Is Akufo-Addo Capable of Redeeming Ghana’s Image  in the Next CPI?

President Akufo-Addo

Accra, March 12, 2018//-In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, the central theme  of the then opposition candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was the vow to fight corruption decisively and relentlessly.

Indeed, the change mantra of the NPP was strongly anchored on this declared anti-corruption war.

Mr Akufo-Addo and his elephant emblem party told Ghanaians vociferously that, corruption during the John Dramani Mahama presidency had become so endemic that it threatened to eat the country up.

The Ghanaian electorate bought into the anti-corruption crusade pledge and voted massively for the NPP and its candidate to achieve the historic feat of throwing out an incumbent government with a wide margin in the annals of the Fourth Republic.

The Akufo-Addo presidency was sworn in on January 7, 2017 against the background of high expectations that the battle would be joined, uncompromisingly, against corruption and its perpetrators who had been ‘milking’ the nation.

Corruption allegations under his watch

However, the Akufo-Addo-led government anti-corruption campaign suffered a high voltage jolt with the unfolding of a number of monumental corruption allegations against his appointees.

To begin with the corruption allegations, the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST), a state-owned company was in the Ghanaian media for selling 5 million litres of contaminated fuel to an unlicensed company called Movepiina and Zup Oil which was alleged to have caused Ghana to lose GH¢7 million in revenue.

The Minister of Energy, Boakye Agyarko hurriedly came out to announce that the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) had set up a committee to clear BOST and its managing director,  Alfred Obeng Boateng of any wrongdoing. But the Minority in Parliament and civil society organisations believe is a cover up by the government in the contaminated fuel saga.

Also,  Kwame A Plus, a musician and staunch member of the governing NPP had accused the two Deputies Chief of Staff, Francis Asenso-Boakye and Abu Jinapor of involvement in corruption and acts of sheer stupidity.

Furthermore,  there is severe pressure mounting on the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta to resign for breaching the country’s key public financial management law.

Mr Ofori-Atta who is a cousin to the President Akufo-Addo breached sections of the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) in the issuance of the 2.25 billion dollar bond, last year.

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in  its five month investigation found Mr Ofori-Atta culpable of breaching sections of the PFMA in the issuance of the bond.

But CHRAJ, didn’t find concrete evidence of conflict of interest against the Minister who was dragged to CHRAJ by a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Yaw Brogya Genfi in April 2017.

The petition follows concerns raised by the Minority NDC Members of Parliament (MPs) over what they term as “conflict of interest” in the deal, which was vigorously denied by the government.

They alleged that the Finance Minister secured 95 percent of the bond for family and friends.

The Minority in Parliament also petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US, over the US$2.25 billion bond issue, 95% of which was purchased by Franklin Templeton, a US registered firm.

But stock market analysts maintained that bond attracted the highest interest rate than all the bonds issued in 2017. This further deepens the suspicion.

Additionally, in December 2017, the Mavis Hawa Koomson headed Ministry for Special Development and Initiatives, one of the 110 ministries formed by the Akufo-Addo government budgeted to use GH¢800,000.00 of the Ghanaian tax payers money to build a new website.

This generated a lot of backlash from the minority in parliament and also sparked a lot of controversy on social media which saw many Ghanaians joining the fray. Due to the uproar the amount was reduced to GH¢80,000, but majority of Ghanaians still believe that the amount is too high for the website. So, they suspect that there is  a corruption.

As if that is not enough, in January this year, a five-member committee was set up by Parliament to  investigate claims that expatriates paid as high as US$100,000 to sit close to President Akufo-Addo at the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards (GEBA) held in Accra.

The committee presented its findings to the Speaker of Parliament exonerating the organisers of the event, but the minority MPs thought otherwise.

From all the above-mentioned corruption allegation sagas, President Akufo-Addo came out boldly to clear his appointees of wrongdoing. This behaviour has earned him a name-“Clearing Agent”.

CPI further exposes gov’t

So, when the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), a local chapter of Transparency International (TI)  released its 2017 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) recently in which Ghana performed poorly, many were not surprised.

The country received its lowest corruption perception score in four years, making President Akufo-Addo’s one year in office the worst since 2012, according to the CPIGhana scored 40 out of a possible clean score of 100 and ranked 81 out of 180 countries surveyed.

The index revealed that Ghana’s performance has dropped by three points from its 2016 score of 43, and 7 points cumulatively from the 2015 score of 47.

That is, since John Mahama took office in 2012, the latest score is the lowest ever recorded.

On the African continent, both Burkina Faso and Lesotho overtook Ghana when compared to the 2016 index.

“This score is the lowest in Ghana’s CPI score since 2012 when CPI scores became comparable,” according to the GII.

The report says an average score of less than 50, which is what Ghana has received for 2017, shows serious corruption in the country.

The 2017 CPI score indicates that, in spite of Ghana’s numerous efforts at fighting corruption, the canker is still a serious problem.

“Ghana’s score of 40 points is a likely reflection of the inadequate investigations, prosecutions and sanctioning of corruption during the period the data sources covered that is 2016,” GII said.

Past performance
In the 2016, Ghana dropped four percentage points, scoring 43 out of a clean score of 100, while in 2015, the country improved slightly on its 2014’s figure with a rank of 56 out of 168 countries and a score of 47. The country therefore slid back by one percentage point from the 48 points scored in 2014.

Blame games

However, the Akufo-Addo-led government argued that Ghana’s poor performance in the 2017 CPI also took into account corruption cases recorded under the later-days of the Mahama administration, which left power in January 2017. The government’s Spokesperson on Governance and Legal Affairs, Herbert Krapa, insisted that that the report was not an indication that the current NPP government was corrupt.

Speaking during the swearing in of Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu, the President Akufo-Addo said corruption claims in the past regime and not his government were, largely to blame for the poor CPI ranking.

“The recent publication of Ghana’s score in the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, organised by Transparency International, showing a further drop in our standing, a result largely based on ‘the plethora of corruption allegations/exposés’ before the onset of this administration, indicates the enormity of the task ahead,” he said.

Mr Akufo-Addo noted that the Transparency International’s 2017 CPI, which shows a sharp drop in the performance from 2016, is an indication of the “enormity of the task ahead”.

He admitted that corruption, or more specifically, the stealing of public funds, continues to hold back the development of the country.

” A recent audit by the Auditor General into the liabilities of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies led to the disallowance of some GH¢5.4 billion of claims.

These are fictitious claims that would otherwise have had to be paid, but for the eagle eye of the Auditor General. Can you imagine what we can do with GH¢5.4 billion? It can certainly finance the Free SHS for five years”.

Responding, a former Deputy Minister of Communications, Felix Kwakye Ofosu rejected government’s attempt to blame the previous administration for the worrying 2017 corruption perception index.
He described the attempt as “astonishing in its defiance of logic”.
He is confident that the Akufo-Addo government wants to “shirk its own responsibility for their own poor performance”.
He said the report “completely shatters” the Akufo-Addo government which has been “living in a bubble” when it comes to fighting corruption.
Mr Ofosu also described President Akufo-Addo for supervising a “nepotistic” government after appointing “dozens” of his relatives into government.

A former Executive Secretary of the GII,  Vitus Azeem, described attempts by the communicators of the government to blame the John Mahama administration for Ghana’s abysmal performance in the latest Transparency International rating as disingenuous.

Explaining the methodology of Transparency International in assessing a country with regards to corruption, he said the latest rating was based strictly on what happened in Ghana in 2017 with regards to corruption and attempts to fight it.

He said, Corruption Perception Index is the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, offering a yearly snapshot of the relative degree of corruption by ranking countries from all over the globe.

According to the anti- corruption crusader, the corruption perception index is a composite index, a combination of different international surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions. He revealed that the score was aggregated from seven data sources.

He emphasized that the result of the corruption perception index 2017 shows that corruption has escalated in Ghana and also shows there are strong warning signs around the country that the move to gag anti-corruption crusaders, crack down on freedoms, including the space for civil society, the media, can have negative effects on the fight against corruption

 Ranking Shows Massive rot

The Minority in Parliament has said Ghana’s ranking on the 2017 CPI is a vindication of their position that the current government is presiding over a corrupt administration.

The Minority Spokesperson on Communications, A.B.A. Fuseini said the drop in Ghana’s ranking on the Index shows massive rot in the current government.

“It is a vindication of us in the Minority; that we had said consistently that there has been so much corruption in this government. In the one-year-old government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, the corruption has been stinking to the high heavens,” he said.

The former advisor on Governance and Corruption to former President John Dramani Mahama,  Daniel Batidam also chastised the Akufo-Addo’s government for doing nothing to fight corruption.

According to him, the government has not done much to its credit when it comes to the fight against corruption.

Mr Batidam bemoaned the country’s steady progress in fighting corruption which is now sliding backwards again.

“I am worried that after years of steady progress which took us from as low as 38% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, we are sliding backwards again…virtually, nothing has happened in the area of fighting corruption when the NPP came into power.

“From what I am seeing now, I can say that in Ghana now, the perception of corruption is a reality…this government has not done much to its credit when it comes to the fight against corruption. President Nana Akufo-Addo will have to sit up…his government is doing nothing to fight corruption”.

Holistic approach to deal with corruption

A former Commissioner of CHRAJ, Justice Emile Short called for a holistic approach to deal with corruption in the country, saying pragmatic steps devoid of politics must be taken to address the canker.
“…This is a national problem and if we can fight corruption effectively it will benefit each and every one of us—whether you are NPP or NDC – because it means that the government will have more resources to be able to provide social amenities [including] educational facilities, health facilities and so on,” he said.

Thus, he added: “It will interest everyone to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” stressing: “I don’t think it will be fruitful for us to engage in this blame game and that everybody has to know the role that he or she has to play to bring about significant reduction in the level of corruption.”

President Akufo-Addo who used any single allegation of corruption on the previous Mahama government beat a hasty retreat when he told Ghanaians at the country’s 61st Independence Day anniversary: ” Corruption is not a partisan matter, and we must all act to protect the public purse”.

He quoted the first President of the 4th Republic, Jerry John Rawlings to support his argument. “Combating corruption is not beyond us. Imagine the effect on our nation and our future if, for just a few months, all decent Ghanaians would put aside their own convenience, apathy and faint-heartedness, and challenge every corruption, no matter how petty, which comes their way.”

All hopes on Special Prosecutor

But President Akufo-Addo is optimistic: “With the office of the Special Prosecutor now in place, we can expect more prosecutions for corruption in the coming months, and public officials, present and past, should be on notice that they would be held accountable for their stewardship of our public finances”.

Government has also made, in 2017, significant savings of some GH¢800 million in government procurement, as we depart from sole sourcing as the primary method of public procurement. That departure will strengthen our public finances, and make it possible for us to finance our development ourselves, he said.

There is, however, one piece of the anti-corruption framework that is yet to be put in place: The Right to Information Bill. It would increase transparency, and add another critical weapon to the armoury in the fight against corruption., according to him.

“After many years of hesitation, we intend to bring a Bill again to Parliament, and work to get it passed into law before the end of this Meeting of Parliament.

The protection of the public purse is a social common good, and it depends on all of us. It is in all our interest that corruption does not thrive, and we police each other’s behaviour”.

By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report

 Email: mk68008@gmail.com

 

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