A policy think tank, IMANI Ghana has asked President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to demonstrate his government’s readiness and determination to root out corruption and waste in the country’s economy by starting the process from his office.
According to the institute, the quickest and most effective way for the new government to stamp its feet and assert its anti-corruption credentials is to start the process at the Presidency, the heart of the government, where the President has absolute control over outcomes and consequences.
“If the President and his government cannot stamp out waste and corruption from his own seat of government, then how can he be trusted to be able to do so across the 2,000 or so entities more removed from his immediate control?,” asked Imani Ghana in its latest report.
The report focused on the efficiency of the “Special Prosecutors Office” and measures the new government must implement to enhance its government in the first 100 days into office.
According to the report, “If the President does not show direct leadership in the matter, how can we expect his Finance Minister to be able to pursue his commitment to safeguard some $2 billion of public money (5% of GDP) through an enhanced anti-corruption agenda, using the Minister’s own estimates of the problem?”
The statement said the beauty of beginning the corruption process with the Presidency did not only lie in the level of control President Akufo-Addo had over the agencies reporting directly to him, “it also lies in the speed with which his actions can have impact.”
Special Prosecutor dilemma
The statement said although many people were of the view that the establishment of the “Special Prosecutor Office” could become a major antidote to the problem of corruption and waste in the country, more time might be needed to set the process in motion.
“It is evident, however, from all the legal debate that has ensued since the inauguration of the new President that new laws would be required to put the idea of the Special Prosecutor into practice. After such laws are passed, more time is required to recruit, staff, and resource the personnel in the new entity.
“Should even the new Prosecutors decide to use the fast-track courts in their pursuit of those who have embezzled or mismanaged public funds, due process and expensive lawyers can drag cases out for months. In short, it is unlikely that the Special Prosecutor shall bear any serious anti-corruption fruits for at least 18 months,” the statement indicated.
On top of these sobering facts, the statement said Ghanaians also would have to contend with the limitations of criminal prosecutions as a tool in fighting corruption.
“While criminal prosecutions are a great deterrence, they can only happen after the fact, and often the lost money is never recouped. The political costs of a failed prosecution can have a chilling effect on other prosecutions, especially in our situation where investigations are rarely thorough because of institutional defects,” it said.
Dealing with waste
Prescribing some of the measures to address the waste in the economy, the statement urged the new government, as it prepares to present the first budget to the nation, to do away with the budget of certain entities, saying “all the President has to do is to take a scalpel to the budget of a strangely named super-entity, christened the Office of Government Machinery (OGM), an amorphous receptacle hosting such agencies as the Office of the President, Office of the Head of Civil service, National Security, assorted commissions and a potpourri of ‘councils’ of all kinds, and start to trim and shape.”
The statement said the new government must take steps to rationalise the agencies placed within “this poorly coordinated structure and reduce the number of entities reporting directly to the President to the barest minimum.”
“Many of the mandates can be aligned with ministerial mandates and placed in tighter reporting systems within the ministries,” it added.
The statement also urged President Akufo-Addo’s administration to outline plans and strategies to reverse the practice of overspending and establish key indicators that the public could hold government agencies accountable.
“The new government must also implement an institutional audit to remove redundancies such as the Ghana AIDs Commission, whose role can fit cleanly within existing infectious disease programmes at the Ministry of Health,” the statement said.
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