Exposing the face of corruption
Whenever the subject of corru-ption in public places comes up for discussion, the political and institutional leadership always throw back the challenge to the public to provide evidence. This is a difficult task since it is not easy to determine when people meet to give or receive bribes, let alone have an idea of how much was involved.
The Public Office Holder (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification Act of 1998), Act 550, which is supposed to ensure transparency and accountability among public officials itself places a heavy burden on members of the public to prove a case of corruption or immorality against public officials when they are in the least equipped to do so.
Under this cloak of doubt, secrecy and with very little information from official sources, a lot of corrupt practices have been allowed to fester to the extent that we can only complain and lament without any hope of ridding society of that evil canker.
Notwithstanding the insurmountable obstacles placed on the path of citizens to report on suspected acts of corruption, we believe that if our governments are truly committed to fighting corruption, they can easily remove that veil of doubt depending on the issues at stake and apply the vast mechanisms that are available to the state to investigate suspicions and allegations to their logical conclusions.
If, for instance, a judge takes certain decisions in court involving high-profile cases such as granting bail to suspected drug barons when the law forbids it, it should not be seen to be the result of human frailty or lack of appreciation of the law.
That decision should put the state security/intelligence and the leadership of the judiciary on high alert and without necessarily making it public, they must begin to find out whether the judge has gone beyond the legal interpretation of the law.
In the same way, if a public servant, a minister or any high-profile public office holder enters office and in no time begins to display signs of affluence far beyond what his legitimate income could allow, it should be possible for a body such as the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to invite that person for a discussion and, if possible, they be allowed to fill a tax assessment form as a first step to establish the legitimacy of their wealth or otherwise.
There is a lot of wealth being thrown about by public officials and their business collaborators, which is far above their known incomes, but no one is telling us the source of that windfall which has eluded the majority of our people who are toiling day and night to make decent living.
That was why the requirement by certain officers under Article 286 (5) of the 1992 Constitution to declare their assets when coming into office has been frowned upon by many Ghanaians as a smokescreen to hoodwink all of us because the provisions of that article did not demand the publication of the assets so declared for public scrutiny and comment.
It is also unfortunate and sad to say that, state institutions such as the Economic and Organised Crime Organisation (EOCO), the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and GRA have in the main become tools in the hands of those in control of political power to pursue perceived political opponents, to the neglect of their core mandate of protecting the state and the national purse.
The last bastion against arbitrariness on the part of the other arms of government and the powerful and influential in society is the judiciary. It is in the bosom of the courts that all those who feel aggrieved, persecuted, denied or wronged could seek redress and solace.
It is, therefore, a threat not only to our democratic credentials, personal rights and freedoms but our national security and stability if the judicial system is turned into a jungle where only the rich and influential who can pay their way could survive.
What I can describe as the Anas Tapes, exposing alleged corrupt practices in the judiciary has only put flesh where in the past, was a bone of contention fuelled by suspicion and speculation. It has lent credence to the generally acknowledged fear that the court system is not meeting the aspirations of the people.
Every human institution has its challenges but if what should be an exception has become so pervasive as to become the norm, then there should be serious concern.
While admitting that human nature can be easily corrupted, we should also take the necessary steps to ensure that those who want to live above board are not caught in the whirlwind of bureaucracy and red-tapeism.
There is too much bureaucracy in the simple things that we do. Acquiring or renewing a passport, a driving licence or a building permit have become so cumbersome and frustrating that somewhere along the process, one could hardly avoid paying his/her way through.
Today, corruption in the judiciary is on the lips of everybody. Which institution comes next? Instead of putting the burden on members of the public, the political leadership and state institutions must be proactive in dealing with matters of corruption to save us from the massive embarrassment and scale which has captured the attention of the world media, to the detriment of national pride.
Now that we have been served with the evidence, what do we do next?