The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, has urged government to take urgent steps to address defects identified in Ghana’s governance structure by the United States 2021 report which indicts the country on many fronts.
He says attempts to use established laws to fight corruption, for instance, have proven to be inadequate in dealing with the “growing phenomenon of corruption in national public life.”
The Tamale South legislator noted that since the laws have proven to be insufficient in addressing challenges and mishandling of state funds, the government must accept the report to correct the wrongs in the society.
“Accept US Human Rights Ghana report, 2021 for urgent reforms of our institutions, urgent reforms of our actions and urgent improvement of our governance ecosystem in order that Ghana can indeed become a free society moulded on the blocks of respect for rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms,” he suggested.
The latest Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by the US State Department highlight issues including denial of fair public trial, corruption and lack of transparency in government, arbitrary deprivation of life and other unlawful or politically motivated killings.
For Mr Iddrisu, government officials and civil society groups must refrain from dismissing and watering down the recommendations and findings from the report.
Meanwhile, he argued that corruption is still prevalent in the country because not much has been done to make it a high-risk activity.
“This is not the first time they are issuing this report. Let’s accept it for consequential actions. What do we do? How do we shine the light? How do we combat illicit money laundering and associated corruption?
“We’ve not made corruption a high-risk activity yet in the country. So, when the US says about $335 million is lost to corruption, in my view, it’s even an underestimation of it,” he said.
What does the report say?
The U.S. Department of State in its 2021 Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices observed that corruption is still prevalent in Ghana.
According to the document, “officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity”.
It also noted that although laws stipulate punishments for corrupt officials, the government hardly implements them effectively.
“Corruption was present in all branches of government, according to media and NGOs, including recruitment into the security services”, parts of the report read.
Citing the Auditor General’s June Report, the US States Department mentioned that graft is widespread in the country’s public sector.
This has resulted in the loss of huge sums of public funds.
“The Honorary Consul General and the Ghanaian consulate in Washington D.C. could not account for visa fees totalling $355,000. The Free Senior High School Secretariat misspent more than $3.16 million.
“A former Minister of Tourism retained three official vehicles for personal use after leaving office. The report concluded that corrupt practices resulted in $340 million of financial mismanagement, including misapplication and misappropriation of funds, theft, and procurement mismanagement”.
Corruption continues to be a major problem the country battles with although governments implement various measures to curb the menace.
In 2018, President Akufo-Addo, established the Office of the Special Prosecutor to clamp down on corruption.
However, the US State Department noted that “Since the first Special Prosecutor took office in 2018, no corruption case undertaken by that office resulted in a conviction”.
“When the new special prosecutor took office in August, his staff included one investigator and one prosecutor, both seconded from other offices”.
Meanwhile, the report also revealed that the 2020 general election was transparent, free and fair.
According to the report, despite violent scenes at some of the centres, the verdict, which saw President Akufo-Addo winning another term to govern Ghanaians, was very credible.
The report released on April 12, 2022, said Ghana’s presidential and parliamentary election results reflected the will of the people.