For days following public leakage of an Accra Circuit Court’s charge sheet of the theft of huge sums of money stolen from the private residence of the minister for Sanitation & Water Resources, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Ghanaian public space has been dominated by several discussions and debates. These commentaries have come from various divides, from the Media, Civil Society Organizations, and the country’s body politic. According to the fact of the case, two former house helps of the Ex-Minister are standing trial at the Accra Circuit Court for stealing US$1 million, €300,000, and millions of Ghana cedis together with other personal possessions of Madam Dapaah and her husband estimated at several million Ghana cedis from their private residence in Abelemkpe, a suburb of Accra.
On the one hand, some argue that the purported theft of enormous sums of money from the home of the former minister of sanitation and water resources “raises eyebrows”. This is because the salaries and benefits of ministers of state are known to the public, making it impossible for her to have saved up these sums of money during her many years of public service. On the other end of the argument, others assert that the enormous quantities of money under question might represent liquid savings from other legitimate sources unrelated to her position as a public official.
She has since resigned from her ministerial position citing reasons for not wanting the matter to become a preoccupation and hindrance to the government’s work at such a crucial time. She has also promised to cooperate fully with all pertinent state agencies in order to ascertain the actual facts of the case while reaffirming her commitment to upholding honesty in every phase of her political career.
It is premature to draw any conclusions about Madam Dapaah’s sources of the allegedly stolen money or to attribute them to corruption. However, the mystery of the reason She chose to keep such sizable sums of money in her private residence rather than a recognized public bank raises serious questions about the ethical conduct of public servants and the degree of transparency in Ghana’s Asset Declaration regime in the context of democratic good governance. Whatever perspective one chooses to look at the situation, there is never an adequate justification for a public official to amass such large sums of foreign currency at a time Ghana’s economy was short of foreign exchange due to rising inflation and wanton cedi depreciation against the US dollar.
At the New Patriotic Party’s annual delegate conference in Cape Coast on Saturday, August 25, 2017, President Nana Akuffo Addo made a forceful declaration about his government’s determination to fight corruption and bring every implicated public official to justice.
He said: ‘‘Every allegation about corruption against any official of my government will be investigated by the law enforcement agencies, I am not going to preside over a government that will support corruption in our country.’’
He vowed the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, which has now taken effect, in support of this assertion.
The office of the special prosecutor in a press release on July 24th announced it had arrested the former minister in respect of suspected corruption and corruption-related offenses regarding large sums of money and other valuable items stolen from her home. Many people, including myself, who had immense trust in the president’s address, are watching the intensity of the investigations and their final conclusion with great curiosity. Will the President act on his words? Or it will pass for one of the customary gimmicks and tactics used in political campaigns?
In order to restore the faith and trust of the Ghanaian people in the fight against corruption, all involved parties, including law enforcement authorities mandated to conduct credible investigations and scrutiny of the case, must be up to the task. The sources of the suspected funds kept at the ex-minister’s home must be transparently determined, and if any shady acts are connected to them, she must be compelled to face the full force of the law to serve as deterrence to other public officials.
In practically every emerging economy, notably in Africa, high-level, systemic corruption has hampered development progress and increased wealth inequalities. The illegal dealings of elected and appointed public officials, civil servants, and business executives have crippled state resources and rendered them incapable of providing basic social services and other public goods to the people.
According to the Economic Development in Africa Report 2020 by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa loses about US$88.6 billion, 3.7 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), annually in illicit financial flows. In order to lessen its drastic effects or completely eradicate it, issues of corruption must receive the necessary attention from all stakeholders in a nation like Ghana where at least over a million graduates lack employment, public health facilities are underfunded, public schools lack adequate infrastructure, roads are impassable, and nearly 3 million people live in extreme poverty https://bit.ly/45deWQr
As we wait to see how this case unfolds, let’s constantly keep in mind that corruption is cancer, a disease that weakens citizens’ belief in democracy and damages their capacity for innovative thinking and creativity.
Communications Team Member, MFWA