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Opinions of Friday, 17 March 2017

Columnist: Akram, Hafizdeen

Accountability ignored is corruption ensured

By: Hafizdeen Akram

Since time Before Common Era and across all continents of the world, people have always demanded accountability of those in positions of trust, whether public or private. Till this day it still remains one of the requirements to attain, or maintain, certain responsible positions in government. From late 1950, many African countries have experienced political instabilities in the forms of military overthrows and civilian uprisings all in the name of ensuring accountability toward welfare of the proletariat in society.

Ghana can’t be said to be out of this bracket of nations where accountability is sought for. There were intermittent coup d’états and revolutions from the first republic till December, 1981. Perhaps, the courts were thought to have been weak till 1992, the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Therefrom, the constant tinkering of the law by concerned citizens and the judiciary has brought about the refinement of the Constitution, Acts and other subsidiary legislations.

This has enlightened the population on how to seek justice in the courts regarding issues of probity, accountability, transparency and avoidance of corruption. Ghanaians have always demanded such responsibilities of governments in power and this Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo’s led one isn’t an exception.

The campaign promises made by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) are ‘SMART’ ones which if implemented as proposed would help the poor by reducing the widening gap between them and the rich and could go further to enhance national growth and development.

Combing through the experiences of the personalities that are forming the NPP government, one would see wisdom, knowledge and experience about to be translated into a fast growing economy which will raise high the name of Ghana in the world economy.

Having experienced and brilliant personalities in one’s government alone does not guarantee the growth of a nation as suggested above. It’s about how dedicatedly the appointees bring their experiences to bear on the matter of achieving the national goals that assures development.

‘When a wise and experienced person intends to steal, they steal absolutely, without traces.’ This is what His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo needs to watch. This is to say that people ought not to be given appointment just per their intellect alone. The high moral standards and fear of God potential of ministers designate should equally be counted as one of the canons for giving appointments.

The government must not be complacent that many people in the run up to the 2016 elections were hailing the party for proposing such realistic and achievable projects. It’s no news to Ghanaians that political parties have always proposed same. There’s yet to be a political party in Ghana that will promise the country ‘castles in the air’ or anything that will seem to beat sane imagination. Social commentators have started raising concerns regarding the timing and simplicity of some of the projects promised to take off this year, 2017.

When parties prepare for elections, they have always made promises out of the needs of the hoi polloi in the best ways that will reflect the expectation of a reasonable man. When these promises, as spelt out in the campaign manifestoes, meet the needs of the good people of Ghana, the given parties are said to have had good or winning messages. Since the first election in the first republic, all political parties have always had good campaign messages that usually sell well to the voter. Nothing has changed. Having a marketable message, whether clearly intended or pretentiously crafted, to campaign with is nothing extraordinaire.

The NPP campaign message didn’t serve the party’s success any big deal. The serendipity came as a result of negligence, complacency, lack of truth and disregard for real accountability, exhibited by the immediate past government. The NPP didn’t win deliberately, they least expected it; the NDC on the other hand deliberately lost. The NPP appreciated in a slow pace while the NDC depreciated at a faster one. This is an indication that the NPP has much more work to do in securing the trust of Ghanaians than ever before. Winning an election these days bothers more on justifying the ability to fight corruption, strengthen supervision and ensure accountability than just rolling out a ‘SMART’ campaign message.

Accountability is one legitimate thing Ghanaians are beginning to demand of a government in power seeking re-election. Accountability doesn’t just mean building schools, roads and hospitals and telling the people that you have done same or showing the ‘then and now video’ sort of accountability. The electorates need to see for themselves that their lives have improved. Accountability when ensured advertises itself. It can’t be bought for a song. It’s an offshoot of hard work, selfless service, exhibition of high moral standards and not that of propaganda or mere control of monologic media platforms.

The anti-corruption crusaders wouldn’t want to see the government purse being torn apart and its content rushed on by rapacious government appointees and directors who live a lifestyle that shows a promiscuous daily increase in the gap between the standard of living of the poor and the rich. The poor would desire to have just two of three daily meals intact. The better man of the poor class who has saved money and acquired a small piece of land would not want to witness a seizure of his having by someone who has no legitimate title to it but could use his link with top ruling-party men to assume ownership of the property.

The middle class man, who most part of his income is through monthly paid salary, would want to see his widow’s mite contribution to national development through the high direct tax he pays being used justifiably. For him, judicious spending is his utmost concern. Social intervention initiatives through the office of the president, like YES, MASLOC, YESDEC, LESDEP etc., must not be to the benefit of ruling party fanatics and members alone. Once these expectations are met, to us Ghanaians, there’s accountability.

The Ghanaians on the top rung of the social class ladder have no such plight. They are always the ones who suffer the most when as a result of accountability people are to be brought to book. Why? Your guess is as good as the reasonable Ghanaian. They would spend our money as if it were as easy to find as the colour green in the wet season. They care less whether our guinea fowls of interest fly into a neighbouring country and rest there forever or not; or even buying a state property for a song gives no headache at bed time.

They appear meek, docile and somber when called to account by law and before some committee(s) with constituted membership of fellow first class citizens. But remember, unless of course it is done with suspicious intent, ‘the snake can’t warn its kind not to hiss.’ State Ministers, Members of Parliament, MMDC’s, Board Members, Government-in-power executive members, Chief Executive Officers and Directors-general of state institutions ought not to spend state funds with gross impunity. Ghanaians are watching.

Supervision is necessary for effective accountability. If this holds, then there are certain pertinent questions to ask: why do government agencies, corporations, schools, hospitals, etc. die while private ones survive? Do they lack the required skilled personnel? Is it financial constraints that cause the failure? Why is VALCO still in operation even when it doesn’t generate any reasonable revenue for the government? Why does government fund (subsidize) some cost components of ECG when the company could have covered all of its operational costs through self-generated fund?

To these questions and several others, the reason is one. There is no effective supervision, if it exists at all. For many government outfits the finance isn’t the cause of failure, the skilled personnel are in abundance, patriotic Ghanaians are ready to support but governments see the institutions as one route to serving the financial interests of their loyalists, financiers, business partners and party ‘foot soldiers.’ That’s why weighty-costing contracts are mostly sole-sourced or awarded through restricted tender without the prevailing conditions for such (opaque procurement) manner of acquiring government contracts.

No single campaign promise can be achieved if supervision and accountability on the part of government and appointees are neglected by the Nana Addo led administration. All public office holders, once cited in corruption scandals or suspected to have abused office while in service, must be probed and sanctioned rightly, be they servants in the regime(s) of a settled sun or a rising one. What is meant here isn’t political victimization or ‘witch-hunt’ but due diligence and legitimate sanctioning.

Ghana deserves better.