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Editorial News of Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Source: Statesman

Editorial: The guts to tackle institutionalized indiscipline

Today, Ghana should be $547m to the good, thanks to President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account.

We got this money because of our hard-won international reputation as a country ruled justly. But, it is also crucial that for rule of law to reign there must be discipline in our adherence to rules and laws.

Ironically, the MCA fund comes at a time that our international reputation is becoming notorious as a country haven for drug barons and their killer-goods. There is a cry for the allegations and revelations about police connivance with alleged criminals, etc, to be individualised. A very top police officer has even called for the tainted brush not to be used against the integrity of the institution, as a whole. What that request fails to admit is that when the so-called individual wrongs are allegedly committed at the top, then it becomes a real institutional problem. Corrupt employees can be sacked and jailed. But institutions must be reformed to make corruption not the norm.

However, since investigations are ongoing, we would be careful about not seeming pre-judgmental here. But, what we believe has been highlighted by the pending police/drugs scandal is the extent of institutionalised indiscipline in our country.

It is this kind of institutional indiscipline that could see the projects under the MCA not being effectively implemented. We saw it with a much earlier scheme to develop the upper regions.

In Ghana, indiscipline is instutionalised. When such is the case, piecemeal solutions only tend to scratch the surface. In fact, what sustains institutionalised indiscipline here in Ghana is the evidential lack of guts on behalf of the political establishment to let axes fall where they must and let the bulldozer clear where it should.

The New Patriotic Party, as a government, has had an unflatteringly chequered record in taking bold, decisive, drastic measures against some of the sort of things that work against Ghanaian society. The very attitudes that can see the ruling party being made scapegoats of.

Remarkably, Government often acts decisively when it is being pushed by external forces, such as the IMF, as seen in the abandoning of higher import duties for rice and poultry, or deregulation of the petroleum sector. However, on matters inherently popular with voters, like the clearing of hawkers from some of our principal streets, or the rigid enforcement of road traffic regulations, are not given the same forcefulness.

While we await the reports of the two committees set up to investigate missing cocaine consignments, we would advise Government to be putting in place a comprehensive, courageous programme to cleanse the Ghana Police Service. Any attempt to massage the problem would, at least, be deservedly spun by opponents to show weakness or complicity on the part of Government. But, being in government does not mean taking responsibility for an institutionalised canker that you came to meet. Your responsibility is in doing something to address the problem but not overlooking the old problem itself.

Indeed, to start with the police service is most opportune because it is the bosom of law and order and if this society is to be part of the otherwise normal comity of disciplined societies across the globe, then we have to start with the body given the primary authority to keep us disciplined – the police. This institutionalised indiscipline, we believe, calls for a special commission of enquiry. The purpose is to reform the police service. This commission should also seriously be looking at making the service attractive not because officers would have the illicit ‘licence’ to abuse their powers but that they would be adequately remunerated to help them keep on the straight and narrow. Government cannot fail to exploit this scandal as a challenge, and the challenge as an opportunity to reform the service and hence set to roll the process of tackling institutionalised indiscipline in Ghanaian society.

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