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Opinions of Friday, 13 June 2008

Columnist: Prof Lungu

Mr. Joe Ghartey Says Abolish the Ministry of Justice

“…Mr. Joe Ghartey, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, has identified corruption as a major challenge to the realisation of human rights, especially in the light of scarce national resources. He stated, however, that institutional safeguards were in place and not a single political office holder had been found guilty of corruption in recent years and the nation had not experienced any human rights violations…” (Ghanaweb, 5 June 08)

“…In most places in the world, perception of official corruption are enough to give the minister, president, or public official the sack. Frequently, people who have brought shame to their agencies or countries resign out of shame and/or for the good of the corporate body. No so in Ghana. But why should it be so different? Why should the people provide evidence of corruption to the government when bureaucrats are paid to do exactly that? See nothing, do nothing, ask about nothing! Everything is hokey dory. Is that the way Ghanaians expect the Justice Department of Attorney General Joe Ghartey to be run? If not, why not the sack and prosecution for dereliction of duty?...” (Prof Lungu, 10 June 08).

“…May be, I can hold brief for the President for enacting the Public Procurement Act, Internal Audit Agency Act and the Financial Administration Act. Yet, in the midst of these laws, the administration lacks the willingness to prosecute its own functionaries. The best that the President can do is to ask you to resign from office…” (Ghanaian Chronicle, Ghanaweb, 8 June 08) As part of the Ghana public policy discourse, we’ve been forced to revisit the Zero Tolerance for Corruption debate following recent news by Mr. Joe Ghartey that no current or past official of the administration of President Kufour has been found guilty of corruption because there has been “institutional safeguards” against corruption by public officials. There is a difficulty with Mr. Ghartey’s argument. He does not make sense or prove any point. It is inconceivable that current and former NPP officials have been “Saints,” and that Ghana is now the bedrock of public accountability and propriety. How, for instance, does a high-level government functionary acquire the middle name “Cash”? And what, truly, is at bottom of the Dr. Anane-Justice Wood imprudent and depressing affair? ITEM: Without doubt, many individuals on this forum will probably agree that Mr. Joe Ghartey is being comical, self-serving, and inattentive to important details about Ghanaian public life and policy as far as accountability and transparency is concerned. During the same week that he made that no-corruption statement, two relatively minor corruption cases were reported from two other corners of the world. The first came from Japan regarding public officials, about 450 of them, and the “pub taxi scandal.” The officials were caught taking bribes (cash, beer, soft drinks and snacks) from monopolistic taxi firms. One individual is reported to have taken about $20,000 in cash and gifts over a 5-year period. The second corruption incident was reported from New York City, USA. Over there, a mechanical Crane Inspector accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from one crane firm, even allowing the firm to cheat on crane examinations by providing test questions to employees of the firm in advance. If the reader has been following international news, the reader will recall that New York City has gone through a spate of tower crane disasters. The failed cranes have resulted in the deaths of several people and caused the destruction of numerous apartments and offices. Corruption is costly, unless it is your own money and resources, we must tell Mr. Joe Ghartey.

Now, you could argue that these Prof Lungu examples are of corrupt bureaucrats and not of corrupt political appointees. But, can we say that we are serious if we have the audacity to go to Geneva under Ghanaian public sponsorship and announce that Ghanaian officials are super-lawful and 100% compliant with public laws against bribes, kick-backs, nepotism, and corruption? Does it make sense for the Chief Law Enforcement Officer speaking about corruption and abuse of human right in Geneva to say that because he has no data about official corruption, there is no corruption and abuse of human rights by public officials? Did it occur to Mr. Ghartey that others may argue that he is simply not enforcing the laws, and instead, is looking the other way? Did Mr. Joe Ghartey check with the Auditor-General to understand how many individuals who must report their assets under the Asset Declaration Law have actually done so, and what explains the difference in assets before and after, if any? Is Mr. Joe Ghartey himself, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer, complaint with the Asset Declaration Laws?

Show is the record, Mr. Joe Ghartey! No, it does not make sense. If quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If readers will recall, back on 1 Oct 07, we tackled the policy ruse of “Corruption of Perception.” That Prof Lungu piece was informed by the 2007 Corruption Perception Index, by Transparency International (TI). Last year’s report told us that there is still so much corruption in Ghana that the nation ranked 69th in the world (5th in Africa). In the Oct piece, we learned that a political appointee from the Information Ministry, Mr. Frank Agyekum, did not take kindly the charge made by Mr. Vitus Azeem of Ghana Integrity Initiative that President Kufour “…was behaving like an ostrich in demanding for evidence in cases of reported corruption.” Can’t we same the same about Mr. Joe Ghartey? Corruption safeguard? Not really, Joe! This illogical pattern of argument is being fostered by Mr. Joe Ghartey, unmindful that it is a poor reflection on Ghanaians. It is saying: “See, we did not file any cases against any political appointees so where is the corruption. But, if you have any evidence bring it to us, even if you have to leave your village and your farmer’s life to travel to Accra, from Paga. By the way, we have returned Mr. Abodakpi, a convict who caused serious financial harm to the nation, back to Parliament. Can you dig that? As we have said before, in most places in today’s world, perception of official corruption are enough to give the minister, president, or public official “the sack.” Why should it be any different for Ghana? Why must the people provide evidence of corruption to the government when bureaucrats and officials like Mr. Ghartey are paid to do exactly that? ITEM: There are two forced-conclusions from this matter. We can ask President Kufour and Attorney General Joe Ghartey to abolish the Ministry of Justice, at least that part that monitors official corruption. Or we can ask (pray) that the next government is not only proactive, but reactionary enough to investigate all former NPP officials by transparently re-aligning their assets before and after their appointments. That, to me, will not be a witch-hunt or retaliation against former officials who refused to do right by the Ghanaian people, people who refused to do their jobs and instead pretended no data equals lack of official corruption/crime. No, it will be law enforcement and criminal investigation at the core, even if we must go back in time and in space to whatever corner of the world those former officials may be hiding, from Tokyo to New York City, to Vicenza, to London, to Accra.

Prof Lungu Tokyo, Japan 11th June 2008

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