Anthony Charles Lynton Blair in an article preceding his premiership written for the New Statesman argued that "we should be tough on crime and tough on the underlying causes of crime," which became an iconic slogan for New Labour.
In my view if Ghanaians are to tackle political corruption effectively, we cannot do so without looking at the root causes of this unfortunate socio-political malaise.
Some of the main root causes are:
The conspicuous absence of a limit on the level of expenditure that a political party or candidate can spend to get elected; 2. The extensive prevalence of Vote buying at elections; 3. An absence of a well-structured system of party funding by Government which lends itself to the all-pervading practice of appointing party funders to Executive positions with little or no regard for raw talent and competence; and lastly 4. the lack of a limit to the number of times candidates can contest for elections. For example, ex-president John Mahama of the NDC can contest for any number of times and spend any amount of money to compete to run the country for another 4 years, for as long as his party permits him to do so; theoretically he may even continue to do so as an independent candidate every 4 years, until he successfully returns to power. The irony is that, under our ‘unwritten constitution’, it is the State that will pay for the wasted expense, if he succeeds.
Any attempt to add another layer of electioneering onto Ghana’s body politic without a critical look at the prevalence of the phenomenon of Vote Buying and the system of political party financing may be a significant step backwards in the fight against corruption in Ghana.
It will curiously worsen, instead of improve the country’s democratic space. Ghana’s elections, like in many parts of Africa, is bedevilled by the practice of Vote Buying despite extant laws expressly prohibiting the practice -Sections 33 to 35 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1992 (PNDC LAW 284). These provisions are honoured more in their breach than in their enforcement.
Admittedly, the current laws may require some seasoning and sprucing up to ensure every mischief and every form of such election misconduct is caught, however, the state’s failure to enforce the Law against downright and straightforward breaches is most unfortunate and unpardonable.
Vote Buying in Ghana has become so rampant that candidates openly admit doing it on official platforms. After the National Democratic Congress’ recent parliamentary primaries, several unsuccessful candidates bitterly bemoaned the effect Vote Buying had on their contest, suggesting they would otherwise have been successful. Some successful ones appeared not to realize they were clearly confessing to crimes when they admitted to treating voters to all manner of things prior to elections.
Politicians and a significant many voters in Ghana are neck deep in this corrupt practice of Vote Buying. In point of fact it is keenly expected during elections, which, to many, adds to the fanfare at Primaries and National Elections. Both politicians and voters don’t seem to butt an eyelid about the phenomenon. However, needless to say, the inevitable consequence of the practice is to make political contests, unduly expensive and to offer leadership to the highest bidder. It also means that victorious leaders are often saddled with party financiers who ought to be catered for in many and
diverse ways, ultimately, inimical to the state’s capacity to build a robust country able to feed all her people.
The victor in an election marred by Vote Buying takes it for granted that he is entitled to recover funds spent from the last election and to replenish funds and to stockpile for future political challenges. There is therefore no gainsaying the fact that Party financing has become unduly burdensome whilst providing the cunning politician with the rationale for some gut wrenching forms of political corruption.
Professor Lumumba said of his recent attempt at standing for elections: “I held 250 town hall meetings. I articulated solutions to our problems in my constituency. My opponent did not campaign at all. He gathered money and showed up one day to elections. He distributed money. He won. Africans are not moved by ideas. Their stomach leads them.”.
This attitudinal posture of the African electorate is thus perceived as unlikely to help them elect the most competent people for leadership at the local level.
Curiously no reputable treatise from politicians or academics in Ghana exist on the likely impact of Vote Buying on decentralization nor generally, on the likely impact of elections on local governance.
Decentralization in its fullness must empower the local people. The genuineness of the intentions of the ruling party in Ghana, to wit, to offer Ghanaians a chance to decide whether or not to elect DCE/MCE’s, cannot be questioned. However, it is said that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. Good intentions, they say, are not enough.
The fundamentals of Africa’s democracy are weakened by the monetization of the election process. Monetization emasculates the voter and enables the rich and affluent to either win elections or influence the victors at elections. Ghana is fast heading for a political class dominated by the rich who may even have doubtful competence and a dubious character as well as a huge appetite and propensity for inventing schemes to defraud an already struggling economy.
Needless to say, Decentralization by allowing locals to vote for MDCEs will be encumbered by the same difficulty that party primaries, parliamentary and presidential elections already suffer from. Monetization will render the local election process susceptible to bribery and corruption. The results are that it will increasingly produce a crop of local managers who are rich, corrupt and eager to plunder state resources in order to maintain and perpetuate themselves in power.
Furthermore, very extensive constitutional amendments will be required to ensure that decentralization is accompanied by concomitant changes to the power of local authorities to tax and spend. Express constitutional grant of a share of the annual budget will also go a long way to aid the process of decentralization. Without independent access to money Local Authorities will be toothless bulldogs remaining subject to the whims and caprices of a constitutionally omnipotent central Government. Extensive amendments to Articles 240 to 256 of the National Constitution may have to be undertaken which would extend and entrench local authority powers to tax and spend and to dilute parliament’s existing powers of oversight to one of mere due diligence.
Politics, much like evangelism and missionary work, ought to have been a sacrificial endeavour and those who are involved in it, whether rich or poor, should have been those who are involved in it for higher ideals rather than money. Ideally politicians should be predominantly fuelled by passion, a love for humanity and the community in which they live. Regrettably, politics, like religion have been dominated by charlatans.
Until Ghana is able, through rigorous enactment and enforcement of Laws prohibiting Vote Buying and other forms of corruption, to wit, strictly and severely punish for political corruption, local election of District and municipal officers will be a very expensive means of either entrenching or exacerbating corruption in every nook and cranny of a straddling African country.
In summary, it is thus recommended that as a condition precedent to any vote being undertaken on the election of Local Government leaders, the following possibilities must be thoroughly explored :
- Ss. 33 to 35 of the RPL 1992 (PNDCL 284) should be strictly enforced with alacrity
- The above sections be tightened to ensure effective and extensive enforcement
- The state should by amendments to PNDCL 284 and/or by way of a constitutional amendments explore the possibility of prohibiting Executive appointments that are principally due to a candidate’s financial contribution to a party’s election success
- Government leaders must be encouraged to punish errant subjects promptly and severely so as to demonstrate the enormity of the trust reposed in relevant persons.
- Ghanaians must be discouraged from perceiving corruption as a culture and as a norm via informal or formal civic education
- Local Governments be offered a constitutionally entrenched share of the National Annual Budget
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.