Buying and selling access to the President

Last week, my take was on the “impact of poor leadership”, in which I highlighted a senior academic from the University of Ghana’s concerns that “The mafia has built a wall around the President where they collect gate fees before granting access”, among other things.

Related to the access to the President phenomenon, are claims by the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) that the maiden Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, recently held in Accra, under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade was used to “extort” monies from attendees to allow them to sit at the same table with the President or at tables in close proximity to that of the President based on amounts of money they paid.

Sponsorships:

Ordinarily, this phenomenon is not strange. It can be related to paying more to sit in the VVIP box at a football game, or at the theatre to watch a play or musical concert; akin to schemed pricing for tickets to attend an event. You pay more for the prestige, comfort and elegance of the space you occupy at the event. But who are the beneficiaries of our President’s face, handshakes, space and time at these tables? If the beneficiaries were charities, we would have nothing to complain about.

Our Political Parties Act clearly limits who can make contributions to fund political parties and campaigns. Foreigners are excluded. And I dare say, it is not only our President who would have traded tables, chairs, space and time for cash. In the United States of America and other advanced economies where the lucrative lobby industry thrive, watchdogs and reformists have every now and then been up in arms against Presidents and Prime Ministers for such money for access selling.

In the United States, it is no joke. It is a multi-million dollar industry which has birthed terms like “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy”— Sen. William Marcy. “From now on, the contributors have got to be, I mean, a big thing and I’m not gonna do it for political friends and all that crap”—Nixon to his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, during a discussion on the price of an ambassadorship. “The White House is like a subway: You have to put in coins to open the gates”—Johnny Chung, a Taiwanese-born businessman and major Democratic donor in the 1990s.

Campaign financing:

Back home, we operate a system that is yet to take seriously, the sources political party and campaign financing, a critical element in the value chain that produces the President. Ours has been free range and all manner of things have happened under several heads of state. So what is the minority NDC crying about? Is this the first time access to the President has been sold and bought?

The Political Parties Act provides for disclosure of party funding and the rules governing it. Unfortunately, no administration, since the 1992  Republican Constitution was promulgated has implemented the party funds provisions in the Act, when it is so obvious that selling and buying of access to the President and in some instances Presidential candidates tipped to win the next elections is one major avenue by which the so called major parties in Ghana raise funds.

Selling appointments:

We also have to contend with the buying and selling of political appointments. It is believed that there are many government appointees at the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MMDAs), parastatals, state owned enterprises, public boards and corporations; as well as foreign envoys who contributed cash to the campaigns so they or their proxies would be appointed to specific public offices as a way of paying them back for their financial investments in the party and election campaigns.

The impression the President gave while in opposition campaigning for the top job of the land and the impression he gives today as head of state is that, he would not tolerate such buying and selling of influence, power and opportunity in his administration.

Unfortunately, the realities are inconsistent with the impressions. Should we blame him? No! We should blame and reform the system that requires him to be the appointor of over 5000 persons in our governance system. Some of the appointees, he knows next to nothing about except that, they or their sponsors contributed funds to winning the elections.

Change:

We can taste, smell, feel and see corruption with our naked eyes and complain in disgust. If the system remains the same, we cannot expect anything to change on sustainable basis. Is it not interesting that the President who has been drawn into this Ministry of Trade and Expatriate Awards scandal is the only one who can ensure the enforcement of existing laws that would bring sanity into system? But will the mafia allow him? Your guess is as good as mine!

 

The Last Uprising

…with William Dowokpor

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