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28.10.2005 General News

Corruption is systemic, but ....

By Statesman
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... NPP is better - two surveys show Statesman, Oct. 26 -- A CRITICAL analysis of two internationally recognised surveys conducted in Ghana this year shows the country continues to struggle with the inherent corruption President Kufour so ardently promised to stamp out.

The recent publication of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index has been well documented in the media, and the President and his administration lambasted for Ghana's falling rating. However, the results of a survey conducted by independent non-partisan unit Afrobarometer suggest that whilst most Ghanaians recognise widespread corruption and believe it to be on the increase, they are not concerned enough to let it colour their voting behaviour.

Rather, most Ghanaians see corruption as an institutional problem, and not one that is specific to the current Government. A majority of people, surveyed in March this year, still said they would vote for the New Patriotic Party if elections were held the next day.

Although the survey indicated increased levels of perceived corruption across all public agencies, it seems continuing corruption would not have a significant impact on voting patterns; perhaps this explains why, when questioned in the same survey about the most pressing problems the government needs to tackle, less than one percent of respondents listed corruption as a top priority.

Instead, over one third of people cited unemployment as the country's most critical problem, whilst education and health came in second and third place with 15 and 14 percent respectively

Overall, it would appear most Ghanaians are content to wait for change where corruption is concerned; an excuse for the government to also take its time, perhaps. Nearly four in five Ghanaians believe the current system of elected government should be given more time to address inherent problems in the system, according to survey responses; despite their overwhelming perception that some of these problems have actually increased in the last few years. According to the Afrobarometer survey, which polled a representative sample of 1200 Ghanaians, the police in Ghana is seen as the most corrupt institution, whilst, with the exception of the education sector, the President and his office staff are seen as the least corrupt public body.

However, there are signs of change, with 56 percent of people now believing there is corruption in the presidential office, compared to just 38 percent in 2002 – the sharpest increase in any sector, although approval ratings of the way the President is doing his job have increased from 74 percent in 2002 to 76 percent this year, and 52 percent of respondents said they would vote for the governing party if elections were held the next day.

81 percent of those surveyed believe the police are corrupt. The judiciary is also mistrusted in Ghana, it showed, with 72 percent of people perceiving corruption amongst judges and magistrates, and 71 percent of participants saying they believe there to be corruption amongst tax officials. Perceived corruption amongst national Government officials has increased from 62 percent in 2002 to 67 percent now, and corruption amongst MPs is supposed by 59 percent of participants in 2005, a rise of 7 percent in the last three years. Afrobarometer polled 1200 Ghanaians in March 2005 to reach its conclusions, in a sample selected randomly from all ten regions of the country without regard to income, ethnic group, religion or party affiliation. Similar surveys were conducted in Ghana in 1999 and 2002.

It says the sample size should be sufficient to produce data with a confidence level of 97 percent, representative of the adult population of the country. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, on the other hand, is put together by business people, academics and risk analysts, both resident and non-resident, and is thus not representative of perceptions of the general population. The results were compiled from the findings of eight separate surveys, five of which were conducted this year.

“Ghana's data sources can therefore be said to be highly up-to-date,” contended Daniel Batidam, Executive Secretary of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, local chapter of Transparency International. Speaking at the launch of the report, he said the results should still be taken seriously by Government since it would greatly enhance investment and development of the country.

Published last week, its results are largely corroborated by the Afrobarometer findings anyway – a combination of the two damning reports has rightfully spurred a number of damning media reports in Government's failure to crush corruption as promised.

The index echoes Afrobarometer's earlier indication that the country is slipping in the wrong direction, moving from a rating of 3.6 out of 10 in 2004 to 3.5 now, and coming in at 65 out of the 159 countries ranked. The score of 3.5 is exactly the same mark it achieved in 2000 in its final year under National Democratic Congress governance.

However, Afrobarometer's scientific findings more clearly highlighted the disparity between corruption perception across various different sectors and particular problem areas. It showed the urgent need for directive efforts to reform these specific areas, most notably the police and judiciary. Although confidence in the President's office is still high, the leap in perception of corruption there it revealed should also serve as a wake-up call.

Meanwhile, Mr Batidam has called on Government to act upon the broad decline in standards as a matter of urgency, and in particular to review the Public Procurement Bill (Act 663). He said the Act as it is now “does not have the capacity to be the panacea to fighting corruption.” He said it contained a number of weaknesses, such as a lack of clear-cut monitoring mechanisms. Batidam also called for the revision and strengthening of the public office holder asset declaration regime, and for improvements to the parliamentary vetting process to make it more rigorous and effective. The Freedom of Information Act will also facilitate public access to information, he said.

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