Sat, 07 Dec 2013 Feature Article

Fighting corruption in Ghana: Who leads?

Fighting corruption in Ghana: Who leads?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Folks, there is so much public concern about corruption in Ghana as to make me wonder who at all can help us eradicate that vice from public service (not to talk about what happens in private).

No matter how one perceives issues, corruption is endemic and will continue to be so unless something drastically revolting happens to shake up the system and make it unattractive anymore. But when will such a moment dawn?

Over the years, public office has been turned into a goldmine of bribery and corruption to be exploited by those in authority who know where to go for it.

With the “professionalization” of politics in our 4th Republic, bribery and corruption have calcified and become so entrenched as to defy definition or eradication.

Many factors account for this deplorable situation:

1. Systemic weaknesses that have created loopholes to facilitate unethical behaviour in public office, leading to wanton manipulation of the system for personal gains;

2. Lack of clear-cut official policies on bribery and corruption and sanctions/penalties (We may have some official documents containing references to bribery and corruption, for instance, the code of conduct for the Ghana Police Service that frowns on bribe-taking or gift-taking by any police officer; the advice is that any police officer who receives any gift in the course of performing legitimate duty must forward it to the IGP; but to whom does the IGP forward any gift he receives?);

3. Lack of moral courage to expose bribery and corruption: Who is to bell the cat when almost everybody is guilty of taking bribes?

4. Ineffective state institutions to enforce any provision on bribery and corruption, especially when it involves notable public figures with political connections;

5. Massive apathy among the citizens, making bribery and corruption a given. Of course, the saying that “Everybody 'eats' from his workplace” seems to give a blanket blessing to the vice;

6. Negative influence of politics: In a system where everything has been politicized, any attempt to act against a culprit is quickly turned into a hot political issue to be fought on partisan political lines. Several instances have already occurred to confirm this negative happening;

7. Porous and ineffective Judiciary: Cases being prosecuted have dragged on for years, which is demoralizing. Who will expose any act of bribery/corruption, knowing very well that the case won't be tried expeditiously or that the Judiciary itself is corrupt and won't help solve the very problem being tackled?

8. Criminal conspiracy among public officials, especially those in charge of public morality who collude with alleged culprits to “kill” cases brought up against them. This happening frightens the conscientious citizens and they play it safe by keeping their mouths shut, which gives bribery/corruption a free rein to thrive;

9. Lack of any clear-cut official position on bribery/corruption: In our Ghanaian context where gift-giving or receiving is a norm, when does an act constitute bribery/corruption? It is not strange for people to grease the palms of government officials visiting them or whom they visit for one thing or the other. Indeed, it is not strange for people to “wet the ground” in pursuit of stated agenda. In that case, who is guilty of what?

10. Too many loopholes existing in the system pave the way for those walking the corridors of power to become corrupt overnight and to pass on the tricks to others. The award of contracts and the taking of kickbacks is a real avenue for corruption.

It is even known that part of the kickbacks goes into the coffers of particular political parties (especially those in government); the lid is blown only when too many people fight over such kickbacks (as Harona Esseku's case revealed).

The involvement of the political parties is widespread---from the lower levels to the national one, where everything is done to use official avenues to “grow” the parties through bribery and corruption regarding the award of contracts.

Over the years, the various governments knew the extent to which corruption had stained them; some attempted shifting blame as a way of solving the problem; others brushed aside the allegations; and some used cosmetic measures that didn't solve the problem. Others merely pulled the plugs to score cheap political points.

In Nkrumah's time, there was corruption. If you doubt it, just go back down the memory lane and you should come across evidence to persuade you that the canker has characterized Ghanaian public life for far too long.

Under the National Liberation Council of Ankrah/Afrifa, it was evident. In the Busia regime, no better; as for the Acheampong/Akufo governments, frightening!! Why did the term “Kalabule” emerge in Ghana?

Rawlings' AFRC used draconian measures to fight corruption, but only succeeded in opening people's eyes to the excesses. The fear instilled in the people vanished when Rawlings left the scene for Dr. Limann.

Rawlings returned with his PNDC and his Citizens Vetting Committee, the One-Man-One-House Committee, and many others that turned out to be instruments for vengeance and not for weeding out corruption. Or, to be fair to Rawlings, corruption had taken on new sophisticated twists and turns to reduce his efforts to absurdity. That is why even after metamorphosing into a civilian President for 8 years under the NDC administration, he couldn't understand why corruption is ineradicable from Ghana. He still cannot understand why!!

Even, some of those he had appointed to spearhead the fight against corruption fell victim to the vice. Major Adutu, Chairman of the Citizens Vetting Committee himself got caught up in the vice and suffered for it.

Don't even talk about the PV Obengs, Col. Osei Wusus, Ibrahim Adams, and Adjei Marfos who were found liable by the CHRAJ even though Rawlings labelled them as “men of integrity”.

You see, fighting corruption cannot be done sporadically. The entire system has to be overhauled and appropriate laws passed and enforced without let or hindrance or irrespective of personalities. Not when the law in Ghana is a respecter of persons!!

That takes us down to the Kufuor era, where Kufuor himself watered down everything by declaring that corruption had existed ever since the days of Adam!!

Of course, his declaration was made in a particular context, especially when he asked anybody who had evidence of corruption among his appointees to go to the police and that he won't act on media publications.

Be that context what it might, this diffident attitude toward fighting such a heinous canker demoralized many people and painted a very nasty picture of Kufuor. No wonder his gang of property-grabbers had a field day.

Atta Mills' particular strategy for fighting corruption wasn't clear. He seemed to have narrowed everything down to his own lifestyle, denying himself what his predecessors had enjoyed, in the mistaken belief that his exemplary conduct might influence others to live above reproach. A wasted effort!!

The entrenched immorality pertaining to the payment of judgement debts is one sore thumb depicting the Mills era!! Woyome, where are you?

Under President Mahama, there is much heated public interest in corruption, apparently because of the rot that has been exposed in the very initiatives that he made for national development. Talk about SADA, GYEEDA, Subah, etc. and you will come face-to-face with the frightening vice----verging more on stealing of public funds than bribery/corruption.

President Mahama is praised by some as instituting measures to fight the vice, especially with his causing an official investigation to be conducted into the GYEEDA affair. But not until the culprits are prosecuted, punished, and the stolen funds returned to government chest, he won't earn anybody's praise yet.

He is also being commended for establishing the Sole Judgement Debt Commission, which has been opening our eyes to the depth to which the canker has sunk. Frightening!!

But the overarching concerns can't be eliminated with ad hoc measures of the sort that has characterized government's attitude to bribery and corruption all these years.

There is need for radical systemic changes to punish bribery/corruption and make it unattractive forever and ever. The government has to make that move, supported by all the other institutions of state. The citizens must also come on board and be willing to expose the vice. They must not condone or connive with anybody to sustain this rot.

More importantly, there should be reward for those whose efforts expose corruption. Some motivation can help the conscientious citizens support the authorities in the fight against bribery/corruption. The laws must bite deep and those politicians who rashly attribute everything affecting them to witch-hunting must be exposed and punished.

There may be many other measures; but I will pause here for now. Is there anything particularly wrong with us in Ghana, which is why we will choose to encourage bribery and corruption instead of honesty in public service? Over to you, my good friends.

I shall return…

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