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Opinions Fri, 30 Jul 2010

Criminals and Ethics in Ghana Parliament

Can Ghana Learn a Lesson from America?





By: Kwaku A. Danso





There are many who were favorably motivated and charged-up when Kofi Wayo launched a canon ball a few weeks ago that some members of the Ghana parliament are criminals and should be dealt with. The irony is that the leaders of Parliament, instead of examining what caused such as statement to be made, and finding out some Code of Ethics to guide and protect their reputation, were trying to charge Kofi Wayo with a contempt of Parliament! Obviously not many of the honorable members read Ghanaweb or other Ghanaian publications and evaluate the opinions about them held by the society at large.





The irony of this is that nobody is saying that only Ghana Parliament harbors criminals. Americans have some Congressmen over the years who have been sentenced to jail. The difference is that in our system, our leadership, including the Speaker of the House and the Attorney General, and sometimes the President himself, seem incapable, or actually sometimes seem to condone and protect the criminal elements in Parliament. Any Honorable members who consider themselves honest, must work hard, put aside any traditional notions of fama-Nyame principles, and set the institution and systems in place to weed out the criminals, either force them to resign or even let them face jail terms if need be.





Ghana Leadership Union has submitted the following proposed Amendment to the Constitutional Review Commission: ___________________________ Amendment #2 (Submitted by Email, July 24, 2010-GLU) Submission for: CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: To: Dr. Raymond Atuguba, Secretary, Constitutional Review Commission ETHICAL CODE AMENDMENT Rationale and Justification – Ghana leadership Union (GLU) forum has had numerous discussions on issues relating to ethics in our Ghanaian society. It is a general consensus that ethical violations or unethical behavior, graft, bribery and corruption constitute perhaps the most dangerous elements and reasons we are behind as a nation n socio-economic and human development after 50 years of self governance, while small nations like Singapore are far more advanced. A nation where $603 million in World Banks grant and loans meant for water cannot be accounted for and water is still a problem in 2010; where $700 million for electricity cannot be accounted for, and 19 months after office a new government is still trying to find how to tackle, investigate and prosecute these huge losses calls for serious evaluation. The examples are too long to list, and include the Jubilee House accounts and the Ghana@50 accounts. To cite a current example in one of the modern democracies many of us have received formal education from, and consider as “development partners”, Americans have no element of “fama-Nyame” (give it to God) or forgiveness in their culture as we do in Ghana. Rep. Charlie Rangel has been one of the longest serving Members of Congress and the good he has done may far outweigh the current economic value of ethics investigation involving non-disclosure of rental income and rental discounts received from a real estate developer, and what amounts to gifts but albeit in excess of a $50 limit set by Congressional ethics. This quote summarizes it all: “Those who violate the public’s trust must be held accountable and punished appropriately for their behavior. In light of these serious charges, there must be a thorough and expeditious trial.” (Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, the party’s Senate nominee, Jul.22, 2010) This exemplifies how modern democracy works. An amendment to Ghana’s constitution is hereby proposed as:



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ETHICAL CODE AMENDMENT: Every Ministry, Government Agency or Public Institution under Government or private institutions dealing with the public should have a CODE OF ETHICS for ethical behavior, breach of which, or suspicion of wrong-doing or violation of which, when reported by a citizen or the media, should trigger an Ethics investigation by an independent committee. The results of such investigation may or may not lead to criminal prosecution as deemed fit under current local, district or state laws, or may trigger the enactment of new criminal laws to be decided by the Attorney General’s office and/or the Speaker of the House of Assembly.





Submitted by: Dr. Kwaku A. Danso Email: k.danso@comcast.net For/On Behalf of: Ghana leadership Union (GLU) Forum Members, Jul.24, 2010 _______________________________________





Here is a story from the American scene extracted from the writer’s notes:





Congressman Charles Rangel – The 20 term Congressman from New York faces 13 Congressional Ethics charges. He has refused, after more than two year of investigations, to accept wrong doing and faces a congressional Ethics trial.





Rep. Rangel slapped with ethics charges



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http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/07/29/rangel.ethics/index.html?hpt=T2 Washington (CNN) -- The House ethics committee on Thursday accused veteran Rep. Charles Rangel of 13 violations of House rules involving alleged financial wrongdoing and harming the credibility of Congress. The charges accused the 20-term Democrat from New York of using his influence to solicit donations for a college policy center in his name from corporate heads and others with business before the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that Rangel chaired.





Other charges involved alleged income tax and financial disclosure violations, as well as improper use of government mail service and letterhead. "Credibility is what's at stake here; the very credibility of the House itself before the American people," said Rep. Mike McCaul, the ranking Republican on a subcommittee that will hold a trial-like hearing on the charges against Rangel. Rangel "argues that errors on his personal taxes do not implicate discharge of his official responsibilities," committee investigators concluded in response to Rangel's request to have the charges dismissed. He "appears to be operating under the erroneous belief that the only conduct subject to discipline is conduct directly related to the discharge of his official responsibilities."





An investigative subcommittee report on Rangel's dealings, available on the committee's Web site, detailed a lengthy series of meetings the congressman held with business leaders to raise funds for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Policy at the City College. His repeated attempts to woo potential donors violated the House's solicitation and gift ban, the report said.





Among other things, the report stated that Rangel met with a lobbyist for insurance giant AIG in April 2008 with the objective to "close" a $10 million "gift for the Rangel Center." At the meeting, "AIG raised concerns about a potential donation, including the potential headline risk," the report stated. But Rangel pushed ahead, asking "AIG, at least twice, what was necessary to get this done." During the period of time that Rangel was seeking donations from AIG, according to committee investigators, the company was lobbying the House on several tax and trade issues -- matters over which Rangel exercised considerable influence.





It also noted that, in March 2007, he used congressional letterhead to send notes to business leaders such as Donald Trump, in which he requested meetings to discuss the Rangel Center. The congressman's "acceptance of favors and benefits from donors to the Rangel Center ... might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties," the report concluded, adding that the "accumulation of (Rangel's) actions reflected poorly on the institution of the House and, thereby, brought discredit to the House."



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McCaul said the allegations against Rangel, if proven, would violate "the most fundamental code of conduct" for House members.





Rep. Gene Green of Texas, a Democrat who led a two-year ethics subcommittee investigation of Rangel, said it was a difficult job. "The task is even more difficult when the subject has befriended and mentored so many new members, and I'm one of them," Green said.





Another ethics committee member, Republican Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama, said "this is truly a sad day where no one, regardless of their partisan stripes, should rejoice." Rangel temporarily stepped down as Ways and Means Committee chairman earlier this year following the announcement of an ethics investigation of several allegations, including failure to pay taxes on the Dominican Republic residence.





The House ethics committee previously admonished Rangel for violating rules on receiving gifts. Specifically, the committee found that Rangel violated House gift rules by accepting reimbursement payments for travel to conferences in the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.





Rangel, whose autobiography that discusses his Korean War experience is titled "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since," told reporters earlier Thursday that "I have to reassess that (statement)" in light of the pending hearing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday -- in response to a question about Rangel -- that there must be "accountability" and "transparency" in cases of ethical transgressions.



"Holding a high ethical standard is a serious responsibility ... and a top priority" for the House Democratic leadership, she said. In terms of political fallout from cases such as Rangel's, "the chips will fall where they may," she said.





Congressional Democrats have reportedly expressed concern that an extended public airing of the charges against Rangel could damage the party's prospects in the November midterm elections. (From CNN Wire Staff /Online July 29, 2010, 6:40pm EDT) _______________________________________





In conclusion, since many of us obtain our education from the Western civilizations, we strongly expect and demand that members of the Ghana Parliament set the good example and monitor themselves. They could learn a few tricks beside book-knowledge from the Americans and others in the West they call development partners. Partnership involves not just taking loans, but learning social and other means of building society on the rule of law, the basis of any successful democracy.





Dr. Kwaku A. Danso, Email: k.danso@comcast.net

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.