Ghana: Who needs a “Sole Commissioner for Judgement Debts”?

By IndepthAfrica
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Oct 8th, 2012
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By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

President John Dramani Mahama on Monday swore into office Justice Yaw Appau, as the Sole Commissioner of Judgment debt. His main task is “to investigate the judgment debt cases the nation has been confronted with” (Myjoyonline, October 8, 2012).

This measure is in fulfillment of President Mahama’s pledge to Ghanaians in his broadcast to the nation to appoint an independent sole commissioner for this purpose.

Welcome to this onerous task, Justice Appau; but I have serious doubts whether this is how to solve the problem. I won’t hail it as a welcome relief because it is a mere face-saving move. It won’t end the judgement debt spree. For how long will Justice Appau do his assignment for government to act on his recommendations? We need action now, not any further complication of simple cases of thievery through an empty bureaucratic move!!

The weird things that happen in government business don’t redound to our well-being. The earlier we voice out our indignation, the better it will be for those entrusted with the responsibility to solve our country’s problems but are more inclined toward compounding them to know why we don’t trust them.

A case in point sums it all up. Despite all the public anger at the Woyome scandal particularly, and the fact that this payment of judgement debt is a subtle means by some unscrupulous government officials and their collaborators in business to fleece the national coffers, little is being done to solve the problem.

The prosecution of Woyome is moving at a snail’s pace because of the weaknesses of the judicial system that encourage lethargy (whether on the part of the government itself, the officials at the Ministry of Justice/Attorney-General’s Department, or the court system itself).

Someone must be pulling some strings to stall this case. Otherwise, why the painful delay and more salt being rubbed into our wounds? Ghanaians are anxious to know how the huge amount of money paid to Woyome can be retrieved and measures put in place to prevent anything of the sort in the future.

As if mindless of the negative fallouts, the government isn’t doing anything reassuring. Appointing a sole commissioner to investigate all these judgement debt payments won’t solve the problem any sooner than expected.

Neither will the revelations being made by Martin Amidu be pursued because doing so will take food out of the mouths of those perpetrating the fraud in the corridors of power. It is an age-old case of people using their political connections to reap where they haven’t sown anything but rely on their mischief and stealing habits to fleece the national coffers.

They know the loopholes in the system and how to tap into them. It is not a new thing happening under this government. It has been with us all these years and will continue to be so for as long as those in authority who are to plug those loopholes rather widen them.

Here is how they do so. It is the “Ghanaian thing” for those well positioned to detect loopholes in the system itself (the institutional weaknesses) for exploitation by the appointing authorities who fill positions with their cronies to work hard for mutual benefits.

Do we not know how appointments are made, especially in this 4th Republican era when politics has become the inexhaustible goldmine for those who have political connections?

The loopholes are all over the place for such cronies to exploit. If you doubt my claim, just do your own homework at the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (including the security setups too). As is often heard said by some people who know of such holes, “Everybody eats from his work place.” In other words, wherever a goat is tethered, there it gets its food.

And those who know how to overwork themselves in exploiting those loopholes to share the proceeds equitably last at their posts. Only those who are mindlessly greedy enough to grab the lion’s share or run away with everything under their armpit get kicked out to be replaced with malleable ones.

Why aren’t these loopholes being plugged, you may be tempted to ask. It’s impossible to do so because that is the lifeline of those who find their ways into politics or other departments of national life. They can’t take action to plug those loopholes because it will amount to economic suicide. And they fear to even think of choking themselves that way.

From the lackadaisical manner in which this all-too-terrifying Woyome fraud case is being handled—and the fact that many other sordid ones yet to be known fully (the Construction Pioneer and Balkan ones, particularly)—there is only one explanation: some people in authority are doing things for obvious reasons!! Their desire to protect their interests is really strong.

Again, it may be that the problem is endemic, meaning that intricate networks of thieves parading as government officials or heads of institutions where the economic crimes occur are in operation to the blind side of Ghanaians. I will go for this aspect because what we have heard so far in the Woyome scandal points me to this conclusion.

We are reminded that those who manage to walk the corridors of power to be close to these loopholes know how painful it is to be poor; and once they have access to the “goldmines,” why do anything to impoverish themselves? They will not do anything to plug those loopholes but will be the first to mount rooftops to condemn bribery and corruption, moral decadence, and economic stagnation!!

From what has happened so far, I have no doubt that our country is in the hands of the wrong people. This is not to say that I consider any of those at the sidelines making frantic efforts to return to power as any better. They aren’t because in their own words, “being in the opposition is like being in hell.”

Give them the chance and they will widen the loopholes too. That is our plight. Our country isn’t developing as fast as we expect it to—nor will our democracy mature—because those in charge of affairs aren’t committed in any way to solve the systemic problems to serve the wider national interests. Their main focus is on the self. If you doubt it, monitor their activities carefully. Cronyism does it all for them.

The real issue is that all these people are the same in every guise but use different strategies to achieve their pernicious objectives. That is why we have the differences in political parties, names, and manifestoes but no expectation that anything will change to promote the interests and wellbeing of the citizens down the line who have no means to exploit those loopholes. In effect, though, none of them really has the interests of the country and its 25 million people at heart. I am waiting to be proved wrong.

The inordinate desire on the part of the politicians to grab every public property they come across should be curbed for good. But how can we do so when the institutions to use are themselves so heavily implicated or politicized as to render them ineffective right from scratch?

Don’t even mention any civil society grouping because there is none credible enough to depend on for anything.

One may be talking about using “citizen advocacy” (as Martin Amidu claims to be doing); but it will fizzle out as soon as started because it has no foundation. Individuals on their own can’t effect any change. They need institutions to back them up. Our problem is that we don’t have any institution capable of doing so. How far, then, can an individual’s advocacy go to rid our country of the vices that have taken over public life?

Justice Appau may expend public resources investigating all these judgement debt payments but what will become of his efforts if his recommendations end up in files to be left on office shelves to gather dust? Ghanaian politicians lack what it takes to solve problems of this sort. That’s why they cannot and must not be trusted to plug all those loopholes that facilitate corruption. They are the problem confronting us.