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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Columnist: Owusu-Gyamfi, Clifford

My solution to corruption reduction

My mother has never been in the classroom in her lifetime but she used to tell us that “Akrakyefoo de pen bo kronoo paa” literary “Officials often steal with the pen.” There is no doubt that my mother was trying to define corruption in her own understanding.

The word corruption has been used since the early 15th centuries. The etymology of the word which is of Latin root “corruptionem” has to do with rotten dead bodies. In fact the apostle Paul in the Bible used the same work many times in the New Testament to denote an imperfection.

I will not spend much time to pin point the corrupt nature of our country. As a child growing up in Ghana, I saw EC electricians taking money to do illegal connection for people in the vicinity. Then, I saw them as good men helping us not to be tortured by the dark night.
There again, in the high school, our librarian was selling library books to us and recording them as missing books. Here too I saw the man as a good man though I knew the act was inappropriate.
Coming to the highways, I always heard the adage that, the policeman is a friend of the driver. I know there are many laws governing driving but I ever heard that a driver is arrested and imprisoned for road offenses. He in fact has a friend on the high way, the policeman.
I remember one time a friend narrated an experience he had with a seer. He went to see the seer and there were some people before him in the queue but he was called in first. The people began to complain and the seer, in his attempt to justify his favoritism told the people that, “You always come here empty handed, you must learn from this man.” This means my friend always had something in addition to his charges. This is at the spiritualist’s office.
Corruption in Ghana is a reality because it has become a lifestyle, from house to house, kinship to churches, schools to hospitals, CEPS to Ministry, and finally to presidency. The system is corrupt and sadly tends to favor the rich who are immensely baptized into the act. How do we solve this problem?
The only means to curb corruption growth in Ghana is to encourage the use of Electronic system of buying and selling. NOTE, my proposition is not meant to give us a “zero corruption” in our country. What I meant is that it is an effective means to mitigate against the high rate of corruption in the country.
Living with white people for sometime now, I have realized that no money into government or entrepreneur passes through the hands of individuals. All payments are made through electronic machines. Where you are to give physical cash, there is a machine to give you receipt. I have so far not received a receipt signed by human’s hand. The system is well structured that we can even load money on our students’ ID cards and wallets to purchase goods and services.
I can’t imagine how much goes to individuals’ pocket at the end of the day. At lease I knew a custom worker who at the end of the day comes home with GHC200. You might not imagine but this is his part of the day’s booty among other colleagues. I myself have witnessed the trouble that our market women go through in the hands of custom officers when I once took a bus from Benin to Ghana. Now what these custom officers collected is not counted, the policeman, at the harbor (unimaginable), in schools, hospitals, market revenues, national taxes, EC, ministries and presidency; government is losing billions of Ghana Cedis a day.
It was a very good initiative when the e-zwich was introduced in Ghana. In fact it is one of the key initiations of the Bank of Ghana that was to shape the face of our financial transaction to speed up commerce and friendly transaction. But it’s not enough done, these machines must be deposited at all sale points through out the entire nation.
The Bank of Ghana, in collaboration with rural and commercial banks, small and large scale business enterprises, must mandate it as a legal means of financial transaction (if they can force us to collect coins, why can’t they enforce this one too). Let the banks give it to its customers as part of the bank packages. Every Ghanaian worker, must posses at his or her disposal an electronic card whether Visa, Maestro, e-zwich or whatever. I also encourage the government to invite foreign electronic card companies like, Lloyds TSB/HBoS, Wells Fargo, HSBC, Capital One, American Express, Discover, Citi, Chase, etc. to invest in the country to achieve this.
I have also noticed that, most of the small scale businesses as well as large companies do not pay taxes or partly cheat government. As electronic machines automatically calculate tax deductions, it will be at the advantage of the Ghanaian government to easily get a full measure of taxes due. It will also help the business owner not to spend time going up and down to pay his taxes at the sale points.
All government and non governmental sale point like, passport offices, birth and death registration offices, police services, CEPS, EC, Schools, Ministries, Supermarkets, communication centers, the list goes on and on… must have payment machine at their disposal. So now it will become clear that physical money doesn’t frequently pass through individuals’ hands but goes straight to where it must be.
Another advantage that will bring will be that, there will be free and fair. For example, I know how much am suppose to pay for my passport. I put my card inside and am done. Any other transaction is to my own detriment. Market women will no longer have to bargain for reduction of goods weighed. Since the prices are there, you just put your card inside and everything is done. This is what we call 21st century commerce.
Someone may be thinking that it will be hard to implement this. No, not hard at all. The Bank of Ghana can do it at a blink of the eye. If we can produce voting ID cards for the entire country, why can’t we provide them with electronic cards for financial transaction? After all aren’t we tired of arm robbers robbing our mothers on the Atebubu to Yeji high way?
It is time that Ghana revolutionalize its electronic system of buying and selling. We have begun but we can send it to the next level. If I become an offender of the law, I will be willing to pay but I don’t want the money to go to the policeman’s pocket. If I am claiming my goods from the harbor, am wiling to pay but I don’t want the money to go into someone’s pocket. Let us love ourselves and help to get some of these things implemented.

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi
University of Lausanne, Switzerland