You are here: HomeNews2017 01 05Article 498505

Opinions of Thursday, 5 January 2017

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

Akufo-Addo’s magic wand faces a potential dilemma of epic proportions [2]

President-elect, Nana Akufo-Addo President-elect, Nana Akufo-Addo

By Kwarteng, Francis

“For my part, I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to serve Ghanaians in the coming years. I assure you that I am going to devote all my energies towards creating a free and prosperous society of opportunities, where every Ghanaian child, no matter the circumstances of their birth, has a fair chance to strive for a happy and dignified life, and where we can unleash the enterprise and creativity of our people so that we can build a progressive, prosperous Ghana whose citizens live in harmony and security” (Akufo-Addo, “I Will Work for Ghanaians—Akufo-Add0, Ghanaweb, December 26, 2016).

THE PRIVATE SECTOR VERSUS THE PUBLIC SECTOR: ISSUES OF CORRUPTION VERUSES PROBITY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

Could Akufo-Addo’s magic wand be facing a potential fancy Dilemma?

The fact is that political criminals and thieves in the public sector have their spitting images in private sector as well.

The other point is that people join governments for all sorts of reasons, including acquiring political influence and insider information on the inner workings of government and bureaucracies and trading this information which could be classified with industry players from the private sector, mostly colleagues and friends, exclusively for illicit financial gain, a situation that could potentially culminate in cases of asymmetric information.

Asymmetric information has dire implications for the integrity of contract-awarding schemes, of which sole-sourcing is a natural byproduct, if we add, as well as for national development strategies.

Again, we cannot overstate the notion that both the NDC and the NPP have blatantly done this, with absolute disregard for the negative impact of asymmetric information on competiveness, fairness, meritocracy, and economic development.

The many deplorable cases of illegal judgment debts partly speak to these underlying lapses in strategic and tactical prioritization and bureaucratic inefficiency.

Once again, it is our submission that Akufo-Addo’s statement therefore lacks strategic substance, an assuring rhetoric of political convenience and expediency probably meant to inform the Ghanaian general public and the international community of investors, that his truly represents an uncompromising moral crusader embodied in an incoming government which is dead set against the entrenched and gathering forces of institutional corruption in all their subtle and overt forms.

Then also as an influential cabinet member of a very corrupt government in charge of sensitive portfolios, specifically the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department, is Akufo-Addo implying that he never for once used his political influence and insider knowledge of government operations to benefit or help his law firm and others make money?

Perhaps not!

Yet we do also know for a fact that even out of public office, that is, after his tenure of office came to a close Akufo-Addo reportedly continued to avail himself of some state assets, including cars, even as his colleagues and friends from the erstwhile administration of which he was a member reportedly illegally grabbed state lands and government bungalows for themselves, their friends and their families.

One wonders if his administration is ever going to thoroughly investigate these outrageous allegations, and also that those found guilty in a competent jurisdiction will be prosecuted! His administration will be on course, a good start for some of us, namely, if this incoming administration will reopen these cases which were poorly prosecuted under the Mills administration. Anything short of this will clearly be tantamount to a rhetoric of political convenience.

Thus, words and political rhetoric should be backed by actionable enforcement of existing laws, by moral conviction, and by personal example. Whether the standard template of ethical evaluation is the private sector or the public sector is irrelevant here. It goes without saying that the private sector is not a panacea for the country’s myriad ailments, neither the public sector.

COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY

The problem we face today is the unpatriotic Ghanaian mindset, the unpatriotic Ghanaian character.

Economic and industrial development and successful progressive nations are never built on mediocrity, ethnocentrism, superstition, laziness, weak institutions and idiocy, institutional corruption, bad leadership, dependency complex, ignorance, mass illiteracy, Eurocentric consciousness, poor educational system, uncritical imitation of foreign ideas, impunity, foreign aid, and overreliance on fake, backward clergies among a litany of other negative forces.

Let us hope that Akufo-Addo, Bawumia, and the incoming government, like Kufuor and Mahama before them, will not capitalize on the implementation of their grandiose promises, newly acquired political capital and goodwill of Ghanaians to shortchange the country and enrich themselves, their cronies and their families.

We make this claim because, we believe, they have with them this teachable Kufuor-era exploitative template for achieving this grandiose kleptocratic feat. The ruling class is lazy and for the most part the envious wealth of its members surely comes from kleptocratic sources and not from any vaunted firm rootage of hard work, from strategic and tactical technocracy, and from entrepreneurial prowess and prudence.

Stealing galore!

SOME CRITICAL POLICY SUGGESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION

There are many ways to improve both the private and public sectors. Passage of the Right to Information Bill (ROIB) or the Freedom to Information Bill (FOIB) is just one approach.

This will go a long way to fight the forces of institutional corruption. This is because we need to give legal and political protection to whistleblowers. We might want to consider creating our own version of a witness protection program for whistleblowers.

We must also begin to seriously look at and even pass more efficient laws or, at the very least enforce existing ones on public office holders to declare their assets and liabilities before assuming office and after leaving office.

That way, we can always forensically track and hopefully account for any pronounced discrepancies in the personal finances of particularly a public office holder who occupies an elective office.

Then we also have to look at the political mechanism of lobbying and campaign finance. In many a situation lobbying simply synonymizes with shady schemes of bribery without the emotional illogic of ambiguity, with lobbying itself constituting one of the major channels of institutional corruption, of abuse of incumbency, and of arrogance of power leading all the way to the doors of Flagstaff House and Parliament.

The undeniable truth is that no political donor or financier worth his weight in gold will support a candidate and not expect returns on his investments. It simply will not make practical business sense for him to think otherwise. More generally, though, it is what the competitive conscience of self-interest, quid pro quo, and the rational choice theory, so-called, are fundamentally about—personal interest.

Lobbying is primarily done for the sake of acquiring undue influence, political advantage, and asymmetric information in the pursuit of contract-awarding schemes. Other times, too, it is done merely for the purpose of buying off legislators in exchange for passing laws favorable to the commercial activities, economic and political interests of lobbyists themselves or of those these lobbyists represent.

Indeed, buying political access or influence is a major problem in Ghanaian politics and therefore its progressive extirpation or curtailment should be encouraged by all—if it flouts existing electoral laws. In more than one word therefore, the freakonomics of lobbying and campaign finance is real as the broad daylight under which Ghanaian politicians pillage the public purse dry with reckless abandon.

What is more, there exists a wafer-thin interface between the corrupt practices of lobbyists and of those involved in campaign finance. This observation is crucial to understanding the technical overlaps between the two political mechanisms, an observation the ordinary Ghanaian elector is likely to overlook in assessing the moral or ethical candidacy of a professional, or career, politician and a political neophyte alike.

This brings us to the positions and roles of the Chairship of the Electoral Commission (EC), the creation of an Office for an Independent Prosecutor and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), and the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in our duopolistic boobocracy. They should all be put on the ballot box like others.

That is, potential headships of these institutions should not be left to the discretion of the president. There is also an imperative need for the incoming government to look into splitting those special cases where a ministerial portfolio overlaps the roles of a Member of Parliament (MP), the point being to cut down on official and bureaucratic waste, ineptitude, and operational exhaustion.

Even the non-taxable-salary or tax-exempt status which the president and others enjoy should be revoked immediately. Already, these persons make more than enough from the poisonous chalice of institutional corruption, let alone be allowed and even encouraged to cheat out the ordinary citizen of what rightfully belongs to him.

We also need to reevaluate the Council of State to see whether it has, overall, benefitted the Fourth Republic and the executive office from the point of view of the latter honoring its mandate.


And then, what about parliamentary (legislative) immunity? How has it contributed to institutional corruption in the Ghanaian body politic? For instance, one takes a close look at those parliamentarians who rejected the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) in favor of the Ghana Hybrid System (GHS), and not wonder why these unpatriotic, wicked, and lazy zombies should be enjoying any form of legislative immunity at all, rather than being in prison for the rest of their productive lives.

Ghanaians should not allow these kinds of politicians to impose any form of internal colonialism on them. Which is that, as a people, we must be able to redraw this immunity from those of our parliamentarians found to be obnoxiously corrupt, just as we should be able to redraw from a president the implied question of executive privilege from the so-called Indemnity Clause.

We need to de-centralize or curtail the extraordinary powers of the executive presidency in order to facilitate equitable redistribution of this centralized power to regional and constituency levels. Put another way, as citizens of the state the president and the parliamentarian are not above the law.

Again, to wit, the system should be able to bring proven corrupt parliamentarians and presidents to book whenever the exercise of political power is abused—we are hereby referring to abuse of power, abuse of incumbency, and arrogance of power among others. Even management of the public purse must be moved away from the controlling interests of our executive dominance.

On the whole, then, the question of creating an Office for a Special Independent Prosecutor has probably become more important than ever.

Yet, while this policy proposal is supremely commendable given the alarming scale of impunity and institution corruption, the question then becomes how truly “independent” this special office can be.

This is because Ghanaians at large, Ghanaian politics and society are so polarized as to make the question of ideological, philosophical and political “independence” something of a useless dream. The prime example of the lack of independence of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) from executive prerogatives is a special case in point.

Arrogance of power, executive dominance, institutional corruption, and abuse of incumbency are some of the contributory factors to the lack of absolute independence in our kleptomaniacal boobocracy.

Not that this attribute is unique to Ghanaian politics.

CONCLUDING REMARKS: THE TIME FOR SERIOUS CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS IN GHANA IS NOW

The Ghanaian national constitution has outlived its usefulness and should be replaced or radically reformed accordingly, as it were with no unnecessary intrusions of partisan political reservations and lip service.

What is interesting at this point is that Akufo-Addo does not have to reinvent the wheel insofar as constitutional reforms go, a project that is long overdue, as the Mills administration already covered that aspect of national destiny. A lot of money went into this project and it is painful that we have shelved it to gather dust.

We are hereby referring to the Constitution Review Commission, constituted by the Mills administration to look into possible revisions of our standing constitution, apparently with many loopholes and technical warts that only tend weaken than strengthen our institutions, a policy review task with popular support from a large cross-section of the Ghanaian public—both at home and abroad. And the entire constitutional review process cost Ghana a whopping $6.3 million.

However, we shall not get into structural details here except to mention one or two examples merely to illustrate our general expectations the proposed reforms. In simple terms, we want to see MMDCEs as elective offices with the benefit of the full regalia of constitutional imprimatur, the same way we expect the proposed Office of a Special Prosecutor to enjoy undiluted constitutional support.

We shall return with our concluding statements in Part 3.

References

Ghanaweb. “Constitutional Review Commission Presents Report To President Mills.” December 20, 2011.

Join our Newsletter