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Opinions Sun, 9 Jun 2013

Re: Kuunifaa hugs Mahama's silent corruption vs FOIB?

By Cletus D Kuunifaa

First of all, if this is what the back and forth rejoinders, retorts, rebuttals and comments will take to galvanize action and raise awareness about fighting corruption in Ghana, be it visible or unseen, quiet or silent, then it becomes a good beneficial academic exercise for all of us to follow. Anything contrary to this expectation smacks of partisan stuff and does not goad well for the country.

With this in mind, I wish to commodify the information in Professor Lungu’s two pieces and insist that the value is the same, if not less? The Professor, by rehashing his text adds nothing new to what we already know about corruption being in various forms and which must be nibbed in the bud in society. Also, his removal of the adverb “exclusively" used to qualify "silent corruption" as an information technology concept for "machine-errors” is neither here nor there, and means nothing. What was he thinking? What was that for? We do not need to belabor the meaning of the concept silent corruption which is a straight forward, clear, unbiased, non complex, no brainer, in fact, a common knowledge two worded concept that people use in their discussions.

Read Paul Amuna’s comments to your piece on Ghanaweb in which he said, “Surely you cannot be serious. This is simply a show-off. The words "silent" and "corruption" have been in common usage for many years! Long before the "New Media" and the internet generation. That put together, 'silent corruption' has been 'borrowed' as a 'jargon' and is commonly used within your particular field does not make it "exclusive". Paul went further, “I fundamentally disagree with your criticism of the president of Ghana's usage of that expression. I am afraid there is no monopoly in the use of words or terms to describe things within particular contexts... Surely he was using this in context which you have conveniently ignored. This is grossly unfair and disingenuous on your part” (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=275661&comment=9297057#com). President Mahama used the concept to drum home the need for the menace to be uprooted from society for Ghana to benefit, of course. Lauretta Vivian Lamptey of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana in a well received presentation on ‘Corruption and human rights: ‘Silent Corruption’’, sought to show that not all corruption is as visible as we might believe. She postulated that some of the corruption is ‘silent’ and went on to elaborate by illustration, the medical doctor who might use his work time to do other stuff for a penny. This attracted Prof. Lungu’s attention and he said “…It would not be the same as Kuunifaa's government physician who skips his/her public duties to seek private gain on the other side of town” in his reference to a medical doctor, a government employee who might be using his/her work time for private business.

Honestly speaking, I am still lost for words as to how a Professor will not get it that silent corruption is a canker and militates against developmental agenda. Disposed of a critical thinking mind, this should not go the length it has gone especially with meaning of a common concept that is common knowledge for many anti-corruption advocates like the Professor purports to be. Corruption, whether silent or visible is a “canker” that still rears its ugly head in societies, eating deep into societies’ fabric and ripping nations of millions of dollars. If this does not justify the reason why Professor Lungu and I paraphrased our own Kofi Annan in fighting this canker because of colossal sums of money siphoned to individual pockets, what else motivated our paraphrasing him? Hehe…Now let’s be clear about the use of the word “canker” here: it is used to show how corruption is a malaise in society and militating against development al agenda.

Folks, it will be recalled that Prof. Lungu did a piece entitled “Mahama's "silent corruption" is useless vs. FOIB!” in which he tried to jab the President for using the concept silent corruption. Prof. Lungu wrote in that piece: ".....in this matter of public governance..., Mr. Mahama's concept of "silent corruption" is as strange as it is misguided. In the first place, "silent corruption" is exclusively an electronic data concept. It refers to electronic data lost as a result of errors by machines...." (Prof Lungu, 17 May 13).” The professor continued, “… In a 17th May report on Ghanaweb by B&FT, President Mahama lectured a roomful of accountants, auditors, and international development specialists, among them World Bank officials, on the dangers of "silent corruption in the public sector". Mr. Mahama represents "silent corruption" as "poor execution of public-sector projects with inadequate inputs, and the supply of substandard goods - especially drugs and equipment - to public-sector organizations". http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=274344 Folks, I want you to do due diligence here; please, compare the above to what the President actually said: “President John Mahama has said African leaders should help deal with the menace of “silent corruption” on the continent, saying it is the type of graft that does not necessarily involve any direct acceptance of bribes. He said silent corruption manifests in the poor execution of public-sector projects with inadequate inputs, and the supply of substandard goods — especially drugs and equipment — to public-sector organizations. He called for strict adherence to the democratic tenets of the rule of law as Africa seeks to check public-sector corruption. http://www.spyghana.com/africa-must-eradicate-silent-corruption-mahama

Did Prof. Lungu not recognize the phrase “… it is the type of graft that does not necessarily involve any direct acceptance of bribes” or he was just been deliberately aveugle? The President’s message was pure and simple; beware of silent corruption… let’s get rid of it… imperceptibly, it leads to loss of money to the state. Period! What is wrong with this message? And yet Prof. Lungu deliberately omitted that part of the phrase to skew for his intended agenda. This is the type of intellectual dishonesty peddled around these days and he will run on it, be the spin doctor then turn around and throw arms in the air as if to ask what happened? Did you not read the whole text? Lastly, Prof. Lungu retorted that Kuunifaa’s response to our "Mahama's 'silent corruption'" essay was a knee-jerk reaction because the writer chose to dwell on "silent corruption," and for some rather odd reason, neglected to address the "vs. FOIB" angle”. As far as we are concerned, this is actually the most pertinent part of the entire critique. We do not know the reason behind Kuunifaa's glaring omission’’

Well, as far as FOI Bill is concerned, let Professor Lungu be aware that matters of access to information are as pertinent to me as I have presented in conferences and published about the subject matter. In one of my papers presented at the IFLA Conference, I probed the anticipated implementation challenges of the freedom-of-information (FOI) law in Jamaica, and the lessons Ghana stands to learn to improve on its FOI Bill. The problem tackled in that paper was the lack of transparency in government or the public sector as a result of lack of access to governmental or public information. Findings of that research paper were very informative. I stated that access to information and transparency were considered a vaccine for ensuring good governance and countries must gear up for this vaccine to ensure accountability and prevent corruption. http://ifl.sagepub.com/content/38/2/175.short. So, as Prof. Lungu can see, he is not the only advocate fighting for the passage of the FOI Bill. Much as we are both concerned about the passage of the bill, we need to familiarize ourselves with parliamentary procedures since the bill is currently in parliament, and we do not know at what stage it is currently in the House. Questions worth asking are; who tables the motion for debate in parliament? How long does it take to debate the bill? What stage of deliberation is it even at in parliament? Why the delay for its passage? These would be useful questions to ask in relation to the passage of the FOI Bill instead of pointing accusing fingers at each other.

Prof. Lungu should also remember that we are a democracy and the executive branch of government must be kept at arm’s length from interfering in legislative procedures in order not to compromise the principle of separation of powers, a democratic value. We need to build our democratic institutions for democracy to entrench in our system.

In the interest of Ghana, we can work together to put pressure on Parliament to pass the FOI Bill. Let me know your thoughts, Prof. Lungu.

Cletus D. Kuunifaa, Long Island University, LIU Post, New York. Can be contacted at dipnibe@yahoo.com or Follow him on twitter @ckuunifaa

Columnist: Kuunifaa, Cletus D