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Opinions Sun, 16 Nov 2014

Good Governance Defeats Corruption

By William Dowokpor

Ghana's anti- corruption campaign received a big boost this week when members of pressure group "Occupy Ghana" held a public forum in Accra to discuss corruption and to report on actions they have initiated to compel the Auditor General to retrieve misappropriated or stolen monies captured in annual audit reports.

Another pressure group, Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), staged a demonstration to decry the socio-economic challenges and hardships confronting citizens; highlighting what they consider to be unacceptable levels of corruption prevailing under the watch of the NDC administration.

Today, the debate over corruption in Ghana, as a perception or reality has ceased. The denials are over. Corruption is real and the levels continue to rise at alarming proportions, as fellow citizens with the mandate to govern have by omission or commission, nurtured a defective governance system that allows them to steal public funds with impunity; almost always with political cover.

The fight against corruption by successive administrations, including the current one, has been an exercise in futility; and will remain so, if, as a nation, we remain focused on the symptoms and not the root causes; selective targeting of individuals and political equalization that reduces the evils of corruption to which administration (NDC or NPP) is more corrupt.

Obviously, there is a lack of political will on the part of the NDC administration and the opposition NPP that remains silent on the solution of reforming our governance infrastructure, which has consistently shown vulnerability to corruption. These and many other factors, have made the Ghanaian cynical and increasingly apathetic to the so called fight against corruption, which in reality, is as futile as stopping the waves with your bare hands.

Reforms:

Wherever there is absolute control of power with excessive discretion, without accountability, corruption thrives and that typifies our governance system; a case of "absolute power corrupts absolutely". With such a vulnerable governance infrastructure, it is no surprise that the 23 laws on our statute books and a state-sponsored strategic action plan, aimed at fighting corruption remain ineffective.

Responding to public outcry over corruption allegations, especially allegations against members of the Executive, with Presidential Commissions of Inquiry has been weak and ineffective. What is the essence of exposing corruption at a commission hearing when it does not lead to the prosecution of culprits?

Good Governance is on the side of majority of Ghanaians, who want the constitution amended to prevent the President from appointing members of parliament to double as ministers of state.

The separation should make parliament independent and strong enough to check executive excesses, thereby reducing or completely removing the avenue for cover ups when members of the executive engage in corruption.

Again, majority of Ghanaians, according to the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) report, want the constitution amended to have District, Metropolitan and Municipal Chief Executives elected by the people through universal adult suffrage, a reform that would make local government accountable to the people. This reform, apart from curing the democratic deficit at the local level, will stop the mischief of bulk procurement for local government systems by the supervising ministry where it is alleged that up to 20% of the cost of these bulk procurements constitute kickbacks for members of the executive.

It is important to have an Independent Public Prosecutor, who does not double as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The current arrangement has over and over again provided cover for corruption to thrive in high and low places. It is the main reason why the state is not able to go after corrupt public officials. The only Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who refused to provide political cover for corrupt public officials incurred the displeasure of the Executive and got the sack.

Conclusion:

If you subject the over GHC 3.5 Billion Cedis, lost to corruption and wastage in the public sector alone every year, to econometric analysis, you would know that many of the socio-economic challenges that confront us, as a nation; should have been overcome decades ago. Anyone who talks about fighting corruption without reforms is only addressing the symptoms. It will take reforms to remove the factors that make our governance system vulnerable to corruption. Good governance is Key.
Columnist: Dowokpor, William