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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Mahama's Farcical Crocodile Tears!

I read with horror and disbelief, the president's assertion that he cannot physically arrest anyone for corruption because we live in a democracy. Who asked him to do exactly that? If this assertion is designed to throw us off the scent trail, then may our resolve be strengthened. If its political trickery, then the president ought to be ashamed. If it represents a lack of ideas, then the president's leadership ability must be critically questioned.

With all due respect Mr. President, given the untold suffering that we endured under the misrule of your cheerleader called Rawlings, there is absolutely no way that we would expect you to behave undemocratically, in our bid to address the rampant corruption that chokes our development. There is no doubt that we are frustrated and demand swift action on the issue of corruption. Mr. President, it is your inaction that we bemoan! A call for action against corruption must not be equated to a call for recklessness, illegality and bedlam. We are not asking for autocratic rampage and shit bombings that were the signature tunes of Rawlings, your hero. We want you to act but act responsibly! And yes you can!

It is my observation that, the president lacks ideas and a coherent game plan aimed at crippling the rampant corruption that besiege mother Ghana. If the latter is not true, then the president is just playing games aimed at softening the high anti corruption pitch that bellow across the country. Below, I want to identify actions that the president can take to put a vice grip on the metastasizing corruption cancer that gnaws at our developmental efforts.

The first thing you do in an effort to address a problem is to acknowledge it. It appears to me that the president presents himself as being forced to admit that there is rampant corruption in Ghana. I am yet to hear the president admit boldly, without reservation and equivocation, that, his government has a serious corruption problem. Kufour made the same mistake by being defensive instead of acknowledging the problem and dealing with it head on. The president must publicly admit that his government is bereft with advanced corruption. It is such admission, in my opinion, that will begin to show the country and the world, that, he is serious about dealing with the problem of corruption. And yes Mr. President, admitting that there is corruption does not require you to physically arrest anyone. It however requires that you act to dent and eventually correct the problem. It requires that you have a plan and communicate it to the people.

Once the confession is made public, the government must put together a national steering committee on anti corruption. This committee should include key players like the chief justice, chief of police, head of the AG department, interest groups, ministers, ordinary citizens and some parliamentarians. The president should help draw up strategic goals, objectives and initiatives aimed at dealing with the corruption cancer. The latter is critical because without goals, objectives and initiative, there is no way to monitor progress, stay focused and prioritize to maximize the limited resources available.

With goals, objectives and initiatives, the president can then focus on an implementation plan. To fight corruption, the agencies and various institutions that must be involved should be properly resourced. For example, the president cannot fight corruption with the current toothless, incompetent, corrupt and misguided AG's office. The AG's office has to be revamped, refocused and resourced to lead the fight against corruption. It needs fresh, experienced and visionary leadership to play a vital role in denting corruption. The latter is one of the key things the president can do that does not involve physical arrest on his part. Other institutions like the judiciary and police force must be reenergized, retrained and resourced to join the battle. To leave these institutions weakened and rudderless as they are, is to say unequivocally that you are not serious about fighting corruption. No wonder the anti corruption shriek is getting louder!

Without leadership, very little gets done. In a culture where people look up to authority, the president can make sure that all the institutions that fall under him have fresh leadership, and are committed to his attack on corruption. He can demand accountability, transparency and responsibility from all his top, middle and lower level leaders. In addition, the president can lay out policies and sanctions that will impact anyone caught in the corruption cobweb. A key step will be a demand from all public leaders, a keen need to follow existing policies and procedures without fail. Failing which will and should result in swift dismissal. For example, any government official that transacts business outside the formal procurement system, should and will be fired. A few scapegoats in this direction will send a clear signal. There are administrative and leadership acts that the president can undertake to battle this disease, without flouting the key tenets of democracy.

A country is made up of people and systems. To change the country, you must impact both people and systems. After all, a system is as good as the people that work it. To fight corruption, we must tweak both systems and people. On the people side, the president can lead by appealing to the conscience of Ghanaians, through education and moral suasion. The president should not stop at any opportunity to make Ghanaians uncomfortable with corruption. He must make himself, his friends, family, workers, leaders and everyone sit up and realize the crippling impact of corruption, instead of asking for praise because he did his job. Mass education and a call for action should be part of the president attack and rallying cry on the cancer of corruption. Leadership means you lead by acting! Erect bill boards if you have to! Again, this does not require that he physically arrest anyone.

To fight corruption is to demand timely action. The president for example, has been dragging his feet on the GYEEDA report. This is why the people are pissed. Where is his leadership on the freedom of information act? After all the NDC has majority in parliament. Indeed the lack of action on the Woyome case is another example of foot dragging. Justice delayed is justice denied! The people are frustrated because they don't see any sense of urgency and priority on the part of the president. This is why they are yelling and shrieking. The least the president can do is to treat national matters of corruption with the speed that it deserves. Attacking corruption should be top priority! Find competent and tough anti corruption champions like Martin Amidu and make them part of your administration. Don't be afraid of bringing in those who may disagree with you but are committed to eradicating corruption.

Lastly, a continuously review of existing systems and policies to identify loopholes that foster corruption must be a mainstay of the president's administration. Ask all the ministries and various cabinet offices to review existing policy and plug all the loopholes and practices that engender corruption.

I think doing some of what I have suggested here will certainly be a good start. There is so much you can do to impact corruption Mr. President. If you need help, ask for help! It does not help your cause to make flippant excuses at the same time as you sit on your fingers doing nothing about a problem that is free falling and will not wait for your slow antics. Mr. President, you are either for corruption or against it. If you are against it, let it show in your actions that fall within the law and under the Rawlings inspired constitution. If you don't care, say so and stop making excuses. We demand action on corruption and we demand it now! Now or never!!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman ( Affectionately dubbed the double edge sword)

I don't give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell.