President Akufo-Addo has reiterated his commitment to the fight against corruption which has eaten deep into the Ghanaian moral fabric, hinting that the office of the proposed Special Prosecutor will be operational in six months’ time to tame the canker.
The president said the setting up of the office has become necessary and urgent due to the fact that so much money belonging to the state has, and is finding its way into the pockets of private individuals and corrupt officials, singling out Customs officials.
He mentioned that over GH¢10 billion had been lost to graft at the country’s ports, depriving the state of the much-needed revenue for development. According to President Akufo-Addo, “The fight against corruption is about ourselves; it is not so big a theoretical thing in the air. They [corrupt officials] are degrading our capacity to control our own development, and to be able to do so with our heads high and not with our hands up, begging people to come and help us. We should not be in that position.”
He disclosed this when he met the Ghanaian community in London, UK, last Friday.
A very large crowd queued outside to have access to the Westminster Central Hall ahead of time for the meeting.
The atmosphere was charged inside with the arrival of President Akufo-Addo and his entourage who were met with choral music amidst dancing and jubilation.
It was the first time the president was meeting the Ghanaian community since he assumed office in January 2017. The president said the office of the Special Prosecutor would have the mandate to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption in the public sector.
He explained that the decision was arrived at because according to public opinion in Ghana the people seem to have no confidence in the Attorney General – being a political officer – to be able to manage such investigations and prosecutions.
He gave the assurance that the current sitting of parliament would consider the law to this effect being passed and then compilation of corruption issues would start.
President Akufo-Addo observed that the reason why this has become so important to the nation is that Ghana has to survive beyond foreign aid. Much as he appreciated the contributions and the support of donor countries across the world in helping the country and its development, President Akufo-Addo indicated, “We are not looking gift horses in the mouth, but we should be capable of financing our own development so that whatever anybody else wants to come and give is like a bonus, the icing on the cake.”
To this end, he has assured Ghanaians that “to the extent that God gives me health and strength, I am going to do my best to make sure that the fight against corruption is won.”
Describing Ghana as a country of considerable resources, with 27 million hardworking people, President Akufo-Addo noted, “If we handle the resources of our country honestly and intelligently, there is no limit to where we can go.”
For him, the reason why the fight against corruption is such an important matter for his government and the people of Ghana is because of the high targets and programmes his government has set.
“We want to put Ghana in the situation ‘beyond aid.’ We want to be able to mobilize Ghana’s own resources to handle the problems of its development. We are not a poor country in Ghana. We are a country of considerable resources, with 27 million people, hardworking people in the land which is blessed with a lot that nature has given us,” he explained.
He revealed that donor support for the budgets of the Ministries of Education, Health and Gender, Children and Social Protection in the year 2016 alone was equal to the revenue allegedly diverted by some 19 Customs officials, who were arrested recently.
Some three weeks ago, the security agencies clamped down on the activities and operations of a 19-member syndicate at the Tema Harbour, comprising Customs officials and representatives of three clearing and freight forwarding agencies who were allegedly responsible for the loss of some GH¢1.2 billion in revenue to the state.
Referring to figures from the Ministry of Finance, President Akufo-Addo stated that the budget for the Ministry of Health in 2016 amounted to some GH¢2.9 billion.
Out of this amount, GH¢743 million, representing 26% of the Ministry’s budget, was financed by overseas donors.
Again, the president noted that the Ministry of Education’s budget for 2016, amounting to GH¢5.9 billion, saw a contribution of GH¢323 million by overseas donors; whereas the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, which budget for 2016 was GH¢463 million, received donor support of GH¢70 million.
“So in three ministries of our social sector – health, education and gender – out of a total budget of GH¢9.2 billion, GH¢1.2 billion is overseas aid or donor support. And yet, one group of alleged racketeers at Tema can deny us revenue of GH¢1.2 billion,” he noted with deep-seated concern.
With a handful of Customs officials and representatives of clearing agencies allegedly responsible for this level of loss, he imagined the leakages and the seepages that exist in the country’s revenue collection system. For him, these statistics “tell you how important the fight against corruption is.”
Nana Addo continued, “If it is indeed true that the leakages (from the ports) can be anything between GH¢7 billion and GH¢10 billion, then you can appreciate the magnitude of where we are. Those pocketing these sums of money, and denying these monies to our exchequer are essentially denying our capacity to develop.”