Media Courtesy: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Accra, June 22, 2017 (AFP) – Ghana’s government is facing growing calls to keep its promises after it won elections on a pledge to stamp out corruption.
President Nana Akufo-Addo and his administration have in recent weeks seen protesters take to the streets to raise awareness about the issue.
In May, hundreds marched on the Economic and Organized Crime Office in the capital Accra with a petition calling for the arrest and prosecution of offenders, and for stolen money to be recovered.
The action is similar to OccupyGhana, a citizen pressure group, which began taking corruption cases to court last year.
This month, the Supreme Court ruled in its favor after it submitted a petition calling on the auditor-general to fine anyone found to have misappropriated state funds.
“If you want to strengthen democracy, you have to strengthen the legal system,” said OccupyGhana spokesman Nana Sarpong Agyeman-Badu.
“If the judiciary is strengthened and we put in more confidence in them, I don’t think people in the executive and legislature can get away with what they do.”
Ghana’s previous government under John Dramani Mahama was hit by a succession of corruption scandals, including in the judiciary.
Undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas in 2015 released secretly filmed footage of magistrates, circuit and high court judges taking bribes to influence verdicts.
– ‘Name, shame and jail’ –
Anas, whose motto is “name, shame and jail”, told AFP that every citizen should fight corruption and no institution should be “sacrosanct because of their names”.
Anas operates in a variety of disguises and has been called “the James Bond of journalism”.
He said in the 15 years he has worked as an investigative reporter, there had been an increasing response to his stories.
“When I look at the past and I look at today, it is clear to me the average Ghanaian is beginning to understand that fighting corruption is not the job of government only but it’s everybody’s job,” he said.
“We have moved forward as a country, we have moved forward as a people, there has been consistent education.
“People are beginning to see that it is important for us to put ourselves together and fight.”
– Shaky start –
In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, Ghana scored 43 out of 100 last year.
A score of 100 indicates corruption free.
Ghana’s score dropped from 47 in 2015 but a new report by the Ghana Integrity Initiative Consortium indicated that citizens are more ready to tackle the problem.
Nearly two-thirds of the 18,000 people from across Ghana who responded suggested corruption had increased in the 12 months to May last year.
Just over three-quarters (76 percent) said they had to pay a bribe to tax officials and more than half (61 percent) reported having to hand over cash to the police.
But 86 percent said they would get involved in fighting corruption.
Akufo-Addo’s government, which took office in January this year, has by some accounts not got off to a good start.
In March, he was forced to defend his decision to appoint a 110-minister government against opposition charges of “jobs for the boys”.
Then in May, a number of customs officials were arrested in Accra and accused in connection with the loss of some 1.2 billion cedi ($273 million, 244 million euros) in revenue.
The president has promised to set up a special prosecutor’s office to investigate corruption allegations by late this year.
Last week, he promised: “I am going to do my best to make sure that the fight against corruption is won.”
The executive-secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Beauty Emefa Narteh, said Ghanaians needed to ensure that Akufo-Addo did not make it “business as usual” when it comes to corruption.
Narteh said indications of public willingness to get involved was encouraging.
“We are moving from the previous era where citizens were very apathetic towards what was happening… Now they see themselves as part of government,” she said.