The government’s big talk about building the capacity of antigraft institutions to tackle corruption has not reflected in this year’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) as Ghana failed to make any significant progress in the latest ranking released by Transparency International.
This year, Ghana placed 8th in sub-Saharan Africa behind Seychelles, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Rwanda, Mauritius, Namibia and Sao Tome and Principe. Ghana shared the same spot with Senegal and South Africa. Ghana placed 9th last year.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has been crediting his government for being the most audacious in the fight against corruption in Ghana.
In a televised address on the eve of the Constitution Day to mark 30 years of Ghana’s Fourth Republic, the President said his government deserved plaudits for taking giant steps to deal with the canker.
“I say, without any form of equivocation, that my government has undertaken, arguably, the boldest initiatives since independence to reform and strengthen the capacity of our institutions to tackle corruption in the public sector,” the president said.
However, his words are not reflecting the country’s performance on the CPI.
In the latest CPI, Ghana ranked 72 out of 180 countries /territories assessed annually by Transparency International, the global anti-graft body. Last year it ranked 73rd globally.
For the third year in a row, the country scored 43 out of 100 on the index, which measures the levels of perceived corruption in the systems of various countries around the world. The maximum points a country can score is 100 points. For a country to be ranked average, it needs at least 50 points.
President Akufo-Addo’s best scores in the last three years remain the worst in the Mahama administration, which then-opposition candidate Akufo-Addo described as corrupt.
I’ll lead a strong fight against corruption in Ghana. People who see service in govt as an avenue for making money have no place in my govt.
— Nana Akufo-Addo (@NAkufoAddo) April 19, 2015
Ghana’s best CPI score in the past 11 years was in 2014 when the country scored 48. It dropped to 40 in 2017, went up marginally to 41 in 2018, stayed that way in 2019 before climbing marginally to 43 which it has maintained in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Corruption and the Covid-19 pandemic
The latest ranking comes in the wake of the Auditor General’s report on COVID-19 funds management which opened a pandora box of wasteful expenditure.
“This score reflects a lack of progress in the country’s fight against corruption. Addressing the problem of corruption is critical now more than ever as corruption is a major contributor to the country’s current economic woes as evinced by several reports including that of the Auditor General’s report on Government of Ghana’s COVID-19 expenditure,” a statement issued by the Ghana Integrity Initiative, the local chapter of Transparency International, said.
The Auditor-General’s report showed that millions of COVID-19 funds the government mobilised towards the fight against the virus cannot be accounted for because only 3.5% of the spending went through GIFMIS, the govt accounting system.
The report revealed that the Ministry of Health entered into a 25-year Finance Lease Agreement valued at GH¢15,265,000 in 2020 to be used as a holding and isolation centre in Adaklu, in the Volta Region. Although the ministry failed to use the place, it is remodelling the building at an additional cost of GH¢20,382,247.70 out of which GH¢13,726,079.86 has been paid.
The Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs paid GH¢451,800.00 to paramount chiefs of six traditional councils to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The report further indicated that the Northern and Volta Regional houses misapplied a total amount of GH¢154,161.97.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection paid almost GH¢12 million in cash to caterers who provided hot meals during the COVID-19 lockdown period. However, the auditors could not authenticate the cash payments because they were supported with honour certificates, and lacked internal checks. It feared this could result in the possibility of payments being made to persons who may not have provided any service.
It is not only the CPI and the Auditor-General that have recorded Ghana’s underperformance in the fight against graft.
Results of the Round 9 of the Afrobarometer report released last year gave a damning verdict of the public’s perception of corruption in Ghana. According to the report, Ghanaians say the level of corruption in the country increased in 2021.
The GII is worried that the increasing level of corruption could affect trust in state institutions.
“The misuse, embezzlement or theft of public funds can deprive the very institutions of resources they need to fulfil their mandate, which includes protecting citizens, enforcing the rule of law and safeguarding peace,” the GII said.
“In Ghana, corruption continues to negatively affect citizens’ trust in government and institutions, hinders the provision of essential services, impedes economic development and creates vulnerabilities that have the tendency of being exploited by extremists. Corruption, if not addressed, has a potential to lead to social unrest and conflict. As such, it is essential that steps are taken to combat corruption in order to ensure a more peaceful and secure society,” it adds.
Starving anti-corruption institutions
While President Akufo-Addo continues to give his government high marks on the anticorruption scorecard, his critics say his performance is full of inertia and contradictions as some anti-corruption institutions continue to cry for funds.
For instance, although the Office of the Special Prosecutor requested GHc 1.2 billion to fully operationalise, it was slashed to approximately GHc 80 million (about 6.6%) in the budget. It is unclear how much of that was released. The OSP made a similar request in 2021 but got GHc 170.5 million allocated to it in the budgeted. On top of that, the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, had not been paid for 16 months as of December last year.
In May last year, the Speaker of Parliament lamented that Parliament was broke and had no money to run its affairs. The Speaker attributed the development to the delay by the Ministry of Finance to release funds to Parliament.
“Parliament is currently being run on arrears and the House should not be treated like one of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs),” he said.
The Right to Information Commission, which oversees the implementation of the Right to Information law, has also been complaining about its limited funding which constraints it.
To address the problem of corruption in Ghana, the GII recommended the following measures:
- Relevant state agencies must address security vulnerabilities and protect the country against external threats. This should include measures such as strengthening the defence sector, increasing intelligence and security capabilities, and control the perceived politicisation of enlistment/employment. Strengthening the professionalism of the defence sector and improve border security to counter smuggling, illicit trade and potential terrorist activities.
- b. Government must promote economic development and reduce barriers to investment. This includes the implementation of effective monetary and fiscal policies and the creation of a transparent environment in the public and private sectors where corrupt practices are easily identified and addressed more effectively.
- c. The Executive should urgently take steps to lay the Conduct of Public Officers’ Bill in Parliament while we call on the Legislature to attach equal level of urgency to its timely passage.
- d. Parliament should ensure implementation of recommendations contained in the Auditor General’s report by referring it to the Attorney General to recover lost funds and prosecute persons found culpable to have engaged in fraud, misapplication or embezzlement of state resources.
- e. The Auditor General must exercise its powers of disallowance and surcharge per Article 187 (7) of the 1992 Constitution to recover misappropriated funds and prevent the reoccurrence of wastage in the public sector. Government should as a matter of urgency ensure that the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) is adequately resourced to enable the office effectively perform its mandate of prevention, prosecution and recovery of proceeds of corruption and corruption related offences.