Corruption is a form of unethical or dishonest use of position of authority for personal gain.
In the political field, it may linked to the abuse of power, embezzlement and bribery which causes a decision maker to deviate from entrusted policies for personal benefit.
Corruption on the African continent coupled with poverty have been re-echoed as a character trait by the western media for many decades.
The projection of a "Corrupted Africa" if not "impoverished Africa" by the western world is unfair and yet, some African leaders by their actions do confirm the "corrupted Africa" tag through deliberate indulgence in corruption and bribery in governance.
A report by the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2015 revealed various ranks by which African countries are projected on corruption and countries listed included Botwana, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Rwanda, Mauritius and Namibia.
Other African countries on the list include the Tanzania, Gambia, Togo and Nigeria.
Our beloved, cherished for being the beacon of democracy in West Africa, Ghana, was ranked the 7th most corrupted country in Africa and this is no good news for all Ghanaians.
So how have some African countries set her integrity aright, clearing the negative perception of a ‘’corrupted Africa’’?
The RTI BILL
According to the secretariat of the Right to Information Coalition (CRTI), Ghana, twenty African countries have made efforts to successfully pass the Right to Information (RTI) bill into law and this includes Burkina Faso which is the 7th in West Africa to pass the bill, and this has earned praise from the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA).
Liberia, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone including Nigeria and Niger have all passed the RTI Bill into law in previous years as part of commitment towards accountability and transparency in governance.
The RTI Coalition, Ghana, as part of its efforts to push for the passage of the RTI bill into Law in August 2015 garnered a group of concerned citizens from various work forces in Accra including students who volunteered to solicit public information from various public institutions in the country.
The activity was in accordance with article 21 (1) (f) which states that “all persons shall have the right to: information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society’’.
At the end of three week exercise, some public heads where these concerned citizens (this creates the impression that all of them were denied access to information) wrote to, requesting information on public issues such as the school feeding programme and mode of scholarships grants to tertiary students which is of public interest were denied access to such information.
The main reason being the said information are confidential to the public institutions.
However, some of the institutions where the volunteers requested information, gained answers to certain questions but officials were hesitant to release public documents as requested.
Meanwhile some volunteers who were market women in Makola and Tema stations were able to solicit information from the AMA concerning the payment of their monthly dues.
These traders discovered with their enquiries that the supposed monthly dues solicited from them by agents of the AMA were supposed to be paid yearly!
The John Mahama led administration was beset by several scandals including the Woyome judgement debt scandal, the Smartty bus branding saga, the GYEEDA corruption allegation and the mismanagement concerns at SADA amongst others all of which led to the loss of funds for the state.
The passage of the RTI bill into law will help to discover many of such corrupt practices in governance and possible solutions to curb the canker.
According to the Media Foundation for West Africa, Ghana is touted as the most stable democracy in West Africa.
Successive governments, including the current government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have trumpeted their commitment to transparent and accountable governance.
The right to access information have already been granted Ghanaians, what Ghana needs now ‘’is a law that will spell out the modalities for enjoying this right’’, the RTI Coalition said.
This is in spite of the fact that more than ten years have passed with pleas by the citizenry and advocacy by civil society groups for a RTI law to be passed.
After the last sitting of parliament before the December polls, the RTI Coalition, Ghana, released a statement expressing disappointment ‘’over yet another failure by parliament to pass the RTI Bill into law despite promises that the Bill will be passed in the second and third sittings of the legislature this year’’.
The statement said ‘’Following a series of engagements with the leadership of Parliament and the Attorney General (AG), the AG took a bold step by incorporating all the proposed amendments into a new RTI Bill, and on 18th October, the AG withdrew the old Bill and tabled the revised Bill (RTI BILL 2016) for consideration by Parliament. She specifically wrote to Parliament requesting that the Bill be considered under a Certificate of Urgency’’.
It said the bill was immediately referred to the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for review and report, affirming that the review process by the committee was within a day, October 23, and submitted to parliament on October 25.
However, the momentum could not be sustained as the minority members of Parliament raised issues including the lack of quorum to pass the bill.
The majority leader Alban Bagbin, afterwards assured Ghanaians of the passage of the RTI Bill into law when parliament resumes its sitting after the 2016 elections.
Meanwhile various concerns were raised on Wednesday Dec. 21, 2016 when parliament resumed passing the Bill.
Minority leader, Mr Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu ‘’urged the speaker to suspend the consideration of the bill because it could have some implications on some sections of the Presidential Transition Act.’’
The RTI is recognised by the UN, the Commonwealth and African Union as a fundamental human right for transparent governance.
In accordance with the international conventions and treaties on human rights and in order to operationalise the constitutional provision, the RTI Bill was drafted by the government in 1999.
The draft was reviewed in 2003, 2005, and 2007 but failed to be presented to parliament for consideration.
On 5 February 2010, an RTI Bill was presented to the fifth parliament and referred to the joint committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications for consideration and report.
The RTI Coalition said the Joint Committee did a nationwide consultation but could not present their report to the house nor review the problem clauses of the Bill.
After the elections in 2012, the Bill was reintroduced to Parliament in Nov 12, 2013 and was referred to the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The Select Committee received memorandum from the forum for Former Member of Parliament, the RTI Coalition Ghana, and the office of the National Chief Imam and the Muslim Community in Ghana.
Among others, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI, Africa office), the Perfector of Sentiments Foundation (POS) and Persons with Disability Ghana also presented memorandums to the committee on the RTI bill.
Consideration of the bill by the current parliament began in March this year but it was withdrawn and a new bill was introduced due to the numerous amendments proposed by the Select Committee of Parliament.
The existence of the RTI Bill in Ghana would made it possible for every citizen to access information on policies that governs them, ranging from uses of taxes to exorbitant contracts given out.
When citizens begin to access such information, the decision maker who got the people’s mandate to serve would be very much reminded there and again about accountability to the people.
The elected governors of the citizenry will be mindful to discharge their duties without bias.
At the end of the day, accountability and transparency may be of paramount interest to those who govern thereby enable citizens to effectively peruse governance activities.
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