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Ghana’s Economic Hardship: Retrieve all 'stolen money' to resurrect economy

Corruption Signpost File photo of a corruption signpost

Tue, 29 Mar 2022 Source: Iddrisu Abdul Hakeem

The ongoing economic calamity and conundrum in the country has really generated so many thesis and theories on what to do to rescue the sinking ship of the Akufo-Addo government.

One school of thought adduces that the ludicrous size of government must be cut down; others advocate for going to the IMF. Yet another school of thought suggests the resignation of the president for retrogressing the country than how he met it.

But it is true that you cannot give what you don't have. When the war leader says to his battalion "we shall fight to the last man", he is actually the last man behind his soldiers, protected from bullets.

The latest presidential rants that seek to sermonize Ghanaians to brace up for the unfolding octopus of economic hardship mismanagement and gargantuan corruption of the Akufo-Addo-Bawamia led government has caused, is the most hypocritical admonition the President can give Ghanaians when he and his acolytes and cronies are actually insulated and shielded from that reality of economic quagmire.

What is most unpardonable is the government’s measure to slash salaries of appointees that seems to have been welcomed with an encomium of public adulation by some unsuspecting Ghanaians. Without mincing words, it is the most offensive mockery of the intelligence of the Ghanaian taxpayers. Such a move or measure by the government is nothing more than a depiction of the man who tries to rescue a fellow from a deep well. Instead of using the available ladder with him, he stretches his hand which can't reach the victim under the well.

Corruption as a political canker remains one of the dusty shelves of our social milieu and has left many people impoverished with no exceptions to any country. And indeed, one department that is ever thriving almost all the time in any government is that godforsaken department – corruption.

Many people, in particular, leaders, steal in arrears and deposit their loot offshore while shedding offensive crocodile tears with the languishing masses they lead back home due to economic hardship.

When the Panama papers scandal hit the world like a thunderbolt in 2016 with over 11.5 million documents detailing how a majority of world leaders hide their (stolen) money and companies overseas by the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, people were agape. It was an exposé where over twelve national leaders were among 143 politicians were involved.

And just before we thought the world would never experience such a debilitating shock and corruption of that magnitude, the Pandora papers in 2021 reared its ugly head with the embattled Presidents, Zelensky of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin of Russia, neck-deep in the honeypot of that exposé. Uhuru Kenyatta, Saudi Kings, among others, were also fingered.

The Panama papers and the Pandora papers exposé were revelations of massive corruption where 12 million and 11 million documents, respectively, revealed hidden wealth, tax avoidance, and, in some cases, money laundering by many world leaders and the rich.

In short, corruption has been an applecart and many leaders milk the public treasury of their people and either launder it or deposit them in private bank accounts offshore.

This is the most wicked form of corruption leaders can engage in. They not only steal the people, a development that would have come from such proceeds of corruption were such ill-gotten money were to be invested in the country, is also taken overseas.

Even though Ghana was only mentioned in the Panama papers rotting exposé because of the son of ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor, and no public official was directly involved, when the European Union blacklisted Ghana for money laundering in 2019 many clean-minded and clear-sighted Ghanaians raised eyebrows. It was no longer a short in the dark to opine that there are honchos of corruption and financial malfeasance kingpins in the upper echelons of our leadership.

A reason that has probably ballooned our national debt stock to a godforsaken 341 Billion in just five years.

Apparently, in such a government with that highest level of profligacy, the solution to revamping the economy does not lie in slashing anybody's salary to feign sense of sacrifice. Rather, the deep-seated corruption in the government over the last five years is what ought to be clamped down.

And it would as well be administrative nonsense and rigmarole to want to continue on milking the people through a thieving taxation system such as the E-levy.

There are those who have also been pontificating and suggesting that the elephant and hippopotamus size government must be mellow down to create financial ventilation for the national coffers which has been gasping for breath since2017.

For me, cutting down the size of the government and trimming the number of appointees is not really the panacea, and won’t be effective; ensuring money stolen by these appointees is retrieved is the magic to undoing the economic hardship.

Actually, there has been massive corruption perpetrated against Ghanaians in the last five years with Ghana's Corruption Perception Index being downvoted and downgraded by Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.

The Fourth Estate reported that five years into Akufo-Addo’s presidency, Ghana’s best score in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) climbed down to 43 out of 100. The worse in Mahama's era. Simply, in terms of corruption, Mahama's worse is Akufo Addo's best. In other words, just as borrowing, corruption under Akufo has been legendary.

Indeed, the Ghana Integrity Initiative, a local chapter of Transparency International's corruption, also laments helplessly about the marauding sleazes that have characterized the Akufo Addo government. They report that "Ghana’s current performance is still below 50, which is the expected average and thus leaves much to be desired."

The Fourth Estate further reports that "with most African countries among the worst performers on the corruption index, Ghana’s score of 43 placed her 9th along with Senegal out of 49 Sub-Saharan African countries in 2021." And that Ghana’s CPI scores from 2012 to 2019 indicate that the worst performance within the period was recorded in the last five years.

The entity enumerated some of the corruption scandals that have been swept under the carpet by the Akufo Addo government. Notable among them include, the Contract for Sale Scandal involving the Public Procurement Authority CEO, the “galamsey” bribery scandal involving a presidential staffer; the Kelni GVG, PDS sales, BOST oil adulteration scandals as well as the missing excavators, and the disappearance of 400 motor tricycles at the Northern Development Authority (NDA).

The Fourth Estate says it is regrettable that not a single appointee in the Akufo Addo-led government has been prosecuted for corruption. Instead, the government hankers after political opponents in the erstwhile Mahama government.

The IMF also cites Ghana as having NO anti-corruption measures in place regarding the Covid-19 relief funds provided. And indeed, out of the ¢19 billion used to prepare Banku (a local dish) for lockdown victims during the pandemic, only 600 million could be shadily accounted for.

The office of the Special Prosecutor, as we all know, has been a sham and dead on arrival.

Fellow Ghanaians, the above reports reflected what we ourselves have been witnesses to in this country of the perfumed and deodorized corruption and criminality.

For instance, the energy ministry's inability to account for Gh¢20 million used to fix street lights has been allowed to die a natural death; the 12 million dollars worth of fertilizer vanished into a cul-de-sac; the 500 missing seized galamsey excavators plus the gold bars worth of $150 million; the 62 million used for foreign travels in 9 months in 2019 alone by the President; the use of a whopping $22 million to implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

Atta Akyea signing of two contracts in August and December 2018 to the tune of $4.483 billion and $43.827 billion respectively without parliamentary approval; the PDS fraudulent deal, the over-inflation of the Ameri Deal which sacked Boakye Agyaku plus the almighty Agypa; the payment of Ghc1 million to Kroll Associates for no work done by the ministry of finance which was exposed by the Auditor General, a reason that could have triggered his "dismissal".

Also, the President was fingered for dashing state cash of Gh¢227,000 to his daughters to form an account. Ghana’s Embassy in Belgium was accused of money laundering and was ordered by ING Bank to close its accounts.

The list is unabated.

We cannot also forget the NHIS diversion of Gh¢17 million into a private investment company; the $12 million Oslo consulate deal; the $14 million wasted by the Ministry of Tourism over so-called capacity building; the disappearance of BOST contaminated fuel; the shady dealings of the GNPC buying of a $7.5 million property from CEOs former company; the $89 million dubious KelniGVG contract etc.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Republic of Ghana, is it not administrative rigmarole, bunkum, and nonsense, to slash salaries to salvage a sunk economy due to the above profligacy and corruption?

I think the solution lies in retrieving all this money.

And President Akufo-Addo and his boatload of officials of government have really stolen money. Yes. Through those fraudulent projects, they refuse to review because they loot the state through them.

Nobody needs anybody to slash their salary.

Let our stolen money be retrieved; bring back our money.

Period.

Columnist: Iddrisu Abdul Hakeem