18.04.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Can Kufuor Bell The Cat Of Public Corruption?

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“… And bowing out leave footsteps on the sands of time.” – Shakespeare. Yes, man has always appreciated the need for him to leave a legacy for posterity at the end of his sojourn on earth or in any special place he occupies like the Presidency of Ghana.

And President John Agyekum Kufuor's predecessors in office as heads of state and prime minister have acquitted themselves well in this regard.

Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah's legacies include the Aksombo Dam, the Tema Harbour and Township, the Accra-Tema Motorway, to mention just the most prominent.

Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, who was permitted only a miserly 27 months in power, is fondly remembered for his integrated rural development strategy.

Immediate past president Dr Jerry John Rawlings, the longest serving so far, has to his credit the stabilisation of democratic transition from one government to the other without military intervention, a feat never achieved in the country's turbulent political history until January 2001. He also pioneered accountability and integrity in government, even though some of his disciplines have been found wanting in that regard. However, if the concept had not been available, there would have been no basis to hold them accountable and in the process find them wanting.

That brings us to incumbent President Kufuor; what enduring legacy will he leave for 20 million Ghanaians and generations yet unborn at the end of eight years at the Castle as the MD/CEO of Corporate Ghana?

Some may quickly point to the presidential initiatives on cassava and other products or his ability to live out fully a term of office of four years without being sacked like his political godfather, Dr Busia.

But to us at Gye Nyame Concord, these are also-run achievements which every other person, coming into power when he did, could have also chalked up.

The presidential initiatives were the vehicle to achieving his desire to somersault Ghana's per capita income of about $350 to $1,000 at the end of his second term. That high ambition, from all indications, will remain a pipe dream for him. We wonder how the vehicle can be a star winner when the ultimate objective is still floundering?

To be fair President Kufuor, he has achieved substantial debt relief as a result of his courage and foresight in declaring for the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. But we do not think that is enough.

The National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) does not score either, as its potential to blacken the NDC was more than enough motivation to convoke it.

What we want of him is something that is more difficult to do because of the possible effect it would have on all politicians, be they NPP, NDC, CPP, PNC, NRP, GCPP, EGLE, whatever and not just a section of them. We expect him to do much, much more, to go the extra mile solely in the national interest.

We see a fine opportunity for him in this regard, one which will allow him to deal a more serious blow to the canker of corruption in government and identify him permanently as an anti-corruption crusader for all time.

This opportunity we see for President Kufuor arises out of the lecture given by Professor Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University in the US at the University of Cape Coast recently.

In the lecture entitled “Promoting Real Democratic Reforms in Africa”, Professor Diamond identified accountability, rule of law, transparency and education as “the key elements” in the promotion of good governance and true democracy in Africa.

According to him, with the exception of Botswana and Mauritius that have achieved real democratic reforms, which have culminated into economic growth most, countries on the continent are still facing difficulties in the area of good governance. This, he said, is because of the “absence of proper democratic structures and lack of transparency in governance', which has resulted in massive corruption.

He quoted the 2002 African Union (AU) report on corruption as revealing that about $140 million in donor funding were diverted into private accounts by state officials and that the theft accounted for the level of underdevelopment of most African countries. Professor Diamond said the fight against corruption and the need for proper accountability called for a well-resourced judiciary, which would have the power to prosecute corrupt officials and an independent Parliament, which does not take orders from the executive arm of government, irrespective of its numerical strength in the legislature.

Now, what is the learned professor from Stanford telling Ghanaians? Speaking in Ghana he could not find it within his heart to mention us alongside Botswana and Mauritius as the leading lights in real democratic reforms. This implies that we are among the large pack of African countries that are masquerading cosmetic democratic reforms and indulging in massive corruption. Ironic isn't it that after blazing the trail for independence in Africa we should be bringing up the rear in true democratic reforms?

Gye Nyame Concord will like to draw Mr President's attention to Professor Diamond's prescription for an effective fight against corruption – a well-resourced judiciary that has the power to prosecute corrupt officials and an independent Parliament that does not heed orders from the Executive arm.

As if giving the learned lecturer a status report, the Ghana Judicial Service in a recent statement said that it does not prosecute but merely adjudicates between parties in dispute and that the responsibility for prosecution is that of the Attorney-General.

Our A-G, however, doubles as the Minister of Justice, a political post that that many believe often beclouds his judgement in dealing with the criminal acts of political appointees.

Though Professor Diamond did not specifically mention it, what he had in mind was the Office of the Independent Prosecutor under the Judicial Service as obtains in Europe and the Americas. Recall the heat that Bob Starr put under the seat of President Bill Clinton over some Arkansas land issues that dated back to his days as governor?

We have a shadow of the Independent Prosecutor in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, which however is emasculated and subordinated to the political whims and caprices of the Minister of Justice.

The incumbent Attorney-General and Minister of Justice at his recent screening before Parliament alluded to the same need when he said in answer to a question that the Office of the Attorney-General can only be separated from that of the Minister of Justice by a constitutional amendment.

Now, this is President Kufuor's billion-dollar opportunity that the Gye Nyame Concord has been waxing lyrical about. He can easily write his name in gold in the sands of time, by spearheading an amendment to the relevant provisions of the 1992 Constitution to dissociate the DPP from the Office of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and upgrade it into the Office of the Independent Prosecutor (OOTIP).

This will bequeath to Ghanaians, from the John Agyekum Kufuor Administration, a judiciary that is properly empowered to prosecute the high and mighty. It is only such empowerment that would put the fear of God in light-fingered politicians who see public service as a shortcut to ill-gotten wealth and also meet an important part of the requirements of real democratic reforms.

We know that President Kufuor and his NPP do not hold a two-thirds majority in Parliament. But we believe strongly that this is one amendment that ex-President Rawlings and his NDC would readily and happily support.

The move to amend would convince them beyond reasonable doubt that the jailing of Peprah and Selormey went beyond the mere scoring of political points; that the true intention is to safeguard the resources of the country against pre-meditated and shamefaced pillage, no matter whose ox is gored.

Over to you, Mr President! Gye Nyame Concord believes you have what it takes to bell the official-corruption cat for all time and that you will not disappoint us.

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