Fighting corruption can’t be left to politicians 
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Fighting corruption can’t be left to politicians 

Corruption is one of the recurrent topics in Ghanaian politics and probably the one that has caused the fall of all governments in Ghana. ‘Alleged’ and ‘flagrant’ corruption in government have contributed to all electoral losses by incumbents in the Fourth Republic.

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It is, however, disturbing to note that Ghana has not made much progress in the fight against corruption within the past decade.

According to Transparency International, Ghana’s Corruption Perception Index has deteriorated between 2013 and 2023 (falling from 46/100 in 2013 to 43/100 in 2023) and has remained stagnant (43/100) between 2020 and 2023.

The current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, came to power in 2017 after winning a landslide electoral victory in the 2016 elections by defeating President John Dramani Mahama who was seeking a second term. President Nana Akufo-Addo virtually won the election on an anti-corruption platform. At the time, the Mahama government was rocked by many corruption scandals including the Ameri Power deal, the Bus branding saga, GYEEDA and SADA scandals, the Ford saga, the Woyome judgment debt scandal and the Brazil 2014 fiasco. 

Expectation

The expectation was that all those involved in corrupt deals were to face the full rigour of the law under President Nana Akufo-Addo and that the new government was going to protect the public purse. Before assuming office, the then President-elect Nana Akufo-Addo, told the potential members of his government to go to the private sector if getting rich was their objective. He repeated this call several times thereby winning public confidence. Unfortunately, however, once he assumed office, Nana Addo passed comments to ‘exonerate’ his officials accused of corruption thereby gaining the nickname “Corruption Clearing Agent.” Although virtually all of Nana Addo’s officials accused of corruption were investigated by state institutions in charge of corruption, his comments ahead of investigations compromised their work.

While the numerous corruption scandals under the Mahama regime have not been dealt with, Nana Addo’s government has also been rocked with many corruption scandals that have made President Mahama look clean. Consequently, in her acceptance speech, President Mahama’s running mate, Professor. Naana Opoku-Agyemang, made a profound statement on the issue, stating that whoever has participated in the plunder of the state must be held accountable. She mentioned specific scandals such as the National Cathedral which she referred to as ‘a multi-million-dollar dugout,’ Covid-19 money, Agyapa deal. Others include the PDS scandal, Australian visas, Kelni GVG, Bost contaminated fuel, the GH¢60.8 billion Bank of Ghana losses. 

It is unfortunate that corruption has become a common feature of Ghanaian politics, as it affects everyone, particularly the poor who are the most beneficiaries of government services, especially social interventions. Politicians and military adventurists have been known to ride on the issue to gain power, but they do little to address it once they are in power. Instead, they tend to become more corrupt and fail to fulfil their promises to the people. They also see corruption differently in government than they see it outside government. 

The question remains as to why politicians see corruption differently when they are outside of government compared to when they are in power.

Institutions  

Moreover, when out of government, they often criticise state institutions created to fight corruption and promise to reform them once they come to power. However, once in power, they tend to appoint their own people to these institutions to protect their corrupt activities to amass more wealth to perpetuate themselves in office and harass their opponents. As a result, politicians do not trust these institutions when they are out of government but claim to trust them once they are in power. This phenomenon has eroded public trust in state institutions.

Consequently, the decision by politicians to fight corruption when voted for is a good one because corruption is undoubtedly one of the most significant roadblocks to progress and prosperity in Ghana today. It undermines trust in public institutions, weakens the rule of law, distorts competition and corrodes social values. Therefore, it is essential to consider it as a serious issue that undermines democracy and requires immediate attention. 

However, given Ghana’s record in fighting corruption, we cannot leave it to only politicians. The cure lies in building strong institutions, ensuring transparency, political will and the participation of citizens and civil society to fight it.

Strong institutions are essential to prevent corruption from taking root. These include impartial courts, effective law enforcement agencies, and independent watchdog organisations that can hold public officials accountable for their actions. 

Investigative and prosecutorial institutions must not be left in the hands of the very politicians whose conduct is to be investigated, prosecuted and punished. This would help strengthen institutions. 

Meritocracy

The way people get into public offices must be revisited. Meritocracy rather than partisan considerations should drive recruitment into public office if we are to make any headway in the fight against corruption.

We should also review the current assets declaration regime and make it more transparent. Assets and liabilities declared by public officeholders should not be kept secret but be made available for public verification.  

Transparency requires making information about government activities and decisions accessible to the public. This way, citizens can scrutinise government actions and act as a check on corruption. To secure citizen participation in fighting corruption, the rising poverty must be checked since the poor are easily compromised and weakened to challenge corrupt practices.

Finally, political will also plays a vital role in fighting corruption. Leaders must be committed to upholding the rule of law and working towards creating a culture of transparency and accountability. They must demonstrate a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and ensure that those found guilty are held accountable for their actions. 

The writer is a Political Scientist 

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