Cost of elections, corruption and national development

This week, I posed the question “How do you want Ghana to be in the next 39 years, when we celebrate Ghana @ 100?” to my friends on facebook, the responses were mainly pessimistic, few optimistic and the rest indifferent. In all responses however, leadership was mentioned as the Key Success Factor (KSF).

 

Leadership

Per our constitution, the President is the leader of Ghana. And even though we operate a democracy, the President and President alone, wields enormous powers and discretion in national affairs – a kind of de-jure dictatorship. Thus if we get our leadership right, a lot of things would go right for us. The reverse is also true. if we get leadership wrong. As we say in leadership circles “leadership is cause, everything else is the effect”.

In Ghana, we select our leader(s) through elections. There is abundant evidence that these elections cost an awful lot of money. In fact, it impacts negatively on the nation’s economy as it takes about two years to stabilise the Ghanaian economy after every election following the huge budget deficits recorded in every election year. Sometimes the incumbent administration would hide and flatly deny the overspending when it is pointed out to them usually by opposition parties. Eventually, the truth comes out without any consequences for those responsible for the overspending and the deception.

 

Cost of elections:

Former Ghana Football Association President, Kwesi Nyantekyi for instance is believed to be a close friend to President Nana Addo and one of his financiers in the many election campaign battles he fought before becoming President. It therefore did not come as a surprise to many when he was caught on tape, articulating the President’s financial challenges to justify his request for $5 million from prospective investors to be paid to the President as bribe money for the award of contracts.

Connecting the dots, it makes a lot of sense that these kinds of arrangements in the pre-election seasons would be the most convincing way to raise funds for election campaigns. But it comes at an unknown cost to the people of Ghana. This reasoning is made plausible when one considers the account of Kennedy Agyapong, a leading member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) that, recently dismissed Managing Director of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST), Alfred Obeng, was appointed to the position because he had contributed a fortune to the President’s 2016 victory and should have been kept there as show of the President’s token of appreciation to him.

Former President Jerry John Rawlings, who is also leader and founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has alleged recently that a “small little character” in his party bought two mansions worth $3 million from a property owner in Accra, right after the NDC’s defeat in the 2016 elections.  Mr. Rawlings was obviously suspicious of the source of the funds.

It is recalled that, when the NPP was in opposition, they raised a lot of concern about contracts whose terms and conditions as well as the award procedures pointed to corruption and wrong doing. Taking a cue from the Nyantakyi video, it makes sense to assume that all the monies accrued from such contracts with inflated costs are occasioned by the need to mobilise funds to win the next elections and use the power and discretion at the disposal of our leader(s) to misapply monies which would otherwise have gone into development projects, including procurement of beds for the nation’s hospitals to avoid patients being turned away from health facilities for lack of beds.

 

Cost of development:

In the last few months, suspicions and allegations, many of them yet to be substantiated have been levelled against the NPP and Nana Addo regime. From the Digital Addressing System; through the Kelni GVG and Ministry of Communication contract, to the true cost of the National Identification Authority’s Ghana Card  project.

As such allegations have not always been dealt with to their logical conclusions; I have always experienced the dilemma of believing or not believing the NDC and NPP when they make allegations and counter allegations against each other. The pessimist and indifferent respondents to my question cited poor leadership and corruption for their positions. Those respondents believe the allegations are true. They think government contracts are deliberately inflated to raise funds for the next elections at the expense of development insisting that the status quo will remain , until the campaign finance matter is settled.

 

Solution:

Apart from ensuring that political parties and their candidates obey the rules of campaign financing in submitting  their audited accounts to the Electoral Commission,  failing which sanctions should be applied, the state investigative institutions must be up and doing by conducting truly independent investigations into such allegations for alleged perpetrators to clear themselves or be charged accordingly.

With all the tools, personnel and reach of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service; the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) etc., they must drop the politics in support of the government of the day and do their work without fear or favour.  Given our knowledge of the fact that it is when parties exit power that we get to know the crimes their appointees committed, it makes sense to assume that such crimes are happening now and if the investigative bodies are willing to do their jobs, a lot of rot would be uncovered and others prevented from happening. But is the political will available?

 

The Last Uprising
…with William DOWOKPOR (billdowokpor@gmail.com)

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