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Opinions of Saturday, 18 May 2013

Columnist: Lungu, Prof

Mahama's "silent corruption" is useless vs. FOIB!

" this matter of public governance..., Mr. Mahama's concept of "silent corruption" is as strange as it is misguided. In the first place, "silent corruption" is exclusively an electronic data concept. It refers to electronic data lost as a result of errors by machines...." (Prof Lungu, 17 May 13).

This is in furtherance of our "Critical Thinking" series!

In a 17th May report on Ghanaweb by B&FT, President Mahama lectured a roomful of accountants, auditors, and international development specialists, among them World Bank officials, on the dangers of "silent corruption in the public sector". Mr. Mahama represents "silent corruption" as "poor execution of public-sector projects with inadequate inputs, and the supply of substandard goods - especially drugs and equipment - to public-sector organisations".

Our sense is, critical minds at the 2nd Africa Congress of Accountants (ACOA) were thunderstruck about Mr. Mahama's new invention. And they would be in the proper league, we dare say.

We believe that in this case Mr. Mahama is inventing where no invention is required or necessary. He is conflating many items with uncommon origins and mis-directing our attention from the major to the minor, as a result.

In the interest of space and time, we will simply say that Mr. Mahama ought to stop confusing public governance and management issues. Clearly, in this case, lack of training, education, adequate/timely compensation, and proper incentives for public sector employees ought not be confused with deliberate criminal acts such as importation, supply, and sale of counterfeit equipment, drugs, and other supplies to public agencies (and the public, in general). Or willful evacuation of project sites by fully-funded contractors before project completion and occupancy by appropriate public officials, for that matter.

More important, with respect to public governance, transparency, and accountability, Mr. Mahama's concept of "silent corruption" is as strange as it is misguided. In the first place, "silent corruption" is a exclusively an electronic data concept. It refers to electronic data lost as a result error by machines, (i.e., "errors during the write process to disk"). It has absolutely nothing to do with the "menace of 'silent corruption' in the public sector" in Ghana, even electronic data owned by the people in the hands of government officials, including Mr. Mahama. Public corruption is an active act by government officials to cheat, deceive, and thereby profit where profit for the self is not deserved. Citizens lose all the time!

Typically, when public officials responsible for setting policy are invited to forums such as the Africa Congress of Accountants (ACOA), they are obliged to present thought-provoking policies and solutions to important issues facing citizens. Least of all, they ought not to squander the public's time inventing things and re-hashing issues that (1) are already known by the public and critical minds and (2) have been competently identified and conceptualized by experts and other professionals, including those from Transparency International, the World Bank, Amnesty International, Global Witness, civil society organizations, etc.

We all know that the Freedom of Information bill (FOIB) is a better promise for solving many of the issues Mr. Mahama identifies in Ghana. If you care to ask us, the FOIB is a 2-prong partnership/participation lever for citizens in a democracy worth anything. Yet, Mr. Mahama and the NDC government have coolly sat on the bill going on over 5 years. Is it the case that Mr. Mahama actually does not see a link here?

We think that there are important enough linkages for Mr. Mahama to have reported the status of Ghana's FOI bill at the 2nd Africa Congress of Accountants (ACOA).

The FOIB is a universal requirement for transparency and accountability of public institutions, by public officials. It is an important solution to the significant aspects of "corruption" because it has a lot to do with "democracy...accountability..(and)...economic growth...".

According to a recent report by Mr. Kofi Annan's "Africa Progress Panel", Africans are losing billions of dollars (read "economic growth") annually from shady transactions that leave government officials clandestine winners, and the public the worse for them. No doubt, public corruption and mis-management are better controlled when information in the hands of the government is freely and timely-shared with citizens, precisely the people officials have sworn to serve. In that respect, the FOIB assaults major aspects of a huge socio-economic development constraint. Given our concern here, this is definitely not a Mr. Mahama-invented minor league time-waster!

Give us the Freedom of Information bill right now!

How is that for action and critical thinking!

Just thinking out loud!

So it goes!

Prof Lungu is Ghana-centered, Ghana-Proud. Prof Lungu is currently based in Washington DC, USA. Prof Lungu is brought to you courtesy Join us: professor.lungu at