AN article by Appiah Kusi Adomako posted on the website of the Ghanaian Chronicle yesterday read in part: “The seriousness of the corruption situation in Ghana is that the very institution that is supposed to keep the flames of transparency and integrity high and kindling cannot boast of clean hands. For example when the police mount a barrier in the morning on the roads in the city, they do not necessarily do it in the interest of the public. For some of them, they are doing an exercise in self-financial recovery, extorting monies from commercial drivers. Are we saying that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is not aware of what the men-in-black are doing? … The danger here is that Ghanaians' tolerance for corruption is very high in a sense that most people see corruption as a normal way of life. Those who want to stand against corruption in every facet of life are branded as maladjusted or too-known.”
The ruling party is fighting two joint battles: corruption and the perception of corruption. The perception of corruption is indicative of the fact that corruption is indeed massive. But, there is something else. According to the last Afrobarometer, the perception of corruption against government officials and state institutions has indeed risen since the previous survey. This does not necessarily mean that corruption has risen. It could easily mean two things: Firstly, that transparency and probity have heightened, which could explain why the detection and exposure rate has also gone up. Secondly, it could also mean that Government is failing to deal effectively with opposition propaganda that it is more corrupt.
If the first, the Government has made the first important step towards combating corruption, as promised by President Kufuor in his 2000 'zero tolerance' election pledge. However, exposing its own shortcomings but failing to address them promptly and effectively is a shortcoming in itself; and whilst the majority of people may still vote for the New Patriotic Party if elections were held tomorrow, as 52 percent of respondents replied they would in the March 2005 survey, this is not an approval rating which the Government can take for granted.
Corruption is a problem but not a priority, is the attitude of the people: for Government, it needs to be made a top priority now. Whilst issues like unemployment, education and health are currently seen as more pressing problems, tackling corruption could be a vital first phase in improving these other sectors.
Just last week a stretch of road was tarred at East Legon. Two days after, there were holes in the road. Only corruption would allow such a contractor to get away with such shoddy work. Corruption within the road sector, where over a billion dollars have been spent in the last four years alone is worryingly massive.
Beyond that, corruption in the healthcare and education sectors is perceived as high, the survey revealed – and Ghana cannot afford to pour valuable scarce resources, earmarked for development of these areas, into the pockets of its officials instead.
Ghanaians may have expressed a resounding faith in the democratic process and a commitment to sticking by an elected government which needs more time to deal with systemic and inherited problems – and these were undeniably many. But an increased perception of corruption will also lead to logical deductions that problems are not just inherited and inherent to the system, but a feature of the new government itself, unless the NPP takes more seriously its promise to stamp out corruption from the top and starts doing so immediately.
Whilst the President has been lambasted with criticism for this apparent failure to deliver on a vital election pledge, very little of it has been constructive. However, the Afrobarometer report highlights a number of specific areas which need to be addressed: and the police force, the judiciary and tax officials, perceived as particularly corrupt, would make a good start. The presidential office may still be seen as one of the most transparent public agencies, but the 18 percent leap in perceived corruption there should also be ringing alarm bells. It is not enough to be more honest and open about where change needs to be: unless that change is also being made and made public.