Welcome to Ghana Pundit: The Home of Politics and Intelligent Analysis


Grab the widget  Tech Dreams

Insist on Your Right to Education

Uneducated citizenry is like a pitch any game can be played on it. Illiteracy is what has given the politicians in Ghana the chance to fool so many people for so a long a time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arthur K: Mills must apologise to Ghanaians

Arthur Kobina Kennedy, the writer
Arthur Kobina Kennedy, the writer
Last week, from far-away London, the pretentions of the National Democratic Congress to accountability were exposed for all to see. A Southwark Crown court ruled that during the 1990’s, the British Construction firm, Mabey and Johnson, paid Ghana government officials bribes, ranging from 500 pounds to 55,000 pounds in order to secure contracts worth about 26 million pounds sterling. The information revealed in court only accounted for about a third of the curiously-titled “Ghana Development Fund” and it is almost certain that other names, maybe bigger than those named were also payed money to influence the award of contracts.

Amongst the Ghanaian officials named are Mr. George Sipa Yankey, the Minister of Health, Mr. Kwame Peprah, the former Minister of Finance and current Chairman of Board of Directors of SSNIT, Dr Quarshie and Alhaji Siddique Boniface.

As expected, both President Mills and former President Rawlings have reacted. President Mills has directed that the findings of the British court be investigated and a report submitted to him as soon as possible.

What else is another investigation going to find? Mr. Yankey and Mr. Peprah were convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction in Ghana of causing financial loss to the state in the Quality Grain matter and sentenced to prison terms. They were later pardoned by former President Kufuor on grounds of compassion. Despite these convictions, President Mills appointed them to their current positions. So if the Attorney General finds, after spending more tax-payer money to investigate, that indeed the said officials took bribes, will President Mills ask them to resign? If he does, would it mean that he respects British courts more than our own? It would seem that despite all the noise made, the President, by appointing these officials in the first place, showed that he did not really care about corruption. He should apologize to Ghanaians for appointing them to office despite their convictions.

As for former President Rawlings, his reaction was breath-taking and comical. In his statement, the former President, under whose watch the bribery took place said “Probity, accountability and service to the people are the basis upon which the NDC was founded. I have espoused these tenets since 1982 and have consistently reminded the current NDC government of the need to urgently pursue and prosecute persons who have been and continue to remain unaccountable to the people. Since coming to power in 2009, we have failed to pursue the criminal activities of the past NPP government who in connivance with foreign partners have stolen millions of dollars and accepted huge bribes.”

Many Ghanaians are baffled by the former President’s statement. A court establishes that NDC Ministers in his government took bribes under his stewardship and his response is to call for the prosecution of former NPP Ministers? What happened to charity beginning at home? What have the findings in the London court got to do with the prosecution of NPP officials? The former President would have been on point if he had apologized to Ghanaians for what happened on his watch and called for the dismissal and prosecution of the officials of his government who were named in the scandal.

The culpability of the former NPP government lies in why they failed to pursue allegations of malfeasance in the former NDC administration more aggressively.

This, of course, is not the first time foreign courts have revealed the existence of corruption in the former NDC government. In 2008, a Norwegian court revealed that officials of SCANCEM, the international owners of local cement producer GHACEM, had paid bribes to Ghanaian government officials including the former President and his wife. In response, the former President issued through his lawyers, a tepid statement denying his involvement.

The enduring lesson from President Rawlings’ career is that moral outrage coupled with the occasional execution of people tried extra-judicially can never eliminate corruption.

The reactions from other quarters have been predictable. The NDC “amen corner” is loudly proclaiming that Mills and Rawlings deserve commendation for coming out with their reactions.

NPP members are urging the leadership to make political capital out of the findings by the British courts and most of the NGO’s that used to be so loud in condemning corruption have lost their voices temporarily.

As is typical of our country, there will be noise for a few days or weeks and we shall move on.


Corruption is one of the major causes of our under-development and we must take this opportunity to have a broad and systematic look at the issue and how we can come to grips with it.

Corruption, which is the use of public office for private gain, has been with us even before independence. While the PNDC/NDC era saw corruption reach its highest point, corruption has been a problem in every government since Independence. Every government has come into office with a pledge to fight corruption and been tainted by it.

While we focus on corruption amongst politicians, it is only the tip of the ice-berg. As the involvement of a then civil servant in the London court case demonstrates, civil servants are very often involved in corruption. Indeed, while the involvement of politicians make headlines, petty corruption, involving the Police, the Judiciary and the Civil Service retards development and frustrates the public even more. The relevance of political corruption is that it deprives politicians of the moral authority to use their powers in fighting corruption.

We need to accept that no political party can fix this problem. Indeed, the political parties, together on their own, will never fix this problem.

In response to this current scandal, we must empanel a Presidential or Parliamentary Commission to look at corruption since the advent of the 1992 constitution and recommend institutional reforms that will reduce it significantly. Its membership must span the political spectrum and include members of the clergy and NGO’s so that it will have broad credibility with the public.

Amongst the changes that should be considered are the following.
First, there must be simple, strict and clear asset declaration procedures for Politicians, Senior civil servants, Police and Judicial Service officials, including judges. For the avoidance of doubt, those who have life tenure must declare their assets at regular intervals after their appointment. During the second Presidential debate, virtually all candidates agreed that the Asset declaration rules on the book were too weak. It is time to strengthen them. The asset declaration process must be strengthened by publication of declared assets, and introduction of the necessary powers for the Serious Fraud Office and or CHRAJ, on clearly documented suspicion, to investigate covered officials living above their means. This means that if a District Chief Executive puts up two mansions within a year of coming into office, that can be a basis for the investigation of the person’s assets. This worked in Singapore and it can work in Ghana.

Second, we must strengthen the people and institutions charged with fighting corruption. This must be done by increasing the funding and independence of the Attorney Generals Department, CHRAJ, the Auditor General’s Department and SFO while making them more immune to political and social pressures. As long as those who hold positions in these bodies are at the mercy of politicians, through appointments or the ability to withhold funding, they can never function as they were meant to do.

Third, there should be a law that will streamline the administration of justice in our nation. This law should cap the number of judges in our Supreme Court, enforce strict remand provisions and define our appellate process to eliminate the ambiguities that only serve to enrich court officials at the expense of a gullible public.

Fourth, we must reform our Police force and remove them from control by political authorities. These reforms must end the incestuous relationship between the Police, Criminals and Politicians that fuel corruption and undermine accountability.

Fifth, we must pass and implement the “Freedom of Information” bill so that citizens can demand information on and from their government.

While most of these will help, nothing will be as significant as regulation the financing of our politics.

A democracy where the cost of running for office is obscenely high breeds politicians who are corrupted by the necessity to recoup their investments for office. Earlier this year, even while President Mills was preaching integrity, candidates for election to the Council of State or Chief Executives of District, Municipal and Metropolitan Chief Executives were paying bribes to get elected and we all looked on. Of course, the same thing happened under the NPP. There must be public financing of our politics coupled with enhanced accountability for the process of raising and spending money in our politics at all levels.

Without that, nothing else will work.

Finally, as the voting public, we must punish corruption at the polls during elections. As long as people can steal our money and use it to buy our votes, they will continue to steal.

In places as far away as Israel and America, corrupt politicians are being indicted and jailed. In Israel for instance, a former President is on trial and a former Prime Minister is under indictment for corruption.

We must work towards the day when the administration of anti-corruption justice will have no partisan coloration. The chances of a Minister or former Minister being indicted, being tried and going to jail, must depend, not on which party they belong to but on the strength of the evidence. And we must end the practice of convicted politicians being pardoned and ending up right back in government. It sends a very bad message to would-be offenders.

We have fought corruption through the force of dubious personalities for long enough. Let us move to institutional measures that have worked in other places and stop following the false messiahs of accountability.

When we get to that stage, we will truly be living up to our motto “FREEDOM AND JUSTICE”.

Let us move forward, together, to rid our nation of corruption, so that our nation can develop.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy
Email: arkoke@aol.com
Monday, 28th September, 2008

No comments:

Ghana Pundit Headline News

E-mail subscription

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Pan Africa News

Graphic Ghana


Peacefm Online - News with a vision

The Times - World News

The Times - Africa News

Pambazuka News :Emerging powers in Africa Watch

AfricaNews - RSS News

The Zimbabwe Telegraph

BBC News | Africa | World Edition

Modern Ghana

My Blog List