In the wake of a national conversation on corruption, U.S based Ghanaian law professor, Kwasi Prempeh has called for the re-engineering of Ghana’s governance systems starting from an unusual source – the architecture of public buildings.
He has recommended the building of public offices in a way that encourages transparency in the interaction between public officials and clients.
The professor with Seton Hall University School of Law in the United States has observed that Ghanaian public offices are too opaque and always closed which unconsciously allows the taking of brides and brokering corrupt deals in the offices.
Drawing inspiration from an observation he made while going for his driver’s license in the U.S, the law lecturer noted that there were over 16 different glass counters with officers behind the counter and clients sitting before them.
He said clients would hear a sound that signaled when it was a person’s turn and the procedures for obtaining a service were carefully and clearly displayed on the counter so that nobody needed the help of officials in going through the process – something that could encourage bribery.
Not in Ghana, he noted.
“Why is it that every public office here you go [it doesn’t matter the status of the person], the office is always shut?…that is opacity right away,” he said on Joy FM’s weekly news analysis program Newsfile, Saturday.
He is recommending the use of “glass counters” in place of wooden partitions and the creation of more open spaces and cubicles in the design of public office buildings.
“Even the architecture of public offices can help you fight corruption”, he said.
For two months, news headlines in Ghana have been buzzing with serialized stories on allegations of corruption and abuse of public office. There is the issue involving the Commissioner for the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Lauretta Vivian Lamptey whose rent charges and renovation of official residence have cost the state.
President John Mahama has directed the Chief Justice Georgina Wood to investigate the human rights campaigner.
But overshadowing this scandal have been revelations of financial rot at National Service Scheme.
Some 23 directors of the NSS including the National Director, Alhaji Imoro Alhassan, allegedly paid GH¢200,000 as bribe to investigators of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to conceal a GH¢7.9 million financial fraud at the Scheme. Ahaji Alhassan reportedly paid GH¢100,000 in his attempt to silence investigators.
The prosecution of officials cited in the over two-years old scandal at the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency has also begun.
Government is prosecuting the sitting NDC MP for Chiana-Paga, Abuga Pele, for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of about Ghâ‚µ 4million. Pele who was the former National Coordinator of the GYEEDA is also standing trial for defrauding by false pretences and aiding and abetting the crime.
Discussing these stories on Newsfile, Kwasi Prempeh noted that in Ghana "we trust authorities with too much power with unbounded discretion… there is too much ample opportunity for corruption", he said.
He explained his call for re-engineering the state, by calling for a second look at the 1992 Constitution of Ghana which he said puts too much trust in the president. He pointed out that there was too many “the president may do this” that leaves certain actions to the discretion of the president.
He also maintained that it was against international best practice for the President to appoint all members of a public board and also appoint the Chief Executive Officer.
This practice, he said, does not allow the Board to hold the CEO accountable.
He advised that in line with best practice, the President should appoint Board members who would then sit down to appoint a CEO.
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