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Opinions of Friday, 24 February 2012

Columnist: Appeadu, Charles E.

Fighting Corruption in Ghana – A Suggestion

I authored a feature article published on Ghanaweb on July 4, 2007, with the title: “Ghana’s Development and Corruption.” The article was published during the Kufuor administration and at a time when Ghanaians were getting ready to elect a new President. I reproduce below two paragraphs from that article:

“A corrupt society will negatively affect motivation, innovation, and hard work! Now, what should we do about this? This is one of those areas that I classify as mainly the leadership’s part. I refuse to believe that in a country of over 20 million, we cannot find intelligent, wise leaders, who are also people of integrity. We need to have political debates to find out where the candidates stand with respect to dealing with corruption. My suggestion to the next President is to tackle this problem department by department, ministry by ministry, and agency by agency.

First, the President must genuinely be committed to dealing with corruption. Then, he should search for Ghanaians both home and abroad who are true leaders (individuals who have demonstrated the passion to work to improve their domain of influence for those they serve) to head the ministries/departments/agencies. These true leaders of integrity should be given the mandate to hire and fire staff and some goals to meet within a specified time period. Their achievements should be chronicled from time to time, discussed in the public media, and lauded to the ears of all Ghanaians. Those that fail and get corrupt should be exposed and punished with fines and jail terms. Of course, I am assuming that the President is subjecting himself to the same (or higher) standards of professional and ethical excellence he expects of his ministers and agency heads. This should be a chief priority of the next President and he should not pay lip service to this. It is that important. Some may be saying, as they read this, that we don’t have people like that. This is not true! I do not espouse to be the best person out there or the only person out there with integrity but I must say that if I am put in charge of a department/ministry, I know many people with the qualifications, passion to serve, and the integrity to get the job done! And I believe that there are many other Ghanaians reading this piece who can make similar statements.”

It is almost five years since that article was published but it saddens me to note that not much has been done on this most important issue facing our dear nation. What is really wrong with our leaders? What should we do as a people? Are we innately that bad? I still stand by what I wrote almost five years ago, that if our leaders truly want us to develop, they can find the right people to get the job done! We have many well qualified, experienced, accomplished, patriotic men and women of Ghanaian descent with impeccable integrity and the energy and passion to get Ghana on the path to real meaningful development. Many of these people are willing to make reasonable sacrifices to aid in our nation’s development, but they are not called to do so. Yes, I understand that the public sector is not the only place people can make contributions and I know that many Ghanaians have gone into the private sector and are quietly working hard. To these people, I say thank you and bravo! That said, I think the public sector is so large and relevant in Ghana that we need individuals with the requisite competence and integrity to help make necessary and drastic changes that will speed up our development.

For a start, I suggest that the President identifies a few critical areas, departments, and agencies like CEPS, SSNIT, and Law Enforcement and look for individuals with the characteristics enumerated above to head those areas. These individuals should come to the agencies with their own teams and be given clear mandates to make necessary changes in a given time period. For example someone can come in with a team of about 10 people to take over CEPS. The existing heads of the various CEPS Divisions could be given early retirement packages or be covered with one layer of Directors to whom those existing heads will report. With a large team like that, it is going to be unlikely that existing corrupt officials will be able to frustrate them. This should be replicated in other Agencies or Departments or Ministries etc. Let’s do this for five years and, I bet you, we will see great improvement in Ghana! Folks, can you imagine a Ghana where people pay only what is required of them and receive the services due them promptly? Can you imagine a Tema Harbour where goods clear efficiently and in a timely manner with the fees paid actually going into the State’s coffers and not into corrupt officials’ pockets? Yes, these are possible! Imagine the increase in volume of transactions from Ghanaians and nationals of our neighbouring countries with the attendant increase in revenue to Ghana! Imagine that and also imagine the impact Africa’s first born son will have on the development of the rest of Africa!

Once again, I call on our leaders to be bold to punish corruption and be unbiased and consistent in doing so. Political affiliation and tribalism are feeding and perpetrating corruption in Ghana and until we get a leader who is able and willing to overcome these forces and take corruption head-on, our development will remain stalled in the doldrums. Mr. President, I say again, please PUNISH CORRUPTION, especially corrupt individuals in your own party!!! This is the only credible threat you can give to those who are thinking of stealing.

Dr. Charles E. Appeadu