Criminalising political office holding in our politics

Akufo Addo Deal Sign President Addo Dankwa Akufo-addo

Sun, 11 Nov 2018 Source: Colin Essamuah

Something extraordinary happened last Monday which captures our collective mental state with reference to the issue of corruption in public affairs.

The Eastern Regional director of the Economic and Organised Crime Office was suspended by his boss from Accra for merely saying that pursuing current acts of corruption would be far better than concentrating, as is the norm today, on the acts of corruption committed by functionaries of the previous government.

This immediate response and high-handed action of the national EOCO graphically illustrates that the fight against corruption is a meaningless shadow fight.

It is a loud and noisy fight being pursued for propaganda purposes, and not to retrieve stolen or deliberately misapplied public resources. Note well that the Eastern Region EOCO boss never suggested or said that past acts of corruption must be forgotten, or overlooked.

At the rate and zeal the state is pursuing the Woyome millions allegedly lost in the time of the late President, Professor John Atta Mills, it is certain the influential citizens in the financial world being pursued today for their role in the collapse of banks only last and this year, the loss of thousands of jobs by innocent citizens and the misappropriation of depositors funds, would not see justice this side of eternity.

Remember the Woyome affair began in the time of former President Kufuor and you will begin to grasp my concerns today. You can only imagine the substantial sums spent in investigating past corrupt acts. All for what?

How much of our monies were retrieved from functionaries of the President Nkrumah regime after the 1966 coup which overthrew his government? The same goes for the politicians who faced probes after the 1972 coup which ousted Prime Minister Kofi Busia from office.

The last successful coup by President Rawlings in December 1981, was even more farcical; the revolutionary government was more interested in staying in power than validating its existence with shortcomings of the Limann regime.

Nkrumah and Busia era politicians faced the potent sanction of disqualification from active politics, which affected the line up of functionaries in 1979.

Disqualification from public office was not an option when we entered the 4th Republic in 1993.

The idea for today became clear to me after realising that I am not alone in believing certain things which detract from our political economic and social development as a nation.

For example the short piece last week by the well-known lawyer Akoto-Ampaw on the attacks on the Attorney-General, Madam Gloria Akuffo, for her allegedly lax approach to the prosecution of corrupt functionaries of the now opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Of course, I disagree with the lawyer in one aspect; it is the higher political party functionaries who preach and scream corruption of current political office holders when seeking office themselves, not the ignorant footsoldiers and apparachiki. The latter only repeat.

I think this is exactly where my concern today is located. It appears from the concentration on the functionaries of past preceding government and the evangelical zeal against corruption, that the whole corruption matter has become one of self-moralising, not meaningful action against a canker where successful prosecution is more likely when the records are fresh and current, and the lessons are learnt at once.

The fight against the canker has now become merely, we are better than you in governance and the protection of the public purse because our current and serving appointees are clean and honest men and women because we have cleared them of all allegations but declined to publish the basis for their clearance.

Fighting corruption today, the language tactics and actual preparatory actions like the hailed appointment of the Special Prosecutor has become only a propaganda tool.

How much in stolen public resources have been retrieved since the beginning of this 4th Republic? Even more important, how much of our resources have been spent, or wasted on allegations, investigations and prosecutions?

And the example of President Kufuor pardoning all who were convicted and trials aborted, proves that this is all a sham perpetrated to sustain the ruling government in power and not to develop our sense of genuine outrage.

The stone age views of Mr KT Hammond regarding the Right to Information bill captures perfectly my concerns about the fakery of the anti-corruption campaign and fight.

Not a single government in the world has collapsed because of the successful passage of RTI, but he religiously believes that the very concept of government is threatened by a sunshine legislation like this which can arrest acts of corruption and financial malfeasance right in the acts of commission.

A public office is a public trust and citizens are entitled to be aware of all actions taken in their name by the trustees who are temporary custodians of delegated authority. To imagine this RTI bill has been in our parliament since 2003 amidst grandstanding by parties and individuals says a lot about our real commitment to exposing and fighting corruption in public life.

Which takes me to the title for today. Get yourself appointed as a co-ordinator of proceeds from a public toilet and you would be accused of corruption by fellow party members who missed the lucrative appointment and their supporters.

Get an appointment as a managing director of a parastatal especially when your partisan zeal was absent in the prior campaign and you would be tarred and feathered with the rankest charges of corruption and footsoldier disdain.

The root cause we face is ultimately the umbilical linkage of political and public office with rank corruption, no matter how far removed the appointment itself is from actual handling of public resources, something the current ruling party excelled in prior to its victory in 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Everybody was accused of corruption, or stomach politics, including pastors who expressed their support publicly. No one serves for the purpose of love of service to fellow men and women but for personal gain at the expense of public welfare.

The opposite of development is not corruption; it is incompetent governance. Many obstacles have been overcome in the fight to develop our country. Nations develop with current assets not retrieved alleged stolen monies.

For the fight against corruption and wanton dissipation of public resources to be meaningful and sincere, we must move away from concentrating on prehistoric crimes which teaches no lessons, retrieves no assets, builds nothing except excuse-making pharisees in governance, and come to the present where two useful national purposes can be taught all of us.

That firstly that corruption prevents current losses and secondly teaches useful lessons for the future. Its long past the time we stopped criminalising political office holding.

Columnist: Colin Essamuah