transparency, bribery, nepotism, abuse and theft of public resources, etc. As part of the solution, Mr. Azeem proposed giving more power to the Council on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

We think that the record does not support giving more power to CHRAJ and the SFO. CHRAJ and SFO are today anaemic in their operations, reporting, and public outreach. More power is the wrong tactic - that approach does not address the “checks and balance” and “weak systems” deficiencies. Consider that the SFO is under the Attorney General's office and Prof Mills has yet to address the Attorney General/Ministry of Justice “wart” of administration/Constitutional conundrum.

ITEM: CHRAJ and the SFO are not transparent, accountable, or responsive agencies. If you are doubtful visit CHRAJ's website and tell us the last time CHRAJ published an annual report. Fact is, if annual reports are unavailable online where it is the cheapest to publish, how do you convince Joe/Esi Ghanaba that CHJRAJ is responsible and accountable, and deserves more power? Further, CHRAJ has failed to advance an approach to addressing Wood's infamous ruling that bars CHRAJ from filing a case against any person if the complaint originates from the media. CHRAJ cannot tell us this failure is due to “lack of resources.”

And the SFO? Try GOOGLING. You will come out empty-handed, except for a thread from the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition. But the SFO is supposed to be “the” economic-crime-fighter. How does the SFO “fight economic crime through coordination…and interaction,” by pusing pens and pencils? Why must SFO contact information, achievements, programs, etc., be totally invisible to persons in Paga, Kumasi, Bolgatanga, Ho, Agona, Sunyani, London, Tokyo, Washington, DC., etc. What is an individual to do if they have “serious” information about economic crime committed against Ghana? How do we propose prosecutorial powers for the SFO when it is under the Attorney General of Ghana?

But there is a more fundamental problem with SFO: the theory behind its establishment is flawed. No serious government, the executive that is, ought to be in the business of determining that this and that fraud is serious or mild. After all, we would expect that little frauds by one individual ultimately result in serious frauds. We would also expect that a collection of “mild” economic crimes by many individuals have the same outcome. Imagine all the reports about politicians pilfering appliances, furnishing, and other property. Then add all manner of electorally-defeated former officials illegally keeping hundreds of vehicles? Where does the SFO in all of this? Or must we say that all those offenses are not serious enough for the SFO act?

Here is the funny thing: Many of the important activities CHRAJ and the SFO are not doing can be performed by student-interns and many of the thousands of unemployed former students. These tasks include creating and updating websites, collecting and filing reports from the regions, gathering emails, answering telephone calls, doing research that informs the agencies, replying to emails, etc. So why don't they?

We agree with Mr. Azeem, though, that perhaps with the exception of the Freedom of Information law, there are enough laws on the books (Public Procurement Act, Financial Administration Act, Internal Audit Agency Act, Whistleblower Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Assets Declaration law, etc.), to seriously reduce the incidence of corruption and nepotism in Ghana through enforcement of those laws, if there was political commitment.

We are arguing here that it is high noon for crime and justice in Ghana. Begin the anti-corruption fight by reforming the Ghana Police Service. Begin and complete the “radical reform” that was executed by the NPP only in words. Quickly remove all tainted officials from their posts: the Kofi Boakyes, Peter Bondorins, Abangas, Kofi Dansos, Adei-Acheampongs, Daniel Nyarkos, Dwamena Yabsons, Yaw Amoahs. Swiftly send cases to court and implement decisions with haste. A compromised policeMAN in Ghana should not write their own exit tickets. Then give us a 1000 Mills Robertsons!

DISBAND the SFO and integrate personnel from that outfit into the Ghana Police Service. Strengthen the Polices Service by employing civilians with specialized skills (accountants, lawyers, scientists, planners, sociologists, geographers, mathematicians, economist, sociologists, etc.), into the Ghana Police Service. You need a force on the streets, but you need service providers to support professional policing and law enforcement.

Above all, increase significantly resources committed to the Ghana Police Service. If it is the case that the current NDC administration has slashed the police budget, we must ask Prof Mills to re-orient his priorities. It would be wrong. How, after all, does Mills expect the law enforcement to perform according to its mandate when reliable transportation is nonexistent, when there is no gasoline for police vehicles, when there are no police radios? How do you maintain integrity of personnel and promote professionalism when pay is at bottom for the ranks and file?

Finally, how about setting up an independently-financed, independently-constituted police watch-dog council, of distinguished and self-supported persons from each region who will “police the police” and help remove all these conflicts of interest? How about making sure to link the Freedom of Information laws to the Asset Declaration law so that the people themselves have the capacity to vet information provided by officials about what assets they have, where, when, and how they acquired them?

And oh, how about making sure that no public agency reports any news, incident, or activity to the people/media without at the same time telling everyone on what website that same information can be found? How about that for a grand communications policy for all of Ghana's public agencies? Is that so hard to do in 2009 when the government can afford $80,000 cars in multiples for a few privileged individuals?

NOTES: 1. We disagree with GII and the Right to Information Coalition of Ghana. NDC will fail Ghana if they pass an NPP “Right to Information” bill. We think that (1) this public interest bill is better titled “Freedom of Information” Bill, (2) an independent commissioner elected by the people is the way to go, (3) all government agencies, including the military services and the chieftaincy institution ought to be brought under the FOI bill/law, and (4) no agency should withhold information by claiming simply that the information is going to be published in the future.

2. “Ghana-centered” and “Ghana-centeredness” are distinctive Trademarks associated with “Prof Lungu and www.GhanaHero.com.” Visit us and read about our Ghana-centered agenda. Visit us at www.GhanaHero.com

© 1 June 2009, Prof Lungu, Tokyo, Japan.

Professor N. Lungu
Professor N. Lungu, © 2009

The author has 183 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: ProfLungu

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