‘Dirty money’ from serious and organised crime ‘into’ politics a great concern – Experts

The prevalence of vote-buying in Ghana’s political landscape, both within internal party contests and general elections, is a great concern.

Comments like “fear delegates” and “we only paid transport” evoke comic scenes, but these should not be trivialised.

The role of money in Ghanaian politics has grown exponentially since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1993.

For instance, a recent research report has shown that money an aspirant is required to commit to campaigning, to represent the interest of his or her constituency in Parliament has surged to more than half between 2012 and 2016.

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) report that to have a viable shot at the presidency running on the ticket of the either the National Democratic Congress (NDC) or the New Patriotic Party (NPP), a candidate needs to raise and spend about GH¢575 million ($100million).

The same report finds that the present estimated cost of running for Parliament in Ghana is GH¢4 million ($693,000). 

It said GH¢2 million of that sum is spent nurturing the constituency of interest and running for primaries, and the other GH¢2 million is calculated to be expended during the general election campaign.

The rising cost of politics in Ghana was found to be linked to both demand-driven and supply-side corruption.

The exorbitant costs of running for office, particularly for parliamentary and presidential candidates, contribute to a system where dirty money infiltrates campaign funding, risking the integrity of Ghana’s democracy, governance, and rule of law.

The WFD/CDD report found nine financiers of political parties and candidate campaigns who are engaged in criminality, including Serious and Organised Crime (SOC).

These activities include illegal mining/galamsey, illegal oil distribution (bunkering), fraudulent business, procurement infractions and its associated kickbacks from the award of contracts.

The campaign

The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), in consortium with the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) are leveraging the power of the media to educate the public about SOCs.

Themed, “Safeguarding Ghana’s Stability in the Face of Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) Threats During the 2024 Elections”, the consortium engaged in a series of public sensitisation activities to create awareness about the challenges posed by Serious Organised Crime to Ghana’s elections.

The consortium’s activities are being sponsored with funding support from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Radio programmes were held in Greater Accra, Central, Volta, Ashanti, Eastern and Western regions where officials from the consortium educated listeners on topics, including nature of SOCs, activities that are classified as SOC, linkage between SOC and elections, campaign finance and cost of elections and the role of the State and citizens in countering SOCs.

Prior to that, the media resolved in a communique, after a day’s session on the negative impact of SOC, to be diligent when covering SOC and electoral issues.

As part of the project, three Zonal Workshops were held, aimed at empowering youth leaders in selected districts across Ghana to reinforce Ghana’s governance framework against illicit funds and to mitigate corruption.

Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh, Executive Secretary of GACC, during one of the radio engagements in the Ashanti Region, said monetisation of politics in the country undermined the very foundation of democracy.

“That is why education to empower citizens to understand the importance of fair elections and resist the influence of money in politics is one of the project’s activities,” she said.

The Executive Secretary highlighted the pervasive issue of illicit businesses funding political actors, jeopardising environmental and societal well-being.

Specifically, she cited the destructive impact of “galamsey” on water bodies, noting the lack of accountability due to connections with those in power.

Urging transparency in political party funding, she warned of continued suffering for the population without decisive action.

Mr. Samuel Appiah Darko, Director for Strategy, Research, and Communication at the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), emphasised citizen involvement in combating organised crime.

He stressed the importance of questioning sudden wealth in communities and highlights the OSP’s commitment to pursuing corrupt individuals.

Mr. Darko emphasised the need for accurate information from the public, promising anonymity and potential rewards for informants.

He also underscored the OSP’s focus on ensuring fair elections by tackling corruption in the process.

Dr. Kojo Pumpuni Asante, a Senior Research Fellow at CDD-Ghana, during a radio discussion said there were instances where some politicians took decisions in the interest of their financiers leaving the nation at a disadvantage. 

“A lot of policy incoherence is due to these kinds of SOC activities because they have to serve as a buffer or protection for their financers,” he said.

Mr Asante noted that there were involved huge sums of money inflows into the country, which were proceeds of SOCs, but were often overlooked and unquestioned by citizens and authorities.

Dealing with SOCs

For Mr Leo Anthony Siama, Deputy Head Legal and Prosecution Economic and Organised Crime Office, the fight against SOCs required a concerted effort, stressing that “We need to create awareness first for the public to know the issues and the investigation will follow.”

He said SOCs operate in the country by exploiting the gaps in the system.

“An instance is the laws governing political party financing. It does not have a cap amount from individuals. That law is inadequate as it exists in other countries.”

A similar weakness in the political party’s Act is that an individual has an avenue to contribute to a political party, twice, as a citizen could additionally contribute through an organisation the fellow has ownership.

Mrs Mary Awelena Addah, Executive Secretary of GII, said SOCs had gone unpunished because politicians used actor’s resources for their campaign while they (the actors) relied on authorities in times of troubles.

She said the State needed to create avenues for people to report SOC activities while ensuring the protection of such people.

By Albert Oppong-Ansah

Source: GNA

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