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Opinions of Sunday, 28 May 2006

Columnist: Adu-Asare, Yaw

Kufuor Administration's Lackluster Battle Against Corruption

Kufuor Administration's Lackluster Battle Against Corruption in District Assemblies

?Corruption is the most decentralized phenomenon in Ghana!?
-- Daniel Batidam, Ghana Integrity Initiative, June 2004

Six months before the end of the first Kufuor administration, a prominent social activist lamented that corruption had become the most decentralized phenomenon in Ghana. Mr. Daniel Batidam, Executive Secretary of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), observed that ?? the many instances of alleged corruption cited at district assembly levels and scandals involving district level officials like chief executives and private citizens are pointers to the fact that the nation is dealing with a problem that has assumed a systemic dimension, and can only be addressed through a systematic and holistic approach.?

Indeed, existence of widespread fraudulent practices and financial malfeasance in Ghana illustrate and confirm the view that corruption is a decentralized phenomenon in the country. From a litany of reported open incidents, it is as clear as ice that in the commission of corruption local administration officials in Ghana are not different from their central government counterparts. As expected, the Kufuor administration took note of the depth of corruption by officials of decentralized local governments.

So, what has the Kufuor administration done regarding corruption in local governance?

The first Kufuor administration ordered forensic audits of local assemblies and exposed allegations of corruption by chief executives who served under its predecessor. Subsequently, the ministry of local government issued threats of prosecuting the alleged chief executive culprits of corruption. However, besides losing their positions through normal attrition, there was no indication of any other serious punishment of the numerous chief executives identified as corrupt in audit reports.

In spite of regular press reports about acts of malfeasance by chief executives appointed by the first Kufuor administration, there were no stories of court charges or prosecutions against them. Rather, a news story in 2004 stated the following: ?It will be recalled that since he came to office, President Kufuor has dismissed nine DCEs, ? without assigning any reasons. The minister of local government and rural development subsequently announced that four of them were to be redeployed. Nothing has been heard of their redeployment since.?

One celebrated case of corruption in district assemblies exposed by the Kufuor administration in 2001, involved the change in amount of revenue collected from marketplace tolls in the Agona (Ashanti) District Assembly that jumped from 400,000 cedis monthly during the NDC administration, to 2.5 million cedis average per week.

The former Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Nkrabea Effah-Darteh, cited instances where tolls collected by local authorities in several districts tripled and quadrupled during the first few months of the Kufuor administration, relative to the situation under the government it replaced.

Nkrabea-Darteh cited also instances of over-invoicing of the value of contracts that allowed some District Chief Executives (DCEs) and District Coordinating Directors (DCDs) to scheme the difference in cost payments for their personal benefits. Those instances were clear indications of corruption.

Upon review of news stories about corruption in local administrations, one had the impression that DCEs in Ghana, with occasional connivance of DCDs, treated finances belonging to the assemblies as personal property, without the need for accountability to any supervisory authority, but themselves.

Consistent misappropriation of funds by DCEs often resulted in misunderstandings and personal frictions between them and presiding members of district assemblies.

It is fair to note that throughout the four-year premier term of the Kufuor administration, the ministry of local government and rural development took steps to close loopholes from which corrupt local officials siphoned money from Assemblies? budget resources. The exposure of exiting fraudulent practices by local government officials meant more money for the budget of local administrations. However, the evidence suggested also that as existing loopholes closed for corruption, new local officials opened fresh ones.

Nana Akomea, Minister of Information in the first Kufuor administration corroborated the evidence that local government officials in Ghana were adept at opening new loopholes for corruption when existing ones closed. He explained that there was a recurring tendency in the management of corruption in Ghana where measures put in place by new governments initially made an impact and then tapered off; an indication of lack of sustainability in policy implementation.

(This article is adapted from a forthcoming book: ?Ghana In Search of Positive Change? by Yaw Adu-Asare)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.