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Opinions Sun, 8 Dec 2013

I am corrupt and so are you!

As for political corruption, we know and abhor too well. Much less acknowledged is the equally dangerous cultural corruption perpetrated by faceless people like you and I. And this is after hearing IDEG’s Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey mourn about a culture of corruption in Ghana. If corruption has become a culture, then it has become by implication, a way of life –our way of life. What are some of the faces of corruption that I have personally encountered this year? Do you recognize your face?

We often run large training programs in hotels leading to the payment of millions. Given the prospects of good future business, soaring charges, and the threat of exceeding budget ceilings, I went in to negotiate a discount. One Manager sighed and whined but was too constrained to reduce his rates further. In response, we took good business away from him! A few weeks later, the manager asked to see me in my office with a sizable envelope. He wanted to say “thank you.” We declined, politely reminding him that what we really wanted was a significant reduction in charges to continue to do business with him. After many months, when the threat to take away business was executed, word reached me through second and third parties that Manager was ready to reconsider rebates!

Peterson had known a named physician/lecturer in a named medical school for years. So when his niece passed her examinations with 5As and the rest all Bs, the family saw the reality of her medical school dreams. And then came the doctor’s conditions. If she got a fee paying admission, she would be required to pay GH¢ 7, 500 to the school per term. He however promised to secure her a non-fee paying option in return for which he should personally be given only GH¢ 5, 000 to facilitate the process. When in the end the girl got a fee paying option but the lecturer still insisted on his GH¢ 5, 000 fee, the family was financially overburdened and declined the offer of admission. Today, the young lady is pursuing nursing in another named University!

One day, Samuel shared his aspirations to become a Policeman by 2014. He had even been called for “physicals.” And then he revealed the secret of his progress in the application process. He had been asked to pay GH¢ 4, 000 to his contact who was assisting him. This amount he had borrowed from family and paid in full!

“My brother, even when you don’t want to be corrupt, the system we are running will make you corrupt, and it has nothing to do with politics”, confessed a health manager. This manager had a health campaign to run in a district on a non- existent budget. An offer came from the district assembly. They would give her the needed amount and document it as such on condition that she returned exactly half of the amount undocumented. Her colleagues mocked her hesitation. “This is how it is done Madam… if you don’t; you will not get even one pesewa from anywhere to run this programme… Stop wasting time and go for it!” Against her conscience, but faced with practical difficulties, she received GH¢ 4000 from the Assembly and returned GH¢2, 000!

One crisscrosses the country and stops to refuel the road giants after which the attendant asks, “How much money should I write on the receipt?” How much money? Is it not what I bought? Corruption has a face here too… under invoicing, over invoicing ….

According to the Auditor General, in 2011, Ghana lost “GH¢118.8 million as a result of irregularities at the Ministries, Departments and Agencies …” What is this if not systemic corruption perpetrated by a faceless looting and plundering brigade called you, me, him and her!

On another day, I will talk about judgment debts, GYEEDA, political corruption etc. – our favorite topics. But today, I would like us to reflect on how we as individuals are not very different from the people we accuse. Infact, it is because we are such active participants and beneficiaries of corrupt practices that the practice thrives in our country. Let me not bribe the Policeman but rather suffer the consequences of my wrong doing. Let me not bribe and turn around to point hypocritical fingers at the Policeman when in reality, I am the most willing bribe giver and the greatest corrupter the world has ever seen! Don’t encourage a “big man” to become a thief in coat by asking for what he should not be able to afford on his income. When politicians give you money in exchange for votes, refuse it. It is the reason the road to your house is the dilapidated way it is and has stayed so for the past twenty years despite your regular votes. You and the politician have jointly looted and plundered the road, water and health fund —what do you expect?

“Ghanaians now tolerate corruption…. Money has become our greatest value which we have traded with integrity, honesty, moral code and so on. We need to fight the culture of corruption,” says Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey,

It was my beloved Helena Kemetse who first introduced me to the concept of “the microcosm of the macrocosm”. Brighten your own corner, she said and stop pointing fingers when you are no better! Let us as individuals refuse to be corrupt and the politicians will change. If change is not coming from top down, let us as individuals become agents of change from bottom up – a true grassroots revolt! With this, we can execute Pope Francis’s anticorruption prescription – tie perpetrators to a rock and throw them into the sea!

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

Sodzi_tettey@hotmail.com

www.sodzisodzi.com

25th November, 2013

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi