Why the stealing of public funds will continue…

Tue, 29 Oct 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, October 28, 2013

My good friends, the daily news reports about the theft of public funds are troubling. Within the past few months, we have been bombarded with such news reports to such an extent as to wonder whether there is any hope for this country at all in the management of its finances.

The problem is all the more frightening for other reasons: the economy is weakening because of low productivity and mismanagement, not to speak of ineffectual official policies, programmes, and measures. Generating revenue internally is an uphill task; borrowing money from outside sources has become a huge albatross threatening the country’s GDP and economic viability.

It has been so since time out-of-mind; but what has been unfolding these days is really disturbing. Yet, there seems to be no let-up in the stealing of public funds by unscrupulous elements entrusted with managing the public sector or quasi-public institutions such as GYEEDA, SADA, LESDEP, etc.

It seems all hell has broken loose and no one is prepared to plug the loopholes being created and exploited. Ghanaians feel let down by their leaders.

The current happenings at the Ghana Revenue Authority are traumatizing. How can a company (Subah Infosolutions) be paid 144 million Ghana Cedis for doing nothing? How can public funds be dissipated just like that? And to rub salt into our wounds, how can the CEO of the Ghana revenue Company be at post after this criminal act against the state—and the appointing authority not act swiftly to allay public fears, doubts, and suspicions?

What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. I have read the news report that Joy News will soon reveal the massive theft of public funds going on at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. No one cares because it is a national canker that is much talked about only for what it is.

What are the factors motivating this wanton stealing of public funds? I have identified some:

• Personal greed and penchant for “get-rich-quick” and public appreciation for ostentation (flaunting of wealth), regardless of how the wealth is made;

• Institutional weaknesses, creating loopholes and institutionalizing wanton theft of public funds/state assets

• Lack of administrative control and recklessness in the management of public office

• Criminal complicity by the perpetrators and their allies in officialdom for mutual benefits

• Lack of moral force to restrain/control indecent behaviour in public office

• Lack of public spiritedness and patriotism

• Endemic systemic weaknesses that allow the theft to occur and not be detected promptly for any punitive action to be taken against culprits

• Incompetence on the part of law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, Parliament, and all

• General public apathy or mindless appreciation for self-acquisitiveness

• Irresistible criminal propensities among Ghanaian public office holders

• Dogged resistance by those in authority for institutional reforms for fear of plugging the very loopholes that benefit them

The spate of wanton theft of public funds is a clear confirmation of total breakdown of discipline in the management of public affairs. The President is at the receiving end, not necessarily because he is directly involved in the widespread theft of public funds being revealed, but because he is the fount of authority and is expected to know all the goings-on.

But we all know that it is impossible for him to know everything that goes on in all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (all the institutions regarded as constituting the public sector). That is why his appointees at those places come to light for scrutiny and condemnation in the context of the looting going on. They stand accused of incompetence or criminal complicity and should be dealt with.

Considering the fact that theft of public funds is endemic, where is the guarantee that their replacements won’t do same or worse? It is the Ghanaian thing that blights our country.

At this point, we may want to question what the security and intelligence organizations are doing to help detect this waywardness in public life. I suppose that they are expected to have widespread and effective agent networks wherever possible in the country so they can be fed with relevant “intelligence” on goings-on so they can help the government prevent all the theft going on.

What are they doing? The BNI, Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) and many others are being supported by the tax payers’ sweat, blood, and tears to protect the national interest; but they aren’t active enough to help solve the major problem annoying the citizens—theft of public funds!!

You see, in a system when every public institution is “politicized” and poisoned with useless partisan political party agenda, it will be very difficult for the personnel to act in the national interest. That is what we are seeing in Ghana today.

I bet you, much of what is emerging now can be traced to sources that seem to be enjoying the backing of faceless pockets of authority just because of political connections. Whatever criminal intents might be motivating such wanton theft of public funds can be traced to political connections, either in the appointment of the thieving public officials or the blessing of their thieving habits.

After all, how many of those thieving officials have been successfully prosecuted and punished? Just look at what is happening in the Woyome case and you shouldn’t be surprised.

Considering the fast rate at which the theft is going on, won’t be surprised at all to learn that the thieves are the main financiers of the political parties under whose umbrella they function. The spate won’t lessen soon for as long as the political connections exist to catalyze the theft.

What this sordid occurrence confirms is that our leaders (from the President down to the least important worker in the public sector) cannot be trusted to protect our national assets, especially the public funds entrusted in their care. Is this how a country should be governed? Where is the hope that anything concrete will be done to secure public funds and re-assure the citizens that their toils aren’t in vain?

Sadly, no day passes by without our being told that the government has been given so much money by the international donor community for projects here and there. The internally generated funds are being stolen and the externally generated ones are at risk of being stolen. There is stealing everywhere because that is what is attractive in public life. What a pity!!

We shall return.

• E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

• Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.