In 2016, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) campaigned on corruption and promised to wage a meaningful war against the menace if he was voted into office. His message resonated with many Ghanaian voters because of the many corruption scandals in the John Mahama administration.
But five years into Akufo-Addo’s presidency, Ghana’s best score in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is 43 out of 100. This is the worst score Ghana recorded in the John Mahama era.
Ghana’s best CPI score in the past 10 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 in 2020 and 2021.
In the latest CPI, Ghana ranked 73 out of 180 countries /territories assessed annually by Transparency International, the global anti-graft body.
“Ghana’s current performance is still below 50, which is the expected average and thus leaves much to be desired,” a statement issued by the Ghana Integrity Initiative, the local chapter of Transparency International, said.
With most African countries among the worst performers on the corruption index, Ghana’s score of 43 placed her 9th along with Senegal out of 49 Sub-Saharan African countries in 2021.
The 2021 CPI, according to Transparency International, focused on corruption, democracy, and human rights.
“TI’s research shows a strong correlation between anti-corruption and respect for human rights, and that very few countries have managed to establish effective control of corruption without also respecting human rights. Of the 23 countries that have significantly declined on the CPI since 2012, 19 also declined on their civil liberties score,” it explained.
Ghana’s performance on the Democracy Index has seen a decline between 2015 and 2020 from 6.86 to 6.501 (out of a possible score of 10), the CPI figures indicated.
Akufo-Addo’s anti-corruption rhetoric and the corruption reality index of his presidency
Even though the country’s performance has generally been unimpressive, it appears to be worse under the tenure of President Akufo-Addo.
Ghana’s CPI scores from 2012 to 2019 indicate that the worst performance within the period was recorded in the last five years.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo rode on the moral high horse of incorruptibility to the presidency. In the 2016 election, he promised to fight corruption and restore integrity in the public sector if voted into office. After winning the election, however, his critics say that fight has been done with only his lips.
The administration’s fight against corruption has largely been touted under claims that it had over the years resourced anti-graft institutions including Parliament, the Audit Service, and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.
It used to be the claim that the Public Procurement Authority had saved billions of cedis from scrutinizing public contracts until the “Contracts for Sale” investigation by Manasseh Azure Awuni challenged those figures and the government could not release any evidence to back it. The head of the public procurement authority, Adjenim Boateng Adjei was also found to own companies that sold government contracts to prospective buyers.
The government has, since that investigation, stopped using the PPA as an example of how it has fought corruption.
Anti-corruption campaigners say the Akufo-Addo administration’s actions, including hounding Auditor-General Daniel Yaw Domelevo out of the office while closing his eyes on alleged acts of corruption in the government, have undermined his anti-corruption rhetoric.
In the CPI press release, the Ghana Integrity Initiative acknowledged the government’s efforts but noted that it was not making much of a difference.
“Although the government is known to have taken some measures to address the canker and abuse of public office, impunity remains a problem,” it said.
In 2021, The Fourth Estate reported that when President Akufo-Addo delivered the over 9,400-word State of the Nation Address (SONA) in parliament, the words “corruption”, “corrupt”, “anti-graft” or “graft” were absolutely absent.
Two months earlier, on January 5, 2021, when he visited Parliament to deliver the last SONA in his first term as president, his over 3,500-word speech also failed to address corruption or even mention the word.
It was the first time in 13 years that a president of Ghana had failed to mention the word corruption while giving the State of the Nation Address.
No commitment to the fight against corruption
There has not been closure on the many alleged cases of corruption in the Akufo-Addo era. These scandals include the “Contract for Sale Scandal involving the Public Procurement Authority CEO, the “galamsey” bribery scandal involving a presidential staffer; the Kelni GVG, PDS sales, BOST oil adulteration scandals as well as the missing excavators, and the disappearance of 400 motor tricycles at the Northern Development Authority (NDA). Not a single appointee in his government was prosecuted for corruption.
The prosecutions, however, are focused on former appointees of the Mahama administration.
Although many had expected that the appointment of Martin Amidu in 2018 as the country’s first Special Prosecutor would give the fight against corruption the needed shot in the arm, it ended up eroding public confidence in the corruption fight. Mr. Amidu resigned in 2020 and accused the president of interfering in his work.
According to his critics, the body language of President Akufo-Addo has not given an indication that he hates corruption and is prepared to tackle the monstrous canker head-on.
When the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu was implicated in COVID-19 vaccine procurement irregularities, President Akufo-Addo joked about the scandal despite enormous pressure on him to fire and prosecute the minister.
In 2020, under the guise of COVID-19, the presidency cooked a fumigation contract that allowed Zoomlion to milk the system of millions of cedis. Although schools were closed for more than three months, Zoomlion was given a contract to fumigate schools against the virus. This together with market fumigations cost Ghana about 500 million Ghana cedis, according to The Fourth Estate’s estimates from government figures.
This was despite the fact that the World Health Organisation had indicated that such exercises were not effective in containing the virus. The Fourth Estate’s investigations further revealed that the scandalous fumigations had been an annual ritual fraught with corruption and had become a subject of police investigations.
TI’s recommendations on tackling corruption
Transparency International has recommended that governments around the world should lend themselves to accountability, restore and strengthen institutional checks on power as well as uphold the right to information on government spending. In the case of Ghana, its local chapter, the GII, has recommended the following:
- Enhance institutional checks on power
Public oversight bodies including anti-corruption agencies and the supreme audit institution must operate fully independent from the executive as their mandates stipulate. They should continuously be well-resourced with budgets allocated to them fully disbursed and empowered to effectively investigate and sanction corruption timeously.
- Empower citizens to hold power to account
Agencies of state responsible for guarding the rights of citizens should take active roles in ensuring expeditious investigations into violations of the rights of civil society and media activists as well as human rights defenders and facilitate justice for crimes against all. Parliament and the courts should also be vigilant in preventing executive overreach.
- Sanction the corrupt to serve as a deterrent
Ghana is touted to have considerable anti-corruption frameworks including sanctioning laws. However, not enough commitment to sanctioning corruption, particularly, political corruption has been demonstrated in recent years. Government and state anti-corruption institutions must effectively work towards making corruption a high risk and a low gain venture in order to reduce the incidences of abuse of power, impunity, and corruption.
- Improve transparency and accountability in political party and campaign financing
The Electoral Commission should be held accountable to ensure the enforcement of the Political Parties Act, 2000 (Act 574), particularly Section 21 which relates to the disclosure of funding sources by political parties. Parliament should also amend Act 574 to include disclosure on funding sources for candidates contesting Presidential and Parliamentary elections. There should also be a ceiling on how much can be raised and spent by candidates contesting these elections.
- Promote efficient public service delivery and anti-corruption through digitization
Evidence from the ongoing digitization projects of government suggests that automated processes within relevant public institutions (GRA) have reduced human 5 contacts and also have the potential to help reduce corruption. Government should, therefore, expedite its digitization program and extend electronic services to all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and digitization of services that are in high demand by citizens must be prioritized