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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Columnist: Oppong, Seth

Fighting corruption in Ghana: An advocacy for a paradigm shift


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Corruption has been identified as one of the most serious crimes in Ghana. The Ghana Governance and Corruption Survey (GGC) 2000 conducted by Serious Fraud Office, CHRAJ, and Institute of Economics Affair (IEA) reported some serious findings about corruption in Ghana.

Using 1,500 households, 500 business enterprises, and 1000 public officials, GGCS 2000 reported that a majority of households in Ghana pay about 10% of their incomes in bribes to public officials; 44% of business firms in Ghana pay bribes to public officials; 46% of the firms reported that they initiate the payment of bribe; 31% are solicited by public officials themselves, and 50% of the firms know in advance how much unofficial payment is required of them. One may blame the firms for initiating payment of bribes but 56% reported that frequently service is delivered once they have paid the bribes. The picture becomes more depressing if the corruption data on MTTU, regular Police, Judiciary Service, CEPS, and Ghana Immigration Service are added to the already gloomy picture.

The survey report was obtained from the Journal of African Law, Vol. 45, No. 2. (2000), pp. 233 – 235. Unofficial payment (bribes) then becomes a necessary evil in the doing business in Ghana, at least that is what survey results seem to say. I know that the situation may have changed since 2000 when the survey was carried out but how much change has occurred in the midst of the serious corruption allegations and the cocaine saga. Most of us will be quick to blame governments. GGCS 2000 was carried out when NDC was about leaving office while the allegations of corruptions continue to be made still under NPP administration, a different government altogether. The survey data and continual allegations of corruption indicate that no matter how determined a government is, it may not succeed in fighting corruption in Ghana since some elements in their folds are determined to perpetuate the heinous crime against Ghanaians. The purpose of this article, therefore, is not to blame governments or to indicate which government is more corrupt than the other but to advocate for a paradigm shift in our efforts to fight corruption in Ghana and on the continent. State of mind makes a huge difference.

The picture of corruption in Ghana and on our continent is gloomy since our re-independence and continues to be so if not worse though some governments have witnessed high incidence of it and others lower. We have always fought corruption with the mindset (within the paradigm) that our governments are interested, determined, and ought to fight corruption in our societies. This paradigm has failed us and as a result we must look for a new one. I advocate a shift from the old paradigm of government must do it and civil society inaction to a new paradigm that operates with a stakeholder’s perspective. This is an organizational analysis tool used in understanding organizations and power. Who are the stakeholders in a corruption-free Ghana? Which groups stand to gain if corruption is eradicated in Ghana? Which groups have vested interest in an economically viable Ghana? The answer to these questions will create a list such as follows: government, corporate Ghana, civil society and organizations, multinationals, international non-governmental bodies like IMF, World Bank, etc and humanity at large. Among these stakeholders only corporate Ghana and civil society and organizations can be considered to be direct beneficiaries. I advocate that each of these stakeholders, particularly corporate Ghana and civil society and organizations no longer remain passive and wait on governments to fight corruption on their own because that can never happen, at least as our politico-economic history seems to suggest so. The question to ask now is: How do we empower corporate Ghana and civil society and organizations to fight corruption instead of how does the government of Ghana fight corruption? Answering this question will require a shift of the locus of control from the government to the key stakeholders. It is within this paradigm that I press Ghanaians on to think about fighting corruptions. I also understand that most Ghanaians are in a state of learned helplessness, a situation that arises when people’s actions seem to matter little in changing their environment such that when an opportunity occurs for them to change something they fail to recognize and utilize it. What shall then be the role the government in this paradigm? Its role will be to create an enabling legal environment in way of passing legislations that empower the key stakeholders to fight corruption without fear of victimization. The formation of anti-corruption coalitions and organizations in Ghana is a good sign of better future but their mission should not be to prevail on the government of the day to fight corruption by itself because regardless of its commitment, determination, and good intentions they always fail to deliver on their promise on fighting corruption. It is, therefore, about time that all Ghanaians got on board (rise above political divides because we all stand to gain in this fight) and offered solutions that do not rely much on the government for implementation rather on us as Ghanaians and the key stakeholders for success. Our search for solutions should be ones that we can control and still be efficacious.

I do not have much to say about the exact ways by which civil society and organizations and corporate Ghana can take control and fight corruption in our society. However, I believe that this advocacy for paradigm shift will let us think differently and offer workable solutions different from those that we would have offered whiles thinking within the old paradigm. However, I will proceed with something that I envision as possible.

There must be an enabling legal environment for the key stakeholders to operate smoothly. This is the major role the government must and can play in this paradigm; it will afford it more time to think about other equally serious issues. In this regard, the cancellation of the criminal libel law and the drafting of whistle blower’s bill are in the right direction. We need legislations that will empower the key holders to initiate investigations into media reports and proceed with prosecution if substantial evidence is found to warrant prosecution. There may be some laws or bye-laws here and there that makes it possible but what we need is a “People’s Anti-Corruption Act” (PACA). Such an act should be an embodiment of all existing laws that enable Ghanaians to fight corruption by themselves with necessary amendments and additions. PACA should be an act enforceable by Ghanaians with little government input. One other thing that has to change is in the new paradigm is the criterion for assessing the effort and commitment of our governments at fighting corruption. The criterion must change from the number of prosecutions of public officials alleged to be corrupt to the number of anti-corruptions legislations and the number of impediments they remove out of the way of civil society in our fight against corruption. This is because our dependence on our governments to prosecute has not yet and will never intensify the fight. Has the prosecution of former ministers like Kwame Peprah scared public officials? Did the prosecution of Tagor and Abass scare them? I do not by this also suggest that there should not be prosecutions but overreliance on it has failed us. Weren’t some people executed for the same reason? Did that put any fear in people? This also implies that the perceived corruption indices run by international NGOs like Transparency International must be re-interpreted as a measure of effort and commitment of civil society (Ghanaians) at tackling corruption. We can continue to “deceive” ourselves that it is the duty of the government of the day to fight corruption and still see them fail, be bitter and complain without anything changing much till we go to our graves. The responsibility of the government becomes that of enacting laws and that of the citizens ensuring the enforcement of those legislations.

ICT shall have an important role to play in the fight against corruption within this new paradigm. I assert here that a good number of cases of corruption in Ghana are due to lack of information on the part of those who get “robbed” by public officials. It will surprise you to know that some Ghanaians do not know the application fee for Ghanaian passport or licensure procedure for importing. It is said somewhere that people perish for lack of knowledge. It summarizes the plight of many victims of some corrupt public officials in Ghana. Interestingly, when we even know we still behave as if the public official is doing us favour by doing his or her work. It is your right to have that service given to you. Other times it is because we want to get what we want via the detour or short-cut. By so doing you make yourself vulnerable to the public official. You cannot make yourself vulnerable and still blame NDC or NPP for corruption in Ghana. Think of a Ghanaian student who did not qualify for university admission but still wants to go to the university. How many qualified Ghanaians pay money in order to get admitted? NONE! Whether you believe that humans are naturally good or bad, it cannot be denied that the existence of “supply” conditions can make naturally good people corrupt and absence of such conditions can make naturally bad people less corrupt because of lack of opportunity to express it. ICT provides the infrastructure by which information can be disseminated or transparency can be injected into the public service. Think of the avenues for corruption that have been sealed by the computerized school selection system for senior secondary or senior high school introduced by Ghana Education System! Did you know the following: www.bog.gov.gh (Ghana of Ghana), www.judicial.gov.gh and complaint@judicial.gov.gh (Judicial Service of Ghana), www.ppbghana.org (Public Procurement Authority/Board), www.ghanapolice.org (Ghana Police Service), www.ghanacustoms.gov.gh (Ghana’s customs, CEPS), www.ghanaimmigration.org (Ghana Immigration Service), www.chrajghana.org (GHRAJ), or www.gaf.mil.gh (Ghana Armed Forces)? They should adopt appropriate technologies to make more useful, up-to-date information available on their websites. Ghanaian IT specialists at home and in the Diaspora who always speak against corruption should consider developing or contributing to the development of appropriate technologies for enhancing transparency in Ghana, even if pro bono. Made-in-Ghana IT solutions may be superior to what IBM, Apple, HP, Dell, and Microsoft may put together to assist us. They simply don’t understand our situation; we can learn whatever they have to offer us and build it to fit our society. That will represent the needed contributions of Ghanaian IT think-tanks in this fight. You may visit the appropriate websites to get firsthand information as to how certain things are done officially if you have not already decided to go through the back door yourself and come back to tell us that you were asked for bribe. Some people have observed that easiest way to hide any information from Ghanaians is to make it part of a book. That summarizes the major challenge to ICT in the fight against corruption. Regardless of educational level, some Ghanaians prefer to be told to reading to get firsthand information themselves. They delight in “yese” (they say) rather than “mese” (I am saying). They seem not to realize that what moves the world today is knowledge! Who must train whom to use ICT? The government or yourself? The government can do its part but it is your sole responsibility to get yourself trained! You can complain that it is the responsibility of the government to do so but when you apply for a job and you are refused on the grounds of not being computer literate we all shall then know who suffers. What about those of us who can’t and probably will never learn to use ICT? The responsibility of knowledge sharing (as I am doing in this article) falls on us; we must inform such group of Ghanaians if we purport to be interested in fighting corruption.

Empirical research carried out in 2003 by Mensah, Abosgye, Addo, and Buatsi in Ghana indicates a strong link between corporate governance and corruption. They described the dealings of corporate Ghana with government as a black box as the corporations were unwilling talk about them. They recommended the following: legal and regulatory reform, awareness and education for shareholders, establishment of codes and standards for corporate governance and government procurement in Ghana, and institutional capacity-building for public and public sector. Mensah et al (2003) and Corporate Governance Manual by Ghana Securities and Exchange Commission (available for free at http://www.secghana.org) provide good references for Ghanaians interested in the structure of corporate governance in Ghana. As much as I believe that corporate governance should bes one of key ingredients in our anti-corruption campaign, the recommendations provided were still informed by the old paradigm that relies heavily on governments for implementation. However, in the new paradigm the often left out external players in corporate governance such as financial analysts and corporate watchdogs will play key role. As a result, it is recommended that Databank Group (Gh), Ghana Club 100 (run by Ghana Investment Promotion Center), Ghana Stock Exchange, and other private corporate watchdogs and para-governmental organizations pay more attention to corruption in their financial analyses. For instance, Ghana Club 100 can include perception of corruption of companies and adherence to sound corporate governance in its ranking of top 100 companies in Ghana.

The key stakeholders should be interested in and prepared to initiate private investigations into allegations of corruptions or petition such people at CHRAJ. In this regard, Ghanaians, both rich and poor, must sacrifice by contributing money to fund such projects when a need arises. Funding shall not be a problem at all if Ghanaians are prepared to contribute to funds to help pay the hospital bills of people they have never met before. For instance, TV3, GTV, and Joy FM have all set up accounts to which Ghanaians can contribute to such consolidated funds. I believe that the same people will be more than willing contribute to fund something that affects their daily life directly. The little we lose by way of contributing to such funds will pay off in millions of cedis that would be saved and used for the development of our own country. It is worth noting that the usual strategy used by some public officials is to let issues die their natural deaths. In this paradigm, we must not and cannot afford to let serious allegations of corruption to die any premature death; we must pursue such issues to their logical conclusions. Giving up is what the officials expect but we must say today that WE WILL NOT GIVE UP ANY MORE. No risk, no gain.

Ghanaians should be alert and be prepared to report alleged corruption practices to the media and non-governmental anti-corruption agencies. The media and these agencies should also be prepared to do follow-up studies and make the findings available to Ghanaians. What about a newspaper devoted to writing about only corruption in Ghana?

Periodic anti-corruption surveys should be conducted by Ghanaian-owned NGOs though non-Ghanaians can provide assistance. The numbers sometimes tell us a lot about what is on the ground. What is measured is what attention also is paid to! Constant monitoring of corruption levels communicates our interest in the fight against corruption in Ghana.

There must be a corruption league table that provides ranking of ministries, departments, and agencies and businesses in Ghana according to the degree of perceived and actual corruption. The individual ministers and other key public officials should also be ranked on perception of their involvement in corruption. Ghanaweb.com can lead the way. There can also be ECOWAS and AU corruption league tables. There must, in addition, be days in each month dedicated to shaming corrupt individuals, be they public officials or civilians. It can be a form of phone-in radio or TV programme. This does not require any effort on the part of any government; its success relies on the determination and will of Ghanaians and the media.

The international bodies that purport to be interested in fighting corruption in Ghana should focus on projects that make fund available to Ghanaian-owned NGOs and civil society to lessen the financial burden on Ghanaians as citizens in the fight against corruption. Their attention should be on empowering civil society in Ghana to take up the fight against corruption ourselves. I will end here but I know there is a lot that you can also add but the test of the feasibility of your suggestions should be whether civil society or Ghanaians can implement without much help from the government of the day. Our reactions to this new paradigm should communicate to us how much we desire to fight corruption in Ghana; corruption is not fought with the lips, complaints, inaction and prayers that things will change but ACTION. Heaven, we say, helps those who help themselves. I am not Malcolm X nor Martin Luther King Jr nor Kwame Nkrumah nor Patrice Lumumba but I dream of a future in which corruption is not among the top 10 problems of our country and continent. In February 1948, some Gold coasters died for us to have independence so what are you prepared to sacrifice to ensure a corrupt-free Ghana? Do your part by forwarding this article to someone you know may be interested. Change does not come by itself nor through mere bitter complaints but through action. The change begins now!



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