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Opinions of Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Columnist: Solomon K. A. Owusu

Corruption fight in Ghana – diaspora opinion

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Contrary to popular beliefs, many judges in Ghana’s justice system are concerned and well-informed about the implications of convicting a criminal defendant to years of seclusion. It can break families and put children’s future in peril. However, in the interest of protecting society from dangerous offenders, preventing serious public-sector waste and misappropriation of resources, effective enforcement of the rule of law is essential to ensure the corrupt are punished to break the abhorrent cycle of impunity that civil society have always been looking forward to see.

God bless the judge, Justice Afia Serwa Asare-Botwe, who exercised due diligence in deciding that an eighteen years sentence would best effectuate the aforementioned objectives with respect to the case of the state versus Mr. Abuga Pele, former CEO of Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Authority (GYEEDA) and Mr. Philip Assibit the contractor and CEO of Goodwill International Ghana (GIG). In addition to having to serve jail terms, asset confiscation was ordered for the state to recover the financial losses caused.

An example like this is a good step to fighting corruption in the country. In my view, the Special Prosecutor (SP), Martin Amidu, publicly acclaimed as “citizen vigilante”, should partner with the incorruptible Justices such as Justice Asare-Botwe to retrieve all looted state money with interest payments and in addition, sentence the culprits to hard labour punishments. If their combined action results in combating corruption to install financial independence in Ghana as we are all looking forward to, their names will be engraved like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who gained independence for the country. Good name is better than riches (Proverbs 22:1).

On a more serious note, the jail term slapped on Mr. Pele and Mr. Assibit respectively were comparatively unfair and inadequate because such long and ignominious record of impunity demand longer years in prison. How fair is this judgement to a goat thief who served ten years in hard labour, comparing the implications of their respective actions? The convicts who woefully reneged on their objective to create employment for youths and improving the general livelihood of huge population of Ghanaians should have been made to face a stricter punishment incomparable with what a goat thief gets.

Stringent punishment should be given to anyone found guilty, as it will create a climate of disenchantment, despair and fear in terms of embezzlement, thereby eradicating or reducing the canker to its infinitesimal level. We are still waiting for action on the corruption cases involving Woyome, Jifa Attivor, SADA, SUBAH, Asongbata, SSNIT, SIC, Ports & Harbours, 2014 world cup saga, among others. What shall it profit an official if he/she loots money, payback later with high interest and serve a jail term as well? The steps taken by H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo to deal with corrupt public servants will discourage current and future young Ghanaians who enter politics purposely to loot from the public purse.

The big challenge is how the anti-corruption authorities can monitor these corrupt officials such that, they don’t register their assets in other people’s names. For example, in April 1997, the state confiscated the assets belonging to George Adu Bonsu, known in his public life as Benjilo because of his 10 years imprisonment on narcotic drug charges. In February 2007, the Accra Fast Track High Court presided over by Justice Victor Ofoe, ordered the release of these seized properties, claiming they belonged to the wife, kids and other people. Please find the reference below:

Embezzlement of public funds by civil servants and government officials in Ghana seems to have reached an all-time high. This “abscess” has pervaded the fabric of public sector institutions, posing grave repercussions for the socio-economic growth of the country. Most citizens lost faith in previous governments, due to their inability to counter this problem because of the intense political influence on the country’s judicial system. For example, Captain Smart’s petition presented to EOCO indicted over 600 public officials who have looted over US$1.2 billion but nothing has been done about it.

This money could be used to solve various social and infrastructure problems in the country, including job creation, electricity issues, water issues, bad road problems, sanitation problems, health problems, etc. It is amazing how individuals could “pocket” such huge sums of money at the detriment of the poor taxpayer. This necrotic problem seems to be almost impossible to salvage, hence eradicating the challenge calls for radical steps such as promulgation of coherent strategies championed by the citizenry, regardless of any political party affiliation. Thank God we now have the “no nonsense” Mr. Martin A. B. Amidu who will deal with such criminals.

To regain the trust of the people, EOCO as an investigative institution need to conduct thorough investigations and interrogations into corrupt matters and act professionally without fear or favour. If the judiciary truly becomes independent and sanction mechanisms for corruption in the country are implemented without any political influence, like what happens in the western world, the country’s economy can better be managed for Ghana to become one of the best places to live in the world. Ghanaians abroad strongly believe that severe punishments will bring the repetitive create, loot and share bugbear to an abrupt end.

Indeed, Ghana is now working under a selfless, incorruptible, patriotic and God-fearing leader, H.E Nana Akufo-Addo. "Ghana b?y? d? daakye". God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong!

Solomon K. A. Owusu
Denver, Colorado, USA