Authored by: David Ampofo
Fri, September 13, 2019
There is so much talk about government corruption these days. I’m asking myself whether its because corruption is more frequent or because the reporting of corruption is more frequent, especially in an environment of growing social media influence and the seeming revival of investigative journalism.
It is President Akuffo Addo’s turn to be “the most corrupt”. President Mahama used to hold that title. Before him Presidents Kufuor and Rawlings were also “corrupt” title holders. And so was Prime Minister Busia, as well as President Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party.
We have talked about corruption enough. How about overcoming the scourge of corruption? Yes, we can.
Now, what are the key ingredients to be considered to successfully fight corruption?
It seems to me that a good start would be to address the concentration of power in the Executive. It is at the heart of the problem. Constitutional reform is required to change this and the 2019 referendum is an important first step. If the constitutional reform on the cards goes through, we will see the beginning of a new political dispensation over time, that returns power to the people and enables them hold politicians accountable. That is why we are seeing some opposition to the planned referendum in December. There are long standing political operatives from the two main parties who want to maintain the status quo, where the winner takes all and where political patronage thrives via an all powerful Executive President. Under this arrangement, party politicians become of even more importance than state institutions. Few are served but the majority are denied real progress in their lives.
Under the current system the institutions that we need to fight corruption are weak and ineffective because of the over politicization. Law and order and the prevention and sanctioning of corruption is the responsibility of the state, so you can imagine what happens when the political parties behave as if they are above the state. Internal audits for example, are weakened, and lose their purpose.
Cronyism means we deny ourselves people in charge who have competence and integrity because rather than having competent people running our affairs, we have party faithful occupying positions that they have no business occupying. These are the people that thrive in a corrupt environment. They love it.
Folks, let me be clear: the reason corruption is doing well is because we have put the state and its institutions under political control and so people who occupy public positions, mostly come in to work for the politician who put them there. They are not there because their engagement followed a rules based process, and so they to, override the rules. They are not interested in putting in place infrastructure for detecting and countering theft and corruption. Let us take the procurement system as an example. It was set up to fight corruption but very quickly, the rules were set aside and what do we see today?
In developed countries, because the system they operate is one primarily of merit, state institutions work and the rules come first. Here in Ghana and I dare say in many other countries of our kind, people supersede the rule; so they break the rule. People who fight corruption are resented for “putting somebody in jail”. There is no deterrent to corruption because there is no certainty of being detected and penalized. At the end of the day, zero tolerance for corruption, has not come about.
We really ought not to be surprised at the way things are today. After all, we do not punish people for corruption. Even when we do, we relent over time. Even the properties confiscated by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council were returned to their owners as were the assets of many others who assets Commissions of Enquiry had recommended be confiscated to the state.
Frankly our efforts at fighting corruption are at best half hearted, sporadic and not sustained. Take the law on causing financial loss to the state. How systematically has that law been applied? More recently the arena for these matters is often the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. Reports recommending action against corruption by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament do not really lead to any action. We are inconsistent in dealing with corruption.
Folks, to succeed in curbing corruption, the priority has to lie with rebuilding the state. We must strengthen our institutions as well as our criminal justice administration. Public service should be about public service and not self enrichment. It should be about standing for probity, accountability and integrity.
In the final analysis, society is part of the problem. People simply do not care where others get their money. In fact society celebrates corruption and indulges in it. We are not angry enough at corruption and we have no regard for the police especially. People are building police stations for the police and donating all manner of things to them; compromising them in the process. This should not be permitted and if it is permitted, the police administration should have clearly defined rules under which this can happen. If not, It makes it extremely difficult for the police to operate fairly.
The over concentration of power is a terrible thing. Because all power resides with the President, it is no surprise that he ends up being blamed for everything that goes wrong, including corruption. The people around him know that and they take advantage of it. None of them will get mentioned. Is it any different today from the past? Is there any leader who we have not accused of corruption since independence? It is a corrupt culture. But it can be done away with. We can win the battle against corruption.