Corruption in Ghana Poses Existential Threat to the Nation
In this article, I argue that the impact of corruption on Ghana’s economy, political stability, national security, the justice system and national reputation makes corruption dangerous than terrorism, climate change, piracy, human trafficking, weapons proliferation and other security threats currently facing the country. Therefore, the fight against corruption should be made a national security priority.
Corruption in Ghana is more dangerous and cunning than terrorism, which currently threatens Ghana and has already overwhelmed Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Kenya, Somalia, Tunisia, and Egypt. This is because corruption corrodes society to its core; it erodes trust, honesty, good societal values, and builds mistrust and suspicion among a country’s population. To quote Dr. Kwesi Aning, corruption and its proceeds “undermine the state, through weakening its institutions, its local communities, and its social fabric”. Because corruption is parasitic in nature, it erodes the ability of the state to develop economically, transform itself socially and culturally, and move forward politically. It seriously undermines a country’s security and hence its ability to protect and defend itself against her enemies.
Corruption and the Economy
Economically, corruption is impeding Ghana’s investment attractiveness and economic performance. For some time now, the World Bank through its ‘Ease of Doing Business’ project annually ranks countries based on how easy it is to do business in the country. Corruption or what the the Bank calls “informal payments to public officials” is one of the set of factors the Bank uses in ranking countries. According to the Bank, Ghana comes on top as one of the countries in the world where the percentage of informal payments made to public officials is very high. Due to the high level of informal payments, Ghana ranks high as one of the countries in the world where businesses feel very reluctant to invest their money. In 2014, out of the 189 countries the World Bank compiled, Ghana came 112th as the best place to do business. In 2015, Ghana’s position got worse, it ranked 114th out of 189 countries. Although the 2014 and 2015 performances are better than 2011, 2012, and 2013 where Ghana respectively ranked 128th, 124th, and 127th, the ranking shows that corruption is having a serious negative impact on the health of Ghana’s economy (1). It particularly increases cost of doing business in Ghana helping to decrease investor confidence and undermining Ghana’s attractiveness to foreign and local investors. In hard, practical language, corruption deters investors. It makes it expensive and unattractive to produce goods and services in Ghana. It also makes goods and services imported into the country very expensive. Producers, importers, and traders end up passing on the money they pay as bribes to consumers, making such goods and services expensive, luxury and beyond the reach of many Ghanaians.
In Ghana, corruption is partly responsible for the rising levels of unemployment, inequality, deprivation and poverty. Corruption scandals like the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Agency (GYEEDA), SADA, SUBAH, and the Metro Mass Transport rebranding, transfer money meant for the development of the nation into the pockets of few groups and individuals to the detriment of the entire society. Like the AMERI deal, which cost Ghana $510 million instead of $220 million, corruption allows the state to pay more for goods and services that can be obtained at far cheaper price. There is no doubt the extra $290 million used to buy the ten turbines could have been used to develop the country’s other infrastructures such as roads, schools, hospitals or buy additional ten turbines to improve the embarrassing state of electricity generation and distribution in the country. Corruption therefore is not only undermining the building, and smooth functioning of key socio-economic infrastructures that serve as the engine of the economy including oil and gas pipelines, oil refineries, roads, bridges, railways, electricity, harbours, airports, and telecommunications), but is partly responsible for the inadequate as well as the poor state of socio-economic infrastructures in the country.
Corrupt practices by Customs and Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) officials allow importers, exporters, mining firms and other businesses and individuals to defraud the state to the tune of billions of cedis. Businesses and multinational corporations in particular have been able to avoid paying taxes because of the activities of corrupt public officials and civil servants. Individuals and businesses have been able to hide their money in foreign banks without paying taxes and without being caught. This behaviour has forced the government to borrow to finance development projects effectively increasing the national debt to 70.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The debt incurred as a result of borrowing puts pressure on public finances. Poor Ghanaians who do not usually benefit from the borrowed money end up paying for it through cuts in public spending on health, education, water, housing, sanitation, electricity, transportation and other public services. Because of corruption, businesses particularly those in the extractive sector (oil and mining) are able to break state environmental laws with impunity. Corruption simply makes a country poor and underdeveloped.
Corruption and Political Stability
Politically, corruption can dangerously destroy a country's democracy and lead to protracted political instability. Excessive corruption among politicians is often cited as a justification by the military to take over power. Ex-president Rawlings for instance cited corruption as one of his reasons when he staged his coups in the 1970s and 1980s. While elections especially in developing countries increase political tension in a country, in Ghana corrupt practices such as vote buying, using macho men to disrupt elections, allowing foreign nationals to vote and playing one tribe against another are likely to increase the tempo of violence and post-election conflict.
When corruption is fused with unemployment, it can generate serious unpredictable political outcomes. Since 2010, the countries in North African have been thrown into a state of anarchy, violence, instability, and insecurity. Several governments in the region have fallen and the future of the region is seriously uncertain. It all started with endemic police corruption in Tunisia and the immolation of Mr. Mohamed Bouzizi, a 26 year old street vendor. Reports indicate Mr. Bouzizi suffered extortion from the police. He had his wares routinely confiscated by the police who hoped to extort money from him. In one instance, he protested but he got slapped by a female police officer. When he could not take any more of the extortion, and the abuse, he set himself on fire. His death galvanised the population against the corrupt Ben Ali government and the seeds of what has become known as the Arab Spring were sown. The uprising in Tunisia spread like wildfire devouring the governments of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and setting the entire Middle East and North Africa aflame. As I write, the countries in the region have become a haven for Al Qaeda and ISIL terrorists. Currently, there are about 3000 ISIL fighters in Libya killing and pillaging the country. They have even managed to recruit some Ghanaians to pursue their strategic objective to theocratically rule the world. On another level, corruption breeds cronyism and undermines accountable governance. People who do not deserve or are not qualified to occupy certain offices get to do so.
Corruption and State Security
Corruption undermines a country's security. It breeds terrorists and terrorism. One of the Ghanaians (Nazir Nortei Alema, the 25-year-old graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), who joined the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2015 cited corruption in Ghana as one of his reasons for joining the group. Corruption allows terrorists, cyber criminals and other enemies of the state to infiltrate key state institutions such as the military, police, immigration, and the customs. Corruption particularly in the military undermines morale and the ability of the armed forces to fight. In Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to dominate North-eastern Nigeria and the threat the group poses to Nigeria and West and Central African regions persists because junior soldiers would not fight them. They would not fight the terrorists because corrupt senior officers pocketed their salaries, and used the military’s budget for personal gain.
Ghana is awash with cocaine, heroin, and guns because the criminals have been able to buy airport, harbour, immigration, police and other officials of the security establishment. There is also rampant armed robbery in the country because of co-operation between the robbers and some agents of the state. This immoral relationship between officials and the actors of the criminal underworld makes it difficult for the state to fight organised crime. It strengthens the hands of criminals against the state and its security establishment. It particularly weakens institutions of the state and makes it easy for terrorists, drug lords, illegal weapons traders, pirates, human traffickers, and armed robbers to operate their parallel economy in the country without fear of reprisals from the state.
Corruption allows enemies of the state to exploit the country and opens the country to all kinds of attacks. Particularly, it allows unfriendly foreign governments, their spy and intelligence agencies to scheme against the state and undermines its interests and its ability to protect and defend herself. For example, hackers, intelligence agencies, corporations and other entities can easily steal state secretes and gain access to sensitive national information by bribing corrupt officials. Corruption creates a broken glass syndrome. It creates the feeling that no one cares about the country, a situation that allows the vultures of impunity to carry out their illegal activities against the state.
Corruption, Justice and National Reputation
Corruption undermines a country's justice system. As has been shown by Anas Aremeyaw Anas in his recent investigation of the judiciary, corruption allows murderers, armed robbers, cocaine dealers, weapons traffickers, rapists, and paedophiles to escape punishment while the innocent is punished and thrown into jail. Hard core criminals including drug barons, terrorists, pirates, illegal weapons traders, hackers, human traffickers, become untouchable. It allows companies with no track record to secure contracts and do shoddy work without prosecution. Corruption makes a country to suffer serious irreparable reputational damage internationally. This makes the world to lose trust and confidence in the country's citizens, its economy, and its business community. For example because of 419 and other internet scams, Australian, European, and American citizens are warned to be extra careful when conducting business in Ghana and in Nigeria. Some Nigerians I know have told me they have to hide their passports when traveling abroad. European and American immigration officials seriously scrutinise Nigerians and Ghanaians trying to enter their countries because of the suspicion that they may be carrying drugs. Such reputational damage is too difficult to repair.
What we do?
Therefore, corruption in Ghana should be treated like terrorism and fought like how the Russians, Americans and the British are fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. To do so there must be political will. There cannot be victory over corruption without political will. The buck stops with Parliament, Judiciary, and the Executive branches of government. They should make the fight against corruption a top priority. Politicians and political parties must scrutinise their officials before appointing them to any office. The media should perform its role as the fourth arm of government by educating the public, diligently conducting investigations, and making sure corrupt deals are brought to the public domain.
Corruption should be included in national risk plans and be treated in the same way as terrorism, insurgency, climate change, and other traditional and non-traditional security threats. Specialised corruption institutions such as EOCO should be established and be granted with more powers. Besides, the police, Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), NACOB, and other corruption and crime-fighting institutions must be totally independent with powers to prosecute without having to go the president for approval. Banks and financial companies must be brought on board to fight corruption. They should carry out due diligence and report suspicious transactions to the security apparatuses of the state for prompt action.
Education about the dangers of corruption should be taught at all levels of schools so as to build a culture which frown on corruption. Schools should also be tasked to teach ethics and patriotism as well as the dangers of cronyism and favouritism. Academics, universities, and higher institutions of learning should conduct research into the causes and solutions of corruption and share their work the Ghanaian public. Civil society groups and the creative industries should highlight the dangers of corruption in their work especially how it undermines the integrity of Ghana.
Since dishonesty and unfair treatment of family members sow the seeds of corruption, families must be encouraged to adopt fairness, honesty, when dealing with kids, wives, husbands, and other members of the family.
By Lord Aikins Adusei, E-mail: [email protected]
(1) World Bank (2015) ‘Ease of doing business index’ Ease of doing business index (1=most business-friendly regulations) Ease of doing business ranks economies from 1 to 189, with first place being the best. A high ranking (a low numerical rank) means that the regulatory environment is conducive to business operation. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IC.BUS.EASE.XQ