President Dramani Mahama: Speech on Anti-Corruption Day

Dec 10, 2015

President John Dramani Mahama

Mr. Chairman,

The Ag. Commissioner of CHRAJ,

Development Partners,

Ministers of State,

Members of Parliament,

Invited Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen of the press,

It is a pleasure for me to join you for this Second High Level Conference on the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) being organized as part of activities to commemorate International Anti-Corruption Day.

I would like to wish all of you a warm welcome to the conference.

It has always been a pleasure for me, to have an opportunity like this to reflect on the implementation of our national strategy and the plan that we adopted to combat corruption, and which I am proud to have been involved in since I was Vice President.

I note that we are here today to also celebrate the day on which the international community adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as a global instrument to fight corruption.

Obviously, the significance of the Conference which is under the theme “NACAP: Ghana United against Corruption,” cannot be lost on us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The canker of corruption and its negative impact on development is well known. You would agree with me that corruption continues to pose a big threat to every society, in both developed and developing nations.

Though it has spared no country, the effects of corruption are more felt in developing and poor countries as it exacerbates poverty, thwarts development, undermines the very principles of democracy and good governance, which form the bedrock of modern societies.

I have, on several occasions, pointed out that corruption is like a disease that can kill any nation.

It is the number one enemy to the progress and development of our country, and one of the biggest threats to our peace and security.  It is, therefore, incumbent on all of us to galvanise our efforts in order to eradicate corruption in the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We decided in 2009 that a ten-year action plan that addresses corruption in a more strategic and sustainable manner is the right way to go and that the plan should be integrated into national development planning.

That is partly why the nation was united, through our representatives in Parliament, in adopting the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) last year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Exactly a year ago, following the adoption of NACAP, I inaugurated the High Level Implementation Committee, as one of the structures to facilitate implementation of the plan.

The Committee provides strategic policy direction and advice to implementing agencies and bodies, and assists CHRAJ and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) in the monitoring and coordination of the implementation of NACAP.

The Chief of Staff chairs the Committee, which consists of representatives from key state institutions, the private Sector and civil society organisations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I say every individual has a role to play, I do not exclude my office or myself. The Office of the President has its responsibilities too under NACAP and my office takes its responsibilities in that regard very seriously. Every effort is being made to discharge that responsibility.

Apart from putting in place the Committee as I already mentioned, I issued directives in March this year to Ministers and Heads of Public Sector Institutions to implement NACAP in particular, as well as take other measures to prevent corruption in their institutions and report on them to CHRAJ with copies to my Office.

In the said directive, I indicated clearly that the implementation of NACAP would be a criterion for assessing the performance of Ministries, Heads and Chief Executive Officers of public sector institutions.

In addition to the usual channels of communication, the Directives have also been widely distributed in hard copy both by the CHRAJ and my office during the course of workshops, seminars and other engagements on the NACAP in at least eight (8) of the ten (10) regions of Ghana.

The “progress report” presented by the Ag. Commissioner reveals that significant progress has been made in the first year of the implementation of NACAP despite teething challenges.

But the report also reveals, that out of 43 institutions initially expected to report on the implementation of their roles under NACAP, only 19 actually reported. Those institutions must comply or called to answer immediately for their failure to do so.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Government is determined to play its role under NACAP and will not hesitate to deal with any head of institution who does not comply with the directives on the implementation of NACAP.

I therefore request CHRAJ to provide my office with the list of those institutions that failed to report for appropriate sanctions to be applied on the heads of those institutions. I expect heads and CEOs of state institutions to comply with directives they receive. If any head will not do so, the she/he is in the wrong place.

My Office collaborated with the CHRAJ to introduce and sensitise strategic groups in the country on NACAP. This has happened in at least eight (8) regions reaching out to over 600 heads of department, MMCEs, REGSEC and Coordinating Directors, as well as the media and CSOs in those regions.

I am reliably informed that the collaboration was fruitful and it is my expectation that the CHRAJ would continue this collaboration with my office in the coming year and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The country is doing its best to combat money laundering and Terrorist financing after establishing the required legislative framework.

Three (3) successful convictions involving money laundering have so far been recorded following continuous analysis of intelligence of over 200 Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) as of August 2015.

The country is also preparing for the 2nd Round Mutual Evaluation of the Republic of Ghana.

Government has been concerned about the lack of an Office to manage assets recovered from corruption and other criminal activities in the country and has been exploring ways to set up an office for that purpose.

With regards to the National Service Scheme (NSS) investigations, the BNI and the Attorney General are almost concluding investigations into allegations of corruption (padding of salaries or “ghost names”) and prosecutions are ongoing.

As of now some 33 officials including the former Executive Director and his Deputy have been arraigned before Court while about 130 others are yet to be prosecuted.

One hundred and sixty-three (163) personnel of the Scheme have been dismissed and over 18.5million cedis has, so far, been recovered to the state. (Exact figure = GHC18, 589,734.74)

In terms of GYEEDA, a number of persons, including the former CEO, are being prosecuted. Investigations of other persons implicated in the GYEEDA matter have concluded and are pending prosecutions.

Other high profile corruption cases, or cases of causing financial losses ongoing are The Republic vrs Alfred Agbesi Woyome, The Republic vrs Ben Atsu Elleblu, Robert Azumah, and Christopher Elleblu, The Republic vrs Joseph Osborne Djeni and 1 other.

Other dockets being finalized for prosecution by the AG’s Dept include The Republic vrs Ken Kwaku Boadi Asare, The Republic vrs William Akuffo and 1 other, and another GYEEDA case for stealing in the alleged oil and gas training module The Republic vrs Akpeena Assibit, Dr. Shaibu Gariba and 1 other.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Still on GYEEDA, with regards to loans illegally granted to some service providers, the state has been able to recover an amount of GHC 20,449,368.44 in relation to the various modules from Asongtaba Cottage Industries, RLG Communications and Craft PRO Ltd.

I have asked the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Attorney General to ensure that they are able to recover the outstanding balance of about GHC 40.5 Million from the said companies by close of the year.

We also continued to take measures to strengthen systems at the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), which has replaced GYEEDA.

Following the passage of the Youth Employment Agency Act, 2015 (Act 887), I appointed the CEO of the Agency and measures have been taken to ensure probity, transparency and accountability in the administration of the Agency, including the inauguration of a Board, an Entity Tender Committee and an Audit Report Implementation Committee (ARIC).

Stakeholder consultations on the development of relevant programmes under the Agency are ongoing. Furthermore, a Legislative Instrument is being worked on, and I have no doubt that these measures will strengthen the systems and procedures in the Agency to avoid a recurrence of the challenges its predecessor encountered.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I share the sentiments and, sometimes, the impatience of the public concerning the pace at which some of the investigations are proceeding, but our commitment to constitutional governance and the rights of persons, enjoin us to be patient with the judicial processes.

I can assure you that my government would investigate, expose and deal with all allegations of corruption that are brought to attention.

When it comes to SADA, the new Board and Chief Executive Officer have comprehensively addressed concerns raised in the 2013 audit report regarding imprudent use of resources.

The financial accounts of SADA from 2012 to date have been audited, and the 2014 accounts will be published as part of SADA’s annual report.

A comprehensive report on the audit, including recommendations to address financial malpractices, is ready and will be published in due course. An Audit Review and Implementation Committee (ARIC) has also been established.

In addition, a comprehensive institutional assessment of SADA has been conducted by an external independent body and steps to strengthen the institution’s performance and accountability have been duly outlined.

I wish to note that relevant officers of SADA have declared their assets in accordance with the Public Officers Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550). Above all, extensive information about SADA, including its plans, programmes and partnerships, is currently available on the Authority's website.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you would recall, the ace investigative Journalist (Anas) presented my office with allegations of corruption involving some judicial and other officers of the Judicial Service. You are also aware that the relevant processes have begun in order to bring the sanction those found culpable.

I want to turn my focus this morning a bit to the critical issue of integrity – especially integrity in public office. There is the need therefore for us to combine law enforcement with an approach that also emphasises on building national integrity as a very important component of NACAP.

The Anas’ exposé reinforces this need and I commend CHRAJ and other institutions for taking measures to institute a National Integrity Programme.

In connection with this, I take note of the role assigned to the Office of President to institute a national integrity awards programme to motivate honest people in the country. I am determined to have the said (integrity) programme established within the time frame prescribed by the NACAP.

The criteria to be developed for this important programme will be transparent and participatory. I urge you all to take interest in it and at the appropriate time, submit proposals to assist us institute the scheme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are working tirelessly to build the capacity of the public to report corruption without fear of victimization. Here again, the Anas’ expose and the debate around it suggests that though there is a favourable and enabling environment for investigative journalism to thrive, robust measures to further strengthen mechanisms for safe reporting of corruption and crime are needed.

Let me take this opportunity to inform you that 10 persons have been convicted in relation to the Anas’ expose on smuggling of cocoa, whilst two were acquitted by the court.

The Attorney General and other relevant stakeholders are working together to bring the Witness Protection Bill to Parliament soon for consideration.

I also urge Parliament to expedite work on the Conduct of Public Officers Bill which is currently in Parliament and also the Right of Information Bill which is also still in Parliament.

Indeed I think the Right of Information by the time it is passed, it will go down in history of this country as the longest Bill ever in legislation.

The Whistleblower (Amendment) Bill, which is already before Parliament, is expected to be passed soon. At the same time, anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies have begun discussions on how to coordinate their activities in a manner that facilitates effective investigations and prosecution of corruption and crime.

And as I indicated already, no person is above the law and every person found liable for corruption shall be pursued and brought to book. I encourage anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies to continue to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour.

The Sole-Commissioner on Judgment Debts concluded his work and presented his report to me. Since then a White Paper drafted by the AG has been published for implementation.

The Sole Commissioner’s report reveals the weaknesses in our systems and also shows how some person in collusion with public officers deliberately fleeced government of hundreds of billions of Ghana Cedis and in some cases US Dollars.

Even before the presentation of the report, the AG upon my directive commenced robust defence of all cases of judgment of all cases of judgment debts. This action has paid off with massive savings recorded.

In international cases, this year alone, as much as $900 million in claims against the state were successfully and effectively defended. In domestic cases, this year alone for 2015, claims of over $100 million were successfully resisted by the Attorney General’s Department.

Our greatest success in the fight against corruption must be based on preventing it. We must speed up the use of technology to remove much of human discretion in our public service transactions.

I commend the roll out of GHIFMISS and encourage the Ministry of Finance to speed up the deployment of the system. This will bring more transparency into public financial management. We must also move from a cash based society into a cashless one. I intend to outline some new measures to this effect in the State of the Nation Address next February.

There is a political risk any government runs in facing up to corruption and fighting it. And in the past even though we have all been aware of the existence of corruption in many facets of our public services, some past governments have been unwilling to take the risk of exposing and prosecuting corruption.

Prosecutions that have occurred have mostly been of political opponents after having lost power.

There is a risk of a heightened perception of corruption by the public that may seek to imply that corruption has increased, rather than that hidden corruption is being exposed and sanctioned. This is a risk my government will accept and a challenge we are willing to confront.

I wish to strongly restate the political will of my government in working with our internal and international partners in the fight against corruption.

Mr. Chairman,

I am encouraged that despite the challenges we encountered during the year, the CHRAJ was able to make significant progress in coordinating the implementation of NACAP. I commend the Commission for the hard work done. My office will continue to provide support to the implementation of NACAP.

May I take this opportunity to appeal to our development partners to continue to support CHRAJ. I join the Ag. Commissioner of CHRAJ in expressing my appreciation to the UNDP for the support it provided CHRAJ for the implementation of NACAP in this difficult year. I also commend the European Union (EU) for its planned support to CHRAJ and other institutions.

While appealing to our development partners, I urge them to respect our national systems and work to build the capacity of our national institutions, and not to undermine them.

I take note of the various attempts to measure the extent of corruption in Ghana and I commend the public for the keen interest they have shown in the findings of those measurements.

However, I would like to appeal to Ghanaians to discuss corruption impartially and devoid of partisan political considerations if we indeed want to succeed as a country in fighting corruption and crime.

Just last week, Transparency International (TI) released a report on Corruption, which it partnered with the Afrobarometer to conduct in some 28 African countries.

This report, the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB), is not the more famous “Corruption Perception Index" published regularly by TI. The objective of the GCB was to seek the views of citizens on how corruption has changed in their country over the past 12 months.

This report was not an index and did not seek to rank countries in order of perception of corruption as the CPI does.

The simple and straightforward question of the survey was: How has the level of corruption in this country changed over the past year - increased, decreased or stayed the same? – suddenly in our highly charged partisan political environment this survey was wrongly interpreted as placing Ghana as the second most corrupt country in Africa.

This is absolutely false, and for emphasis I say this is absolutely false. Despite all attempts by the institutions that sponsored the report to correct this wrong impression, leading political figures have continued to spread this false impression.

What can be the motivation for a section of our population to be so obsessed with trying to claim such an undignified title for ourselves at the expense of our nations international image. I leave the matter to the conscience of such persons.

Sad to say many other media networks - including our own respected national daily, the Daily Graphic – also ran along with this falsehood and got the entire country engaged in a conversation that should never have taken place.

Not only did the conversation end up misleading the Ghanaian public; it indeed also gave our country an undeserved negative image among the comity of nations and the international community as a whole.

Infact, it was to avoid this kind of misinterpretation of the results that the survey methodology itself stressed the fact that the results for each country “are based on the subjective perceptions and experiences of citizens rather than an assessment against a common objective benchmark.

I have referred extensively to this survey in order to draw attention to the fact that, it is only when we, as a people, decide to discuss the subject of corruption without our usual political biases and deliberate distortion of the facts, that we can begin to make progress in tackling it.

And for this, the media must recognize its critical role in facilitating dialogue on the subject, rather than engaging in the deliberate distortion of facts that then ends up confusing the public.

I therefore take this opportunity to, once again, call on our friends in the media to partner government in our effort to address this canker that has the potential to eat deep into the social fabric of our country and destroy the foundations of our democracy.

The media must make every effort to uphold the fundamental journalistic principles of truth, accuracy, objectivity and fairness in their reportage even as we encourage them to seek and report on corruption and other criminal acts.

For, it is only when we all play our roles responsibly that we can indeed aspire to collectively and sustainably fight corruption.

As a government, I assure you that we shall continue to play our role as we have done in the year 2015 with the concrete steps taken to implement NACAP.

Under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), every state party is required "to develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability."

Ghana is conscious of its obligations under international law and has been playing this role to the best of our ability so far. Ghana's compliance with UNCAC was reviewed and the Executive Summary is available on the UNODC website.

Government is working to deal with the UNCAC Review recommendations, many of which are being addressed through the implementation of NACAP.

Other recommendations would be resolved when implementation of the recommendations of the Constitution Review Committee takes shape.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have received a report on the status of implementation of NACAP. We have also listened to the Ag. Commissioner present the challenges encountered in the implementation process and the way forward. I am convinced that the discussions that we have had since this morning have been useful.

I am grateful for the opportunity offered me to be part of this Conference.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance.

I THANK YOU.

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