Corruption, no matter how it is defined, affects every nation. Its negative effects have long been recognised, and several nations are tackling this menace with all the seriousness it deserves, Ghana being no exception. As a nation, Ghana has over the years strengthened and continues to strengthen the legislative framework, undertaken various public sector reforms and other strategies to combat corruption.
In 2014, the Parliament of Ghana unanimously adopted the 10-year National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP 2015 – 2024) as a non-partisan document, a blueprint for fighting corruption in the country. This document has examined the issuewhat it entails, its causes and effects on the nation, reasons for the failure of past efforts to tackle the menace, and has specified concrete actions to deal with it in a more holistic and coordinated manner.
Already in 2012, Political Parties in the country had endorsed the NACAP and pledged their support for its implementation at a forum organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). With these developments, one would have thought that the focus of civil society organisations, political parties in Ghana and their analysts, as well as anti-corruption campaigners, would be on the implementation of the NACAP or, at the very least, offering solutions to dealing with the canker, rather than continue to debate the subject of corruption endlessly.
The motivation for this article is, therefore, to provide information on the subject and to inform the general reading public that the talk and debate on – what corruption is, what it is not, what it should be – are over. All information on corruption and how it should be dealt with in the Ghanaian context, is contained in the NACAP.
Three-Prong Approach to Combating Corruption
It has been recognised globally that the principles for fighting corruption rest on three main pillars: prevention, education or public awareness, and enforcement (investigation and prosecution). This approach ensures that systems are put in place to seal the loopholes; that there is awareness about the negative effects of corruption; and that the people resolve not to tolerate it. This approach also ensures that there is enough deterrence to make people think twice before engaging in such acts.
Through prevention, opportunities for corruption are reduced. This entails pursuing public service/sector reform, having a strong and effective assets disclosure regime and a system that guarantees acceptable incomes. It also involves promoting and enhancing integrity, including enforcement of codes of conduct and conflict of interest rules. It further demands putting in place transparency and accountability principles/mechanisms such as access to information and effective and safe whistle-blowing mechanisms at work places.
The fight against corruption can be a difficult task in the absence of public awareness to its dangers and the duty of every person to combat it. Therefore, public education is key.
The education must foster a broad societal awareness of the causes, costs and ramifications of corruption and its linkage to the erosion of human rights. It should improve public understanding of how it contributes to the broadening of the scale of poverty in society. This should strengthen the citizen’s resolve to resist, condemn and report corruption.
Complementing prevention and education, is enforcement, and in order to have effective enforcement, strong institutions that investigate and prosecute corrupt conduct expeditiously and without fear or favour, have to be established. An independent judiciary is also a sine qua non in the fight against corruption. Building strong institutions, in turn, includes measures that guarantee their operational and financial independence, enhancing their capacity (training and retraining), supporting coordination and collaboration efforts and strong political support and infrastructure should be given to the institutions.
From the foregoing, therefore, what Ghana requires today is the adoption of concrete measures to confront the problem of corruption that we have since independence recognised as an obstacle to nation-building and development. This is provided by the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) adopted in 2014 by Parliament.
Article 5 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) provides that “Each State Party shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability”.
Accordingly, in 2009, Ghana began the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, which Parliament eventually adopted in July 2014, as a non-partisan policy document to combat corruption.
The National Anti-Corruption Action Plan
The National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), which was developed through broad consultations, emphasises the three-prong approach to fighting the canker – – prevention, education and enforcement.
The four strategic objectives of NACAP are:
1) to build public capacity to fight corruption and make its practice a high-risk, low-gain activity;
2) to institutionalize efficiency, accountability and transparency in the public, private and not-for profit sectors;
3) to engage individuals, media, private Sector and civil society organizations in reporting and combating corruption; and
4) to conduct effective investigations and prosecution of corrupt conduct.
In short, what NACAP offers Ghana is an initial blueprint, a practical operational mobility, in our battle against corruption. And its implementation should now occupy every person and every anti-corruption campaigner in Ghana.
It contains strategic action plans identified and agreed upon by stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society, during nationwide consultations. Its greatest strength is that it is to be directly integrated into national development planning.
In developing NACAP, account was taken of the limitations and shortcomings that characterised previous anti-corruption strategies and spelt their failure.
The NACAP enables collective action and sustained co-ordination of efforts, as well as the judicious application of resources of stakeholders to combat the menace. It constitutes the benchmark to assess the performance of stakeholders, especially government, in the fight against corruption.
The NACAP will therefore guide stakeholders in their roles and responsibilities to combat corruption. It seeks to mobilise national efforts to ensure the effective control of corruption. It is worthy of note that NACAP does not aim at blaming any particular sector for corruption in Ghana.
The scope of the NACAP goes beyond controlling corruption in the public sector; it targets the private sector and embraces the activities of state and non-state actors regardless of gender, age, local or international status.
Any serious anti-corruption campaigner in Ghana should be focused on the implementation of NACAP.
Critical in the implementation of NACAP is political will, which is often and easily cited by some people as insufficient or lacking in the fight. Political will – more than what many see to be the commitment of politicians – refers to those factors, attitudes and responses that demonstrate a genuine resolve to fight corruption. It is the meeting point of theory and practice, thus translating policy pronouncements and rhetoric to sustainable actions.
In the last few years, the Ghanaian Government has demonstrated political will to combat corruption and this has reflected in the performance of the country in the globally acclaimed Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency International (TI). Out of a clean score of 100, Ghana scored 45, 46 and 48 in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. It should be noted that it is a country’s score, not its ranking, which is important in determining progress made over time. While the above scores may not amount to a total victory in the fight against corruption in the country, taken together over time, they do signal some degree of “success” in the efforts by the government and people of Ghana to win the war against corruption.
Government has supported and encouraged institutions to play their roles as expected of them. Government has also introduced legislative and Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms, such as the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) to prevent leakages of state resources.
In 2009, when the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) initiated the process of developing a non-partisan anti-corruption strategy, Government played its role in ensuring that the NACAP was developed and adopted for implementation.
- It participated actively by devoting time and resources to the CHRAJ as the coordination institution for NACAP from the NACAP inception stage, until now. Senior Advisors to Government participated in the National Consultative Stakeholder meeting held in July 2009.
- E. President John Dramani Mahama (then Vice President in 2009) inaugurated the Working Group that superintended over the development of NACAP, which had representatives from government, including the Office of the President. These stakeholders collaborated with the CHRAJ to organize sensitization programmes for leaders of faith-based organisations across country in preparation for the launch of the NACAP in 2014.
- E President John Dramani Mahama (then Vice President) launched the Code of Conduct for Public Officers of Ghana developed under the coordination of CHRAJ.
- The Office of the President, under the leadership of the Chief of Staff who doubles as the Chairman of the High-level Implementation Committee (HiLIC) of the NACAP, is presently working in close collaboration with the CHRAJ to organize series of capacity-building training activities for HiLIC members, which includes selected representatives of some MDAs.
- Accordingly, in December 2014, after Parliament adopted NACAP, H.E. President Mahama inaugurated a High Level NACAP implementation Committee (HILIC) to provide strategic guidance to MDAs and other implementing partners as well as assist CHRAJ and the NDPC to monitor the implementation of NACAP.
In March 2015, H.E. the President went further and issued directives to all public institutions to implement NACAP, which will form part of the performance appraisal of Ministers, Chief Directors and CEOs of state institutions. Implementing institutions are also required to submit quarterly reports to CHRAJ with copies to the Office of the President (OOP).
Government recognizes that it has the primary responsibility to ensure that the activities prescribed in the NACAP are implemented and is working to ensure that the implementation of NACAP is consistent with the promise made by H. E. the President to the people of Ghana during the Presidential debates in 2012.
Focusing on Building Systems vrs. Responding to Allegations
Other measures are being taken in line with NACAP to ensure that corruption is controlled in the country.
- The legal framework is being strengthened further with the introduction of new legislation and review of certain outdated legislations.
- The Conduct of Public Officers Bill which, when enacted into law, will deal with issues of conflict of interest and strengthen the assets declaration regime is before Parliament.
- The Right to Information (RTI) Bill and the Whistleblower (Amendment) Bill are also pending before Parliament.
- A Witness Protection Bill and the Criminal and Other Offences (amendment) Bill are also being worked on.
In line with the objectives of NACAP and the fight against corruption in general, Government has undertaken the implementation of the single-spine pay policy that will guarantee public servants a reasonable income as part of a wider public sector reform programme.
Besides, allegations of corruption in the country are being responded to by the relevant institutions. For instance, in respect of allegations of corruption at the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Authority (GYEEDA), prosecution of public officials alleged to be involved – including high-ranking officials of the Authority – is underway. Service providers who breached the terms of their contracts are also being held to account and to refund monies to Government.
In the case of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA.), H.E. the President dissolved the old governing board and appointed a new board and a new acting Chief Executive Officer. SADA is back on course and is expected to deliver on its mandate.
Following audits that confirmed weaknesses in Ghana’s payroll administration and specific tip-offs given by a whistleblower, the BNI – under instructions from H. E. the President – conducted forensic investigations into the National Service Scheme’s (NSS) payroll system and prosecutions are ongoing and remedial measures being taken to plug the loopholes in the system. Allowances for National Service persons are now being paid to them on the E-Zwich biometric platform to eliminate fraud in the system.
The President has issued instructions to Ministers with timelines for the implementation of the Auditor-General’s report affecting their respective MDAs. Failure to implement this report by the deadline will attract severe sanctions on the Minister concerned. Furthermore, Ministers who are supposed to be the Chairpersons of their various Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICS), are required to either surcharge persons for state resources misapplied or, where recommended, hand over such persons to the Attorney General for further action.
Ghana also signed up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative, a multilateral initiative where governments make a set of commitments to promote transparency, fight corruption, empower their citizenry and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Ghana, under the auspices of this partnership, has pledged transparency and openness in all sectors of our governance.
The commitment by Ghana to the OGP process has, in turn, driven yet another commitment to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and to other transparency initiatives and instruments, such as the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (GIFMIS). GIFMIS is a public financial management platform for transparency in budget implementation and financial administration, one that will surely aid in the battle against corruption.
It is clear that Ghana is committed to working on the pledges, assurances, platforms and programs that will make Government more open and accountable.
Building the Capacity of Anti-Corruption Institutions (CHRAJ)
Building our anti-corruption institutions has occupied centre stage in the anti-corruption agenda over the past couple of years, in the face of growing resource constraints. Government is dealing with the challenges confronting these institutions.
The recommendations of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC), which Government accepted in its White Paper, will positively affect the Commission in fighting corruption in the country. The proposed changes include empowering the Commission to conduct investigations on its own initiative; widening the definition of corruption to encompass all corruption-related offences provided under both the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; and, making decisions of the Commission directly enforceable.
The assets disclosure regime will be reformed, and gifts regulations strengthened. The establishment of a “Democracy Fund” as envisaged, will be a way of ensuring sustainable funding for the Commission and other independent governance institutions in the country.
Chapter 24 of the 1992 Constitution will be amended to create a more effective regime on Assets Declaration by public officers and the verification and monitoring of such assets by the Auditor-General, to be done within one year of the declaration, and within three (3) months after the officers’ exiting of office.
Legislation on ethics and anti-corruption on “gifts” and what constitutes “conflict of interest” will be enacted to assist the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice in the determination of complaints made against public officers for breaches of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
Extensive amendments to the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550), will be supported with clear Regulations on how assets declared can be verified, how the public may access the declaration, and the punishment for failure to declare and false declaration.
Rules of evidence will be reviewed to shift the burden of proof onto a person alleged to have been bribed, where that person admits receipt of monetary or other advantage but denies that what was received amounted to a bribe. This will serve as a check on the receipt by public officials of inappropriate gifts and advantages.
In terms of building the capacity of CHRAJ in particular, Government proposes to undertake the following:
- expand the membership of the Commission from three (3) to five (5), namely – a Commissioner and four (4) Deputy Commissioners, including non-lawyers;
- empower CHRAJ to initiate investigations without formal complaints and to make its decisions directly enforceable by the Courts.
Government is determined to play its role in strengthening anti-corruption institutions in a sustainable way.
Walking the Talk
From the foregoing, it is evident that it is now time to work. The talk is over! Indeed the work is ongoing!!
. As a country we have tried various methods to combat corruption in the past. We reviewed those earlier strategies and have developed an antidote to it, which is the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP).
The development of the NACAP took into consideration the various causes and effects of corruption, the challenges previous measures encountered and the lessons learnt. It departs from the earlier strategies that focused only on the public sector and has extended the fight against corruption to the private sector, recognizing that the private sector has a key role to play in implementation. Therefore, rhetoric has no place at this material time. It can only derail the process and divert attention from the implementation of NACAP. It is time we concentrated on solutions. We can only make progress by supporting the implementation of the plan.
The fight against corruption is everybody’s concern. The role of the citizen is critical. Citizens constitute the most reliable resource and are the greatest weapon in this battle against corruption. As H. E. President Mahama puts it during the launch of the NACAP in December 2014 – regardless of what strategies we develop, they will remain lifeless unless people breathe life and power into them, thereby giving them meaning.
So, however detailed and impressive a strategy we devise with NACAP, it can only succeed with the full participation of the people of Ghana. We need to build the capacity of the public to condemn corruption and make it a high risk, low gain endeavor. This requires that citizens themselves must rise up to the challenges of fighting corruption and understand the role they have to play.
Everybody must walk the talk and strive to be a role model. That is the way we, so-called anti-corruption campaigners, must undertake to go.
As President Mahama advised all stakeholders during the launch of NACAP on 8 December 2014 – ‘We can no longer afford the double-talk, the turning of a blind eye, the refusal to expose dishonest and venal colleagues…” because it suits us or it helps to score political points.
By: Daniel Batidam
Daniel Batidam is an anti-corruption campaigner serving as a Governance Advisor at the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana.