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Opinions of Friday, 12 May 2006

Columnist: Adu-Asare, Yaw

Kufuor?s Failure to Execute Zero Tolerance for Corruption ...

...In Ghana, the Evidence

This article discusses the evidence of failure by the first administration of Ghana?s President John Agyekum Kufuor to execute anti-corruption initiative he promised electorates ? ?zero tolerance for corruption.?

Before John Agyekum Kufuor was sworn-in as President of Ghana on January 7, 2001, following his victory at the polls, he told a Financial Times (London) newspaper reporter in an interview that among other things, he planned to ??empower the investigative agencies of state to be primed everywhere to be sure that corruption remains under assault.? In the interview, Kufuor hinted at supporting the judiciary to enable it dispense justice expeditiously and fearlessly.

In President Kufuor?s premier inaugural address, he declared that under his administration there would be ?zero tolerance of corruption.?

President Kufuor promised to set a personal example of corruption-free presidency.

Yet, in the final year of the first Kufuor administration, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Papa Owusu-Ankoma, observed that Ghana needed ?? a very strong anti-corruption policy.?

The attorney general ??disclosed of plans to introduce an all-embracing Anti-Corruption Bill.? He pointed out in February 2004 that ?currently the various legal instruments dealing with corruption are scattered. We are looking at all the instruments for fighting corruption, with the view to introduce reforms, where necessary, and new laws to stay in touch with the practice of corruption and to consolidate and codify the various laws under one clear and accessible legislation.?

While campaigning for re-election in late 2004, Pres. Kufuor rehashed an earlier promise by stating that if voted into power again ??he would fight corruption with clenched teeth by empowering accountability agencies like the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to sharpen their teeth against corruption.

The statements above by the attorney general and the president in 2004 constituted clear admission of the fact that the Administration was not sufficiently active in handling the problem of corruption during its first three years in office.

A legitimate question to ask is why the Kufuor administration opted to wait until the last year of its legal four-year term before contemplating ?a very strong anti-corruption policy? in the form of ?one clear and accessible legislation.?

Throughout the four-year term of the first Kufuor administration, relevant government ministers, leaders of the majority party in parliament, the attorney-general, the presidential spokesman, the vice president and the president himself did not miss an opportunity to reiterate statements about the government?s commitment to fight corruption.

In mid-2003, Mr. J. H. Mensah, Senior Minister of the Kufuor administration told an audience that ?zero tolerance for corruption? was one of the cardinal principles for the conduct of official business in Ghana.

J. H. Mensah explained that for the NPP government, zero tolerance for corruption was ??a whole culture and way of doing things.?

Furthermore, J. H. Mensah said, ?by ?zero tolerance, the NPP government had demonstrated leadership in every area, including strengthening the institutional capacity of government to fight corruption and fraud as well as re-indoctrinating the public and civil servants to eschew all forms of bribery.

Mr. Mensah insisted that the Kufuor administration conducted government business in an open and transparent manner and did not interfering in the activities of any of ??the potential custodians of public morality such as the Serious Fraud Office and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.?

In spite of attempt by the senior minister to put a good face on the Kufuor administration?s anti-corruption stance, a survey report by Transparency International, an anti-corruption pressure group, indicated in late 2003, that the phenomenon had worsened in Ghana three years into the Administration.

Reacting to the negative survey report, President Kufuor expounded on the policy statement of his administration?s commitment to investigate and punish allegations of corruption once the maker of an allegation substantiated the claim.

Of course, the president disagreed with the survey finding of worsening corruption in Ghana; he insisted conditions had been better than under the Administration of his predecessor.

Three weeks into the Kufuor administration, Ghana?s Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, disclosed the existence of a draft code of conduct for all government ministers and senior level appointees. Following adoption of the draft code of conduct, the Kufuor administration planned the creation of an office of accountability within the presidency for implementation of the code, ??in order to curb corruption in both the executive and among top government officials,? the Vice President stated. He declared the Administration?s commitment to assist Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) bodies to achieve the objective of combating corruption.

With respect to the positive claims by President Kufuor, his vice-president and other senior officials of the Administration, a follow-up article will discuss the policy actions by the first Kufuor administration that gave the president the confidence to dispute the negative survey report that indicated worsening corruption in Ghana.

For one thing, Ghanaians know that the first Kufuor administration undermined the capacity of the judiciary to carryout its mandate adequately by capping annual budget request from the Judicial Service, before presenting it for consideration of Ghana?s parliament. That action against the Judicial Service by the Kufuor administration constituted interference in the work of the judiciary in fighting corruption and other crimes. The action violated also article 179 (5) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana that forbids ?revision? of budget request from the Judiciary branch of government.

The Kufuor administration has not hinted Ghanaians about the need to investigate an allegation that businesspeople that received government contracts paid ?kickback? money at the seat of government for the benefit of the ruling party, New Patriotic Party, NPP. Former Chairman of NPP, Mr. Haruna Esseku, made the allegation about the kickback regime at the Castle, Osu (Accra).

Ghana?s Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, CHRAJ, recently, exonerated Pres. Kufuor of an allegation that he acquired a $3.5 million hotel building using his son as a front. CHRAJ?s verdict from its investigation into the conditions associated with unsecured acquisition of an unfinished hotel building by the son of the president was under public discourse, as at the time of going to press.

(This article was adapted from a forthcoming book: ?Ghana in Search of Positive Change.?)

By: Yaw Adu-Asare
Woodbridge, Virginia
Monday, May 8, 2006

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