Despite Ghana’s good governance and democratic credentials, corruption has remained endemic in the country’s public service and society. Indeed, but for a slight improvement recorded in 2018, statistics from the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has shown a continuous decline since 2015.
As a watchdog of society, the media’s ability to monitor government officials, duty-bearers and the powerful in society to forestall the abuse of power and curtail corruption is vital for good governance and democracy.
Over the years there have been tremendous growth in media plurality in Ghana. Unfortunately, the growth has not translated into a stronger fight against corruption. While the media in Ghana have fairly attempted to play the watchdog role and the fight against corruption in their reportage, these efforts have not been adequate in stemming the corruption menace.
In the lead up to the 2016 elections, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, as a candidate, campaigned extensively on fighting corruption and prosecuting corrupt officials when elected. The President on assuming office showed signs of commitment to fighting corruption by setting up the Office of the Special Prosecutor to serve as an independent investigative and prosecution body to make enquiries into corruption, bribery, and other criminal cases at the national level.
Nonetheless, two-years into the Nana Akufo-Addo’s administration there have been reported incidents of alleged procurement scandals, purported misappropriation of state funds, bribery allegations and perception of corruption. Given the critical role of the media in stemming the corruption menace, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) on February 12, 2019 convened a Town Hall meeting that brought together media experts, journalists, civil society organisations (CSOs), government representatives and the diplomatic corps to reflect on the media’s performance in fighting corruption two-years into the President Nana Akufo-Addo administration.
The event which was also broadcast live on one of Ghana’s leading radio stations, Citi FM, had as speakers: Ghana’s Auditor-General, Mr. Daniel Yaw Domelevo; award-winning Investigative Journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni; Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and Chairperson of the Board of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Linda Ofori-Kwafo; and Executive Director of the MFWA, Sulemana Braimah.
After over two hours of thoughtful and insightful deliberations, participants and experts made the following key recommendations:
- The Right To Information (RTI) bill must be passed and effectively implemented to boost public access to information which is critical for promoting transparency and accountability.
- Ghana must embrace the opportunities provided by technology to adopt technology-driven service provision in order to reduce person-to-person contact in public service transactions.
- Individuals should be allowed to initiate anti-corruption litigations and those successful rewarded by the state.
- There should be a strong collaboration between the media and anti-corruption civil society organisations to help fight corruption.
- Newsrooms must begin to prioritise investigative, anti-corruption reporting particularly, and government and civil society organisations need to explore ways of supporting and incentivising media organisations and journalists who commit to fighting against corruption through their reportage.
- Journalists must be enterprising, courageous and employ ingenuity in their work, as these are critical to the media in combating corruption and holding duty-bearers accountable.
- The media must be professional and circumspect, and avoid misinformation in their anti-corruption work as anything to the contrary can only lead to public mistrust, which in turn reduce the media influence in the fight against corruption.
- Stakeholders must endeavour to offer capacity building support to the media particularly in critical issues such as public procurement, public contracting, data journalism, among others.
- The media and journalists themselves must endeavour to purge themselves of acts of corruption to earn the trust and support of the public.
- The state and all stakeholders should collaborate in ensuring the provision of safety nets for journalists especially those who do critical reporting on corruption.