HARONA Esseku's reported allegations that the Castle controls funds which ought to be controlled by the ruling party have been heralded in some quarters as scandalous and incontrovertible proof of corruption at the highest level – with some even going so far as to call for the President's impeachment.
Yet, as one columnist argues in The Statesman today, many of the issues brought to light by this latest 'scandal' also reveal a positive policy of inclusion which Government opponents would rather was kept quiet – albeit whilst revealing lamentable weaknesses in the essential mechanisms of the ruling New Patriotic Party and the ability of Esseku as its National Chairman.
The governing party has failed to follow the example of its National Democratic Congress predecessor in favouring its members. As the disgruntled party bigwig complained in a taped interview with The Enquirer, big jobs are still going to NDC contractors and strangers to the party tradition; the party is not engaging in enough cronyism.
“The scandal is more to do with the grievance of NPP supporters not benefitting enough from power,” our columnist argues.
“The fact that the biggest criticism of the Kufuor administration and the governing party coming from supporters is that they feel neglected should count for something. It shows that party activists have been disappointed. They had expected to be generous beneficiaries of cronyism and jobbery and this has not happened.”
Mr Esseku is reported to have said that ministers of the government chose to award contracts to NDC contractors and avoided those of the ruling party, because of the fear of being exposed for taking kickbacks – that is, illegal commission – on the contracts.
And Daniel Batidam of Ghana Integrity Initiative, a local chapter of the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, has certainly interpreted this latest 'scandal' as a sign of corruption in our country.
In Transparency International's recently published annual Corruption Perception Index, Ghana slipped from a score of 3.6 to 3.5 out of 10, coming in at 65 out of the 159 countries ranked. In October when the results were released, Mr Batidam, the Executive Secretary of GII, called on Government to act upon the broad decline in standards as a matter of urgency, and he has issued another such appeal now.
Claiming to have heard the recorded tape of Mr Esseku's interview with Raymond Archer, Editor-in-Chief of The Enquirer, Batidam said that the onus now lies with the party chairman to prove the allegations false.
Yet there is no proof that such 'kickbacks' were taken at all, and there is no law to prevent any party chairman from seeking out from ministers award winners of contracts and approaching them for contributions; it is a standard although perhaps regrettable practice the world over.
Rather, what Qanawu Gabby argues in his column, Pulling No Punches today, is that the NPP's national chairman has only exposed the stark difference between the NPP today and the NDC during the Rawlings regime. The open policy of the New Patriotic Party, which does not specify to whom contracts should be granted, acts in stark contrast to the covert cronyism associated with the NDC government, which had a policy of awarding at least 10 percent of all government contracts to party members. This allegation by Harona Esseku is yet to be denied by the NDC.
NPP members are unhappy with their lot as the ruling party government has failed to favour its friends, is what Qawanu argues in this paper today. Indeed, this feeling of neglect is central to the feeling of discontent among party members.
In a taped interview with the Editor-in-Chief of The Enquirer, Raymond Archer, Mr Esseku is alleged to have said: “From the beginning I realised that there is some fear we had put in the ministers. The first thing the president said was zero tolerance for corruption. They believed that it was going to be enforced. So, the ministers felt that if they worked with party people they could not take bribes from them because as a party man he would expose the minister.” In a related development, The Statesman can reveal that the Sam Okudzeto-led Disciplinary Committee has started its inquiry into the allegations that the National Chairman made a series of campaign allegations that the Castle was controlling the disbursement of funds meant for the party. The allegations, which have been described as at best indiscreet, were made when he met party members in several areas, including Asamankese (where the alleged recorded report for The Enquirer took place), Koforidua, and others.
In Asamankese, it is said his revelation was so emotional that it brought tears into his eyes and that of sympathisers. Mr Esseku, according to party analysts, was woefully behind in his bid to retain his chairmanship position. “But, since he started bashing the Castle and blaming the President for his own failures as party chairman, his campaign picked up, winning him needed sympathy,” one insider disclosed.
Some party analysts The Statesman spoke to dismissed the allegations as nothing but a convenient political strategy of indiscretion. One said, “He has said it so many times. So this shouldn't have come as any news, really.”