Corruption, alias “mother serpent”, remains the most featured subject in all of Ghana’s national elections. It has also remained the core reason for all of its coups. Notwithstanding, the confident promises of every coup leader and presidential campaigner’s to the Ghanaian people to fight “mother serpent”, “mother serpent” has proven super fertile, exponentially bringing forth offspring of all kinds.
Corruption has seen more stages, worn all the party colours, and seen every corner of this country, reassuring Ghanaians that corrupt public officers will be dealt with in the next government. However, from every indication, corruption, at the least, has perceptually worsened among the public even as various governments continue to introduce policies, acts and agencies to fight it. It is as though, corruption and government policies against it share a supply-price relationship on one hand; the better the policy, the worse the corruption. On the other hand, we see a demand-price relationship; that the more government fights corruption, the more the corruption scandals. Yes, it is a complex matter.
Commendably and rightly so, the last seven years in Ghana will remain one of the most expectant ones in the fight against corruption. As stated already, the 2016 elections like many elections and coups before, were strongly held on the matter of corruption. The then-sitting president, John Dramani Mahama was succinctly tagged as incompetent and corrupt Mahama by the then-opposition party and its flagbearer, the New Patriotic Party and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo respectively. Given the distinguished portfolio of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as a staunch human rights activist, many reposed their confidence in the ability of his government to fight corruption to a bearable degree. The promise to set up the Office of Special Prosecutor sealed this confidence in the then firebrand presidential candidate and the party.
True to his promise, in 2018, the “gold standard” Office of the Special Prosecutor was set up. Martin Amidu was appointed the first to fill that historic spot. His leaving, however, tarnished the efforts of the government in its fight against corruption. It raised eyebrows about the government’s true commitment to this garden-old trouble. As such he left the country with a new vocabulary for corruption; mother serpent.
Amidst these are countless allegations that were levelled against government officials that saw little to no decisive conclusions, earning the President a tag “clearing agent”. Fast forward, many Ghanaians began to criticize government officials of impunity; where public officials confidently abuse state resources knowing they will not be charged by their own government.
By its fifth year to sixth-year in office, public confidence in the government’s commitment against corruption had dwindled beyond repair.
Many Ghanaians have accepted the reality again, that perhaps, corruption will only be on the rise, even the more they talk about it, the more government pledges its support and the more offices are set up for the fight. Every sector had a bit of the pie; education, health, energy, sanitation, extractive, it goes on and on. Even religion had its share of corruption scandals.
Notably though, this turn of events is almost no different for any government in the past. They promise to fight corruption only to turn out worse. None can be absolved, therefore the party blame—game will fail a prudent probe of the issues. A similarly story can be written for any of the past governments.
According to the Afrobarometer survey, “large majorities of Ghanaians say the level of corruption in the country has increased and the government is doing a poor job of fighting it, a stark reversal from the positive assessments recorded in 2017.”
Furthermore, it underscored that the fear of victimisation has muted many informants of corruption in public sector and says that public confidence is high in the Ghana Armed Forces and religious leaders than the political class.
Globally, Ghana ranks 72nd out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index. The data shows that Ghana’s corruption perception index over the last ten years has been not been any good, particularly the last six years.
In spite of the visible operations of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, a more active Police Service, among others, corruption remains rife and prominent. It is certain to feature the next elections and many after.
The Ghana Integrity Initiative defines “corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”
According to a renowned Ghanaian private legal practitioner, Ghanaians do not talk enough about corruption. He believes that just talking about corruption will be fighting it halfway. And yes, he must be right.
This piece is a prelim of a series of pieces with its focus on corruption in Ghana; the history, policies and acts, stakeholders, anti-corruption agencies, the role of the citizen, spotlights, and setbacks, the challenge of being a public officer, amongst others. Solving the problem starts with diagnosing the problem, that is what the series of pieces will be doing.
While a week of pieces of articles would not kill corruption entire, the highlighting of issues hope to empower and create a sustained conversation around the canker. May be, some significant strides will be achieved from the enlightenment.
A Gist of Corruption in Nkrumah’s Ghana
This situation predates the country’s fourth republic. With the dawn of independence in 1957, Ghana suffered major setbacks in its bid to establish a stable and transparent governance system. Amidst political instability and attempts to overthrow the CPP government and Nkrumah, corruption had a fertile grounds to thrive. Public officers became very driven by personal gain rather than the public good. Soon, Nkrumah’s government become very corrupt. Public officers engaged in embezzlement and nepotism, perpetuating a culture of corruption that seeped into various layers of the government and public institutions.
Despite the challenges that followed through till now, Ghana has made significant strides in addressing corruption and promoting transparency. The establishment of anti-corruption agencies and the implementation of legislative reforms have demonstrated the government’s commitment to combating corrupt practices. Initiatives such as the creation of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the passage of the Whistleblower Act have sought to enhance accountability and encourage ethical conduct among public officials.
More recently, the parliament deserves approbation for its probe of public officials on issues of corruption and mismanagement. Albeit their shortfalls, their demand for accountability in recent times seems more active and is very commendable.
However, the fight against corruption in Ghana remains an ongoing battle that requires sustained efforts and the collective engagement of all stakeholders. Strengthening institutional mechanisms, fostering a culture of integrity, and promoting public awareness are essential steps in building a more transparent and accountable society. By learning from its history and embracing a shared vision of ethical governance, Ghana can pave the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for its citizens.
In conclusion, Ghana’s struggle with corruption reflects the complexities ingrained within its historical narrative. By acknowledging the root causes of corruption and addressing them through concerted efforts, Ghana can aspire to achieve sustainable development and foster a society built on principles of accountability, probity, and justice.
For the most part of it, the complexities involved drive many away from discussing. Sometimes, out of a self-defeating conscience that everyone is fallible, some let corrupt officials go. Others too find it difficult to find evidence to substantiate their allegations, hence they better not mind to look.
However and most certainly, as we approach the 2024 General Elections, corruption will remain a star boy, and “star boys” take the headlines.