The issue of event organisers occasionally giving journalists’ money after covering programmes, became a topic for discussion during the launch of the Global Corruption Report (GCR) at the British Council Hall in Accra on Wednesday.
The event, which was organised by the local chapter of Transparency International (TI), Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), sparked deep-seated emotions from both sides of the divide.
This was after a man who identified himself as an anti-corruption supporter, Justice Frimpong, asked the question as to whether the act of giving journalists money after events did not amount to corruption, since according to him it had the tendency of influencing the way and manner in which journalists write stories.
This sparked a heated debate, which compelled some journalists around to respond to the issue raised.
While some agreed that giving or taking ‘soli’, as they prefer to call it, was not the best of practices, others sought to justify the act, with the belief that it was an act of showing appreciation to journalists for their time spent, and participation in any given programme.
Much as some agreed that taking ‘soli’ makes it susceptible for journalists’ to compromise their conscience, which tends to influence them in the discharge of their constitutionally mandated duty, they juxtaposed that with the existing and prevailing poor conditions under which they work.
Many of them spoke about the appalling conditions of service at the various media houses, stressing that this and others compelled most journalists to compromise their conscience for monetary benefits, since ‘man must survive’.
This justification obviously did not go down well with Dr. Audrey Gadzekpo, Acting Director and Senior Lecturer at the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon, who happens to be a Board Member of GII, who vehemently spoke out against the act.
Much as she appreciates the poor and appalling conditions under which most Ghanaian journalists’ live and work, she emphasised that it should not be a justification for either demanding or taking ‘soli’, since the ethics of the Ghana Journalists’ Association
(GJA) profession frowns on such practices.
No matter how one sees it, the Legon Don said, ‘soli’ is and will always be a inducement, since it in one way or the other goes to influence journalists in the discharge of their constitutionally mandated duty, which under normal circumstances they should discharge dispassionately.
Equally not happy with the trend, the Executive Secretary of GII, Vitus Azeem, also cautioned journalists to desist from such practices, since, in his candid opinion, it amounted to an act of corruption.
He asked journalists to live above reproach in the exercise of their duty, considering the fact that “all that glitters is not gold.”
This year’s GCR, titled ‘Corruption and the Private Sector,’ featured more than 75 experts examining the scale, scope, and devastating consequences of corporate corruption.
This was complemented by 45 indepth country reports, along with best practices and practical recommendations.
The report shows how corrupt practices constitute a destructive force that undermines fair competition, stifles economic growth, and ultimately undercuts business.
The Global Corruption Report 2009, documents many cases of managers, majority shareholders, and other actors inside corporations, who abuse their entrusted power for personal gain, to the detriment of owners, investors, employees, and society at large.
In developing and transition countries alone, companies colluding with corrupt politicians and government officials, have supplied bribes estimated at up to US $40 billion annually, according to the GCR.
The Report also presents evidence of persistently close linkages between businesses and governments in developing and industrialised countries alike, multiple conflicts of interest, and the growing risks of disproportionate influence on the part of corporate lobbying.
The Report reveals that in Africa, the informal sector amounts to more than 40 per cent of the economy in many countries, and the lack of legal protection, coupled with the desire to dodge regulations, makes the sector easy prey for extortion, and the solicitation of bribes by corrupt officials.
In Burundi, for example, 90 per cent of entrepreneurs think paying bribes is standard practice. In Morocco, integrity studies have found that only seven per cent of Moroccan companies have attempted to act when faced with corruption. In Angola and Uganda, the cost of starting a business, surpasses the average per capita income, putting formal status well beyond the means of many informal entrepreneurs. In Zimbabwe, high inflation and the introduction of price controls have contributed to a massive, parallel, informal economy that provides opportunities for middlemen and exploitation.
Here in Ghana, Mr. Azeem noted that politicians and public officials collude with private sector practitioners to enrich themselves.
According to him, the private sector pays bribes because they are either asked for it, or they believe that is the only way to get what they want, stressing that contracts, licenses, payments for work done, etc., especially, when there are unexplained delays in processing and red tapeism, complex regulations and procurement procedures, foster corruption.
“It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between private sector corruption and public sector corruption,” he said, asking rhetorically “when a Minister or a DCE (as reported in the GCR) establishes companies, awards contracts to them, and takes kickbacks for himself or the party, is it private sector or public sector corruption? When engineers in public institutions set up companies, using names of friends and family members, through which they channel contracts, which they then supervise, is it public or private sector corruption?”
Whatever the answer may be, the GII boss noted, it blemishes the image of the private and public sectors, as well as the government, especially, when nothing is done to address the problem.
According to him, fighting corruption at the nexus of private and public entities requires a radical change in the government’s commitment to addressing these problems, indicating that prompt investigations and prosecution of alleged corrupt acts, as well as strong sanctions for violators, constitute one solution.
However, he emphasised that this approach can be successful only when the political leadership adopts a strong anti-corruption stance, saying “political will to fight corruption has been the problem with our governments, especially, when it comes to cases affecting party faithfuls and funders.”
Whilst admitting that Ghana has put in place the enabling legal environment for key stakeholders to operate smoothly, including legislation to enable citizens report cases of corruption, and enable accountability institutions to investigate credible reports of alleged corruption cases and prosecute violators, Mr. Azeem however, noted that the Freedom of Information Bill had still not been enacted to enable citizens fully utilise the existing laws in fighting corruption.
Moreover, he indicated that the much talked-about Assets Declaration Law (Act 550) needs to be amended, and the proposed regulations approved by Parliament, to make the law an effective anti-corruption tool.
In furtherance of his speech, the anti-corruption crusader said recent revelations by the Audit Service that several audit reports have not been acted upon, are of grave concern, since in his opinion, “they demonstrate a waste of both human and financial resources, and the inability of Parliament to play its oversight role effectively.”
The findings from the GCR 2009, suggest a change in strategy and action, to ensure that corruption in the business sector is tackled effectively, and thus recommends the following:
* Corruption risks in business start with bribery and go beyond. It thus requires an integrated approach to corporate integrity and corporate citizenship.
* Governments need to use new generation innovative tools that put much more emphasis on regulatory capabilities, actual enforcement and international cooperation.
* Civil society needs to forge much broader and more effective partnerships to support corporate integrity because corruption in business is at the core of many other social, developmental and environmental challenges.
* Corporate integrity is a multi-stakeholder effort that requires collective action across sectors, borders and institutional boundaries. All stakeholders have a role to play.
Since 2001, the Global Corruption Report (GCR) has offered an annual assessment of the state of corruption around the world, usually focusing on a specific sector.
The flagship yearly publication, which is produced by Transparency International (TI), brings together leading experts and practitioners to analyze current issues, identify new challenges, and explore solutions with a thematic focus related to corruption.
Source: The Chronicle