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Opinions of Thursday, 5 August 2010

Columnist: Isang, Sylvester

Let’s Eliminate The Who You Know Or ....

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Who Knows You Syndrome

Corruption occurs in many forms in our society. Dealing with this social canker goes beyond mere verbal pronouncement of policies such as ‘zero tolerance for corruption’ or ‘probity and accountability’. Former president Kufuor was right when he admitted that the corruption pandemic that has engulfed our society goes as far back the time of Adams and Eve.

Nevertheless, the fact that corruption started with the first man and woman of God’s creation does not mean that we should not take drastic or bold actions to minimise it or eliminate it in our society. We often cite countries such as the United Kingdom and the USA as best examples of Developed Countries. A critical question to ask is whether or not the present inhabitants of these countries are not part of the descendants of Adams and Eve?

It will equally be a total blunder to assume that we have no form of corruption at all in these Developed Countries. The recent case of ‘Maybe and Johnson’ which involved a UK Construction Company giving kick backs to some Ghanaian public servants to win favours for contracts is a clear case that we could have serious cases of corruption going on in even the developed world because the giver and receiver are both guilty of corruption in the ‘Maybe and Johnson’ case just as in any bribery case.

What we cannot dispute is that the scale of the pandemic of corruption and the institutions established to prevent corruption in the developed countries compared to the developing world like Ghana are certainly not the same. Whilst strenuous efforts are being made to eliminate corruption in the developed world, the exact opposite is taking place in the developing world. That is to say, much effort is being made to entrench corruption in the developing world. The spate at which people commit crimes and go free because of their political coloration, ethnicity, religion among other things and the permeation of social cultural norms in our society-doing good to your relations when you are in authority which is the basis of the ‘who knows you syndrome’ are clear examples of how deliberate the corruption pandemic is being entrenched in Africa.
I have realised that in Ghana we pay too much focus on politicians and other public servants such as the police when we talk about corrupt persons or institutions in our society. I may be wrong but my personal experience is that no mere political talk on eliminating corruption can ever yield fruits if there is no real national re-orientation of our minds and the compulsory institutionalisation of basic procedures that will eliminate corruption in our society.
Let me share a friend’s experience in one of Ghana’s ministries. This friend of mine just like me after having completed his master’s degree decided to cut short his stay in the UK to return home in order to help contribute to the development of mother Ghana.
This friend heard of vacant positions at one of the Schools of Hygiene upon inquiry from the Principal. Based upon this he submitted his application to the office in the ministry that recruits teachers and posts them to the various health training schools.
In fact because he realised that he was wasting his knowledge at home he wanted to hasten his application process and therefore he posted his letter by EMS from his home town to Accra on 22nd October 2009. The letter reached its destination point the next day.
Being impatient he decided to make a follow up to Accra since some times from experience such application documents to busy offices are often lost in the process or deliberately dumped somewhere.
When this friend got to Accra at dawn he only took a bath and without resting from a long and tiring journey he went straight to the ministry concerned to enquire about his letter. The General Office was his first point of call. The Secretaries there said they submitted his letter to the ‘Boss’ who was to act on the letter on 26th October, 2009 and then asked him to go there for the feedback.
When my friend went to the office the ‘Boss’ was receiving a call so he patiently waited. Meanwhile when he knocked at the door and was received in he mentioned that he was looking for the ‘Boss’ who heard my friend mention his name. So it was the expectation of my friend that after his call the ‘Boss’ would have asked him why he was looking for him. Surprisingly the ‘Boss’ was ready to go out straight after his call to a meeting somewhere. It was at this point that one of his subordinates drew his attention that my friend was waiting to see him.
At the mention that he was in to enquire about his application the ‘Boss’ told him to go and that anytime he looks at his application that he will call him and was on his way to the said meeting. My friend decided to follow him out to see if the ‘Boss’ could give him his phone number with which he could call later for an update on his application but the ‘Boss’ said no to this humble request.
Whilst still following and begging the ‘Boss’ a young man who has a salary problem after having submitted his forms in a different office came to mention that to this ‘Boss’ that my friend was following up and down.
The young man unlike my friend greeted the ‘Boss’ in a local language and lo and behold the ‘Boss’ took this young man who incidentally bears the same sure name as the boss’ to the office where this young man has just brought in his forms and told the lady in charge in the presence of my friend in the same local language that ‘this is my brother make sure he receives his salary this month’.
Wow! Said my friend to himself. The boss has this power but is failing to act on his application. Why? Hmmmmmmmmm the reasons are clear.
How do we deal with this unfortunate social canker of corruption so deep rooted in our society? My personal opinion is that we don’t need a change in government to deal with the canker of corruption in our society. What we need is a change of attitude by all citizens who think that Ghana comes first before any other person or thing within our boundaries.
I wonder if anyone has ever asked how people get employed to one particular organisation or the other. Will the proposed ‘Right to Information Bill’ granted if passed into a law allow us to demand institutions and organisations to tell us how the personnel they have working under them were recruited?
If we continue to employ people according to the ‘Who knows you syndrome’ the danger is that there will come a time that the whole Country cannot function again because the State Ghana just like any other State is like a system and if this system is made up of faulty parts then the whole system will crumble.
Let’s begin now! Let’s save Ghana! Let’s look at competence, skills, qualifications and employ base on merits so that those who don’t know you or those who you know would have a fair ground to play with regards to employment particularly in the Public Sector.

Sylvester Isang

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