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Overview of the index of perception of corruption, 2007

This article considers corruption in Ghana.


Historical and cultural perspective of corruption in Ghana and the Gold Coast

The historical perspective of this work is to conclude whether or not the occurrence of past corruption issues have affected seriously the government’s role in levels of corruption around the country and whether or not there is enough conclusive evidence to say that Ghana has an inherent culture of political corruption. As described in an earlier passage, corruption is as old as humans can remember, so its incidence in Ghana must have appeared at the same time as the implementation of some type of state and government or even just some chiefdom was created on the land that is now Ghana. This may even have started by the gift of extra cattle to get through a border of an area controlled by someone else, or some extra beads to ensure one’s home from theft by the chief’s guardsmen. Many variant possibilities are plausible; nevertheless, these imagined examples are there to show that the first happenings of corruption in Ghana have no recordings. Apparently too, there are no recordings or reports of allegations or accusations of corruption in the Gold Coast before the start of the 20th century. The oldest reports that are existent are the series of reports by the principal auditors of governmental accounts for the Gold Coast. It has been impossible for researchers to inspect the recordings of these audits for the years preceding 1939. It is only after 1966 and Nkrumah’s fall is there considerable literature because of a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the National Liberation Council (NLC). This shows there is no evidence for possible corruption cases before World War II in the Gold Coast Colony. The evidence for a historical and thus possibly cultural background for corruption is therefore slightly hampered by the lack of information available, though it is still sufficient to make possible suggestions on how corruption became such a public issue for Ghana mainly since the fall of ex-president Kwame Nkrumah, and whether or not there is proof or evidence that political corruption dates back from an earlier period than the independence of Ghana.

There has to be an inquisition into the role and function of culture in society to understand the importance of it within everybody’s daily life. Culture is the background in which one is born; it could be the familial culture as well as the community’s culture, which may differ ostensibly. The end result of culture on one’s behaviour is the way of life one has, which is woven around certain values, aesthetics and intellectual principles that produce a unique point of view on the world. Culture has thus multiple dimensions: a mental image and a material end. It is thus a creation to keep social interactions working and it is worth noting that culture is thus functional, ‘it plays a major role in the individual’s psychological development. Indeed, there exists a functional relationship between the institutions of society and the intellectual make up of its members to the extent that each side affects the other in maintaining the status quo and bringing about historical process of change.’ In this case, it is to see whether the behaviour of past governments have affected the way the incumbent government acts when having to make statements or proceeds that are in relationship with corruption.


The colonial years

The reports of Commissions of Inquiry, which are the basis of this study’s inquiry into the existence of a cultural background of practises of corruption, were only highlights of the central governments responses to it, and are thus not totally complete and are circumstantial by nature. Three inquirers made the bulk of this work. One of them, Mr. Osei has to be credited with consistent good research; he was praised for his longevity, his tone and his careful manners since he was able to stay in his position long after the fall of Nkrumah in 1966. The overall trend that has been found in these reports from the years 1939 to 1956 is a general steady increase in corruption that coincided with the ‘Ghanaization’ of the civil service.

The findings for the years 1938 to 1943 show no notable cases that could imply fraud or mismanagement of entrusted power except for some cases of purloining government stores. In the 1943-1944 report, there were thirty one cases brought to light, with irregularities going from £ 3 to £ 6,500, the latter being the theft of payment vouchers in the Medical Department. Out of the thirty other cases, twenty were incurred by officials where it was ‘carrying strong implication that political corruption was involved.’ The 1944-1945 report talks of twenty six cases, where sixteen are cases of possible corruption. The 1945- 46 report has no precise number but describes a not inconsiderable number of fraudulent acts. The 1946-1947 report denotes thirty seven cases, of which twenty could be considered as possible corruption.

In the 1950-1951 report, there is a considerable leap in the number of cases, as they rise up to 152 cases, of which 88 are considered possible cases of corruption. The director of audit, Mr. Osei, describes the year’s situation on corruption as having a more frequent occurrence but having a similar nature, and points the finger to the Public Works Department’s cash and the deceitful cash removals from the Post Office Saving Bank. It has to be noted that by 1951 the Watson Commission Report had been published, and this document showed a deep belief that ‘a dereliction of responsibility “…to ignore the existence of bribery and corruption in many walks of life in the Gold Coast” and that the spread of corruption was predictable as “further responsibility devolved upon the African…”’ The Watson Report concluded, with a foreboding warning, that the system of trade had brought upon itself ‘great abuses and encouraged bribery and excessive charges.’

In the 1953-1954 report, 230 cases were reported, of which about 150 represented acts of corruption. An interesting detail is the fact that most irregularities were to be found in the Public Works, the Post Office, and the Health departments of the government. The latter two departments had already been cited and the other one is to become a major source of corruption allegations and outcries in the past couple of years. In the report of the 1954- 55 fiscal year, there were so many cases of fiscal irregularities that only cash losses over £ 10 and store losses over £ 25 were deemed valuable enough to be considered. The director of audit was once again sending a warning message through his reports indicating the steady and continuous rise of corruption cases and how the lack of sufficiently trained supervisors would pose a problem to the government. It is the reason why there has been a decrease in the number of cases, down to 130, of which 85 could be linked to corruption practises. This steady increase in instances of corruption has to be questioned as to why it has been happening. It has been suggested that it is because of the increase in state corporations and marketing boards.

In 1947, the Gold Coast Cocoa Marketing Board and in 1949, the Gold Coast Agricultural Products Marketing Board were created. These boards arose to give a large amount of opportunities to divert state money because of the extended nature of their bureaucracy, which only really gave corruption opportunities to lower level officials. The boards had to deal with petty traders, small farmer’s associations and many other forms of very small trade’s people. Some of them had built near monopolistic markets on certain commodities before the boards were set up; they were thus understandably unwilling to give up control of these markets. They were unable to compete with ‘state marketing cartels, [so] they resorted to manipulating the boards’ grass-roots activities.’ This shows that by the early 1950s, before Nkrumah’s regime was set up, widespread amounts of ill-natured trafficks involving large sums of money were taking place. The growth of corruption in the colony was clearly related to the increase in state activity: ‘The scope for corrupt patronage has expanded with the state itself.’

When the Convention People’s Party (CPP) came to power, they wanted to take control of at least one of these boards. Between 1952 and 1954, they obtained control of the Cocoa Purchasing Company, an auxiliary part of the Cocoa Marketing Board, one of the principal state agencies, and a major source of funding. One of the roles of this company was to give out loans for cocoa farmers, which meant they could effectively decide who was worthy enough to receive one. This usually included two criteria of major importance. These are the farmers’ loyalty to the party, which means the insurance of their vote and support whenever needed; and the farmers’ capacity to make bestowals to the CPP. This had three resulting effects: firstly, that the CPP had effectively taken over the Cocoa Marketing Board; secondly, that the former could now mount considerable pressures on farmers that were unwilling to submit to corrosive practises; and finally that they received access to a near unlimited source of funds. The corruptive nature of Nkrumah and his political party had already started encroaching itself on the whole nation.

The 1955- 56 report was the last one of the Gold Coast before its independence as Ghana. There were 156 cases that year, with more than half being corruption acts. The losses were starting to be of considerable nature, with a recorded £ 45,000 in losses, and that is not including undisclosed losses nor district or municipal council losses due to poor data collection. What is most interesting in this report is Osei’s finger pointing at the then Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah for overspending. He had exceeded the official budget by 200%, or threefold; showing already his natural capacity for weighty spending of the public money. A good explanation of in what state Ghana was at the turn of independence is that, ‘historical precedent and conditions, combined with the logic of contemporary bureaucratic expansion in the developing countries, have fostered the growth of extensive amounts of systemic corruption.’

The Kwame Nkrumah Years (1957- 1966)

At the time of independence, the 6th March 1957, Ghana was in a relatively prosperous financial situation; especially when compared with the monetary state of most sub-Saharan countries at the time of their independence. Ghana had a large foreign exchange balance, a good budgetary surplus, a relatively good economy and, moreover, a surfeit in tax revenues due to changes in the tax system.

In the Commission’s first report published after independence gives a chilling forewarning of the next years to come under Nkrumah’s rule: ‘The habit of liberality with Government funds, acquired during this period of buoyant revenue, is difficult to reverse whilst the formidable list of losses and frauds gives a disquieting commentary on standards of integrity.’ In the 1957- 58 report, some 202 cases are brought up to light, and over half of them could be attributed to corrupt dealings. These cases still amounted for total losses of approximately G£ 78,000. The 1960- 61 report starts showing that signs of extensive corruption practises were becoming the norm. Large scale defaults on loans and the failure of at least six governmental corporations are mentioned as being clear cases of corruption. The report also gives a foretaste of the 1966 Commission of Inquiry by listing the different ill-natured practises among the government’s officials: excessive mileage claims, disproportionate family allowances, unnecessary contract payments, over inflated building contract estimates, purchase of goods out of Ghana that would be cheaper in Ghana, excessive accommodation purchases, as well as many others. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pointed at for its financial debauchery, as is shown by the London High Commissioner for that year, claiming near £ 19,000 simply for taxi and car rental in only four months. The 158 extra cases, of which 87 seem to be corruption acts, with losses of G£ 107,559 are said to be insignificant compared to the rest of the listings. A G£ 210,230 fraudulent payment for an agricultural scheme seems barely noteworthy.

The 1961- 62 and 1962- 63 reports show a similar pattern of behaviour amongst Ghana state officials, but with an even darker portrayal; frauds and irregularities being the norm. The total losses for each of the financial years are of over G£ 600,000. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again drew astringent comments because ‘Corrupt practises and financial maladministration in state corporations and boards now begin to come to light in the audits.’ The state of affairs were such that even the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, supporters of the government, were starting to show great dismay in 1963- 64; nevertheless, powerful officials, such as the Minister for Information, always made sure that the Committee’s capacity to enquire was always somewhat limited. The president’s contingency fund was not investigated, as some other agencies that trained guerrillas as well as spread Nkrumahist thought were not either. These were simply too dangerous if not impossible to investigate. In some cases, corruption cases became public affairs and Nkrumah had to intervene personally, but this was not to combat corruption, it was to avoid a dangerous political situation for the government in place.

The Ghanaian finances were in a clearly crippled state by 1963, and it was widely accepted that the misappropriation of public money was the root cause for the near bankrupt situation of the country. There were two commissions created, one in 1964, the other the following year, to – officially – investigate into corruption allegations; but were in reality ‘two government attempts to find scapegoats for its own policy failures.’ Several commission reports, to be published in the later years of Nkrumah’s presidency, were censored, or at least the parts containing possibly embarrassing information about higher level officials were willingly left out of the public eye. The reports that were published could in reality only accuse low to middle level officials because they were not directly protected by the very highest levels of officials.

Overall, it is believed that ‘available evidence on Ghanaian political corruption up to 1966 is sketchy.’ In these documents, there is a lack of details of Nkrumah and his associates’ doings; however, the quantitative and qualitative data is sufficient enough to consider political corruption and personal enrichment with public money a usual practise amongst all levels of officials, be it from the president to the smallest state representative.

When Nkrumah was overthrown by the police and the military on February 24, 1966 in a CIA backed coup, some more revelations about his financial whereabouts were to be made. He had inherited one of the richest countries of Africa, with a large reserve of foreign money; but because of his financial dilapidating habits that he went on with for nine years, ‘Ghana was bankrupt, food and consumer goods were in short supply, and all government services had deteriorated beyond recognition.’ The NLC appointed a Commission of Inquiry within three weeks of its seizure of power to investigate into the former president’s assets. This was to be the first of more than forty commissions and other investigative bodies that were to scrutinize into public and private activities of Nkrumah during his presidency. There were two main reasons for the establishment of these inquisitive bodies, the first was to discredit Nkrumah’s regime as much as it was possible, and, secondly, resultantly legitimate their own seizure of power. The Ghanaians were not surprised that the findings were plentiful; it seems as if the only advance this commission made was to provide a profusion of details of corruption acts and its main final use was to confirm the rampant nature of corruption among Ghanaian state officials. Nkrumah seemed to be involved in a number of acts of corruption, and apparently, the assassination attempt in January 1964 may have ‘unhinged him somewhat.’ The former president did set up, during the pinnacle years of his regime, a special governmental agency to deal with the collection and the handling of bribes and other so-called gifts. Overall, it shows evidence that unmistakably proves that Nkrumah was personally involved in several corruption cases. One of the other many commissions came to prove that most, if not all of Nkrumah’s colleagues were too directly involved in corrupt transactions. It turned out that at least five governmental bodies, officially legitimate, were in fact agencies institutionalised specifically for political corruption. These bodies neither had dubious funding sources, no rational employment policies nor were economically viable; moreover, they were all under the direct or near direct hand of Nkrumah to control them. The pre-coup commission always found it hard to get evidence, but the post-coup ones found plentiful amounts of data to discredit Nkrumah. This was specifically true with the scandal of grants for import licenses. This one commission listed 52 different corruption transactions with a total value exceeding five million Ghanaian Pounds , showing the incredible extravagance of the government under that regime but not indicating any remedies as to how to combat this behaviour that was becoming nearly natural to officials now; this is only considered to be the tip of the iceberg in fraudulent affairs of the time.

Still, the commission overtly showed the mechanisms of it all, as it is done in this example: the Minister of Foreign Trade levied, if deemed needed, a commission on a transaction. The least connected one was to the government, and then to the party, the higher the commission percentage was on the transaction. The money was then dished out according to the number of people involved, to Nkrumah’s knowledge of the transactions and thus the need to put money into the party’s accounts. This shows a well run and organised mechanism oiled from top to bottom so as to satisfy all levels of officials and agents involved in affairs of political corruption.

The post-coup commissions came to find that political corruption was widespread among ‘other governmental and quasi-governmental agencies and corporations, in municipal and urban councils, and in the country’s three universities.’ This shows that absolutely all parts of the Ghanaian society were riddled with corruption as being the normal way of life. In the 1965- 66 report by Mr. Osei, a description of the most corruption-ridden state agency, namely the State Farms Corporation, root causes for such humongous deficits: ‘Political decisions […], deficits on the revaluation of assets, lack of labour control, unproductive projects undertaken, bulk purchases of unsuitable vehicles and plant and machinery, poor management, inadequate control over expenditure and inefficient accounting system were among the other factors which contributed to this colossal loss…’ The 1966 Commission of Inquiry seems to have to have accomplished what it set out to do, that is discredit Nkrumah’s regime; nevertheless it also seems quite clear that its task of finding old accounts of corruption have been completely inefficient in combating corruption in a country where not only the former party in government were involved in acts of corruption. It is believed, among scholars, that ‘The recommendations of these commissions were regarded as a post-mortem without any positive effects on corruption.’

The National Liberation Council and the Busia Years (1966- 1972)

The military rulers of the NLC wanted to legitimise their coup d’état by bringing to shame Nkrumah’s regime because of its state of hopelessness and by proving that there was no possible way to resolve corruption as long as the defunct government was still in power. This was done also in a way that implied that the new regime was fit to do so because it wanted to show that it was free from corruption itself. It has to be remarked that the military in Ghana did have a pretty clean past before the governmental overthrow, at least officially, except for the Awaithey corrupt dealings allegations in 1958, and some other rather insignificant instances of petty corruption. Once in power, the whole integrity of the army was shaken up when the then incumbent president of Ghana, Gen. Joseph Ankrah, was thrown into the midst of a scandal when it was revealed that he had ‘wittingly sanctioned a covert collection of moneys on behalf of his own possible candidature for the country’s presidency.’ There were no other major scandals that came up to public eye during the NLC’s stay in power.

The 1972 military coup also immediately demanded an inquiry into the past government’s financial whereabouts, quite certainly for the same reasons as the previous coup had implemented their own coup d’état. The three interim reports of the Anin Corruption Inquiry showed that corruption was still existent among the Busia governments, but that the level of its common nature had slightly decreased compared to the ones incurred when Nkrumah was in office. Busia himself was asked to testify before the Taylor Assets Committee and subsequently refused, which meant he came to be officially under presumption of illegal acquirements due to political corruption acts until proven otherwise. Many of these inquiries were about dubious cash deposits, gifts to friends and relatives, and overspending on property acquisition. All of these matters have become, over only a few decades in Ghana, the usual material ends one gets when he or she ends up in a position of power. The reports from 1967 to 1969 reveal that in reality nothing or, at maximum, very little had changed since the Nkrumah years. In the 1967- 68 report, 102, and in the 1968- 69 report, 90 out of 142 local government units did actually give reports on the state of their accounts, showing the already decrepit nature of the institutions in Ghana, supposed to be powerful vectors of the societal construct of the country. Over two years, out of the government units that did give reports, 65 percent showed losses, in total amounting for over $465,000; moreover, an estimated 90 percent of them were due to corruption acts made by officials, in total representing 15 to 25 percent of the budget of most government’s local units. For the 1967 to 1969 period, the total amount of losses for absolutely all public instances was of nearly $38,000,000; near five percent of the expenditures for the entire government body. These figures were not even included in the $161,000,000 two-year national budget deficit. This shows the huge scale to which political corruption had encroached itself on the Ghanaian society, and how it was becoming, or had already become a culture of itself. It is believed that it would be quite literally impossible to assess the entire costs of corruption because of its widespread nature.

Ghana, by 1972, was said to have a culture of political corruption: ‘It appears that the documentary evidence […] permits the conclusion that […] a case has been established for the existence of an incipient Ghanaian culture of political corruption.’ This embryonic culture grew because of the effects of rationalising corruptive behaviour, such as was done by Nkrumah and his specially appointed government body to deal with and handle bribes in a near official manner. In the same year, a work was published that discredited the functionality of the commissions into bribery and corruption; it firmly believed that ‘even when the motives for these official investigations of corruption are not suspect, they are seen as futile.’

In the popular elections of 1969, Busia’s Progress Party (PP) won, and in 1970 Justice P.D. Anin was named to head a five-man Commission of Inquiry into bribery and corruption, its goals were ‘to study the area, prevalence, and methods of bribery and corruption in Ghanaian society [and], […] whether there were factors in society which contributed to this.’ In many countries of the world, it would have been rare to see such inquiries even exist, which shows there was still, somewhere, some will to combat and eradicate corruption from society; nevertheless, Ghanaians were mainly surprised by the belief that it was deemed necessary to implement another such commission, quite surely because ‘Civic trust in the civil service, in particular, is compromised by evidence of administrative bias and opaque decision-making, as well as of personal or communal bias in nepotism, special deals and preferential access to public goods.’ As argued above, this was probably due to the NLC’s massive enquiries about Nkrumah; which were efficient in bringing to light many details of his practises, but were useless in changing for the better the quality and effectiveness of public service and administration.

The Anin commission was asked to find the causes, the effects and the cures to political corruption cases. The cures suggested were to have the same effect as placing a new mast on a very decayed ship, as shown in this following example. It is the case of a corrupt district magistrate (grade II); for three pages, it is described how two aging cocoa farmers had been forcefully asked to pay a ¢48 bribe to a magistrate who had tenuous links to Nkrumah. The reports recommendations were, first, to repay the aforementioned sum to the farmers, secondly that they ‘condemn the Magistrate for having indulged in bribery and corruption; and recommend that he should be dismissed from office forthwith.’ Thirdly, that the ‘transcript of evidence should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for any such criminal action he may wish to institute against him.’ The italicised word demonstrates the actual inefficiency and disruptive incapacity of at least this one commission. This case was merely worth writing pages about it; a simple case of repayment to the farmer would have surely satisfied his needs. Continuing the metaphorical example of the boat, the mast would be like to repair the evil that was done without teaching the ones involved in how to go along acting without acting with a corrupt behaviour. The simple lesson/story of giving a man a fish once will feed him that day, but teaching him how to fish will feed him for the rest of his life, could be taken as an interpretation as to how to educate the masses so as they do not tend to live on stealing the other’s funds. Admittedly, it could be understood in the opposite sense, as teach him to be corrupt and he will feed for the rest of his days; but still remains valid as an example of how to deal with corruptive behaviours.

It seems the fight against corruption has since then, and probably before, been taken with a cynical approach, because now the people involved in researching and thus combating corruption were also involved: ‘in Ghana, at least, statutes appear to have had relatively little effect thus far on corruption. One reason may be that in Ghana those charged with eliminating corruption were themselves tainted with it. Indeed, under such circumstances both investigations and remedial legislation tend to be ineffective and pointless, or to become elaborate exercises in hypocrisy.’ The people who were caught seemed unashamed by their actions and came back to plunder some more once freed and given the opportunity to do so.

The implementation of commissions, however much a deterging effect they had, were or might have been of complete uselessness, as the auditor’s report clearly denotes that between 1967 and 1997 the ‘persistence of such disquieting practises as award of contracts without recourse to tender procedures, payments unsupported by any contract agreement, expenditure in excess of agreed contract prices, and fraudulent substitutions of inflated quotations for prices originally quoted by contractors.’

The Acheampong Years (1972- 1978)

This period of Ghana’s history, as well as the ensuing decades will not described in full details since the question of whether or not there is a cultural background to the history of corruption in Ghana has already been answered; nevertheless it is still noteworthy to describe the major events involving corruption in the thirty-odd years following the destitution of Busia’s government. This will be of useful nature for the continuing understanding of the importance of corruption in the Ghanaian society as well as its dimension in the decisions of the different governments over the period of time that has gone by since independence.

The 13th January 1972, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong took over power in a bloodless coup, to become chairman of the National Redemption Council (NRC) and sixth president of Ghana. It is believed that the ‘overall economic performance of the second military regime under General Acheampong (1972- 78) was disappointing.’ In the midst of the oil price rise in 1973, the Acheampong government decided it would be better for the country’s economy not to devalue the Cedi but to print more bills of the currency and to reinstate extensive import licences, which consequently emboldened black market habits.

During his time as head of state, Acheampong developed, as being the backbone of his economic program, two major agricultural development plans that were only able to produce a heightening of tensions in social inequalities since it solely advantaged and beneficiated the larger scale farmers; moreover, the cocoa production’s output, the country’s main export, diminished in the years of his rule.
The first three years of the Acheampong regime seem to not have known too many cases of rampant corruption; it is more in the last three years of his rule that the mark of mass corruption was clearly observable. It is especially true when given the chance to look at the proportion of embezzlement there was going on in the cocoa production revenues, to a level that had never seen or approached ever before. Indeed, it was an era when all could be involved in corruption dealings without too much fear about their consequences on one’s life; it was ‘the era when the basis for giving out government contracts was at its most blatantly corrupt.’ Overall, the general consensus on the General’s ability to govern Ghana is that, ‘In the post-1975 period the regime was characterised by corruption, gross mismanagement and political ineptness.’

The Akuffo and Limann Years and Rawlings’ 1st Coup (1978- 1981)

In July 1978, General Acheampong was ousted by a coup d’état led by Lieutenant-General Fred Akuffo. While it did well for the sake of democracy by authorising the formation of political parties, it also allowed Acheampong and his cooperates to go away from the government without being pursued for the evils they had done to the Ghanaian society by letting corruption grow to such proportions. In particular, a number of obviously culpable individuals were able to leave the country and retain funds which they had expropriated illegally, notably to the UK, where to this day some continue to enjoy the fruits. This brought discontent and unrest amongst the military.

Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings was liberated from prison, with a major hand from the military ranks, in June 1979. Within days, he built up a coup d’état with his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and started his ‘house cleaning’ exercise because ‘judicial actions insist[ed] on the need for death and jail sentences.’ This cleaning, in part decided by the ‘kangaroo’ AFRC Special Courts, resulted in the execution of three former military head of states – namely Generals Afrifa, Acheampong and Akuffo – and of five senior military officers, as well as prison sentences for officials and businessmen accused of corruption and graft. Rawlings believed that it was corruption that was the reason Ghana was in such a bad state of affairs, economically and politically speaking; and thus was the justification for the army mutiny of June 4.

The junta had two objectives, one was to get rid of corruption with its house cleaning exercise and secondly, to hand over power to a popularly elected government. The former objective was never attained, and the latter one was done quickly and correctly to the hands of Hilla Limann’s People’s National Party (PNP). The AFRC, maybe naïvely, believed the PNP would keep on with its ‘house cleaning’ exercise and make sure corruption would have a hard time resurfacing to such levels. This was never to happen because the PNP itself was riddled with corruption from the inside. Limann might have tried to revitalise the economy but clearly failed in tackling corruption. In the time of Limann’s stay as the head of state – that is two years – ‘parliamentarians, ministers, civil servants, and opportunistic Ghanaians worked hard in plundering local, district, regional, and national treasuries.’ The major scandal of his presidency happened in the first week of December 1981; the chairman of the party in rule, Okutwer Bekoe, was involved in corruption and bribery allegations implicating the reception of riches from South Africa.

Overall, corruption reached a level at which it had become impossible for the government in place to revive the then motionless Ghanaian economy. It also has to be noted that the brutal killings of the defunct head of states did not have the anticipated effect; moreover, it did ‘little to diminish pervasive corruption in practically every aspect of economic activity.’ This is shown by the fact that the then incumbent president Limann saw that the growing corruption within his own party and country led him to observe in September 1981, ‘that the government was unable to improve the economy because of over-invoicing, under-invoicing, short-loading of goods and evasion of taxes.’

The Rawlings Years after his 2nd Coup (1981- 2000)

Rawlings' second coup, on December 31, 1981, was later claimed to have been undertaken because of the growing amount of evidence of corruption in public office under Limann’s rule. Ironically, a large number of Ghanaian citizens were starting to feel ‘antagonistic towards Rawlings in particular for […] [having] deprived others of their economic resources as a result of his anti-corruption campaigns of 1979.’ These contradictory behaviours tend to prove that the incipient culture of corruption that existed at the start of the seventies in Ghana was by the start of the eighties a fully grown culture since its participants could claim to have been placed in a disadvantageous position by having been removed from their functions for acts they did not deem corrupt, thus immoral and illegal.

Rawlings, once in office again, pledged for a holy war on corruption, accusing the PNP of being criminals unable to keep their promises concerning their house-cleaning exercise. When the Provisional National Defence Committee (PNDC) came to power, the first issue they discussed was to bring a ‘new system of justice by establishing the means not only to bring those guilty of corruption to trial but also to ensure constant monitoring of public officials.’ Two institutions were quickly created to deal promptly with the problems; these were the People’s Defence Committee (PDC) and the Workers Defence Committee (WDC). The role of the former was to protect local people from abusive local officials, and the latter’s role was to protect workers from mismanagement and corruption. Unfortunately, these committees did not meet any more success than their previous attempts. The PDC ended up engaging in personal vendettas, harassment and intimidation actions. The WDC ended up ousting managers of factories and then trying to manage them even though they had no skills to do so. The worthiness of these committees was once again underpinned by their own leaders because they had engaged in corrupt activities such as illegally accessing commodities and embezzling funds for themselves. The PDC and the WDC were merged to try to keep governmental control upon them, as well as being renamed to the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) in November 1984. This renamed committee became more a mean to explain the aims of the revolution to the people than a way to ensure accountability and fight corruption, becoming thus more of an agent of propaganda for the government than anything else. In 1982, the public tribunals, another institution, were set up as a supposed catalyst to fight corruption. The harsh sentences that were pronounced by them had, at best, a deterrent effect on people engaging in such practises. With no surprise, these tribunals ended up being useless because some of the chairmen and people involved were ejected from their positions due to they undertaking corrupt practises. In the same year, the Citizens Vetting Committee (CVC) was created. It was an institution working on investigating people whose assets were way beyond their official means of acquisition. It was an investigative body, thus it found much evidence of corruption and tax evasion, kept records of those who travelled by air, but it seems as if it never really engaged in legal procedures with the evidence found. 1982; a year marked by the creation of so many anti-corruption bodies, saw the creation of yet another of them, this time under the name of the National Investigation Committee (NIC), supposed to investigate corruption in public office. The whole effectiveness and purpose of this body was annihilated when it was carrying out its own implementation because, ‘A bizarre provision […] stipulated that those being investigated had the right to confess their guilt or sins and offer ‘reparation’ to the state in atonement for their crimes.’ This provision is in itself a corrupt loophole to escape justice; it is a way of corrupting justice against corruption.

Rawlings decided, after an attempted in 1982, to go against his façade ideologies and made heavy handed economic reforms with a helping hand from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, mostly leaning towards economic liberalisation. By 1992, the results were disappointing: foreign investment was low; Ghana was still overly dependent on cocoa and gold as export goods; international recession obviously not helping.

For seven years as the head of state, Rawlings had gone to great lengths to combat corruption by creating institutions made to fight it; nevertheless, corruption, bribery, embezzlement and injustice were still part of every day’s life for Ghanaians, especially if they were part of the civil service. Rawlings admitted that corruption and injustice were still rampant in a speech given the same year: ‘There is still injustice and corruption… […] we have not learned in the past 10 years how to build a just and decent society in which every patriotic Ghanaian can find avenues to exercise his or her responsibility and moral authority. […] Indeed, it is quite intimidating to recognize how much there is still to be done.’

In 1992, a new constitution was approved by consultative assembly and with it came the start of the 4th Republic of Ghana. The concerns Rawlings had expressed in 1989 were still valid enough for there to be a Code of Conduct for Public Officers as an integral part of the constitution. The fight against corruption had never attained such a high profile institutionalisation. The financial disclosure of the code demanded that every single public officer gave a written declaration of their assets, and for those in office at the time, they had three months to comply and give them to the Auditor-General. The ones not complying would be regarded as contraveners and would thus be put under investigation by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ); the anti-corruption agency able to prosecute them. This new provision under the constitution faced many problems from the moment it was supposed to be enforced. Firstly, within three months, most civil servants had failed to produce the written evidence that was demanded from them; moreover, six months after the enforcement of the new constitution, 75% of public officers still had not declared by written the origin of their assets. Secondly, the Auditor’s reports up from 1993 to 1998 have pointed the finger to a continuation of the expansion of all types of ill-natured practises that are related to corruption.

The CHRAJ, unhappy with the enduring unethical behaviour of the government, started investigating ten top officials in January 1996. One of the ones investigated had an annual expenditure nearly seventy times larger than his annual salary. The results provided found that some were implicated in corrupt activities whilst others were not; nevertheless, the government did not take action against any of them for apparently not finding enough evidence against them even though some of the top officials involved did resign from their office. The Code of Conduct was not helped in its implementation because the civil servants of Ghana earn one of, if not the, lowest salaries on the African continent. This induced the public officials to not only turn a blind eye on certain practises but also to take advantage of their positions for personal ends. This implementation of the code in the constitution marks in some way the last step of institutionalising corruption within the Ghanaian society. It did not promote ethical behaviour because the government has never shown political will to do so. The code, in itself, is nothing more than a mere list of prohibitions; it does not give an actual code of conduct for officials to follow, thus having the similar useless and ineffective purpose as most, if not all, commissions were found to have previously. It has even been argued that, and correctly, that these codes are ‘counterproductive, unenforceable and meaningless.’ This list of codes of conduct was in fact already covered by other legal codes and statutes. After nearly twenty years in office, Ghana was still in a state of economic decrepitude; Rawlings and his government had failed to ‘slay the monster of political corruption’ and his governmental system was unmoved because it was still burdened with ‘excessive corruption, embezzlement, misappropriation, misapplication, and mismanagement – the very things he usurped the throne and leadership to conquer.’

Finally, corruption in Ghana has outlived every single government and their economic and political reforms. Social agitation has never uprooted either what is in reality a culture that w emergent already thirty five years ago. A generation – to be generous – has since then lived on a land where bribery, embezzlement and all types of corruption have thrived for so long. Societal and moral values are cankered by habit that, for the most, advantages only the ones that are already in a position of convenience. The different governments have, in reality, only institutionalised a behaviour of unethical nature that has made society suffer enormously ‘despite resenting it, whilst at the same time, in a resigned manner, tolerates and accepts it. This is an unwilling and unyielding society that can conveniently accommodate corruption or dishonesty.’

Role of anti-corruption bodies and their effectiveness

Throughout the fifty years of its independence, Ghana has shown a tremendous ability in implementing an amazingly large number of different commissions of inquiry into bribery and corruption. Most of the ones set up before the investiture of the 4th Republic, if not all, were done so for the nearly unique reason of discrediting the pre-incumbent regimes. The more commissions were set up the less the higher ranked officials of the government were threatened by them; at least as long as it was the same government in place. The first few commissions that were set up might have been done in an, at least at start, honest manner with a real belief that they would change Ghanaian society for the better.

The reports of the Auditor-General not only document, and thus prove, the widespread nature and growing evolution of corruption in Ghana throughout time but also show that from the start, the capacity of people or commissions inquiring into corruption allegations and accusations were very limited. The example given in an earlier chapter about the Justice P.D. Anin report clearly proves the argument that the different commissions have never really been efficient in combating the root causes of corruption in Ghana. Their capacity was, at best, giving some proof about corruption allegations but rarely bringing the accused to justice. The accused people, even if brought to justice, would not contribute to the combating of corruption; they would merely represent a fraction of the wrong doings of so many officials. The fact that by the 1970s, the ones in charge of inquiring into fraudulent behaviour would in reality only bring the middle and low level officials who had been involved in cases of bribery and embezzlement to light shows that the inquisitors also were involved in corruption and were working hard to make sure that neither they nor their colleagues at the highest levels of officialdom would become involved in publicly known allegations of corruption. This shows that the earlier commissions were factually inefficient in rooting out corruption of Ghanaian society. Rawlings did create, like his predecessors, a near unquantifiable number of bodies that were supposed to deal with corruption. Once again, it seems that these anti-corruption bodies actually helped in doing the contrary of what they were originally set out to do; it would not be unfair as to say that the more anti-corruption bodies were created, the more institutionalised corruption became in Ghanaian civil society. This statement might not be entirely true; still, it demonstrates that these anti-corruption bodies have overall been completely inefficient in uprooting corruption evils out of Ghana. Today’s agencies, such as the CHRAJ, seem to be able to get some results, because of, for example their ability to bring down major actors of the Ghanaian civil society, such as Mr. Anane, the ex-Minister for Road Transport; nevertheless, the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), a local chapter of TI, published a corruption perception survey of southern Ghanaian urban households with raw data and charts as well as their findings, conclusions and recommendations – which are to be useful in the different social perceptions section of this dissertation – that bring up to light Ghanaian citizen beliefs on corruption in their country in a very dry and statistical manner. The exact same findings were then published in their quarterly newspaper over three pages only two months later, this time in a more journalistic style. This shows that the anti-corruption bodies are very good at recycling data for different usages, highlighting their still existent inefficiency in combating corruption and its root causes, as well as helping cure the problem that corruption brings to any society; Ghana, this time, being the unfortunate example.

The CHRAJ and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) constitute the two main anti-corruption bodies actively existing in contemporary Ghana. The former has pretty much the same role as all other commissions of inquiry that have existed in the past, its role is to investigate deeply into all types of allegations of corruption and report their findings to the Attorney General who then decides of the procedures to be undertaken under legal requirements. It has nevertheless a role that was not given to any other precedent commissions, that is a mission to educate the public on their human rights and freedom. Its jurisdiction is limited because it cannot investigate certain matters which are, overall, to prevent it to ‘engage in unnecessary litigation and confrontation with the government of the day.’

There are two major problems that directly impede on the effectiveness of the CHRAJ. The first one is one that has been consistently found in other commissions, which is its lack of power to enforce decisions based on their investigations and findings. For example, in 1996, it was investigating into some of the top officials’ assets and found enough ground to possibly bring those concerned in front of justice; but instead what happened is that they had to send a copy of their findings to someone else. That person would then have three months to act accordingly to the findings, and if not the complaints would go back to the Commission where they would not be able to go further in proceedings because of its incapacity to enforce their adverse findings. The government did act after these findings, but no more than what other governments would have done in the past because all they did was to issue a white paper on the report which was very courteously described ‘by some to be improper.’

The other major problem that the CHRAJ faces that has a direct effect on its autonomy is the fact that it is not financially autonomous. In theory, all of its expenses are paid by the Consolidated Fund but in practise its budget has to go through Parliament and then its allocation has to be made by the Ministry of Finance. This financial dependency has hampered its autonomy because it needs the executive branch of the government to survive. The Code of Conduct that is inscribed in the constitution is thus very hard to enforce completely and effectively due to the non-autonomous nature of the Commission. All the other commissions that existed previously had the same problem with autonomy and, that is why none of them were ever effective in bringing corruption levels down.

There is another anti-corruption body that is active in contemporary Ghana; it is called the SFO and its role as an agency of the government – under the responsibility of the Minister of Justice – is to monitor, and possibly prosecute the ones committing serious frauds that would be financially or economically consequential to the state. This anti-corruption body has been severely criticised in the areas of its power to investigate and prosecute. The executive director has the possibility to personally decide to investigate anyone related to the police or anybody else. Someone can state that another is allegedly involved in serious acts of monetary loss for the state and the executive director can instantly freeze their assets and bank accounts. The SFO seems to have an approach that could be understood to a certain extent as promoting corruption and stimulating abuse of office. This is because the executive director can decide from his own accord, and more importantly without any legal institutional control, to accuse that person of ‘serious and complex fraud’ and consequently deprive that person of freedom of movement and of access to his or her property. The executive director can buy information off citizens so as to use them in court cases. This means that impoverished Ghanaians are, in a way, encouraged to spy on their neighbours so as to give information in return of some cash to supplement their low salaries. The lack of institutional power to control decisions made privately by the executive director is the pinnacle of the institutionalisation of corruption within the Ghanaian society.

The unique praise that was possible to give to the CHRAJ was its mission to educate the masses about their civil and human rights as well as about the evils of corruption. In the author’s stay in Accra, and more precisely in the premises of the CHRAJ, he was able to freely access its library. The only section existing on education was a series of nine educational leaflets, aimed at the younger, about corruption and published in cooperation with the World Bank and the Department For International Development (DFID). The best example that can be given to show the CHRAJ’s effectiveness in this domain is the fact that the first two leaflets in the series were inexistent in the library and that the librarian seemed utterly unconcerned of their whereabouts and, moreover, that the author actually cared about them. This is to show that, even internally, the CHRAJ does not seem overly concerned about educating the masses on corruption, and thus combating corruption and its root causes because it has been institutionalised into Ghanaian society.

The point that has been argued throughout this work, that is to show that anti-corruption bodies have not only been ineffective in combating corruption but furthermore that they helped with the high tolerance level of corruption in Ghana as well as, in a word, institutionalising corruption in Ghanaian society is backed by this single summarising quote: ‘The establishment of the SFO seems to be an institutionalisation of corruption.’

The state of corruption in contemporary Ghana

Point of view of international organisations

TI has been, on a yearly basis, trying to inform all the ones interested about the state of corruption in as many countries as it is possible for them to pursue studies on this subject. This is a table showing the results found for the last ten years:

Year of study Corruption Perceptions Index Score (Out of a maximum score of 10) Ranking of Ghana in the study Number of countries involved in the study Ranking of Ghana amongst African countries Number of African countries involved in the study
2006 3.3 70th 163 7th tied with Egypt 46
2005 3.5 65th 158 7th 44
2004 3.6 64th 146 6th 35
2003 3.3 70th 133 6th tied with Egypt and Morocco 29
2002 3.9 50th 102 6th 21
2001 3.4 59th 91 6th 17
2000 3.5 52nd 90 6th tied with Senegal 21
1999 3.3 63rd 99 11th tied with Egypt 19
1998 3.3 55th 85 10th tied with Senegal 18

This table is very useful in showing us the evolution, or in this case more the non-evolution of Ghana in the matter of corruption. The first score Ghana recorded in 1998 was 3.3/10, which is identical to the score registered in 2006. The same score was given to Ghana another two times within a nine year period; even though a 3.9/10 was awarded in 2002, this table is a clear indication that little has changed over the last decade in terms of combating corruption in this country. Ghana’s gradual fall in the placement from 55th to 70th can be solely attributed to the addition of so many other countries in the studies over the years. The fact that Ghana was incorporated into the study in 1998 shows it is relatively easy to obtain information about corruption in this country. The ranking of Ghana within African countries went from around tenth to around sixth between 1999 and 2000; nevertheless, this should not be thought of as being a positive evolution for Ghana. The fact that Ghana is tied amongst African countries with Senegal and Egypt when around the tenth position as well as when around the sixth position shows that it is a worsening of affairs for other African countries rather than a progression in combating corruption in Ghana, especially when taking into account the stagnation of Ghana’s score throughout the decade.

This table has provided us with an array of facts that confirm the argument put forward all through this work; that is that different Ghanaian governments have set up anti-corruption bodies to tackle corruption, but have been ineffective and very nearly useless in doing so. The only effect these anti-corruption bodies have had, especially talking of those active in the last ten years, is that of making believe the Ghanaian society they are useful and effective when all they do is institutionalising corruption by actually not tackling corruption and its root causes but helping corruption continue by making more complex the road to combat it.

Social perceptions of the state of corruption in contemporary Ghana

This final section is about the points of view that different social actors of Ghanaian society have on its state of corruption. Firstly, the GII have, as mentioned earlier in this work, made a survey in 2005, namely ‘An Urban Household Corruption Perception Survey Southern Ghana’ that is supposed to reflect the ideas urban Ghanaians have about corruption in their country. This survey will be coupled with some answers of the questionnaire the author gave around; that are transcribed in Appendix A.

The survey found that about 70% of respondents had been involved in bribery is some way or another; and moreover that 90% of those looked on unconcerned when corruption occurred in their presence. These findings are backed by the answer given in questions 6 and 7 in the questionnaire of Appendix A. This shows that the Ghanaians have a high level of tolerance of corruption, that they are not fooled by the actions of so many of their officials; nevertheless, the findings that just over half the participants (51%) of the survey believe ‘the government is committed to the fight against corruption’ shows their little knowledge of the direct link between the anti-corruption agencies and the contemporary government, such as is stated in question 20 of the questionnaire in Appendix A. This link is however repeatedly thrown upon every Ghanaians’ face in a near daily basis by the media that is readily available everywhere in urban centres in Ghana. This is shown by the fact that during the author’s last two days in Ghana, there was three times the word corruption or bribery as the headline of the front page of major newspapers. A last point to make is that, out of more than eighty people that have been given the questionnaire, only one has answered. This shows the lack of concern these people have, possibly the society in more general terms, for the fight against corruption in Ghana, thus proving that it has become in some way a norm in Ghana to have to deal with corruption and consequently ignore it to some extent.

The social perceptions of corruption in Ghana are two-fold. In Ghana, on one hand, there is a clear perception that quite a few institutions are corrupt and that a majority of people have to contend with it on a near regular basis; on the other hand, there is a clear lack of understanding by the majority, slight as it be, that these anti-corruption bodies are not totally independent and thus that they are not able to correctly fight away corruption and its evils from the Ghanaian society.


In this dissertation, a definition of corruption has been made, assembling other definitions into a single clear and simple one, thus providing the reader with an understanding of what corruption is. The presence of corruption worldwide has been shown, as well as its high level of occurrence in sub-Saharan countries.

The different concepts and theories brought forward in this work have come together to conclude that corruption has to be understood not in individual terms but more as part of system that feeds and grows on corruption from the inside.

The historical perspective has been able to uncover details about corruption from before Ghana’s independence, and has shown that when Nkrumah inherited of the country, its monetary funds were plentiful and very healthy to say the least. Nkrumah dilapidated Ghana’s finances in his nine year rule, and was ousted by a coup because of the numerous allegations of corruption that surrounded him and his government. Successive governments have since then implemented a near incalculable number of commissions of inquiry and other anti-corruption bodies to investigate and discredit previous governments. It was found that by the start of the 1970s, an incipient culture of corruption existed in Ghana. This burgeoning culture grew steadily larger and larger throughout time, and it was found that the numerous anti-corruption bodies actually helped corruption grow to such proportions, even up until nowadays.

The anti-corruption agencies, their role and their effectiveness have been carefully scrutinised and criticised to finally conclude that they were an agent, if not a catalyst, in the institutionalisation of corruption within the Ghanaian society. They have been found to never have been entirely independent and that the incumbent governments could easily apply pressure on them so as to nullify their efforts. Finally, the study of the state of corruption in contemporary Ghana has brought up to light certain facts; firstly that corruption is present widely and is accepted as a part of the society Ghanaians live in, secondly that there is very little will, even from the society itself to uproot the causes of corruption in their own country, thus helping the ones in government to be able to continue with their malevolent practises.

Overall, this study has proven that the implementations of anti-corruption agencies have institutionalised corruption and that they have fooled to some extent people into believing that their governments were actually trying to combat corruption, which is very debatable.



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News reports

  • Accra Daily Mail, Corruption: Ghana doing fine, but can do more – US ambassador, Vol. 8, n°134, 25 July 2006, Doodle Publishers Ltd, Accra, Ghana.
  • Daily Graphic, Setting up of committee to investigate CJ: It’s Wrong, n°149791, 13 July 2006, Graphic Communications Group Ltd, Accra, Ghana.
  • Daily Graphic, Clampdown on corruption, A-G tightens screws: New bill ready, n°149801, 25 July 2006, Graphic Communications Group Ltd, Accra, Ghana.
  • Daily Graphic, The cocaine bribery scandal: Dep CID boss named, n°149802, 26 July 2006, Graphic Communications Group Ltd, Accra, Ghana.
  • GII Alert (Ghana Integrity Initiative Quarterly Newsletter), Corruption perception increases, Transparency International, n°5, June 2005.
  • GII Alert (Ghana Integrity Initiative Quarterly Newsletter), Ghanaians have high level of tolerance for corruption – Report, Transparency International, n°7, September 2005.
  • The Economist, Black star tries to rise, again, 24 June 2006.



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