Feature Article of Monday, 17 September 2012
Columnist: Thompson, Kofi
Standing In Presidential & Parliamentary Elections & Their Spouses Must Publicly Publish Their Assets
By Kofi Thompson
The unfortunate example of President Mills - an honest and decent gentleman held hostage in the Osu Castle by ruthless and amoral self-seekers - is proof positive that as long as we have an opaque and byzantine system, no matter how honest the President of the Republic of Ghana is personally, high-level corruption will persist and continue to rob our nation of its future.
And if that opaque system remains in place, high-level corruption will continue to impoverish the most vulnerable of our people too, as sure as day follows night - regardless of who happens to be in power at any given point in time in our history.
Who would have thought, dear reader, that with a man of integrity such as President Mills at the helm, and an honest and principled gentleman in the person of Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, as his minister of finance and economic planning, we would still end up with an administration embroiled in judgement-debt payment-order scandals galore - such as Woyomegate and that of Construction Pioneers?
And as it is commonly acknowledged, the processes leading to those payments were mostly facilitated by some of the Mills regime's "greedy bastards" - to quote former President Rawlings, the NDC's founder's pithy description of the regime-crooks surrounding the late President Mills.
Although no mortal being is perfect, for the sake of argument, let us assume that all the December 2012 presidential candidates are as honest as it is humanly possible to be.
Let us also assume, dear reader, that we can depend on the one amongst them who emerges victorious in the December presidential election, not to end up doing secret deals with corrupt foreign oil company executives to the detriment of our nation, when he becomes Ghana's president.
Will that mean in practice, dear reader, that what once occurred during the tenure of a previous Ghanaian president, will not recur during the tenure of the next president - and we can all therefore rest assured that no private Ghanaian citizens, unable to pay even a pesewa upfront, will ever be in a position to end up owning part of Ghana's patrimony - stakes in oil blocks in our offshore oilfields - that will indeed dwarf the totality of the value of judgment-debt payment orders paid thus far: as sweat equity?
Alas, the fact of the matter, sadly, is that whiles we can rely on each of the presidential candidates to continue being honest individually, whichever of them wins the presidential election, we cannot however be so sure that sundry lobbyists and self-seeking business tycoons will not quickly end up corrupting those officials around that next president of Ghana - as they seek direct access to him through them.
Whichever political party's candidate wins the presidential elections in December, with temptation dangled in front of their noses daily, those surrounding that next president of Ghana may very well eventually come to see their positions as wealth-creation avenues par excellence - enabling them transform themselves into high net worth individuals by stealth.
Perhaps it is then, dear reader, that the business of laundering the contents of the big brown envelopes regularly received by such officials from lobbyists and sundry tycoons - through the agency of the clever men and women who specialise in fronting for presidential aides and appointees, using special purpose offshore entities - will become a fine art for them: completely destroying any sense of idealism that might have inspired them to enter politics, in the first place.
It is the selfsame phenomenon that was responsible for Woyomegate - that egregious example of high-level corruption at the very heart of the National Democratic Congress administration of the late President Mills.
It is also the selfsame reason why we were once confronted with that extraordinary example of white collar crime never once seen before in the annals of Ghana's history - the purported sale of the Volta Aluminium Company Limited (VALCO) to a non-existent company, International Aluminium Partners, which occurred during the tenure of the New Patriotic Party regime that was in power between January 2001 and January 2009.
Incidentally, that outrageous and gargantuan fraud, the sale and purchase agreement for VALCO, was actually railroaded through Parliament on the say-so of the well-connected crooks at the time, who did business deals for the top people of that era, and basked in glorious sunshine during the halcyon days of the golden age of business for Kufuor & Co.
They it was, dear reader, who were tasked by the powers that be at the time, to inveigle VALE and Norske Hydro into agreeing to a joint-venture partnership deal - specifically designed to enable the powerful and greedy rogues in that regime to get away with asset-stripping VALCO with perfect legal covering.
The audacity of their fraud only came to light, when both companies strenuously denied ever agreeing to purchase VALCO, and vehemently denied forming a joint-venture partnership known as International Aluminium Partners (IAP) for the purpose.
Alas, today, in a nation whose people are famous for their short memories, and in which many ordinary people constantly delude themselves into thinking that their living standards will improve dramatically overnight, were they to turf out a serving regime and vote a new party into office, the party those greedy and canny hypocrites of the past belong to, the New Patriotic Party, is actually on the cusp of returning to power again. Amazing.
Clearly, what that will result in, is that they will never be prosecuted for that gigantic fraud against Mother Ghana that that sale and purchase agreement for the divestiture of VALCO represents. Pity.
The truth of the matter, dear reader, is that the fight against high-level corruption in Ghana will never make any headway, if we continue to elect candidates for the presidency and parliament - without first making it a legal requirement that they publicly publish the assets of both themselves and their spouses, well before polling day, and immediately after exiting from office.
We must also ensure that all those they subsequently appoint to positions in the public sector, when they win power, do same too before assuming office - and immediately after exiting office.
(Then there is of course the murky world of financing the activities of political parties and the politicians who make up the inner core of their membership, to deal with. But that is a whole article in itself, dear reader - and a digression in this instance. So back to topic.)
For the sake of Mother Ghana, and to protect the public purse, politicians standing in presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana - and their spouses - must be legally required to publicly publish their assets. A word to the wise...
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