Despite the negative impact corruption has on the economy and the huge toll it takes on our finances, only 4 paragraphs out of 1038 are devoted to it in the entire 230 page budget document. Even these 4 paragraphs can be summed up in 3 words-‘TALK IS CHEAP’.
We can only succeed in the fight against corruption when we move from empty rhetoric to action.
Public procurement is acknowledged worldwide as the single largest avenue through which corruption takes place and we wisely passed a Public Procurement Law to regulate it, improve transparency and minimise corruption. The procurement Authority is required by this law to publish a monthly procurement bulletin to inform the whole world of pending and intended tenders as part of its transparency initiatives. It has never done so.
Section 13 of the law also enjoins the Authority to submit annual reports to Parliament through the Minster for Finance to enable the representatives of the people to exercise its oversight responsibility and ensure proper compliance with the law and value for money. Despite repeated reminders, it has never done so and the Minister has also been complicit with this persistent disregard for the law.
Sole sourcing which is only to be used in exceptional circumstances under specified conditions, has now become the norm in our public procurement as we are told that almost 80% of all contracts are single sourced! Without proper Parliamentary scrutiny of public procurement, corruption is racing unchecked aided by the Minister.
This issue was not addressed in the budget and that loophole has still not been plugged.
The budget is silent on concrete measures being taken to punish public officials who facilitate the ‘create, loot and share’ agenda of this government. We have actually had a former Deputy Attorney General claim publicly that we have ‘no case’ when it was glaringly obvious that we had an excellent case against Woyome and Waterville.
The Supreme Court in a recent decision, has vindicated those of us who held this view and we applaud Mr. Martin Amidu, former Attorney General, for his tenacity in pursuing these cases even in the face of relentless public vilification and attacks from the government sanctioned ‘rented press’. The list of case in which the public purse was openly looted with the active connivance of public officials is very long – Subah, Isofoton, GYEEDA, Woyome, Waterville, Maputo, Merchant Bank and now Vickileaks! There may be more. This loophole is also gaping open!
Mr Speaker, while the budget mentions CHRAJ, its prescription, will not solve the problem. Throwing more money at CHRAJ without the political will to fight corruption will be akin to throwing good money after bad! The Deputy Director of CHRAJ, after the meeting Anti-Corruption agencies had with the President, recently stated that they will review their investigation into SADA in line with the President’s directives. What this presupposes is that they had earlier whitewashed SADA!!! Which directives were they operating under previously, and will they change their modus operandi to conform with subsequent presidential directives?
No mention is made in the budget of the Attorney General’s Office and actions to be taken to strengthen their ability to defend the interest of the state in actions before the courts and in negotiations. Countless judges have reprimanded State Attorneys for their poor handling of cases in court, readiness to settle even when the state had a good case, poor negotiations leading to loss of huge amounts of the poor tax payers money.
No initiative has been mentioned to prevent the abuses which led to the wife of a Chief State Attorney being paid Ghc 400,000 by Woyome who had a matter pending before the Office of the Attorney General. This State Attorney is still at post! This loophole is left uncovered in the budget!
Mr Speaker, anaemic action is being taken to recover monies due to the state from people adjudged to have been wrongfully paid judgement and settlement debts. We are now being told that EOCO and CHRAJ are now conducting investigations into cases such as the SADA akonfem and GYEEDA. When will we get the Waterville and Isofoton money? These amount to millions of Ghana cedis and the cases have been pending since 2010!!! Contrast this lax attitude with the alacrity and speed with which the bodyguard of a Deputy Minister was arrested, tried and jailed for 20 years for stealing 800GHc, all in ONE day!
The budget spouts more rhetoric about Value for money and the simple question I ask Mr Speaker, is what is the government going to do about the Merchant Bank sale to Fortiz? Are we getting value for money there??
Never in our history have so few taken so much money by thievery in such a short time with so little being done to stop the rot! It is time to end it by taking concrete against corruption. Talk is cheap indeed.
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