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Opinions of Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Columnist: Aapengnuo, Clement

Corruption and the President

A lot of discussion has gone on since Mr. Pianim’s insinuation that if a country is corrupt, it’s president (and top leaders) must also be corrupt. Political undertones not withstanding, this was the logic of the June 4th Revolution. Ghanaian’s embraced it wholeheartedly and continue to celebrate it. A few scapegoats were sacrificed, many lost their property and many more suffered indignities all in the name of purging the country of corrupt leaders and by so doing corruption as a whole. Well, thirty years down the lane, corruption is still endemic and we are still blaming our leaders.

Corruption is a multifaceted phenomenon supported by differing historical and socio-economic conditions in each country. It exists at all levels of society, transcending national boundaries. Its consequences are global; it’s hidden costs immense. Corruption drains the resources of a country, diminishes its potential to develop socially and to attract foreign investment making it incapable of providing basic services to or enforcing the rights of its citizens. Corruption impacts negatively economic growth and good governance. Corruption erodes public confidence in political institutions and leads to contempt for the rule of law, it distorts the allocation of resources and undermines competition in the market place.

Corruption is a manifestation of institutional weakness, poor ethical standards, skewed incentives and insufficient enforcement. Corruption thrives where institutional checks on power are missing, decision making is obscure and great inequalities in the distribution of wealth condemn people to live in poverty. To reduce the presence of such a multifaceted social phenomenon to one person (or a group of leaders) is disingenuous.

The commission for human rights and administrative justice (CHRAJ) is the official body entrusted with the task of fighting corruption by investigating corruption and educating the public to appreciate the high costs of corruption. Not only is it under funded, the legal system does not make it possible for the commission to work effectively. The Criminal Code of 1960 contains inadequate provisions on corruption. What is needed are very clear criminal laws on corruption with maximum punishment possible, a legal system that ensures that corruption cases are given priority in the courts, and a political culture that allows the legal system to function. What is need is a set of laws, which makes it possible for people to get the services they need without having to pay a bribe. E.g. the possibility of suing the director of passport if after 30 days of submitting one’s documents for a passport, one does not receive the passport. Finally a decentralized system in which officials are accountable to the people of the area and not a political party, will help in thefight against corruption. Politicizing corruption is counter-productive.

Clement M. Aapengnuo * Conflict Analyst * Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution * George Mason University, VA.