Almost every government in Ghana came into office declaring to fight corruption, and indeed, all the military interventions recorded in the country’s political history rode high on the wings of anti-corruption crusades to win popular support and acceptance.
But 59 years on, after independence and a stable democracy since 1992, corruption is still one of the main sources of economic losses to the national coffers and one main source of enriching political power brokers, cronies and financial engineers close to power, and these, notwithstanding the existence of laws, regulations and constitutional bodies to check and fight the canker. The constitutional bodies are among others, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Economic and Organised Crime Office. The Attorney General also could investigate and where necessary prosecute corruption.
While it is not easy to define corruption in one specific term, its different manifestations lead to loss of much needed money that otherwise could have gone to use in the public good or welfare of the majority. Corruption is an effective means of siphoning public funds into private pockets of individuals and companies.
Acts of financial engineering, over-invoicing, over-pricing of costs of infrastructure projects, school items, such as books and uniforms, are common means of facilitating corruption and graft.
There are also members of state organs like the police, government agencies and departments and even the courts who are known to engage in corrupt practices for self-enrichment.
How much Ghana loses to corruption is unknown, but every citizen would agree that corruption is endemic in the country, and the poor suffer the consequences.
Meanwhile, Sociologists argue that corruption serves as an enabler for the poor, for instance, as they are often not well connected, nor highly educated, and therefore, the only way they are able to access public services like birth certificates, passports, healthcare and even security services from the police and others is by paying bribes – services they are entitled to as citizens, but can’t get if they didn’t pay bribes.
Statistics by the World Economic Forum and the World Bank show that $1.25 trillion dollars are paid in bribes annually and the loss of 5 per cent of global annual output – about $2.5 trillion – to corruption.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also believes that corruption is one of the most important problems facing the world today and that addressing the phenomenon has become increasingly urgent.
The IMF estimates that the annual cost of bribery alone is about $1.5 to $2 trillion (roughly 2 per cent of global GDP).
“The overall economic and social costs of corruption are likely to be even larger, since bribes constitute only one aspect of the possible forms of corruption,” it adds.
According to the World Bank, although the exact magnitude of the proceeds of corruption circulating in the global economy is impossible to ascertain, estimates demonstrate the severity and scale of the problem.
“An estimated $20 to $40 billion is lost to developing countries each year through corruption”, the Bank said in a report titled “Barriers to Asset Recovery” which was released in June 2011.
According to the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, 2007, 25 per cent of the GDP of African states is lost to corruption. It adds that the amount lost to corruption each year totals $148 billion. And this amount it says covers the full range of corruption, from petty bribes to inflated public procurement contracts.
The World Bank, Star Report of 2007 also indicates that proceeds of corruption in bribes received by public officials from developing and transition countries are estimated to be between $20 billion to $40 billion per year, and this figure is equivalent to 20 per cent to 40% per cent of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
The devastating effects of corruption can be felt in poor quality of services in health, roads and education.
A Transparency International Global Corruption Report of 2006 estimates that 50 per cent of health funds is lost to corruption. The report says this is the estimated percentage of allocated funds that do not reach health facilities in Ghana.
A UNDP report titled Accelerating Human Development in Asia and the Pacific released in 2008 says corruption accelerates the depletion of natural resources, notably primary forests and inshore fishing grounds, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods.
In 2013, a GNA report cited an undercover investigation by the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy in partnership with Tiger Eye PI at the Tema Port which found that the country is losing more than $150 million every month to individuals, foreigners and private companies in tax evasion, import levies and excise duties.
Ghana requires $1.6 billion annually for its infrastructure development, and currently, the country owes 10 per cent of all Eurobond debts owed by African countries. African countries owe $30 billion, and Ghana alone owes $3 billion.
The country also earns some income from its oil sector. In the last four years, some $3 billion has been earned. But despite the existence of a petroleum revenue and management law, which states how the revenue from oil should be used, and the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), which is a watchdog institution created to keep an eye over how the oil revenue is used on behalf of the people, there are ambiguities over where some of the oil money has gone.
There are cases of questionable judgement debts paid out by government to known cronies and businesses connected to people in government – notable among them, is Alfred Agbesi Woyome. He was paid a total of GH¢51 million which by today’s exchange rate amounts to approximately $13 million. And even though the Supreme Court has ordered him to pay back the money, the state has been reluctant in retrieving the funds.
There are also characteristically dodgy power deals, most of them with ‘capacity’ contracts that require that the government would only pay the power companies when they produce power, and in the case that they are unable to produce power, they are required to pay the government, but increasingly, when these companies, including one, which contract generated lots of questions, AMERI, whenever, they are unable to generate power, for whatever reasons, they do not inform the government. Consequently, leading to unreasonable loss of money to the state. The reasons why such deals exist, are not difficult to figure out.
Parliament even recently, before it rose, passed a number of deals between the government and some companies. Some of these deals which were hastily passed, included one with a company that was incorporated in the UK on September 20, 2016, about one month before the deal was passed. Even though this company, Contracta Construction UK Ltd., is connected to a Brazilian company, Contracta Engenharia, which has been in existence for 15 years, it is also connected to an offshore company that is registered in the tax haven of the Bahamas, Contracta Engineering International.
There is every reason for any competent government or system to raise more questions, but no questions whatsoever, to the public knowledge have been asked, and it is now a done deal.
When President John Mahama attended the Anti-Corruption Summit in London this year he signed up to 13 commitments to fight corruption as well as not facilitating the act.
While it is hard to know exactly how much the country is losing to corruption, it is easy to see that there is state culpability in most instances of corruption. Because, in spite of the existence of the laws and bodies set up to fight corruption, there is very little evidence they are doing so, effectively and efficiently.
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi