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Opinions of Monday, 27 November 2017

Columnist: Benjamin Akwei

Oh Corruption! Why does thou doeth this to Ghana?

President Akufo-Addo made the fight against corruption a key campaign promise President Akufo-Addo made the fight against corruption a key campaign promise

Corruption has become the beat down catchphrase on the lips of faith-based organizations, political activists, politicians, media persons, traditional leaders, civil societies groups, NGOs, civil servants and bureaucrats in Ghana since the inception of the Fourth Republic.

A recent audio-video of Arch Bishop Duncan-Williams of Action Faith Chapel, preaching to his congregation that went viral on social media cautions on the fight against corruption. The President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo, as a presidential candidate of the NPP, made the fight against corruption a key campaign promise given the various allegations of corruption in the past NDC government who were tagged with the phrase “create, share & loot.

On that basis, the Office of the Special Prosecutor (SP) has been passed by Parliament to investigate cases of corruption even though, prosecutorial powers in the Constitution lies in the hands of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Ghana. Countless cases, allegations and calls to ending this endemic disease have been voiced out in various forums and by key important personalities in the Ghanaian society.

The Former Moderator of the Methodist Church, Prof. Rev. Martey, some weeks ago added his voice to the call on the fight against corruption, with the Bishop of Koforidua Catholic Diocese, Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum also urging the government to reduce corruption to the barest minimum to enable it to get enough money to fund the Free SHS. Civil societies groups and NGOs, such as GII, ACILA, CDD, IMANI Ghana and media houses and personalities such as Multimedia and it numerous outlets and personalities such as Captain Smart, Manasseh Azure, Anas Ameyaw amongst others have also been blowing the ‘vuvucellas” on the fight against corruption.

Martin Amidu, the former Attorney General under the Mills government better known as the “anti-corruption crusader” spent a huge chunk of his absence from politics to this campaign against corruption, Vitus Azeem, the former GII Director and Corruption Advisor to the Mahama Administration stated without mincing words that ‘the Special Prosecutor is not the antidote to fighting against corruption”. Recent news in the media have traditional rulers, considered to be the custodian of culture and values, such as Otumfour Nana Osei Tutu II, the Paramount Chief of the Ashanti Kingdom adding his voice to eradicating this beast called “corruption”from the Ghanaian society with a huge indictment of the judiciary in the Delta Force case.

Notwithstanding these entire public outcries for the fight against corruption, public statements and allegations by some key members of the ruling NPP government, not to mention names, presupposes that corruption is flourishing on the corridors of government. As I listened to the audio-tape over and over of the Arch-Bishop of Action Faith Chapel, Duncan Williams, especially, his assessment that to fight corruption will mean to jail every Ghanaian, I began to scratch my head and decided as an academic, writing and researching on political corruption in Africa to add my voice in very simple English and present simple scholarly jargons for the average Joe/Ghanaian walking on the street to understand.

Corruption exists in every political regime and bureaucracy in the World and corruption is not an African problem, as every nation or continent at some point in time in history has been corrupt. But corruption, considered a development issue in Africa, affects the peoples of Africa more than those of the West, who many scholars like myself characterize as counterparts to corruption, given the huge transfer of illicit financial flows (IFFs) from the African continent to Western countries. I do not want to delve into IFFs for now given the fact that the Ghanaian renowned Economist George Ayittey, has written and lectured extensively on this topic.

Corruption has become a catchphrase that the media beats down every day proclaiming the idea that the ordinary Ghanaian struggling to make ends meet has access to and can extract public resources for his/her private use. If the ordinary Ghanaian is corrupt as we are made to believe based on our so-called wrong values but does not have access to public resources for private use and only those with political power do have access to these resources, then, there should a clear distinction between petty and grand/political corruption. Audits after audits by the Auditors General’s office reveal that corruption exists with those who have the political power to extract and award pubic resources for private use.

So why then blame every Ghanaian for political corruption? As I have indicated, corruption in Africa is a development issue and the centrality ofthe state as the instrumental actor in development in Africa and for that matter, Ghana, puts corruption at the doorsteps of state actors: political executive, legislature, judiciary, army, police, and public administration, with (a) state managers as principals and (b) state employees as routine agents or executants of state programs and policies. With grand or political corruption being the development issue and endemic canker in our society, am not trying to make any defence for petty corruption, Mark Philip in Defining Political Corruption, 2002, provides these distinctive ways of identifying and recognizing political corruption:

1. a public official (A)

2. in violation of the trust placed in him by the public (B),

3. and in a manner which harms the public interest,

4. knowingly engages in conduct which exploits the office for clear personal and private gain in a way which runs contrary to the accepted rules and standards for the conduct of public office, within the political culture,

5. So as to benefit a third party (C) by providing C with access to a good or service C would not other obtains, (Philip 2002: pp. 41-42).

Given the above distinctive ways of identifying and recognizing political corruption in Africa, and for that matter Ghana, we can begin a healthful debate or analysis on the fight against political corruption not forgetting that every government in the history of Ghana, be it civilian, military or democratic have always accused its predecessor of being corrupt and made the fight against corruption its “Holy Grail” to ending the woes of the people.

But, and I mean but, that heroic assumption that African leaders, such as autocrats, high-levels officials or elected politicians, are genuinely interested in curbing political corruption have been a façade, given the myriad of corruption cases in the news media in the past three decades.

To fight corruption in Africa is to critically examine the state itself. The state in Africa is identified and characterized as being corrupt, due to its nature, character and key role as the instrumental actor for the extraction of resources for development, and the arena where state property and jobs are allocated in solidarities to domestic and foreign influence.