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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Columnist: Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa

The corrupt incorruptibles

Opinion Opinion

Statements made by certain persons in society that go unanswered or unchecked become acceptable as the truth. It is, therefore, important that we all stay vigilant and alert and do not allow many statements, actions and inaction to go unaddressed. After all, the price of eternal security is perpetual vigilance.

In Ghana, many people get away with everything and anything till it is too late but why should that be so? It is as if everybody would rather be minding their own business and that also allows others to take us for granted.

In a passionate presentation to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, the former head of Serious Fraud Office (SFO), now Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO), lamented the number persons who had been investigated and found to had committed serious fraudulent acts against the state and on whom dockets had been prepared and presented to the Attorney General's Department but had not been prosecuted.

He lamented that if the organisation had prosecutorial powers, they would have prosecuted those people for whom the evidence was overwhelming. In some cases, we understand that person's working in the Attorney General's office were paid to take out the docket and destroy it.

Who would have believed a statement that dockets can be stolen from the Attorney General's Department but after the great work by Anas, who will doubt anything, especially what happens in the Judiciary and allied organisations. Some staff of the Attorney General's Department are induced with money and they steal dockets, totally unmindful of how those acts impact on the country.

The absence of dockets means case cannot proceed and the time and all the hardwork done by the SFO goes down the drain. The cost of investigations and fraud itself add up to serious losses for Ghana.

Most people in such situations will retire to the comfort of their homes and enjoy their booty even though it is fair to say such cases never die and can be activated anytime, so long as the evidence still exists.

The impression created by the former head of SFO is that the evidence is still there and there are many backups so why are persons in authority not keen on fighting against fraudulent behaviour or corruption which costs this country a lot of money. It is the reason many people believe we only pay lip service to corruption and are not prepared to fight the canker with any determination. We have all the laws but none is enforced them.

Opportunity for cleansing
Anas has unearthed many issues from the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS),the Driver Licence and Vehicular Authority (CEPS), to the quack doctor who caused great harm to many Ghanaian women and the case against him has all but disappeared from the courts.

We now know why. If armed robbers can be freed, then anything and everything is possible. The bosses of the various organisations that have undergone the Anas look over, have not moved heaven and earth to rid their establishments of the many miscreants for which evidence was provided by the investigative work of Anas.
Yes, the evidence is critical in the subsequent prosecution and it can be almost impossible to collect but not when scenes have been captured on tape that can be presented for prosecution. Nothing has come out of CEPS and DVLA and persons have started wondering what will come out of the one organisation that must not fail Ghana, the Judiciary.

The decisiveness shown by Her Ladyship, the Chief Justice and the Judiciary Council must be commended by all well-meaning Ghanaians, but we must all be eagle eyed in anticipation. It provides the Judiciary the opportunity to purge itself and live true by their tenets.

Incorruptible politicians
It is those who take all Ghanaians for granted and tempt fate by casting themselves as politicians trying to cloak themselves as incorruptible that should get all of us mad.

They can do that because they know most Ghanaians are too preoccupied by where their next meal will come from that they do not have time to bother themselves about anything. Not even organisations set aside to ensure the good of the nation are ready to work and put such individuals under scrutiny. In countries where the "C" word is seriously dealt with, no such persons can rear their head seeking to become the first gentleman of the land.

I have been impressed by three African Heads of States, Kenyatta of Kenya, Buhari of Nigeria and Kigame of Rwanda. Kenyatta, in his State of the Nation address in 2015, chose to read out the names of Senators, Members of Parliament and Senior Civil Servants who were being investigated for serious corrupt practices by the country's known anti-corruption agencies, sending the whole country into a frenzy.

The initial outcome was big politicians trying hard to bluff their way. Many said they were not going to step aside to allow for the full investigations but the President's determination was evident. He decided to withdraw security detail on anyone whose name had been mentioned and that was enough for each one of them to fall into line.

The act of a determined leader. Irrespective of the outcome of the investigations, many persons entrusted with public power will not use it for personal gain. We can only hope that this action of the President will continue and rid Kenya of greedy, selfish and corrupt politicians and public servants.

The Nigerian Example
The situation in Nigeria is a little different. The Buhari fear factor has gripped the country. The governance processes are uninterrupted and a public interrogation of the new senate president for failing to completely declare his assets has even reinforced the fear factor.

A man who resigned from the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the then ruling party, and moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC) with over 60 Senators and Governors will never have been treated this way. The arrest of the former Minister of Petroleum and Buhari's speech to the General Assembly admonishing countries that allow Nigerians to steal and keep their booty in their banks, have all further enhanced the fear factor. He said ' You encourage corruption by providing safe haven for stolen funds'.

It was felt his visit to Ghana also discussed cooperation on money laundering in the Nigerian banks in Ghana by Nigerians. The new wave in Nigeria is refreshing in African politics. I have always held the believe that if Nigeria gets it right, the whole of Africa will benefit directly from it.

Kigame has assured all us of what is possible. Development partners are there having to do what is in Rwanda's interest and not that of their principals. It is Rwanda first always and not sometimes. The man is who anybody can describe as incorruptible not our local half baked self-deluded men of little faith. He is Africa's most efficient Head of State and runs the most disciplined and efficient government mechanism. You cannot be corrupt and expect any favours from him. He has made Rwanda successful.

Validating asset declaration
Back to the Ghana situation. Many publications listing the richest persons in Ghana continue to mention family members of the President with no rebuttal and as usual, Ghanaians will gossip over the matter in their private corners and that will be it. It has not even aroused the Internal Revenue Service to start an investigation. Such information will not go amiss in many jurisdictions but not in Ghana.

Why do we bother to declare assets at all when it is nobody's duty to find out whether the declarations are genuine or not and after leaving office, nobody bothers to check whether the acquired asserts are in consonance with earned income. How was it discovered in Nigeria that the Senate President had under declared his assets. Someone had to validate the declaration but that does not happen here in Ghana.

Indiscipline and corruption
Good governance is certainly not our forte and we do not seem to make any effort to inculcate best practices. It is ,however, surprising that Ghana was 7th again on the Mo Ibrahim index in Africa. It just shows how poor the performance on governance is in the whole of Africa. Is it also not surprising that in 23 years of uninterrupted multiparty democracy, no political appointee, ministers, deputy ministers, district, municipal and metropolitan chief executives, aides or staffers and no senior public or civil servants despite the numerous allegations at the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament following the Auditor General's report, go unpunished.

No wonder the former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said we can never root out corruption, if we do not enforce our laws. We are not serious about rooting out corruption neither are we keen to deal with indiscipline, the two ills against progress and success. Somehow ,Ghanaians believe that the two ills notwithstanding, it shall be well. Miracles do not just happen. We must confront the two beasts head on and hope that all can learn lessons and begin to behave appropriately. May be the Judiciary incident will begin the repair process.

As for the so-called incorruptibles, the Acheampong coup had a Ghanaian song that said 'niea obe bowu emayaa wo si obiara entimiwo', translated as 'you can only claim to be an untouchable because you have not met your Waterloo'.