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Opinions of Monday, 20 March 2017

Columnist: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

Government to push for anonymous corruption tip lines

By: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

..and Online Corruption/Conviction Databases

Corruption steals, corruption incapacitates, corruption ruins, and corruption kills - these are the words of some innocent individuals who have been devastated by corruption. One way or the other we all have been affected by corruption. However, in a situation where it is tearing down the fabric of society, is accepted as a norm and nothing is being done about it, I think we have a problem. Interestingly, the same people who cry corruption, are the same people when given the chance become very corrupt. It appears people only see corruption when the ball is not in their court.

This destructive vicious cycle which our system support by default, is ruining the Ghanaian and African society. This needs to be broken and corruption curbed to benefit all.

We all know that several attempts have been made to reduce corruption yet corruption keeps on soaring. Moreover, many researchers have studied and identified the contributing factors responsible for corruption. Every government since independence has promised to weed out corruption yet nothing has changed.

This raises the following questions: (1) As a nation, are we serious about significantly reducing corruption? (2) Is ignoring corruption a back or secret door for some few opportunistic people to get rich quickly? (3) Is the lack of proper execution the bottleneck? (4) Is corruption getting sophisticated? (5) Is corruption so accepted in our society that people cannot tell the difference? (6) Are there incentives for reporting corruption? (7) Does an anticorruption team exist and how effective is it? (8) Where or to whom does someone witnessing corruption report to? (9) If such avenues exist how seriously are these tip offs taken? (10) How protected are whistleblowers or reporters when they provide valuable tip offs? (11) Are whistleblowers or reporters rewarded or made scapegoats? (12) Are we treating corruption as a serious crime? And (13) Are we punishing offenders appropriately?

Answers to these questions may provide us with a solution to some of our current predicaments. In my opinion, if we really want to significantly reduce corruption, it should be treated as a serious crime. I suggest, a tip-line for Ghanaians to report individuals and/or groups engaged in or suspected of corrupt activities and an online database for listing convicted corrupt individuals/groups. Legislation should be introduced without delays to not only establish these crime-fighting tools but also to make it freely accessible to the public. This proposed legal corruption database should provide information to the public about the risk associated with dealing with people and businesses on the list. To make it trustworthy only convicted individuals and companies should be listed on this database and it should be irrespective of social status.

In many developed countries, these online databases are common; for example, sexual predators’ databases exist with names and locations of offenders available to every neighborhood they find themselves because of the risk associated with them. However, in our part of the world, offenders, especially high social status corruption individuals are given more opportunities to cause more harm. This inexplicable reaction to corrupt individuals may be because they feed into invincible corrupt networks surrounding us or they use their practices to corrupt more to get their way.

For the anonymous calls tip lines, calls must be investigated by well trained professional crime investigators. If evidence exist, tips should lead to the filing of charges and subsequent prosecution by the state.

In the event where whistleblowers or reporters are known safeguarding the public’s access to their contacts or sources as well as protecting them may be necessary. Where whistleblowers are unknown, the State should ensure that they remain anonymous unless they choose not to. In some situations, it would not hurt to reward tipsters especially if a tip off leads to significant breakthroughs. This would be an incentive for more people to expose corruption.

Finally, it is worth to pointing out that “where there is wheat there is tares”. This means it should be expected that not all tipoffs will be genuine or lead to significant breakthroughs in the fight against corruption. Also, a body set to investigate corruption could be comprised of both good and bad people. It is therefore the duty of the oversight body to weed the tares. Any oversight body should include people from all levels of lives and should be reshuffled on regular basis.

This is a start, but I believe the suggestions provided in this article, if executed with all seriousness, could help deal with some of the corruption issues affecting Ghana.

God bless.

Anim-Mensah, Alexander, PhD (The GSTS Alumni Association - North America)