A call to service is one of dedication, commitment and relentless passion towards ensuring the success, progress and development of an idea, a group of people or even a country.
However, when that ‘sacred’ office becomes corrupt via the activities of the very people entrusted to carry out the mandate of such an inestimable position, who do the people turn to?
Governance by its very nature, thrives on accountability, probity and service because the very development of a country’s economy is hinged on how well ministers, members of parliament, MMDCEs diligently carry out their duties without malice, greed and the need to ‘loot and keep’, or ‘loot and share’ creeping into the picture.
When government officials channel public funds into their own pockets, they hinder the development of local communities and entire country. Illicit enrichment is a crime under the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC), though few member states do enough to enforce the laws.
The offence is notoriously difficult to prosecute, not least because many suspected offenders are high-profile and well-connected figures, who often enjoy political immunity.
Ghana is the 72nd least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2022 Corruption Perception Index reported by Transparency International. By every indication, this proves that Ghana is not making any form of progress in its fight against corruption as it has maintained the score of 43 out of a hundred for the third time.
For all intents and purposes, Ghana’s stagnation in its fight against corruption emanates from bribery, perceptions about the diversion of public funds, especially during COVID-19, state capture, nepotism and the use of public office for private gain.
As it stands, Ghana yet again gained some form of notoriety when some huge sums of money was robbed from the home of a public official in Ghana, Cecilia Dapaah, by two house helps, which got the whole country talking yet again on the issue of corruption, lack of accountability and transparency on the dealings of state officials, and the hesitance of government to effectively address the ever-recurring problem.
Although she has resigned, the questions on the source of wealth and the demand from the government, for the passage of the Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2022, to amend and help strengthen the current public officers’ asset declaration regime comes to the fore for the umpteenth time.
Whether her source of wealth is genuine or not is lost on the general public, as some contend hoarding such an exorbitant amount in one’s home smacks of malice and corruption. For all it’s worth, it is apparent that the debate will continue for a couple of days and simply die down, to be roused again on an undetermined future date when another issue arises, and this is not a satisfactory state of affairs.
Call for the passage of the Conduct of Public Officers Bill
The truth of the matter is that, the lack of necessary expertise and tools coupled with the limited autonomy of justice authorities are key challenges in fighting corruption across the continent. As a result, most countries have only prosecuted a few officials – in some countries, none at all.
To effectively track and prosecute all forms of corruptions, African governments, especially Ghana in this case, needs to dedicate more resources to specialist skills, such as financial analysts and tax inspectors, and improve cooperation between these experts and prosecutors.
More importantly, there is the need to pass the bill to ensure accountability which has become a catchphrase on the political scene.
Groups such as OccupyGhana has revealed that since 2020 that the then Attorney-General took steps to initiate the new law, the bill has hit some road block with cabinet allegedly refuting to give the green light for the bill to be sent to Parliament for passage into law. One would ask what the whole racket is about when the very people who the bill will most likely impact drag their feet to legislate it.
While the Constitution generally prohibits conflict of interest, the framers apparently left it to the wisdom of Parliament to particularize what Ghana would consider as prohibited conduct.
By and large, corruption cannot be allowed to thrive under the same roof with accountability and trust. While government drags its feet, the conscionable few are left with the onus responsibility of redeeming the image of the country and pulling it from the quicksand of corruption. Ghana must rise, and government must resolve not only to pass the bill, but also restore public trust and confidence that the systems can work and thrive sincerely again.