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General News of Wednesday, 3 October 2012

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Speech By Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Why Ghana Cannot Afford Corruption

Speech By Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, 2012 Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party, at the Great Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology on the 3rd of October 2012.

Mr Chairman, Faculty and Students of KNUST Fellow citizens, good evening.

Thank you all for your presence this evening at this auditorium to talk about a subject that is of interest to all of us. I refer to corruption. A university campus and an audience of mainly young people must surely be the appropriate venue for such an important conversation.

As I go around our country in the course of this election campaign, taking the NPP’s message to the people, I am struck daily by the sheer volume of work that we have to do in all spheres of life in this country to make the lives of our people more tolerable.

Our needs are many. We must build more and better schools and equip them to cope with the 21st century, we have to train our teachers better and pay them better, we need more doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, we need more engineers, we need potable water, we need better roads, we need to build railways, we need modern airports (not ones with potholes on the tarmac), we need better sanitation, we need well-equipped workshops to train our artisans, we need to find hundreds of profitable jobs for our people, and everybody listening to us this evening can add his or her own must-do to the list.

Then you think about the statistics that say we have to invest some $6 billion every year for the next ten years simply to make up our infrastructure deficit. Then you think of the arguments that some are making that Ghana cannot afford to educate her young people to secondary school level because, they say we do not have the means and we cannot afford to do so, at least, not for the next 20 years, and this from a government whose leader I s a beneficiary of free secondary education.

And you know it is time to confront the problem of corruption so that what resources we have are used prudently and urgently to promote the national interest. It is time to confront the real problem of corruption and the perception of corruption because even the perception of corruption leads to a general lowering of morale among the population.

Corruption has been a debilitating factor in the management of our public finances so far, and it has become an even more dangerous factor now that we have oil and our economy is expanding but not creating the needed jobs. As experience around the world has shown, if we do not get our basics right, the increase in our resources envelope will spell disaster instead of providing the means for us to solve the many problems that we have, the so-called oil curse.

I hope all of us in this room are aware of the dangers corruption poses to our nation. But it is worth bearing in mind that it is not only the headline corruption, the type that involves politicians, that retards our progress and hinders our development. The driver who knowingly puts a faulty vehicle on the road with the intention of paying bribes to the traffic policeman, the policeman who takes a bribe to allow an unlicensed driver on the roads, the planning official who allows a house to be constructed on the waterway, the customs official that accepts a bribe and allows goods in without the payment of duties, the officials that allow drugs to be imported into and exported out of our country and all the everyday petty bribe taking that we all put up with. All such actions constitute corruption and retard our progress even if they do not attract headlines.

Tonight though, I want to concentrate my remarks on corruption in government and by politicians. Unless we tackle this problem, we run a real risk of cynicism overcoming our politics and thus of a catastrophic loss of confidence in our democracy.

Ghana cannot afford this, our forebears did not struggle for Ghana to end up in such a sad state of affairs, and I believe that we can, in this generation, deliver the economic transformation that has eluded us so far if we do the right thing.

Corruption has to be defeated; it reduces revenue to the state; it holds back our economic growth; it leads to the flight of capital out of the country and it inflates the cost of running government. It results in a loss of legitimacy and respect for legally constituted authority. Corruption demoralises honest people and fills them with uncertainty, mistrust and fear. It stifles initiative and creativity and dampens motivation. It undermines the merit system of rewards, appointments and success and it encourages mediocrity, laziness and incompetence.

Governments all over the world are plagued with corruption. Except that, under some governments, like our current one, the disease becomes a raging epidemic. Corruption on any scale is expensive and has been especially expensive to Ghana’s development under this third NDC government.

Mr. Chairman, it is true that corruption is not an exclusively Ghanaian problem. And countries that have oil, in particular, have had real difficulties in coping with oil resource generated corruption. We can learn from the experience of others that once branded corrupt, it is almost impossible to have normal commercial relations with the rest of world.

Since independence in 1957, some 55 years ago, corruption has been a perennial problem for successive governments and in trying to address the problem, various governments have introduced a host of policies and measures, including some unconventional and draconian ones.

We have promulgated anti-corruption decrees with provisions for lengthy jail terms; we have confiscated the personal assets of public officials believed to have been corruptly acquired; we have declared zero tolerance against corruption; we have appealed to the good sense of the Ghanaian through moral crusades for integrity and given sermons on the sins of corruption; we have passed anti-corruption laws; we have strengthened anti-corruption institutions and undertaken public sector, financial management and institutional reforms; we have also ratified regional and international anti-corruption conventions as an expression of our commitment to the global fight against the menace of corruption. And we have even tied people to the stake merely on suspicion of their being corrupt and shot them dead.

We have done all these, we have the laws, we have the institutions and yet the problem persists. What is worse has been the emergence of the cynical use of the problem by the NDC for purely political gain.

You would recall that during the last election in 2008, in an attempt to win votes, the NDC launched an all-out propaganda onslaught against the NPP government. Some of the allegations were so outlandish they should have been laughed at and dismissed. Who among us would forget the document that purported to show that Kufuor and his ministers had more money in one relatively small local bank than all the capital assets of all Ghanaian banks put together? I think I was placed somewhere in the middle of that list. We were falsely accused of stealing Ghana’s entire gold reserves from the vaults of the central bank.

Needless to say four years on, the NDC has not been able to prosecute or convict a single NPP Government official or party functionary for corruption. On the contrary, all the evidence today is about corruption by NDC government officials and their supporters. The state of affairs would seem to give credence to that other cynical slogan of “Obiaaba, saa”, which is what our opponents would like the electorate to believe so they can cover their disrespect for the electorate. This time around, however, there is an important difference, political opponents are not digging up dirt or smearing government officials with manufactured lies. The large scale of corruption in the government has been exposed by no one less a personality than the Attorney General of the Republic.

So, should we just throw our hands in the air in despair and say nothing can be done or do we take stock and examine if there may be some new, fresh approaches to tackling corruption that might be more effective?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not think we can throw our hands in the air and it is not true that “Obiaaba, saa”. There are differences. We have a responsibility to work to grow confidence in our politics. We have to work together to tackle this. We in the NPP understand that the good people of Ghana are weary of the debilitating impact of pervasive corruption on our society and simply want their government to fix the problem. They want it fixed not with words but action. Improving the scale of integrity in society is an unwritten mandate of every government, but fighting corruption is a constitutional imperative imposed on the State, headed by the President and government. Indeed, Article 35(8) of the constitution of our Republic enjoins the state to “take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power”. With your help, I want to be the President who fixes the problem of corruption in our country.

Fellow citizens, I, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, have a strong personal commitment to fighting corruption and, along with my party, the New Patriotic Party, we have thought long and hard about how to turn that commitment into practical policies and programmes that will have a real impact on reducing significantly the damaging spread and cost of corruption.

The NPP Government of President John Agyekum Kufuor showed its commitment to the fight against corruption through the enhancement of anti-corruption legislative framework. We recall the passage, among others, of the following laws: a) Public Procurement Act 2003 (Act 663) b) Financial Administration Act 2003 (Act 654) c) Internal Audit Agency Act 2003 (Act 658) d) Financial Administration Regulations, 2004 (L.I. 1802) e) Whistleblower Act 2006 (Act 720) f) Anti-Money Laundering Act 2008 (Act 749)

I do not claim that these sets of laws solved the problems but they certainly helped to begin to change attitudes. Unfortunately, with the coming into office of the NDC, a cavalier attitude was adopted to these laws and deliberate attempts have been made to frustrate the intentions behind the legislation. I refer here, in particular, to the bastardisation by the NDC of the Public Procurement Act.

Ladies and Gentlemen, so what will an Akufo-Addo administration do to tackle the problem?

It is my belief that the fight against corruption must start with an incorruptible President. I can assure you, in all humility, that I am not, have never been and will never be corrupt. I can also assure you that as your President, I will NOT condone corruption in my Government. I bring to the table and to the Office of President of this great country an unblemished track record of personal integrity and fortitude. I invite you to bank on my essential leadership attributes and make me your president. I will lead a strong fight against corruption in this country.

I shall aim to bring about a sustainable reduction in corrupt behaviour to protect the public purse and offer the Ghanaian people value for their money to improve economic and social development.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: Permit me to use this platform to reiterate what I have already told my colleagues, party leadership and associates here and abroad: if your idea is to make corrupt money in Government, then there will be no room for you in my government. If you think of public office as a shortcut to making money then find some other venture to engage your time and energies, because there will be no room under an Akufo-Addo government for self-enrichment in politics. The NPP is certainly a pro-business and pro-people party, and my government will provide an atmosphere conducive for legitimate businesses to flourish, but making corrupt money as a politician or through politics during my tenure as President is not an option that I am prepared to tolerate under my watch.

I believe the time has come for us as a nation to end the business of going into politics to enrich ourselves. We need, as a people, to change the culture of seeking wealth through politics and seeing politics as an avenue for financial gain. This approach to politics has debased what should be the essence of public office - the spirit of service for the common good. I, as your President, will lead by example, and will not allow corrupt, greedy and self-serving politicians in my Government. And I urge you, fellow Ghanaians, to hold me to this sacred promise.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The declaration of assets is a constitutional obligation imposed on the President, the Vice President, Ministers, deputy Ministers, and holders of senior level positions in the Judiciary, Parliament and the Executive. I certainly intend to declare my assets and I have always scrupulously done and shall demand from my Ministers that they declare their assets within the statutory period. I recall that the late President John Atta Mills, may his soul rest in peace, made great play to the gallery, just as some others are doing today, about how he would publicly declare his assets and his ministers would do the same and yet when it came to it and the press made investigations, many of his Ministers had not even declared their assets within the stipulated period. My own view is that the nation will benefit from the public disclosure of the declared assets but I also acknowledge the strong views that some people hold and the cultural sensitivities that exist in our country about property ownership in our society. I believe that Parliament should be the proper forum to debate these questions that are being asked and, as President, I will ask the honourable House to revisit the matter on a bi-partisan manner and put it to a free vote, which, hopefully, will put the matter to rest in our collective interest. I will accept whatever the outcome of such a vote would be.

My Government will pass the Right to Information Bill into law. We will strengthen the access to information in every Ministry, Department and Agency. We will also improve the archival management, including record keeping and information retrieval systems in the public sector to facilitate the effective implementation and utilisation of the Right to Information Bill when it becomes law. We know that transparency protects officials and the public in dealing with the public purse. The public have the right to know what politicians and public officials do in their name.

Experience shows, Mr Chairman, that we have to go beyond just passing the appropriate laws and designing Anti-Corruption Action Plans. Ultimately, the only way to ensure that the strategies are implemented and corruption is combated is to mobilise the necessary political will. Indeed, I believe that political will is the most critical ingredient in the fight against corruption everywhere. My government will cooperate with investigations of anti-corruption agencies so that they function effectively without let or hindrance.

An Akufo-Addo government will also: • Improve governance and management practices in the public sector to eliminate the bad management practices that lead to corruption;

• Amend the relevant sections of the Criminal and Other Offences Act (1960) Act 29, particularly sections 239-257, to make corruption a felony rather than a misdemeanor;

• Introduce stiffer punishments for corruption to make it a high-risk, low-gain activity and make the theft of state funds more expensive for the criminal;

• Support and provide anti-corruption institutions such as the CHRAJ, Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and the Ghana Police Service with greater financial resources to recruit, train, engage and retain a large number of technical personnel to investigate and fight corruption throughout the country;

• Provide the requisite resources to ensure the vigorous implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (2012-2021) developed by a coalition of anti-corruption experts and institutions led by CHRAJ;

• Introduce legislation to improve corruption reporting, investigations and follow-up systems, and to make it: (a) compulsory for every head of a public sector institution to establish and effectively operate an Anti-Corruption Policy and Unit and (b) a criminal offence for a public official to fail to report corruption;

• Work with appropriate state institutions such as the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), CHRAJ, the Public Services Commission and the Ministry of Education to develop an integrity-centred core curriculum of ethics for public office holders at all levels;

• Continue with programmes to shed the light of transparency and accountability in governmental processes throughout the country; and

• Institutionalise, what I call, the “Anas Principle”, to create a culture of positive fear to discourage corrupt practices, a special squad, made up some of our best young talents, who will be well trained and well disciplined, will be created within the established anti-corruption agencies to keep the fight against corruption alive everywhere in the country.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The NPP has a track record of protecting the public purse and we will even endeavor to do much better. I am afraid it is not possible to say the same about the current government.

Under this government it is difficult, Mr Chairman, to find any evidence of any attempt to get value for money in any public financial transaction. In all my years in public service, until 2009, I had not come across such a blatant and costly disregard for the principles and obligations of democratic accountability by a constitutional government under a democratic rule. Under the NDC, the abuse of public office for private gain has grown in scope and scale to become one of the gravest issues affecting the economy and governance in the country. Let me give you just a couple of examples.

The 5.7km Ofankor-Achimota Road, which the NPP was constructing with GH¢43.2 million, has, after a 3-year delay, just been completed by the NDC for GH¢137 million. That amount, fellow Ghanaians, is only GH¢20 million less than the GH¢158 million the NPP was going to spend on the 31.7km Nsawam-Suhum stretch, to build a dual carriageway with asphalt concrete surfacing and an interchange at Suhum.

Public contracts are now routinely awarded by sole sourcing. Very worrying is the fact that this sole sourcing regime is most prevalent in contracts awarded from two key ministries, Education and Roads.

We have heard Members of Parliament on the Minority side allege that over 80 per cent of public procurements are awarded by sole sourcing; the government has not bothered to contradict them. The blatant disregard of the legal requirement to subject public contracts to a competitive tender process is denying the people of Ghana value for their money. I do not use such strong words lightly:

Section 13 of the Public Procurement Act (Act 663) states: (1) The [Public Procurement] Board shall within three months after the end of each year, submit to the Minister [of Finance] a written report indicating the activities and operations of the Board in respect of the preceding year.

(2) The annual report shall include a copy of the audited accounts together with the Auditor-General’s report and the Minister shall as soon as practicable after receipt of the annual report submit the report to Parliament with such comment as the Minister considers necessary.

In this report the Minister must explain to Parliament why certain procurements were done through sole sourcing. Fellow citizens, my information is that not a single such annual report has been submitted to Parliament since the NDC was voted back to office in 2009. It is probably not a mere coincidence that under the NDC, the Chairman of the Public Procurement Authority, is a presidential staffer, whilst the CEO is a former NDC MP. During our time we followed the law and appointed known and respected technocrats to head the PPA.

As I speak, the 2011 Auditor-General’s Report has not been laid in Parliament. This ought to have been done by the end of June 2012. If one recalls that it was the 2010 report, which was laid on the due date, that exposed the judgment debts scandals, one wonders if there are any more such scandals lurking within the report to explain the delay in the laying of the 2011 Auditor-General’s Report.

Then there are the inexplicable rises in the cost of government projects. A six classroom block that was being built at some GH¢85,000 4 years ago, under the NPP, is now priced at over GH¢240,000. This means the NDC is spending three times more money to build the same type of schools that the NPP was building. These are the types of things that undermine confidence in government and limit our capacity to develop.

The same trend can be seen in operations in the road sector. The effect of the Public Procurement Act in the award of road contracts is vividly demonstrated by the difference in costs between NPP and NDC constructed roads, where sadly, the NDC resorts mainly to sole sourcing. The Minority Leader, the Honourable Member of Parliament for Suame, Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, has already made the case that while the construction of one kilometre of asphalt covered road carried was between $450,000-$600,000 under the NPP, it now costs between $1.4 million and $1.6 million, under the NDC. The consequence of that kind of inflated cost of construction is that in the last 3 years, less than 1,000km of roads have been added to the road network as compared to the annual NPP average of 4,750km. Such is the expensive nature of road construction these days that we are even told that luxurious BMW 7 series are now purchased as project vehicles for Road Ministers. A better Ghana it is, indeed, but it appears only for the chosen few…

Since the payment of judgement debts is very much in the news and government spokespersons have sought to use the “Obiara ba, saa” argument to defend criminal behaviour, it is worth pointing out that in all the first four years of President Kufuor, beginning with me as Attorney General and Yaw Osafo-Maafo as Finance Minister, I am informed that less than GH¢4 million was paid out in judgment debt. Last year, the NDC admitted to paying some GH¢642 million, almost equivalent to the GH¢676 million annually that my government, God willing, is pledging to spend on improving and expanding facilities and teaching at our secondary schools. No wonder the NDC is shouting from the rooftops that Free SHS is impossible. Their focus is mainly on expenditure that benefits them and their cronies and leaves the people of Ghana without the basic amenities to improve their standard of living. An Akufo-Addo government will spend on things like Free SHS that will over the next four years benefit more than 2 million of our children.

In less than four years, this government has spent more money than the Kufuor administration did, in 8 years, and secondly this government has borrowed more money than all other governments, since independence, and yet they have little to show for it. I ask, and as all of us must ask, na sika no wo hene?

Mr Chairman, with the NDC set to launch their 2012 manifesto tomorrow, I think it is important to remind them and- even more so, the electorate of just one key promise they gave in 2008:

They said that by the end of 2012, the NDC would have “created a society in which corruption is punished, and probity, integrity and dedicated service are applauded and appreciated.” Linked to this were the following promises and I quote:

i. As a party committed to Social Democracy, the NDC seeks partnership with Citizens to eradicate corruption by a) deepening political accountability and transparency in government b) enhancing the disclosure of budgets, public expenditures and procedures adopted in public procurements.

ii. The new NDC government shall enact into law the Freedom of Information Bill to facilitate access to official information, buttressing our commitment to disclosures. iii. The NDC will introduce a strong program of encouraging citizens to demand accountability and “blow the whistle” on corrupt officials and practices. iv. The NDC Government will revise the law and format for Assets Declaration in order to make it more functional and effective in ensuring probity and accountability. v. Simply put, NDC will make corruption a high risk activity for political and public office holders.

Perhaps, the President will be kind, accessible and affable enough to tell Ghanaians why his government chose to break the promise they made to Ghanaians on corruption and in the process give politics a bad name.

It is not difficult to understand, Mr Chairman, why Ghanaians are skeptical about President John Mahama’s commitment to fighting corruption. Indeed, two of the most controversial international transactions associated with this government, or any other government of the Republic for that matter, the $10 billion STX housing deal from Korea and the Embraer 190 Jet and the accompanying $17 million hangar from Brazil were both led by him in his capacity then as Vice President.

The President in his major policy statement said he would appoint a Sole Commissioner to, in his own words, “to thoroughly examine the judgment debt and negotiated settlement conundrum”. With all respect, Mr President, what Ghanaians really need is their money back, that is what they need. It is very clear to Ghanaians that at least GH¢360 million of these payments made to Woyom, and others were bogus. We urge our care-taker President to, as a matter of urgency, focus on expediting the legal process to retrieve the money and return it to the public purse. We don’t need a sole commissioner to review a matter that is already in court. We want our money back!

Ladies and Gentlemen, This then is the NDC record. The record on which they are trying to stand today.The record upon which they seek four more years. Fellow citizens, your verdict should be ‘No!’ It’s been four wasted years. No more! No more payment of huge sums of money for no work done. No more misapplication of public funds. Enough is enough!

We need to protect the public purse. We need to protect our future. We need to change now and move Ghana forward.

Come December 7, Mr Chairman, by the Grace of God, and with your mandate, if I am elected President, I, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, give you my word, I will protect the public purse jealously. I pledge to ensure that the nation gets value for money to improve public services and drive the important agenda of economic transformation. Ghana deserves this and the NPP, under my leadership, will deliver this.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you sincerely for your kind attention. God bless you God bless Ghana.