Opinions Sat, 18 Jun 2016

Did the President err?

The simplest characterizations to above be that: Corruption is the misuse of public power (by elected politician or appointed civil servant) for private gain.

And in order to ensure that not only public corruption but also private corruption between individuals and businesses could be covered by the same simple characterization or meaning:

We could easily say - Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power (by heritage, education, marriage, election, appointment or whatever else) for private gain.

This broader description covers not only the politician and the public servant, but also the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of a company, the notary public, the team leader at a workplace, the administrator or admissions-officer to a private school or hospital, the coach of a soccer team, etcetera.

Bribery is the act of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties. The expectation of a particular voluntary action in return is what makes the difference between a bribe and a private demonstration of goodwill. To offer or provide payment in order to persuade someone with a responsibility to betray that responsibility is known as seeking Undue Influence over that person's actions. When someone with power seeks payment in exchange for certain actions, that person is said to be peddling influence. Regardless of who initiates the deal, either party to an act of bribery can be found guilty of the crime independently of the other.

Conflict of interest – it could be generally agreed on that, conflicts of interest can be defined as any situation in which an individual or corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity in some way for their personal or corporate benefit.

In the above stated characterizations both the recipients and the payers collectively guilty these acts. Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power and elected authority for private profit. Widespread complaints are heard about politicians and public officials who accept bribes and enrich themselves privately at the expense of the common citizen. This may be at the expense of the employee and the employer; consumer and producer; renter and tenant; the one applying for a permit to do something, or asking exemption from an obligation to pay or to deliver a product or a service. All those cases may be considered to be abuse of power and authority for one’s own benefit.

Likewise, complainers forget that, necessarily there should also be payers who benefit from that abuse of power and authority. The other side of the coin shows payers assuming that their ‘gift’ to a politician or a public official, may in return deliver profitable preferential treatment or delivery.

More often the last ones are forgotten. Anyone who wants to fight corruption and safeguard integrity in governance should not only prevent politicians and public officials from unlawfully accepting gifts, but should also fight the ‘high and mighty’ that abuse their power and authority to give privileges such as land rights, permits, diplomas, allowances, money, against a reward.

All over the world we see, generally speaking, that accepting bribes is publicly denounced. The parliamentarian accepting bribes for using his influence and legislative power to endorse proposals profitable to some, is condemned in public by everyone. However, in private, those who gain from those profitable proposals praise his approach as realistic. For them he is the perfect representative who recognizes that ‘there is no escaping from corruption, if you don’t want to lose the competitive struggle’.

Another problem as a people we are confronted with is our conformist nature and of our culture. Gifts are inherent to human relations and therefore present in all cultures. You give and receive gifts on the occasion of birthdays, commemorative occasion like Christmas; on the occasion of memorable events; an appointment or a departure; marriage or a retirement.

Everybody sees what you give or receive. Such openness is of great importance. In many cultures presenting of gifts is part of the payment traffic. If you make a gift to a Chief in the village, we make it visible to all the villagers who will in way benefit from such a gift. When you receive a gift from them, it will also be open and visible to everyone.

On the contrary ‘Corrupt’ payments are made in hiding, are not made known. A gift made in public will also impose a certain obligation upon the recipient. On a next occasion you will show your gratitude by reciprocating the gift and you share the gift received with your family and friends. In fact, in our everyday life it is not much different. You give and receive on birthdays, on the occasion of marriages and births, and on other festive occasions. Look at the reciprocal state visits of Heads of government and Heads of state, exchanging gifts.

Though “Bribes” are also gifts, they are made in secret. High-ranking politicians and public officials in our country accumulate big fortunes thanks to bribes received.

Before getting any further those who have jumped in the defense of John Mahama will need to subject their own integrity to ‘Test’. I believe they ask family, neighbors, colleagues at work, their opinion on this subject.

Did the President err? Is there any conflict of interest? Is there an element of corruption and bribery?

Do they support the opinion that it is wrong to bribe politicians and public officials, whereas, the other way round, they themselves bribing these officials for their own profit would not be wrong? Would they denounce someone bribing an official or politician? I’ll appreciate if they did by considering how they have responded.

The three types of bribery assessed included: bribery of high-ranking politicians or political parties; bribery of low-level public officials to ’speed things up’; the use of personal or familiar relationships to win public contracts.

In concluding ‘Bribery’ is a white collar crime in which money, a favor or something else of value is promised to, given to, or taken from an individual or corporation in an attempt to sway his or its views, opinions, or decisions. For example, if an electoral candidate offered bottles of liquor in exchange for votes, it would be considered a bribe, and therefore, a crime.

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit. We are all hypocrites. We cannot see ourselves or judge ourselves the way we see and judge others. Those who plead their cause in the absence of an opponent can invent to their heart's content, can pontificate without taking into account the opposite point of view and keep the best arguments for themselves; as aggressors are always quick to attack those who have no means of defense. Avoid those who seek friends in order to maintain a certain social status or to open doors they would not otherwise be able to approach.

Has the truth become an insult? I was utterly dismayed and scandalized about Prof Kofi Agyekum submission on the errant behavior of the President. Concerning Kweku Bamako and Kwesi Pratt their hypocrisy insults our intelligence.

Columnist: Akwah, Nana