By Maxwell Nkansah
Ghanaian educationist, writer, and economist Professor Stephen Adei has said corruption is pervasive in emerging and transition nations—not because their people are different from people elsewhere, but because conditions such as the nature of the law and leadership are ripe for it. In Ghana, the country loses over the US $4 billion annually to corruption, an outcome of a failure on the part of leaders.
In an exclusive interview with the B&FT, Professor Adei pointed out that corruption persists, particularly in Ghana, since the legislation and leadership allow for it, which requires attention.
“The day we have a president who is willing to deal surgically with corruption—within a year, corruption will plummet to the point where you will wonder if you are in the same nation. That is why I am well-known globally for the statement that “leadership is a cause, and everything else is an effect”. It doesn’t mean that the leader himself may be all that corrupt, but he has all the tools to deal with corruption.
They have, however, almost all become slaves to their political party. When a president declares that he is unconcerned about his party and will eliminate corruption, he will become a hero in Ghana within two years. Therefore, corruption is a leadership issue, “he explained.”
He encouraged the use of practical approaches to close loopholes and limit the chances of corruption.
“We have to reduce the opportunities for corruption.” Let me give you an example. We implemented Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS) at the ports, and both the NDC and NPP, as well as others, were opposed to it. So, we introduced it in June 2020 – and from that day, we started getting an extra GH300 million a month.
The explanation for this is that the chances of corruption have considerably decreased. It is so painful and worrying that people would prefer to get GH10 billion for Ghana than lose GH100 billion. When I was young, I did some statistics, and it required 52 steps to clear a good in Tema Habour.
When I went to Namibia, it required only three steps; so when the leader is not corrupt but is prepared to deal with party cronies, then we can put in systems to block those loopholes,” he said.
Professor Adei feels that the laws against corruption should be modified since they are not helping the country cope with the problem in its current shape.
“The third alternative is that if you are found in an act of corruption, you should be prosecuted quickly and effectively.” A minor adjustment in the legislation is all that is required, but our parliamentarians do not want to amend the law because they are potentially corrupt.
“We are following the British system whereby you are not guilty unless proven, but in corruption, the giver and the receiver under our law are both criminals, so how can we catch them?” If you extort money from me, and I go and tell you, I am a criminal and you are a criminal. In Singapore, you have to prove the source of your wealth, but our people will not do it.
Why? “Because, consistently, the executives and parliamentarians are the most corrupt, followed by the police and the judiciary,” he said.