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Opinions of Saturday, 27 January 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

The corrosive effects of corruption: What at all is corruption?

There is no gainsaying the fact that the revoltingly cyclical corrupt practices amongst the political elites have resulted in otherwise avoidable underdevelopment, excessive public spending, less efficient tax system , needless high public deficit and destabilization of national budgets, heightened capital flight and the creation of perverse incentives that stimulate income-seeking rather than productive activities.

In a grand scheme of things, the prevention and eradication of corruption should be a collaborative effort amongst governments and other interested parties to cooperate with one another with the support and involvement of groups outside the government such as civil society, non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations.

If, indeed, the prevention and eradication of corruption is a synergistic venture, why is it then that the successive governments and their Attorney Generals had woefully failed to cooperate with other interested parties to investigate, prosecute and retrieve the stolen monies from the impenitent nation wreckers?

"When public money is stolen for private gain, it means fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities.

“When foreign aid is diverted into private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects come to a halt. Corruption enables fake or substandard medicines to be dumped on the market, and hazardous waste to be dumped in landfill sites and in oceans. The vulnerable suffer first and worst (Ban Ki-moon, 2009)."

Corruption, to be quite honest, impedes economic development by distorting markets and collapsing private sector integrity.

“Corruption also strikes at the heart of democracy by corroding rule of law, democratic institutions and public trust in leaders. For the poor, women and minorities, corruption means even less access to jobs, justice or any fair and equal opportunity” (UNDP 2016).

Certainly, it goes without saying that corruption is a global phenomenon which requires a collaborative effort to prevent and eradicate.

It was against that background that in its resolution 55/61 of 4 December 2000, the UN General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (resolution 55/25, annex I) was desirable and decided to establish an ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument in Vienna at the headquarters of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Subsequently, the international community adopted the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003, and came into force in 2005. Suffice it to state that the UN Convention against Corruption is the first meaningful universal instrument enacted to prevent and combat corruption with a view to networking and building on a broad international consensus.

What exactly is corruption?

“Corruption is the misuse of public power (by elected politician or appointed civil servant) for private gain.

“Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power (by heritage, education, marriage, election, appointment or whatever else) for private gain”.

How are “offering”, “promising” and “giving” a bribe treated under the law?

In fact, different countries have different responses to these questions, by definition as well as interpretation.

In some jurisdictions, for instance, the courts may consider an oral offer of a bribe not as attempted bribery, unless the briber takes further steps. An OECD report, however, suggests that broad definitions of corruption may be one reason why prosecutions are so low.

Apparently, the OECD, the Council of Europe and the UN conventions do not explicitly define “corruption””, but have establish a range of corrupt offences.

For example, the OECD Convention establishes the offence of bribery of foreign public officials, while the Council of Europe adds trading influence and bribing of domestic public officials as well.

Besides, the UN Convention covers embezzlement, misappropriation of property and obstruction of justice. In fact, one mostly-cited mystery is distinguishing illegal trading in influence from legal lobbying.

Interestingly, the Council of Europe Convention criminalises trading of “improper influence”, i.e., there must be corrupt intent.

On the other hand, the UN Convention only covers peddlers who “abuse” their influence. While the OECD glossary notes that international definitions of corruption for policy purposes are common, and cites “abuse of public or private office for personal gain” as a useful example for policy development” (OECD 2007).

Favouritism, Cronyism and Nepotism

In terms of meanings, favouritism, nepotism and cronyism all involve abuses of discretion. Even though some countries do not criminalise the conduct, (Article 7 of the UN Convention against Corruption covers merit selection without even mentioning nepotism).

Needless to stress that those violations usually involve not a direct personal benefit to an official but promote the interests of those related to the official, whether through family, political party, tribe, or religious group.

In fact, a fantastically corrupt official who hires a relative (nepotism) or a friend (cronyism), does so, in exchange, not often of a bribe but of the less tangible benefit of advancing the interests of others connected to the official.

Actually, the unlawful favouring of - or discrimination against - individuals can be based on a wide range of group characteristics: tribe, religion, geographical factors, political or as well as personal or organizational relationships, such as friendship or shared membership of clubs or associations.

Disturbingly, in spite of the fact that corruption is a serious economic, social, political and moral impediment to the nation building, our corrupt officials are bent on siphoning our scarce resources without a second thought.

The fact of the matter is that Ghana’s transgressed and incompliant politicians and other public officials often get away with murder.

The quintessence of such abhorrent behaviours is the most recent bribery allegation levelled against former President Mahama, which was investigated by the award winning investigative journalist, Joy FM’s Manasseh Azuri, which eventually exposed President Mahama’s furtive gift of a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle, worth over $100,000 by the Burkinabe Contractor, Djibril Kanazoe.

According to the report, the Burkinabe Contractor Kanazoe undertook a number of contracts which were secured through sole-sourcing and handpicking, amid allegations of president Mahama’s influence.

Manasseh reported that Djibril Kanazoe had over the years been bidding for contracts in the country. However, he was not successful until a middleman led him to meet then Vice President Mahama.

Subsequent to meeting the then Vice President Mahama, Kanazoe was handpicked to build the $650,000 Ghana Embassy fence wall in Burkina Faso.

The account was however given that In September 2014, when officials of the Bank of Ghana met the Public Accounts Committee of Ghana Parliament (PAC), it came to light that an amount of $656, 246.48 had been spent on the construction of a fence wall over a parcel of land belonging to the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso.

Apparently, PAC requested the Bank of Ghana to look into what it referred to as: “the outrageous” cost of the project.

However, it came to light that the procurement process was violated to the advantage of President Mahama’s Burkinabe friend.

Amazingly, during an interview with Manasseh, Djibril Kanazoe admitted that he did not put in a bid for the contract, however, the Ghana Embassy in Ouagadougou wrote to his company to request price quotations for the project. He, however, forwarded the necessary quotes and was selected.

“Subsequently, the Burkinabe contractor delivered to President Mahama, the ‘gift’ of a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle in 2012, the same year his company was selected, again through sole-sourcing, to execute more projects” (See: ‘Burkinabe Contractor offers controversial gift to President Mahama’ ; myjoyonline.com, 15/06/2015).

As a matter of fact, the traditional exemption of heads of state from prosecution despite the evidence of a case to answer is wrong, so to speak. For if the bribery and corruption; dubious judgment debt payments; stashing of national funds by some greedy opportunists and misappropriation of resources and crude embezzlement by some politicians do not warrant criminal charges, then where are we heading as a nation?

All the same, the all-important question discerning Ghanaians should ask is: will the day come when “Ghana’s political criminals” find they have nowhere to hide?

For me, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution has to be reviewed and the irrational and inexpedient clauses such as the indemnity clause are expunged and tossed into the dust bin accordingly.

How on earth can individuals commit unpardonable crimes (gargantuan sleazes and corruptions) against the state and get away with their misdeeds?

And how serious are we as a nation when we can only descend heavily on goat, cassava and plantain thieves, and let go hard criminals who persistently dip their hands into the national coffers?

K. Badu, UK.

References:

OECD (2007), Defining corruption: Glossary of International Standards for Criminalisation of Corruption, ISBN 9789264027404, OECD Observer. (www.oecd.org).

UN (2005), The UN Convention against Corruption.

www.undp.org

www.myjoyonline.com