Corruption, as a canker, has eaten away this nation’s ability to move forward since the Union Jack was lowered amidst fanfare in the early hours of March 6, 1957. The famous dawn broadcast by then President Kwame Nkrumah in the 1964 was occasioned by massive corruption within the ranks of the Convention People’s Party.
The first publicised case of corruption in the immediate post-independent era was recorded when the late Krobo Edusei, a Cabinet Minister at the time, imported a golden bed from London at a cost of three thousand pounds sterling in 1958, barely one year after the declaration of independence.
At a point in time, President Nkrumah was so worried about corruption in his administration that he addressed the nation in what became known as the dawn broadcast, in which he prescribed the code of conduct for his own ministers and party big shots.
“One man one house” and “one man one car” became a major slogan on the political scene. The success or failure of the exercise is reflected in the fact that various commissions of enquiries set up after the coup d’etat of February 24, 1966, uncovered several underhand dealings by ministers and party functionaries.
Krobo Edusei, for instance, was said to have owned 32 houses at the time of the coup. The CPP party headquarters was seized, which now serves as the Ministry of Information. Since then, corruption has never been far away from the various administrations that have taken the centre stage of Ghana politics.
Even then, the four-year mandate handed over to deceased Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills, with its care-taker Head of State John Dramani Mahama, is threatening to set an all-time record in misapplication of the public purse.
What used to be expenditure to atone for the misbehavior of a few state officers like the police misapplying the law, has now been perfected into the art of diverting state monies into individual pockets.
I am told that throughout the eight year rule of former President John Agyekum Kufuor and his administration, only GH¢4m was paid towards judgment debts. Compare this to the gargantuan payment of over GH¢600 in the first three years of the NDC Mark II administration, and one has a good feel of corruption breeding fast in the name of judgment debts.
In 2010 alone, according to the official Auditor-General’s Report, over GH¢278 millions of the public purse was wasted on judgment debts. What has gained currency as the Woyome scandal owes its genesis to the GH¢51 million payment to one person in 2010.
What has come to irk many true blue blooded Ghanaian is that the claimant could not produce a piece of newspaper on which anything had been written, linking him to the huge payment.
As if the state had learned no lessons from this huge dole-out in 2010, the 2011 Auditor-General’s Report lists as much as GH¢217,971,387.68 paid to various organizations and individuals in the name of judgment debts.
In the opinion of the Auditor-General, “these debts could have been avoided if due care was taken by the public officials in the discharge of their duties.” But the question is why would officials cause such a huge loss to the state without the political leadership calling them to order?
In his recommendation, the Auditor-General, Richard Q. Quartey stated: “To minimize government expenditure on judgment debts, government officials whose actions or inactions result in the imposition of judgment debts on the state, should be surcharged. “
The Auditor-General reached the same conclusion in respect of the 2010 Auditor’s report on the GH¢278m judgment debts. As you read this piece, no action has been brought against any official of state who was responsible for any aspect of the huge payments by the state.
The conundrum of Judgment Debts is not the only means of siphoning state resources. A clever plot has been hatched under which huge contracts are awarded to cronies, under what is becoming the norm rather than the exception – sole sourcing for contractors.
One of the major reasons why the Public Procurement Board, now Public Procurement Authority was established was for it to regulate the award of contracts and stop juicy state contracts from being awarded to cronies and party apparatchiks, without value for money.
But the NDC administration has found a way round it by requesting the authority, headed by Mr. Samuel Sallas-Mensah, a former NDC Parliamentarian, to agree to what has gained currency in the award of contracts as sole-sourcing.
Under sole sourcing, juicy contracts are awarded to cronies at huge cost to the state, with the ultimate aim of realizing huge kick-backs. In some of the most ridiculous abuse of the sole sourcing right, the Ministry of Education sought permission from the Sallas-Mensah-led Procurement Authority “to request for approval to use multiple sole-sourcing methods to procure contractors for schools under trees infrastructure project.”
As much as GH¢25 million was spent on crazy sole-sourcing under which contractors in Wa, for instance, were awarded contracts to supply school furniture to schools in the Volta Region, while contractors in the Volta Region supplied the same equipment to schools in the Sefwi area of the Western Region.
In my view, nothing but the desire of the schemers to corrupt the system would make it possible for contractors in Tamale, for instance, to supply school desks to the Atiwa District of the Eastern Region, which has some of the best timbers in the land.
It is interesting to note that people who came to power with barely enough resources to feed the family are suddenly the noveau riche of society. As you read this piece, Ms. Hannah Bissiw, Deputy Minister of Water Resource s, Works and Housing, is reported to have built herself two mansions at her hometown in Tachimantia, in the Brong Ahafo Region.
To cap it all, Ms Bissiw has also constructed an ultra-modern office complex for the NDC in her constituency capital, Bechem. In spite of newspaper publications about her profligate spending, no one has bothered to question her about her source of income.
For all I know, she had never before being named as a member of the Government of the NDC Mark II, been involved in any venture that had brought much by way of taxes to the state. What this means is that she earned all her riches while serving in this administration.
Another complex character in the corruption conundrum is the party scribe himself. Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah, who has been fingered as the main supplier of blocks to the Bui Dam Project, while sitting on the Board of the company. I do not believe one needs any ghost to link him to a charge of conflict of interest or insider trading.
In the course of selling blocks to the Bui Dam Project, Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketia, now beats his chest as one of Ghana’s men of fortune. Quite recently, when allegation was flying about that he owned some mansions in the national capital and some properties in Kumasi, he responded by saying that he deserved to join the cream de la crème of society, apparently on account of his position in the ruling party.
Corruption in this administration is threatening to become the norm rather than the exception. As the nation winds down to the vote on December 7, some of us promise to enliven the corruption debate as part of our role as journalists, to educate Ghanaians.
Corruption under the NDC is real. It is the main reason why the so-called Better Ghana agenda remains mere platform rhetoric. We need to deal with this menace!