Scandal Rocks NPP?

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 Source: Berko, George

The NDC and the Parliament haven’t shown to be immune, either. Where are the Laws?

I read to my chagrin an article on the Ghanaweb.com Website by the Al-Hajj entitled: “Party ‘Big Man’ Caught Stealing Campaign Cash from Data Bank”. The article eventually dwelled upon the information that some NPP Officials might have pilfered the Party’s hard-earned Funds. Further reading of the article revealed that the Funds or most of it were in physical Cash. That is where I could not contain my anguish to a simple quiet resignation in hopelessness. I decided then to rush in this piece to kindle Public discussion on the greater problem underlying this reported theft. I would begin by asking the following rhetorical question: When are we going to learn to do most of our business transactions in Ghana with other instruments than physical cash?

The fact that we allow almost all business transactions to proceed in cash form is one big reason why our huge Funds are always being tampered with. It is gainsaying the fact that it's easier to steal or mismanage Funds in cash form than, say, in electronic form or even Check form. With cash, the route to the thief's pocket could be easily obliterated, without paper trail. Couldn’t the Parliament intervene?

If we legislate for cash transactions above a certain reasonable limited amount to be illegal and prosecutable, it would hugely discourage anyone handling Funds from tampering with them. If all such transactions were to be strictly done in Check or bank transfers of some kind, they would always leave traceable trail that could be easily followed to know where they were illegally diverted to. Such a Law plus the long delayed Freedom of information Bill could go a long way in deterring potential corrupt Politicians.

Meanwhile, our Ghana Revenue Authority fails to instruct all suspicious deposits in banks, or purchases, to be reported to the appropriate Authorities for immediate investigation and possible prosecution. Why is that? Our Legislature has not shown any interest whatsoever in enacting Laws that would better protect our Resources, especially those that would make it more difficult for Officials to divert our Funds. It is it because the MPs know it is usually their cronies who might be taking advantage of such gross legislative omissions? Or, the MPs know they might themselves soon be in similar position of proximity to such Funds which they would like to loot as well? The setting up of EOCO alone doesn’t help much. The EOCO and its sister Institutions of adjudication are only to deal with cases after the fact. However, we would be better served if we had Laws that were significantly deterrent enough to prevent the financial crimes occur, in the first place. This is a typical instance of Institutional weakness in our Financial System. If we really want Capitalism to thrive and work best for us, we must be wise enough to understand the inimical consequences of the absence of such mitigating rules in the Financial System that serve for the necessary checks and balances.

You can hardly buy any vehicle, even if used, from a Dealership in the USA, for example, with cash above $10,000. If the Dealership accepts such cash payment, it would have to report the transaction directly to the IRS, which then might conduct an audit on the customer to find out if the source of the money was legal and genuine, or not.

Either a Cashier's check or some other form of non-cash payment is commonly made for such a big item purchase in the USA. No one easily gets away with huge sums of cash on themselves without the Authorities, even the Police, questioning the owner where the money comes from, if found out. If we want to emulate the USA as a strong and effective Capitalist Nation, why don’t we learn from its successes and failures in managing such an Economy? We don’t have to ignore her lessons only to learn the hard way, if we would ever do so at all. If we were any smarter and more honest to ourselves, we would piggy-back on the Western systems that we so wish to copy. This fits into the old saying that: “if we want to copy someone, we ought to do so correctly”. Anything less is only a hoax, lip-service and disingenuous.

Until our MPs legislate and demand strict implementation of similar laws as found in the West, especially, the USA, to guide our Capitalist behavior, our Funds would always be at the mercy of corrupt Officials. I deem the opportunity to use the molds that the developed Nations have already tested and endorsed as successful as our accidental luck visited upon us from the bitter Colonization. It, therefore, hurts me to realize we are not taking full advantage of such opportunities, and allowing our folks to, largely, remain perpetually destitute. Our failure to implement the basic, necessary requirements of a Democratic Capitalist system, makes mockery of our Democracy, and exposes our Citizenry to numerous vulnerabilities that erode their very rights the Democracy is supposed to guarantee to them.

In fact, I have come to agree with my friend who once said that a quasi-Democracy where Capitalism is allowed to run wild could be more dangerous to the sheer existence of our folks than a dictatorship, as under the Communist systems or Military regimes. If we hate Communism, how can we love Fascism? To me, none of these other systems must be acceptable in our Society in this day or age. We cannot only insufficiently partially cook our food and expect that all the germs would be adequately contained. Even if we must ever filter the Western model of Democracy to apply only its aspects that best suit our unique circumstances, we still cannot run away from its very basic demands that our global common humanity imposes on us that we live by. Capitalist Democracy means more individual freedoms for us than could ever be possible under the other Political systems. That should be the outermost concentric circle of logic within which any other specific minute differences in our special circumstances must be handled. Under that outer layer are other differentiating layers that cater for, say, the specific frailties of individuals that we surely know lead some of us to be excessively selfish and resort to taking undue advantage of the weaker ones. Acknowledging that, then, requires us to have legislations that protect us all in exercising our rights in such a way as to have us desist from encroaching upon the rights of others. It has been jovially said that our personal freedoms, spatial freedom, for example, ends where the other guy’s or girl’s nose begins--or, should I say where the most extended protrusion on that other person’s body begins, since, in some of us, it is the beer-belly or the set of bubbly exterior cheeks that reaches farthest. We cannot get too close to others to deny them their comfort. That’s a universal expectation about all humanity. When our leaders ignore that basic universal fact about us, for example, they are undermining the very principles of Democracy that they are supposed to lead us in and protect for us. The application of Democracy must mimic, at every stage of our development, an equilibrium derived from well-though-out deliberations, where our freedoms are guaranteed and our behavior sensibly constrained to avoid chaos. The more advance we grow, the more fine-tuned our Democracy could be. If we continuously deny our folks the infrastructure to develop their individual talents, say, via Education, we would only be dragging our progress and fail to deepen our Democracy. As more and more of us acquire better Education to hone in their talents, the more capable they become and the more we could expect them to be individually resourceful for us to relax or abandon more of any social welfare programs to support the poor. Our MPs must lay down the foundation for our Capitalist advancement by making good effective democratic Laws, including the Freedom of Information Bill.

Why haven’t our leaders learnt their lessons, yet? When a former Minister of Sports claimed to have lost some $100,000 cash in London that he said he stashed in some Suitcase that was stolen from his hotel, I thought we would have the gumption to enact Laws to prevent recurrence of such incident. But, no! When ‘Tarzan’ admittedly paid some Contractors working on the Ghana@50 projects with physical cash stashed in brown paper bags and later was charged with fraudulently inflating expenditures, I again thought we had another opportunity to see the necessary Laws passed to stop such irresponsible mishandling of our Public Funds. But, again, no! Now, we have this. The next unpardonable repetition of the same malice may just be around the corner. So, when does it stop? We cannot depend on the individual’s self-discipline alone to expect him or her to do the right thing always. Laws are meant to mitigate our inner urges—help to keep us in check. But in this case, the Laws are conspicuously lacking.

So, when will we ever learn? When will we act like really intelligent, responsible, accountable mature Nation to take proper care of our Money? It is no wonder, then, how cases like the current Woyomegate abound in our System. But enough is enough! Our Political leaders, especially, the Parliament must know enough shame by now to want to do something immediately to protect us from ourselves. We need more vigorous, even intrusive, financial responsibility Laws to keep our Funds and other assets safe. Very soon, the Political Parties and the Tribes that the offending Politicians and their cronies rush to find solace in and to ward off any Public outcry for their blatant mischiefs may not be able to protect them. When the kleptocrats were sticking it to the whole Nation, they had the Parties and the Tribes to run to, or incite for some insulation. Now, as this NPP Fund diversion case shows, assuming it is true, the corruption-stick is stuck right in the face of the Party, the NPP. The next to receive a similar fraudulent blow to its face would be the Tribes. We noticed how some Volta Chiefs organized themselves to plead for Woyome. How often do we see klepto-Politicians sharing their booty with their Tribal home bases that are prone to rush to their defense? These Politicians often chill off in Bahamas, Miami, Berlin, London, or Malta, while their Constituents languish precariously at the brink of survival. These Constituents mostly live in abject poverty with no good sustainable drinking water, permanent shelters for their Schools, passable roads via which they could even reach their Markets to sell the produce from their sustenance farms, or hygienic Toilets, causing to hang over them, in perpetuity, a horrendous, malodorous stench from the sewer.

Do our Politicians want things to stay the same so that they can always have the opportunity to steal from us and give lame excuses to cover it up? What a shame!! What a bunch of heinous criminals some of these folks are! It is even most embarrassing that an organization like the NPP with all its host of intellectuals who claim modern enlightenment would allow their Funds to be so easily accessed. As for the Woyomegate and NDC’s reaction to it, thus far, the less talked about the better. And yet, our leaders unashamedly keep roving all over the place soliciting for more Funds supposedly meant for Campaigning or helping to build some infrastructure, that would never be, for the people. It is in view of such gross, despicable betrayal of us by our elites in Politics that I think the likes of Martin Amidu deserve commendation rather than insults and assault.

Frankly, if we want to practice Democracy with its concomitant Capitalism, we must accept the undeniable truth that we can only succeed in doing so with the necessary regulations and norms that serve for checks and balances. If not, our Democracy would exist only as a hoax for the few elites who have exceptional access to our Resources plunder to our Nation's detriment.

God help us!!

Long Live Ghana!!!

Columnist: Berko, George