No democracy without transparency and accountability (1)

No democracy without transparency and accountability (1)

Recently, a renowned Nigerian professor in the United States, Toyin Omoyeni wrote an article titled “The West and the Hypocrisy of Democracy.”

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He accused Western countries of many things they’ve done against Africa – the worst being ‘giving’ Africa democracy.  

The article ends with, “The West has sold you a fake product called democracy. Africans, your vote is not a sign of democracy. It is no more than a deception.

There is no democracy without accountability. You are just voting thieves to power. There is no democracy without transparency. 

You are just using your votes in support of crooks and thugs…Your vote is facilitating theft… Organise yourselves at various levels and think of alternatives to democracy or at the minimum, how accountability and transparency will form the core of your democratic practices.”

The purpose of this article is not to endorse Professor Omoyeni's assertion that ‘all politicians are thieves.’ Rather, the aim is to use that as a premise and argue that we can help prevent that by ensuring that there is transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell us how to establish transparency and accountability to ensure that democracy works. 

This isn’t an oversight but it’s because he cannot recommend appropriate transparency and accountability for each country. The kind of transparency and accountability required to make a country’s democracy work is intrinsic to that country. Undoubtedly, every democracy requires transparency and accountability to thrive but should come from the people – the elite and the masses.

This is where civil society organisations (CSOs) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) are needed to educate the public on their democratic rights and obligations. 

Transparency

We can take a cue from how Ghanaians are working to make the elections more transparent, free and fair by putting the Electoral Commission (EC) on its toes to ensure that it delivers.

Other state institutions – the Executive, Parliament, law enforcement and adjudication bodies should equally be put on their toes to ensure that they are transparent and accountable to make Ghana’s democracy work. The realisation of this depends on how successful CSOs and the NCCE are in civic education.

Within the Fourth Republic, with the support of the West, Ghanaians have ensured that the EC has introduced several electoral reforms to strengthen the transparency, accountability, integrity and credibility of our elections. Some of the reforms carried out include the introduction of transparent ballot boxes, coloured voter identification cards, biometric voter register and the compilation of a new voters’ register to replace the existing bloated one. 

Even with all these, we aren’t satisfied and rightly so with the EC’s performance because we value what is at stake. We know that the moment we become complacent and ‘go to sleep,’ the electoral process could be compromised, become less transparent and devoid of accountability.

Therefore, we continue to demand accountability from the EC to the extent that it has come out with what it terms “Let the Citizen Know” series where the EC briefs the public about its decisions and processes. 

This is far from saying that the EC is perfect. The point here is that, as a country, we have shown keen interest in what the EC does.  This has made it relatively more transparent and accountable. Therefore, we should extend similar interest to other state institutions and demand that they are transparent and accountable to Ghanaians.

What the three arms of government do are equally important as what the EC does. It is the Executive that handles all the resources of the state including natural resources such as gold, diamonds, bauxite, lithium, oil and gas.

All contracts, whether on loans or natural resources are signed by the executive which comes to power through elections that we are so concerned about. Ironically, we seem less concerned about the terms of the contracts signed by the Executive and how the funds are utilised. 

Legislature

It is Parliament that makes laws and votes to pass the contracts signed by the Executive. In most cases, the majority of parliamentarians lack the adequate knowledge to exercise proper scrutiny of bills that come to them.

Besides, they aren’t given enough time to review the volumes of documents that come to them, therefore, they often let things go. Even when some parliamentarians want to be critical, they are heckled and called names by the public. 

Finally, where elected officials from the Executive and the Legislature are involved in corruption, it is the duty of the law enforcement and adjudication institutions to ensure that the laws are applied equally. However, because the public seems not to care, the law is rarely applied equally.   

We have 167 days to the December elections. We shouldn’t only be concerned about voting but voting competent candidates into power. We shouldn’t also ‘go to sleep’ after voting but demand transparency and accountability from those we elect.

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Otherwise, to borrow Professor Omoyeni’s words, we would just be voting thieves into power, we would just be using our votes to support crooks and thugs.

Therefore, we should demand more from those we vote into power to make Ghana’s democracy work. In fact, we shouldn’t be satisfied with what they do just as we aren’t about the EC. 

The writer is a political scientist

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