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Opinions of Saturday, 22 January 2011

Columnist: Adidi-Dadzie, Kwesi Ampong

Fighting Ghana's Corruption - the way forward

It was interesting to read in the Ghana News of Thursday, January 20, 2011 that in his first term of office, President Barack Obama and his family were showered with expensive gifts including gifts worth over US$300,000 from King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Ghana’s First Lady, Ernestina Naadu Mills also presented gifts worth a total of US$48,000. (Source; http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=201612&comment=0#com). Apparently, all these gifts, among others, went to the US National Archives since US law bars government officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments.

If the USA has a law like this, why wouldn't they develop? These are some of the little things Africa needs to carefully learn from the US, taking into consideration our particular socio-economic situation. I know people will start bring politics into this and start mentioning NPP and NDC - which wouldn’t help. Why can’t we learn lessons from such a revelation? As usual, NPP and NDC will start accusing each other. But, you see, there is a proverb in Akan literally translated as ‘’when two bulls or goats fight it is usually the field or grass that suffers’’.
Ghana, as a country, needs to learn a moral lesson from this article or revelation. Apparently, I guess all the countries and government officials who showered Obama and his wife with expensive gifts didn't know they were all going to the National Archives, and not for their personal use - Oh, what a pity.
When a country has a law that bars government officials from receiving presents from foreign governments and their officials, I think it contributes heavily to the fight against corruption. Such a law, in Ghana, could be a major factor in the fight against corruption. And, in the case of Ghana, it shouldn't only be gifts from foreign governments and their officials but, also, gifts from corporate bodies and their officials, whether in-country or from outside. This could help reduce the high level of ''kick-backing'' and bribery in Ghana.
Leaders in Africa need to put pragmatic structures and legislation in place to fight corruption. They need to stop this whole verbal campaign against corruption and put in place reasonably practicable rules and regulations. This is because, the high level of Corruption in Africa, especially Ghana, is not with the people, but the system. Our people are generally not corrupt - they have morals, but it is the inherently corrupt system that makes them corrupt. Not until we change the nature of the system, the fight against corruption will continue to elude Africans.
Why will an aspiring MP speak against corruption when incumbent MPs accept bribes or ''kick-backs'', but does same when he becomes a sitting MP. How many times have government officials stolen from national coffers, but when asked about the source of their wealth attributed it to gifts from friends. Yet the so-called friends are never wealthy as they are. How many times have the SFO and the BNI clashed in the discharge of their duties? Yet, instead of harmonising their duties other institutions, such as Office of Accountability, are created. Has corruption in the construction sector and the awarding of government/Sate contracts reduced since the introduction of the Procurement Act or the competitive or Open-bidding/tendering process. It is just surprising that even when processes have been laid down, the same people who laid them down go behind them.

Our leaders need to stop the talking and start acting. They need to stop expressing government commitments to fight corruption and, rather, show or proof that commitment. Mounting a platform and declaring a zero-tolerance commitment to corruption never helped us, and neither will the setting up of mere institutions help if there are no rules and regulations to follow. The question is, on what basis are those institutions going to pursue corruption cases? Is it just base on our current criminal law? Perhaps the fight against corruption among government officials should be handled like the game of football – if a ball is handled in the 18-yard box a penalty is awarded and if found to be deliberate, a red card is given. Precise and concise rules and regulations have to be adopted to fight corruption in the same manner. All we need are

• a code of conduct or simple rules and regulations for public officials to follow;
• an autonomous institution – well resourced to operate freely without political interference;
• the need for the head and other top officials of the said corruption fighting institution to be appointed based on credentials and experience and not on political affiliation. Appointment based on political affiliation is, in itself, corruption. How can a football player be a player and a referee on the same field at the same time, and,
• An incentive system to be developed and implemented to reward officials and corporate bodies who play according to the rules.