Undoubtedly, corruption is not only depriving West Africa’s most praised democracy of resources meant for development but also accelerating the depreciation of trust and goodwill citizens have for her politicians, public office holders, civil servants and anti-corruption institutions. It is a fast growing threat to Ghana’s democracy.
Ghana’s Auditor-General’s Report for 2014 revealed the country lost GHc2.6 billion to corruption and mismanagement. Previous years recorded similar heart-breaking figures. And, the future looks bleaker. Franklin Cudjoe, the founding President of IMANI, a leading CSO in Africa has observed recently, “my estimation of all corruption involving politicians and civil service in Ghana is about $3bn-$4bn annually and that’s almost 10% of Ghana’s GDP and that is a big deal.”
There is, certainly, no surer way to spark a spirited argument than to raise the subject of corruption anywhere in the country as the nation prepares for the seventh Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in her Fourth Republic. It is obvious the aged old canker will feature prominently in this year’s campaigns just as it did in previous elections.
On his return from the recent anti-corruption conference in UK where he was praised as an exemplary performer in the fight against corruption in the sub-region, John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana and the flag-bearer of the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) Party boldly challenged citizens to name the corrupt men in his cabinet. In swift response, members of Occupy Ghana (OG), a transparency and accountability advocacy group washed ashore the devils in the details of the Smarttys deal, linking the stinking bus branding scandal which, caused the resignation of Road and Transport Minister, Dzifa Ativor, to the Presidency. The Presidency has answered OG’s call with a very loud silence.
Meanwhile, his toughest opponent Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo-Addo, the New Patriotic Party flagbearer has also reiterated a call he has made several times, “I am not seeking the high office of this land because I want to steal your money and line my pockets with the nation’s resources”. His supporters say he is ‘incorruptible’.
Of course, it is not enough to say ‘I am incorruptible’; ‘I will not steal your money’. Or, ‘I have not taken bribe before’; ‘I have fought corruption better than previous administrations did’. Critical minded electorates will need more than that to decide on the corruption card because corruption has always been on election campaign tables, yet, citizens have not seen any meaningful political will and commitment exhibited in the fight against the nation’s resources robber over the years.
Whereas John Mahama and the NDC will be judged based on their efforts against corruption than on new promises, Nana Akuffo-Addo and the NPP will also be examined not based on only their promises but also on how they fought corruption from 2001 to 2008 when they were in power and on how they are presently addressing internal corruption allegations.
Since 2009, the NDC government has suffered numerous heart-tearing corruption scandals. The President says this administration has addressed these cases better than past governments did. According to him, his government has investigated and retrieved various amounts of monies from those found culpable and others are being prosecuted. He argues that unlike previous administrations, his does not cover up but further exposes acts of corruption when they come up and transparently probes them for remedial actions.
But, many Ghanaians genuinely think the measures government is employing to address corruption cases are not stringent enough. Instead of applying strict preventive measures to save the nation’s resources from draining into individuals’ pockets, government seems to be concentrating more on curative measures which, are not addressing the numerous scandals fluttering their wings across the media landscape as satisfactorily as citizens expect.
Nevertheless, the incumbent is not the only sufferer of allegations of corruption scandals. Paul Afoko, the suspended NPP Chairman and other members of the main Opposition have raised serious issues regarding financial malfeasance in their party and the Flag-bearer has been blamed for endorsing such ill-acts.
Members of the incumbent party and other well-meaning citizens are genuinely arguing that if the Opposition Candidate cannot ensure transparency and accountability in his party, much cannot be expected of him in government. Some supporters of the NPP, however, say that the Constitution of their party does say the flag-bearer is the leader of the party so he should not be blamed for the transparency and accountability challenges the party is facing. Voters, the final decision makers will, however, determine whether Nana Akuffo-Addo needed to promote or ensure transparency and accountability in his party as a demonstration of his corruption fighting competence or not.
Unfortunately, Ghanaian politicians and political parties have not shown the leadership and commitment required to address the bribery and corruption problem the country has faced since it attained independence. In opposition, they seemed to have the panacea, but, in government, they got caught up in same or bigger scandals than what they condemned.
This is because the systems are rooted in corruption and many of the people and institutions that are responsibility to protect the interest of the public are themselves beneficiaries of the various corrupt acts they are supposed to fight against. Even, how political parties are funded in Ghana can partly explain why it is difficult to kill the “kick-back” phenomenon. Many of those who fund the parties are not philanthropists. The political parties and some very important party and government functionaries are direct or indirect beneficiaries of various corrupt acts in officialdom thus making the fight against corruption suicidal to them.
Anna Bossman, a former Commissioner for Human Right and Administrative Justice was more than right when she said in her interview with Africa Watch Magazine in 2011 that, “as a society, we condone it and we do not have robust systems that would allow us to even trace and monitor properly. And then, when we do monitor and find things, we do not sanction. We turn a blind eye.” The situation has not changed much.
Thus, the candidate who will be able to provide proofs to the electorates that he is more committed to winning the tough battle against this chronic socio-economic ailment may win the debate on corruption on the election platform.
But, regardless of who wins the 2016 elections, the government of Ghana will have to show more will power than she has ever done to reduce corruption appreciably. And, that can only be achieved if civil society organizations, media and individual social accountability advocates increase their resolve to demand transparency and accountability from duty bearers at all levels.
Author: Raymond Ablorh is a Social Entrepreneur, Journalist, Corporate Communications Strategist and a prolific Feature Writer who has contributed articles to the Daily Graphic and other local and international media since the year 2000.