The Member of Parliament  (MP)  for Ho West, Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, has urged the Parliamentary Committee set up to probe the COVID-19 expenditure to expedite action on its investigations.

The report of the Committee, he said, will give some confidence to the Ghanaian populace on accountability by the government.

He warned that Ghanaians may completely lose trust in the political class because of how corruption has become endemic and systemic in the country’s politics.

Hon. Kwasi Bedzrah made the call in a statement he read on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, to commemorate African Anti-Corruption Day.

He stated the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Ghana created a condition in which corruption flourished with government officials using the cliche ‘we are not in normal times as an excuse to circumvent procurement irregularities

This, he said, heightened the corruption risk associated with the government’s response to fighting the pandemic.

Mr. Bedzrah lamented the culture of Ghanaian society has also made almost every citizen more prone to corrupt activities.

According to him, the basic factors that, however, engender corruption in Ghana include inequality in the distribution of wealth, using official public office and political office to have access to wealth, weak enforcement of the laws and absence of a strong sense of nationalism.

HON EMMANUEL KWESI BEDZRAH

He disclosed that Ghana loses more than 30% of its GDP to corruption every year and that between 2015 and 2020, the country lost a total of GH¢13 billion in financial irregularities covering poor procurement, tax, rent and contract irregularities.

He stressed that Ghana ranking 73 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is clear indication corruption is basic in Ghana.

“This statistic is a worrying trend of how corruption has become common in Ghana’s politics and if urgent measures are not instituted to address it, the populace will lose trust in us the politicians,” he said.

Full Statement

STATEMENT BY HON. EMMANUEL KWASI BEDZRAH, MP FOR HO WEST AND CHAIRMAN OF APNAC-GHANA CHAPTER TO COMMEMORATE “AFRICAN ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY”

THEME:“STRATEGIES AND MECHANISMS FOR THE TRANSPARENT MANAGEMENT OF COVID-19 FUNDS”

Rt. Hon. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make this statement on the occasion of the celebration of this year’s “African Anti-Corruption Day” which falls on Monday, 11th July.  July 11 of every year is an important day set aside to reflect on the impact of corruption on Africa’s development, analyse strategies put in place by nations to deal with the menace, and mobilise public support towards the fight against corruption. The day also provides an opportunity for Africa’s anti-corruption fighters to share good lessons and practices from their countries.

Mr. Speaker, it is an undeniable fact that corruption, especially high level and grand corruption, has been a significant barrier to democratic governance and sustainable development across Africa. It is because of these threats that the African Union adopted the African Convention on Prevention and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC) in Maputo, Mozambique in 2016 and has since declared July 11 of every year to create awareness on the devastating effects of corruption across the African continent.

Mr. Speaker, the theme for this year’s “African Anti-corruption Day” is “Strategies and Mechanisms for the Transparent Management of COVID-19 Funds”. It is important to state that this year’s theme is timely and relevant because, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a series of corruption allegations on how some African Governments had used the funds received on behalf of their citizens to manage the pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, the pervasiveness of corruption and its negative ramifications are widely witnessed in most developing countries. The existence of porous and weak institutions have provided a firm undergird for corruption to thrive in these developing countries.

Mr. Speaker, it is an irrefutable fact that the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has brought to the fore, corruption challenges across countries in the world and in particular, Africa. It is significant to state that corruption related to COVID-19 has been reported in a number of African countries. For instance, in Cameroon, a 2021 audit revealed the misuse of about US$333 million meant for the pandemic response in 2020. In South Africa, there were issues of irregular contracts to the tune of US$10 million. In Malawi, the government revealed that some of its officials colluded with the private sector to misappropriate US$1.3 million of COVID-19 funds. The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority allegedly pilfered about US$400 million meant to buy medical equipment.

Also, Mr. Speaker, in the case of Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health allegedly bought 1,808 face masks for US$96,000. A similar situation was reported in Uganda, where four top officials were arrested for allegedly overpricing COVID-19 food relief items leading to a loss of US$528,000.

Mr. Speaker, as reported by the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, the continent loses more than US$50 billion annually through illicit financial outflows. It is significant to state that for decades now, Africa has been continuously losing valuable assets through illicit outflows of not only her natural resources, but also treasured artifacts of African societies, and various proceeds of crime. These outflows directly impact the quality of life on the continent.

Mr. Speaker, it is sad to note from the Report of the Ghana Integrity Initiative that Ghana loses close to about US$3 billion to corruption annually. A report by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and SEND-Ghana also indicates that the country loses more than 30% of its GDP to corruption every year. In addition, a report by Imani Ghana and Oxfam[1] revealed that, between 2015 to 2020, Ghana lost a total of GHS13.9 billion in financial irregularities covering stores/procurement, cash, tax, payroll, rent, and contract irregularities. Ghana ranked 73 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)[2]. This is a clear indication that corruption is pervasive in Ghana.

Mr. Speaker, the above statistics is a worrying trend of how corruption is becoming endemic and systemic, in Ghanaian politics, and I must emphasise that if care is not taken, Ghanaians will completely lose trust in us as politicians. 

Mr. Speaker, a COVID-19 Corruption Risk Assessment Report dubbed, “Strengthening COVID-19 Accountability Mechanism (SCAM)” by the Community Development Alliance (CDA) Ghana, with support from the Commonwealth Foundation, has revealed that the outbreak of the coronavirus in Ghana has created conditions in which corruption could flourish. The Report indicated that the common cliché “We are not in normal times” by government officials served as an excuse to circumvent procurement regulations which heightened the corruption risk associated with government’s response to fighting the pandemic[3]. I therefore urge the Committee put in place by Mr. Speaker to expedite action on its inquiry into COVID-19 related expenditures. The Report will give some confidence to the citizenry on accountability by officialdom.

Mr. Speaker, factors accounting for the reasons why corruption is still an attractive enterprise in most developing countries, including Ghana, have often been explained on various platforms across the continent. The causes of corruption are myriad, and they have political and cultural variables. It is sad to state that the culture of the Ghanaian society has made almost every citizen more prone to corrupt activities. However, the basic factors that engender corrupt practices in Ghana include inequality in the distribution of wealth; using political office as access to wealth; weak enforcement of the laws; and the absence of a strong sense of nationalism.

The Holy Bible referred to corruption as a great sin.  For instance, Exodus 23:8 states that “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twist the words of the innocent.” Thus, when people receive bribes, they become blindfolded and do not care about how the contracts are executed.

Mr. Speaker, since the return of Ghana to constitutional rule in 1993, several efforts have been made to curb the phenomenon of corruption in the country. There is also an unwavering national commitment to fighting corruption and ensuring transparency and accountability in governance. As we may all be aware, this commitment resulted in the creation of statutory outfits such as the Office of the Attorney-General, Auditor-General, Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and more recently, the Office of the Special Prosecutor among others.

Mr. Speaker, it is ironical that in spite of the establishment of all these offices and laws we have put in place to deal with the menace of corruption, the practice continues to be a good enterprise for some Ghanaians. As we observe the “African Anti-Corruption Day”, I would like to propose the following recommendations for consideration of the House:

section 124 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) must be amended to make corruption a first degree felony, instead of its present form as second degree felony;

persons found culpable in the Auditor-General’s Report should be dealt with according to the law;

the Asset Declaration procedure must be amended for public disclosure of assets by Government appointees, parliamentarians and persons considered as political risks including all public servants in key positions; and

finally, Government must have the political will to fight corruption.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you once again for the opportunity.


Source: expressnewsghana.com

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