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Opinions of Monday, 21 May 2018

Columnist: Samson Lardy Anyenini

Samson’s Take: Starve NCCE et al; endanger our democracy

The increasing reports of violent criminal abuse and a level of tolerance for it; a young lady is held by men and spread to stretching limits so another can beat her with horsewhips. Her loud cries and appeal for mercy and rescue do not attract the attention of anybody in her community. That little girl was gang-raped and left in a condition that kills her.

Mothers have inflicted wounds on their little boys; some have done so with burning hot electric irons as if their children were wrinkled clothes needing the straightening these irons give. Girls as young as twelve are forced into marriages attended by a happy community of celebrants.

Local authorities have been attacked and public property vandalised. Many dish out pure insults and abuse the elderly, even the President on a daily basis in the name of socio-political commentary on radio and TV. We are losing our cultural values. There is little or no respect for national emblems. Many don’t find the essence of being faithful in their tax obligations. People litter without any sense of environmental care and cleanliness despite central government spending billions on sanitation and waste management companies.

We are quick to point to bodies like the National Commission For Civic Education (NCCE) as failing in their job of civic education; we blame CHRAJ for not joining NCCE in executing the mandate to educate people about their rights; we shout that the Attorney-General’s Department is not prosecuting those committing these criminal abuses; we complain that the Labour Commission et al are not serving their purposes.

The Deputy Special Prosecutor nominee said at her vetting that she had to personally buy paper (A4 Sheets) to do her work while at the AG’s Dept. Guess what? That was no news as many public sector workers seem to have come to see such as the norm. On the back of her complaint, a couple of people appealed to me to talk about the situation.

I have known about the situation, but I used social media to solicit further evidence and my inbox was inundated with similar complaints. People working in important institutions of the state including teachers tell stories of how they won’t have work to do if they did not personally buy chalk and pay for other basic stuff.

Passionate servants; skilful and intelligent professionals particularly in the institutions mentioned above, seem to have similar stories. They show up at work each day tempted to idle about for lack of basic stationery and transport. They, like at some police stations, have to type letters, print, and run photocopies even of sensitive documents from business centres.

It is unacceptable that state attorneys have to buy furniture, printers and cartridges, fix office doors and locks, repair air conditioners, paint rooms, fix curtains etc in their offices, contribute money for detergents etc needed by janitors, pay transport to get witnesses to court to assist the state in prosecuting cases.

The story is not any different at the Labour Commission and CHRAJ. The AG recently bemoaned that this critical department of state has only about a quarter of the lawyers it needs to function. Just how does a whole region function with one state attorney? A good number soon abandon the AG’s for the bench. The judiciary may have some Internally Generated Funds (IGF) to fall on but the plight, especially of lower court judges, is known.

These complaints are rampant in Accra and in the cities. The situation in the towns and districts is simply terrible! There is urgent need to fashion out a plan to reverse this situation. You may be tired of my constant reference to article 162 (5) of the Constitution, but sorry I can’t help it.

It provides that: “All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.”

The media must wake up and live up to this duty. We must, on behalf of citizens, demand that these institutions are properly resourced to discharge their mandate. I am particularly worried about what appears to be a deliberate act of starving the independent constitutional bodies of funds and rendering them ineffective.

I discovered while prosecuting the CHRAJ boss' impeachment that government was largely paying only salaries and not providing money for operational purposes. Heads of these institutions spend precious time chasing after and begging donors to fund their operations. This is exactly what is happening at the NCCE and such bodies like the NMC which is flooded with complaints but can only summon its largely part-time staff to sit once every two months.

I can imagine a Ghana with a well-resourced NCCE that works so robustly in executing its core mandate of civic education. It is difficult to appreciate why the politicians can’t seem to be interested in what really matters to citizens and the growth of this democracy.

It is difficult to understand why political leaders enjoy creating new entities and pushing a lot of resources to some but not these critical well-established institutions of state. It is difficult to understand what goes into the decisions for the purchase and uses of the V-8s.

Let’s insist now or our democracy is endangered!