CAN A STRONGMAN FIGHT CORRUPTION?

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The author of this article is Isaac Boakye, former SRC Presidentof KNUST and two time

 

CORRUPTION is not only bad because money and benefits change hands and not because of the motives of participants, but because it privatizes valuable aspects of public life, bypassing processes of representation, debate and choice.

THOMPSON, 1993.

 

 

On Wikipedia, there is an entire article dedicated to CORRUPTION IN GHANA. It concludes “On 7 February 2012, it was reported that four prominent supporters of the NDC had been arrested and charged with corruption by an Accra court. Alfred Agbesi Woyome was charged with crimes including corrupting public officials over a multimillion dollar payment that a government inquiry alleged he had claimed illegally. Chief attorney, Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh, his wife and the finance ministry’s legal director were also charged with aiding and abetting a crime.” This is possibly one of the most exposed acts of corruption in our nation’s history.

Corruption in Ghana has been common since the days of taking sugar for slaves. Since 2006, Ghana’s score on the transparency international corruption perceptions index has improved slightly, ranked higher than Italy and Brazil. However there is a growing perception that government related corruption is on the increase. At the end of 2015, we were dealt a major blow as our position on the corruption index rose to 2nd on the African corruption league table. I personally don’t find the rankings helpful to our fight but the damning figure of 71% of respondents alluding to the point that we are growing more and more corrupt is not only worrying but demoralizing. Top it off with the Imani report in May 2016 that stated boldly that Ghana loses above $3billion annually through corruption. This figure came through an assessment of the auditor general’s report and was summarily a picture of state sponsored corruption and how that is killing our country.

It is on this note, knowing the bedeviling nature of corruption that is rapidly washing our resources away with our explicit permission that the President of the Republic, then candidate Addo Danquah campaigned massively on the message of fighting corruption and removing excesses. His popular statement of “the money to fix Ghana is there but its being stolen” led a lot of people to the polls. People who were tired of the incessant abuse and misappropriation of public funds by appointed and elected officials, the sheer rot that was evidenced at the presidency and the arrogant display of this ill-gotten wealth all trouped in their numbers and delivered a resounding victory to the son of Edward Akuffo Addo. All the more trumpeting a victory as a bold way of declaring to the new president to fight corruption and the canker as Ghana rots.

Fast forward, Nana Addo is president. A lot of people view or perceive him a strong man who has that magic wand that will place Dzifa Ativor and her ilk in jail. That at the mention of his name Woyome will refund every penny to the state. What everybody seems to fail to address is the strength of corruption, how viral it is, how woven it is into our everyday culture, how it continues spew vitriol back at every attempt to fight it and how A STRONGMAN MAY NOT BE STRONG ENOUGH TO FIGHT CORRUPTION.

 

Corruption in our dispensation now exists in two forms. Governmental corruption and institutional corruption. More agents of the anti-corruption campaign focus more on governmental corruption while forgetting the five cedis the policeman takes as bribe or the lunch pack the secretary takes before receiving visitors for his/her boss. Most forget the 50 cedis paid at registrar generals department that does not come with receipt or the last visit you paid to the dentist who failed to give you a VAT invoice.

For governmental corruption, the perpetrators are often caught in the act for the reasons of greed and wanting to enrich themselves through public funds. They go further to cut corners for themselves while creating wealth for people who offer bribes to them in order to shortchange the state. There’s another kind of corrupt character who is a more principled corrupt official. They are the ones who believe that corruption is a means of redistributing wealth in society. This persons asserts that the high in society have managed to gain so much wealth and power ahead of under privileged people in society . Therefore they are redistributing the wealth from the rich and offering to the poor. The more common poor person who engages in corrupt activity is the one who does it for the sole reason of hunger and finds that as way of keeping body and soul together. These are the kind of corrupt people the president has to battle. A fight for the soul of the country. I remember in a 2012 speech delivered in KNUST, he declared that when elected president, he will protect the public purse with jealousy. Our democracy is growing and with the growing rate of corruption it is almost as though our government is one that benefits the corrupt at the cost of the citizenry. Government needs supervision just like teenagers do, if you give them too much freedom, they will get out of control and walk over you.

 

There’s a math to corruption. Corruption prevails when there exists high discretionary powers, high alternative sources of revenue and then a big absence of accountability. In algebra, it can be postulated as C= D+ R – A

 

Where C stands for corruption

D stands for discretion

R stands for alternative revenue

A stands for accountability.

That means for the president to wipe out corruption at the ports and harbors, he must ensure there’s a massive standardization on the tariffs paid on imports and exports. The presence of high discretionary powers that are almost arbitrary ensures that it is difficult to question the revenue reported to the state whereas GAPOHA should be reaping billions of dollars for the state. It reaps millions and a large chunk of these millions end up in people’s pocket. That also means if Nana Addo wants to fight corruption, he must standardize the payment structure of various offices that deal with revenue and handle agencies. High alternative sources of income refers to the situation whereby there is wide gap between the salary of a police officer and the amount he or she can accumulate at the end of the day through bribery and corruption. This high alternative source on income means there’s always a very high incentive to be corrupt when faced with ethical issues. All these succeed highly when there’s a low level of accountability. When power changes hands in this country, most party foot soldiers rush to get control of toll booths and public toilet facilities. The simple reason being that those are high sources of revenue that come with little or no accountability. Ghana revenue authority declares little to the state. People evade taxes in this country while still doing major business. Deeply engrained in accountability is supervision. Nobody cares whether our police use their walkie talkies or not. If the police knew every conversation they have is recorded, they will definitely be more succinct in their openly corrupt and undignified thievery.

 

The task ahead for the president is daunting. He must sacrifice people for the good of the country. A failure his predecessor paid dearly for. In Nigeria in 2014, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, publicly alleged citing relevant documents, that $20billion had not been remitted to the federal governments account by the Nigerian national petroleum council. That governor was sacked shortly after six months for baseless accusations and the money was still missing even as Nigeria went to the polls in 2015. Goodluck lost the election. John Dramani Mahama pushed away martin Amidu and the NDC suffered a big blow for the damage he caused them. Don’t undermine the power of whistle blowers. When one blows a whistle in the new regime, do not push him out. That will be the beginning of the end.

He is a strong man obviously judging from the guts and resilience that has taken him throughout public life, he has obviously never been cited for corruption.

There are some who hope that the sheer force of integrity that he has shown throughout his life will be enough to discourage public officials from corruption. That is where the problem lies. The ever Holy God who has never sinned or done wrong could not be enough evidence or example for Adam and Eve in the garden. No man can inspire such an impression of integrity. No strong man can fight corruption. Only strong institutions can. Reduce discretionary powers and phase them out, reduce the gap between primary revenue and alternative source of income and improve accountability through supervision. These can only be achieved through strong institutions. By default man will do the wrong thing, only supervision and accountability can keep the public purse safe.

All the best to the President.

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