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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Columnist: Ayeboafo, Yaw Awuah Boadu

Zero Tolerance for Corruption and Presidential Prerogative of Mercy

Ghanaians would recall that zero tolerance for corruption marked a corner stone in President Kufuor’s inaugural government. The prevalence of corruption as indicated by research, both home and abroad, coupling with our own perception about how it accounts for our abject poverty and underdevelopment made the President’s pronouncement very welcomed. However, the incessant use of presidential prerogative of mercy to pardon convicted public officials is worrying, as it reduces the power of the law courts in upholding public values against corruption and bad governance. Invariably, it also undermines the Nation’s resolve and commitment in fighting corruption ruthlessly. It must be recalled, the trial and imprisonment of a member of government in the person of Mallam Issa signaled a ruthless resolve of the government, spearheaded by the Attorney General not to shield and protect corrupt officials. The cynics branded the prosecution, trial and sentence as cosmetic as they saw Mallam Issa as an outsider who had been sacrificed by the government. Whether they were right or wrong is the judgment of the Nation. Moreover, true to the government’s avowed object to deal ruthless with corruption, a couple of Ministers and Public officials in the NDC government were arraigned before the courts and after long judicial battle, notably, Kwame Peprah, the Late Victor Solormey, Sefa Yankye, Ibrahim Adams and Dan Abodakpi, were convicted and sentenced to varied terms in prison for willfully causing financial loss to the State.

Indeed, there is no doubt these sentences ignited a new sense of national consciousness against corruption and a judicial system ready to adjudicate matters based on the true principles of the rule of law as they languished in jail, only for the President to commute these sentences under his prerogative of mercy. Critics of these prosecutions and convictions argue that the judiciary is dependent and selectively prosecute to favor government. Critically, it is reasonable since the Attorney General, doubling as Minister of Justice is appointed by the President and sits in the cabinet. This arrangement questions the independence of the judiciary and it’s prone to selective justice. Why all most, all convicted corrupt public officials have their sentences commuted?

History is path dependant, according to research, I believe this explains why the PNDC as architects of the 1992 Republican Constitution, motivated by its absolute rule during their despotic days sought to cripple the judiciary by compromising her independence. Clearly, they’ve been victims of their history and as the wise adage goes ‘se woto adubone a ebika wa ano’.

Institutions and norms change, but gradual, I commend both NPP and NDC governments for leading legislations in the last couple of years aimed at addressing issues of corruption such as the Law of Causing Financial Loss to the State’ which the NDC argues they never used ’, Financial Administration Act, Internal Audit Act, The Public Procurement Act, the Repeal of the Criminal Libel Law and the Freedom of Information Bill’ which the government is yet to assent’, just to mention but a few of legislations dealing with corruption and good governance.

Indeed, fifteen years in a democracy, I believe Ghanaians would like to listen and vote on issues that would seem to be changing or improving upon our past history. I believe issues of making the judiciary independent’ creating an independent prosecution service to control selective justice’, Issues of political party funding and selection of candidates’ to ensure grass root participation and control the seemingly entrenchment and endorsement of bribery and corruption in selecting candidates which breeds sycophancy’, issues of revenue generation and innovative taxation strategies to curtail our over dependence on donor support and funding’ would be at the centre stage of political parties manifestoes’ which Kofi Wayo argues is a communist document and has no relevance now but rather a policy document is required’.

In conclusion, whiles I do not have the power to dictate how the President should dispenses with his prerogative of mercy as enshrined in article 72 of the 1992 Republican Constitution, I would want to believe, the exercise of such discretion is done to reflect and uphold good public policy and our common morality as a Nation.

Yaw Awuah Boadu Ayeboafo Tepa-Ashanti.

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