Out of about 73 promises made in their 2016 manifesto related to governance, a limited number appears to have seen implementation in the first year of the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) government.
These include the introduction of an independent Office of the Special Prosecutor and the recruitment of 499 new personnel into the Ghana Prisons.
In 2017, the government also undertook many exercises to sensitize the public, media and other stakeholders to various governance areas, such as fire safety, corruption, weaponry, and encourage women to participate in conflict prevention.
These were contained in a report compiled by IMANI a political think tank on the first year of the NPP government.
The report said the government also established a Cybercrime Unit at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the police service, in line with the manifesto promise to enhance the capacity of the police to tackle cyber-crime.
It said many of the promises related to governance required amendments or enactments of legislation before being implemented, which often took longer than a year.
The 2018 Budget Statement mentions that during 2017, the legislative drafting division of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Department has drafted a number of bills, including the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill, the Legal Aid Commission Bill, and the Companies Bill, all of which are awaiting approval from Cabinet; a governance-related promise that the government has made actual progress on tackling corruption.
According to the report, one of the key anti-corruption promises the NPP made in their manifesto is to institute the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
This promise was made in light of the many corruption scandals during the previous administration, such as the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) saga, the Smarttys bus branding scandal, and Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) misappropriation of public funds to name a few.
The report said the decision to establish the office of the Special Prosecutor was made despite the presence of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), which have the authority to investigate cases of possible malfeasance in the public sector and prosecute them through the Attorney-General.
It said it was admirable that the Special Prosecutor would have autonomy from the Executive.
This was said to be necessary for the elimination of institutional bottlenecks such as the monopoly of prosecutorial authority by the Attorney General.
It said, however, that it would also be important to ensure that the office of the Special Prosecutor did not increase bureaucracy by usurping and/or overlapping the role of other anti-corruption agencies. For example, EOCO has as its mandate the recovery of assets and is reported to have recovered the amount of GH¢ 26.7 million from two companies on behalf of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST) company and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in 2017.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor also has a similar mandate for asset recovery.
Public procurement process
According to the report, a prudent and important part of fighting corruption will be to first put in place anti-corruption practices specifically in the public procurement process, which has historically presented avenues for corruption. Additionally, a study by the Transparency International in 2013 on Corruption in Ghana found out that the institutions perceived as the most prone to bribery were: Police, Customs administration, Judiciary, Licences, Permits and Public Services, Tax Administration, and the Extractive Industry.
The 2018 Budget Statement indicates that the government sensitised the public to corruption as part of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), by distributing 5,000 copies of the plan.
The report concluded that though a good initiative, distribution of the copies of the NACAP in itself was not a sufficient measure to deal with the menace of corruption if not buttressed with other stipulated measures such as the whistle-blowers’ website.
Overall, it remains to be seen whether enough is being done now to curtail corrupt practices in the public sphere in the long run.