Feature Article of Monday, 27 February 2012

Columnist: Ohene, Kenneth

Necessary Anti-Corruption Changes

The media headlines go on and on, day after day, year after year. I continually checked the media for the big one and it finally appeared, in the name of Woyomegate, and I sighed; it is about time. I have always believed that Ghana, and a lot of African countries, is ruled by nothing but gangsters, not in the familiar Mafia style but comparable. I wondered why nobody had anything of material to expose our corrupt politicians, these gangsters, when there is a lot of smoke suggesting things are broken with our governance. You see, a gangster is a person who makes a carrier out of breaking the law. Have our politicians made carriers out of breaking the law? The answer is yes, and they have gotten away with it in most part. I read about Woyomegate and I see a bunch of gangsters at work, at the expense of poor and innocent Ghanaian folks.
Countrymen, if God were to send us a saint to probe our politicians for corruption the conviction of Atta-Mills will be the swiftest and I believe JJ or Kuffour will not be absolved. I am sorry to say that God is not sending a saint to check corruption for us. The good news, however, is that we can ask God to give us the courage and wisdom to set up the right political system, one that curbs corruption and works fairly for all Ghanaians. In this article, I offer common sense changes we need to make to combat corruption, at the top of government.
Corruption will not be fought unless politicians are forced by the people to do so. It is in the interest of politicians for corruption to continue. This is why records keeping is poor in Ghana and radio stations are thriving. A record tells the truth, an antidote to corruption, so forget about keeping records according to politicians. On the other hand, a lot are said on radio stations but what are said are mostly political propaganda and a means to divide and conquer the people to keep corruption unabated. It is sad but I have to say that our political parties are competing in a pageantry of corruption that is dangerously detrimental to the country and it needs our united effort to stop it for good. By united effort, I mean setting aside our political and tribal divisions and coming together to solving the biggest problem crippling our beloved Ghana.
The following changes in the constitution are my proposal:
1. Parliament should be empowered to monitor the presidency and the executive branch.
2. MPs should not be permitted to hold ministerial positions. An MP who accepts a ministerial position should give up being an MP. This will prevent conflict of interest whereby a person makes the law and also implements the law.
3. Separate parliamentary and presidential elections by changing voting schedules. This separation will make the voting public aware of the distinction in functions between of the legislative and the executive branches of their government. For example, a 2-year separation will give the voting public the chance to exercise their political power more often.
4. A mandate for Ghana to have a modern data collection and records keeping system. These data and records will provide transparency and be the source of information for MPs to trigger investigations.

As it currently stands, the power of who goes to parliament is controlled by the people but this power does not translate into much beneficial action because the parliament is inferior to the presidency and executive branch. We need to change the constitution to charge the parliament with monitoring the presidency and the executive branch. The situation should be as follows. The people pick the president and MPs. The people will have a president they believe have the ability to perform decent business for the country, the people, and MPs with power to make the president do just that. The idea is that if the people elect competent and upright MPs, there is a good chance the president and the executive branch will reflect similarly and corruption will be checked. I believe that corruption is a disease and should be prevented than cured. Our constitution should be clear to politicians that the people are vigilant and that crimes against the state will not go unnoticed and unpunished. We need a corruption deterrent, so to speak.