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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

Anti-Corruption Crusade Our Shared Responsibilities

The global impacts of the September 11th, 2001 and July 7th attacks in New York and London respectively tell us that no nation can go it alone issues that cut across borders. Neither America nor United Kingdom alone can for instance win the battle against terrorism. Whatever affects one country affects others indirectly.

In a slightly different vein but with similar consequences, the time has come for all of us as a nation to see corruption as national problem, which must be confronted before the economic, and the social progress of Ghana can reach its full maturity. Similarl to the effective national campaign against the spread of HIV /AIDS, if the anti-corruption crusade in Ghana were to get the same support by chiefs, pastors, imams, politicians and opinion leaders, the awareness raised would be overwhelming. The Akans say that the hands of one man are not enough to cover the eyes of God. The philosopher Plato also reminds us that the quest for knowledge is a communal enterprise. So if we are to rid Ghana from the incubus of corruption we must start from the top to the bottom. From the President at Christianborg Castle to the street sweeper at Suhum Central Market everybody must see it as a moral and sacred obligation to become an apostle of anti-corruption.

There is a general notion that the current regime is fighting corruption if you ask top government functionaries. If one looks carefully, it is difficult to buy this assertion. However it may be seen as a journey of a thousand miles, which begins with a step. But how long has it taken before the first step is be taken? For nearly a year since the passage of the Public Procurement Act (Act 663), Financial Administration Act (Act 654) and Internal Audit Agency Act (Act 658) more need to be done to realise the blessings of the laws. There is one thing passing the bill and another thing having the political will to punish those who will breach the law. Is the chief justice waiting for thunder to strike from heaven before the section 66 of the Financial Administration Act, which empowers him to establish the Financial Administration Tribunal (FAT) is fulfilled? The words of a slain of a civil right activists of yesterday- Martin Luther King Jr reminds us that there is an invincible book of life which faithfully records our neglect and inactions. We may cry desperately for time to pause on her passage but time is deaf to such plea and inactions.

The pivot of an effective anti corruption in Ghana gyrates firmly on the three arms of government working effectively with each other. The executive must have the political will to sustain every anti-corruption crusade and parliament must show unity in dealing with the issues of corruption and pass workable legislation to deal with this evil. Much good would be done to Ghana if we separate the Attorney General from the Ministry of Justice. How can an attorney general who sits in the same cabinet meeting with ministers charge his colleagues in a court of justice? The Attorney General should be a non-political position. The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) should be championing this. When this is done the Attorney General will be able to prosecute colleague ministers who will be found of corruption. If this were done, then ministers would begin seeing themselves like people living in glass houses who will dare throw no stone. This will bring about uprightness, probity and accountability amongst those who tread the corridors of power.

Let?s be frank, Mallam Yusif Issah could easily be prosecuted because he was not part of the mainstream N.P.P. After Mallam Issah more similar cases have happened and the president has not have the tenacity to call for even an investigation. The double standard here is that the president still believes that campaign for zero tolerance for corruption is still going with a sustained momentum. When can our ougthness and our isness be reconciled? This is one of the greatest dilemmas facing mankind.

Another thing which the president can also do good is to help add a bit more bite to the powers that CHRAJ wield. A bill that EMPOWERS CHRAJ and which seeks to amend article 218 of the 1992 Constitution will give CHRAJ the needed bite . The Commission must be empowered to bring before a court its findings on corruption amongst others. How long can we tolerate a CHRAJ, which looks like a toothless bulldog? Then also, there must be independent prosecutors to bring cases of corruption to a competent and independent judiciary for justice.

The third thing is that we must pay realistic wages to all workers employed by the state. This would necessary eliminate corruption to some degree if workers are content with what they are paid.

What is also important is that we should broaden our definition of corruption to also include the private sector. Because corruption whether in the private sector or public sector is corruption and mars the potential beauty of Ghana. If our president believes that the private sector is the engine of growth then Ghana cannot remain silent when the nation gets drowned in pool of private sector corruption. Corruption is a global phenomenon fueled in part by the structure of the global economy itself which promotes cross-border corruption. Efforts to address this global pandemic must be both global and co-ordinated at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. Amongst others, we need to develop collaboration amongst governments, civil society and the private sector. This co-operation can be extended to include formal reciprocal obligations for countries to repatriate those accused of corruption who seek refuge when they leave office. There should be no where to hide. In addition, anti-corruption agencies should develop extensive databases on corruption which would make it easy to access information on and about corrupt activities.

This next step might look radical but it is possible and has been successfully done elsewhere. Information on the incomes and assets of public functionaries should be available. In Britain, politicians list their income and assets in a register which is available to the public.

This makes for transparency to the highest degree. Is it not time that we initiated some practical steps like this rather than the endless banter about zero tolerance and all the many other hollow slogans.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is an educationist, freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through:
Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi-Ghana: Tel: 027-740-2467 appiah@whatsonghana.com, www.whatsonghana.com


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