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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Columnist: Badu, K

Mahama is corrupt according to 2005 United Nations Convention

By K. Badu

…No country can develop with corrupt and incompetent president

President Mahama and his NDC government corrupt practices have resulted in excessive public spending, less efficient tax system , needless high public deficit and destabilization of national budgets, heightened capital flight and the creation of perverse incentives that stimulate income-seeking rather than productive activities.

"When public money is stolen for private gain, it means fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities. When foreign aid is diverted into private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects come to a halt. Corruption enables fake or substandard medicines to be dumped on the market, and hazardous waste to be dumped in landfill sites and in oceans. The vulnerable suffer first and worst (Ban Ki-moon, 2009)."

Indeed, corruption impedes economic development by distorting markets and collapsing private sector integrity.

“Corruption also strikes at the heart of democracy by corroding rule of law, democratic institutions and public trust in leaders. For the poor, women and minorities, corruption means even less access to jobs, justice or any fair and equal opportunity” (UNDP 2016).

Corruption is indeed a global phenomenon, and it thus requires a collaborative effort to prevent and eradicate. It is against that background that in its resolution 55/61 of 4 December 2000, the UN General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (resolution 55/25, annex I) was desirable and decided to establish an ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument in Vienna at the headquarters of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Subsequently, the international community adopted the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003 and came into force in 2005.

The UN Convention against Corruption is the first meaningful universal instrument enacted to prevent and combat corruption with a view to networking and building on a broad international consensus.

What exactly is corruption?

“Corruption is the misuse of public power (by elected politician or appointed civil servant) for private gain.

“Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power (by heritage, education, marriage, election, appointment or whatever else) for private gain”.

How are “offering”, “promising” and “giving” a bribe treated under the law?

In fact, different countries have different responses to these questions, by definition as well as interpretation.

In some jurisdictions, for instance, the courts may consider an oral offer of a bribe not as attempted bribery, unless the briber takes further steps. An OECD report, however, suggests that broad definitions of corruption may be one reason why prosecutions are so low.

Apparently, the OECD, the Council of Europe and the UN conventions do not explicitly define “corruption””, but have establish a range of corrupt offences.

For example, the OECD Convention establishes the offence of bribery of foreign public officials, while the Council of Europe adds trading in influence and bribing domestic public officials as well.

Besides, the UN Convention covers embezzlement, misappropriation of property and obstruction of justice.

In fact, one mostly-cited mystery is distinguishing illegal trading in influence from legal lobbying.

“The Council of Europe Convention criminalises trading of “improper influence”, i.e., there must be corrupt intent.

“The UN Convention only covers peddlers who “abuse” their influence. The OECD glossary notes that international definitions of corruption for policy purposes are common, and cites “abuse of public or private office for personal gain” as a useful example for policy development” (OECD 2007).

Favouritism, Cronyism and Nepotism are also immoral practices

In terms of meanings, favouritism, nepotism and cronyism all involve abuses of discretion. Even though some countries do not criminalise the conduct, (Article 7 of the UN Convention against Corruption covers merit selection without even mentioning nepotism).

Those violations usually involve not a direct personal benefit to an official but promote the interests of those related to the official, whether through family, political party, tribe, or religious group.

In fact, a fantastically corrupt official who hires a relative (nepotism) or a friend (cronyism), does so, in exchange, not often of a bribe but of the less tangible benefit of advancing the interests of others connected to the official.

Actually, the unlawful favouring of - or discrimination against - individuals can be based on a wide range of group characteristics: tribe, religion, geographical factors, political or as well as personal or organizational relationships, such as friendship or shared membership of clubs or associations.

In spite of the fact that corruption is a serious economic, social, political and moral impediment to the nation building, our corrupt officials are bent on siphoning our scarce resources without a second thought.

If we take a stroll down memory lane, somewhere in October 2010, the British media brought up sensational reports about how the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama, was lobbied by a British Cabinet Minister to get a reprieve for the ban imposed on Armajaro Holdings, one of the cocoa buying companies who were found guilty for smuggling the commodity out of Ghana.

It would be recalled that Armajaro Company was banned together with a few other companies, when the award winning investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas exposed the smuggling of uncountable bags of cocoa into neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.

Shockingly, however, the British media reported that subsequent to the meeting between the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama and the British Cabinet Minister, Armajaro Company was given a needless reprieve and then started its operations.

The fact of the matter is that Ghana’s transgressed and incompliant politicians often get away with murder. Take, for instance, the most recent investigative work carried out by the award winning investigative journalist, Joy FM’s Manasseh Azuri which exposed President Mahama’s furtive gift of a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle, worth over $100,000 by the Burkinabe Contractor, Djibril Kanazoe.

According to the report, the Burkinabe Contractor Kanazoe had undertaken a number of contracts which were secured through sole-sourcing and handpicking, amid allegations of president Mahama’s influence.

Manasseh reported that Djibril Kanazoe had over the years been bidding for contracts in the country; however he was not successful until a middleman led him to meet then Vice President Mahama.

Subsequent to meeting the then Vice President Mahama, Kanazoe was handpicked to build the $650,000 Ghana Embassy fence wall in Burkina Faso.

In September 2014, when officials of the Bank of Ghana met the Public Accounts Committee of Ghana Parliament (PAC), it came to light that an amount of $656, 246.48 had been spent on the construction of a fence wall over a parcel of land belonging to the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso.

Apparently, PAC requested the Bank of Ghana to look into what it referred to as: “the outrageous” cost of the project.

However, it came to light that the procurement process was violated to the advantage of President Mahama’s Burkinabe friend.

Amazingly, during an interview with Manasseh, Djibril Kanazoe admitted that he did not put in a bid for the contract, however, the Ghana Embassy in Ouagadougou wrote to his company to request price quotations for the project. He however forwarded the necessary quotes and was selected.

“Subsequently, the Burkinabe contractor delivered to President Mahama, the ‘gift’ of a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle in 2012, the same year his company was selected, again through sole-sourcing, to execute more projects” (See: ‘Burkinabe Contractor offers controversial gift to President Mahama’ ; myjoyonline.com, 15/06/2015).

Isn’t it also strange that the late President Mills was somehow suspicious about his then Vice President Mahama over his handling of national contracts?

If you may recall, in his State of the Nation Address on 19th February 2009, the late President Mills informed the Parliament that his government was looking into the decision to acquire two executive Presidential jets.

The late President Mills, however, expressed his incertitude over the acquisition of the aircrafts and thus maintained: "Ghana simply cannot afford the expenditure at this time and we certainly do not need two Presidential Jets" (thestatesmanonline.com, 16/06/2016).

Strangely, however, whilst the late Mills was busily delivering his crucial state of the nation address in the parliament, the Vice President John Mahama, who also happened to be the chairman of the Armed Forces Council, was blissfully entertaining delegations from Brazil and busily negotiating the acquisition of five jets, including the most expensive hangar without the knowledge of the late President Mills.

Unsurprisingly, however, the late President Mills became suspicious of the whole deal and decided to put a committee together to review the deal, according to Mr Martin Amidu, the former Attorney General in the late President Mills administration.

By inference, the late Mills was extremely unhappy about the deal, hence setting up a committee to investigate his then vice president Mahama.

Obviously, it is an indictment on President Mahama and therefore the honest thing for him to do now is to come out and refute all the corruption allegations, not just by words, but through actions.

Yes, President Mahama must do the honest thing by providing further and better particulars and give the green light to the committee set up by late President Mills to resume its work immediately without any interference.

It is also worth emphasising that the manner in which the then Vice President Mahama handled the STX Housing deal which was supposed to provide affordable housing to the security agencies leaves much to be desired.

Bizarrely, in spite of the fact that the deal did not materialise, the then Vice President Mahama, gave us a bill of an excess of $250 million. How strange?

Moreover, after the failed deal with STX to build 30,000 housing units for the nation's security agencies, the NDC government entered into another deal with the GUMA Group, for the construction of 500 housing units.

The deal which was spearheaded by President Mahama was widely criticised by various stakeholders, just as the STX deal following the decision to side-line local construction firms in favour of the foreign company. The unusually high cost of the project was also a source of concern to many.

What’s more, President Mahama’s handling of dubious judgment debt payments also leaves much to be desired.

It is rather unfortunate that the people we have entrusted with the national coffers will somehow deem it as a matter of urgency to give gargantuan sums of money belonging to the nation to people who have no entitlement.

Of course, there is nothing wrong to pay genuine judgment debts. However, I strongly believe that if President Mahama’s government had handled the payments parsimoniously, the purported GH850 million judgment and settlement payments would have been brought to the barest minimum.

The all-important question the discerning Ghanaians should ask President Mahama and his selfish and corrupt appointees then is: ‘If just under eight years, you have paid dubious judgment debts in an excess of GH850 million, how much would you pay in twelve years?

As a matter of fact, the traditional exemption of heads of state from prosecution despite the evidence of a case to answer is wrong, so to speak. For if the bribery and corruption; dubious judgment debt payments; stashing of national funds by some greedy opportunists and misappropriation of resources and crude embezzlement by some politicians do not warrant criminal charges, then where are we heading as a nation?

All the same, the all-important question discerning Ghanaians should ask is: will the day come when “Ghana’s political criminals” find they have nowhere to hide?

For me, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution has to be reviewed and the irrational and inexpedient clauses such as the indemnity clause are expunged and tossed into the dust bin accordingly.

How on earth can individuals commit unpardonable crimes (gargantuan sleaze and corruptions) against the state and get away with their misdeeds?

And how serious are we as a nation when we can only descend heavily on goat, cassava and plantain thieves and let go hard criminals who persistently dip their hands into the national coffers?

References:

OECD (2007), Defining corruption: Glossary of International Standards for Criminalisation of Corruption, ISBN 9789264027404, OECD Observer. (www.oecd.org).

UN (2005), The UN Convention against Corruption.

www.undp.org

www.myjoyonline.com