In a world that is often as unpredictable and dangerous as it is beautiful and fantastic, it is comforting to know there are and will always be three constants; death, taxes and government corruption. And nowhere are these constants more prevalent than on our golden coasts of Ghana.
Corruption is as interwoven into the fabric of our culture as shaking hands with our right hands and welcoming visitors into our homes with glasses of water. It runs like a suffocating carpet of moss down the walls of our nation, creeping across the land, from political institutions to business sectors. Nepotism and greed have become laws unto themselves.
They have left roads unpaved, light-bulbs unlit and faucets dry in their selfish and destructive efforts to line their pockets with as much of the nation’s financial resources as possible. And after decades of this incessant plundering of our nation's vaults, after years of skimming thousands of dollars off international aid packages and after months of spending extravagant sums of money on political campaigns, we have finally hit rock bottom. The Ghana cedi is now almost 6 GH Cedis to the Pound Sterling. Fuel prices have risen by 20%, salaries around the nation have gone unpaid and the annual Auditor General's Reports still go largely unheeded. This must not stand.
The Auditor General’s Report is a record of annual government expenditure and catalogues massive discrepancies in the government’s utilization of resources, discoveries that are met with overwhelming disinterest by the Ghanaian government. As the Auditor-General himself would note in his 2011 report, “The cataloguing of financial irregularities in my Report on MDAs and Other Agencies has become an annual ritual that seems to have no effect,” despite the fact that several thousands of Ghana Cedis are disappearing into the unknown. He would go on to note that “In 2011 alone, Ghana lost a whopping GH¢173,174,541”, due to “poor cash management practices resulting in failure to pay revenue collected into the Consolidated Fund, tax irregularities and un-authorized payments, as well as non-availability of adequate records on revenue collected”.
Why is the Auditor General’s Report, a veritable laundry list of misuse of public funds and abuse of power by the leaders of this country, so largely unknown to the citizens it is meant to inform? One reason may be that it is one of the most underfunded and understaffed institutions in Ghana. In a speech delivered at the Audit Services 4th Annual Accountability lectures, the Auditor General stated, “many times my staff use their own monies from their salaries to pay for their accommodation so that they would not rely on the auditee for any financial or logistic assistance that might impair their independence and judgment. This way they risk bringing the integrity of the product of their work into disrepute.” He also noted that, in spite of the sacrifices made by his workers, “The personal expenditure might not be refunded to the staff if the Ministry of Finance does not release budget funds under Compensation of Employees or Goods and Services to them.”
It seems that, despite the presence of these watchdogs of the public purse, appointed by the government no less, corruption continues unabated. Starved of funds by a government more interested in serving the whims of the few than the needs of the many, the Ghanaian Audit Service continues to languish in obscurity. Without the funds to carry out its investigations properly and promote itself in various communication mediums like newspapers and journals, its efforts have gone largely unnoticed.
Is it any wonder then, that our nation wallows in the depths of debt, marooned just off the shores of economic inertia? What was once a potent Gold Coast has become a desert of destitution, where the glimmer of opportunity at the crest of every dune is nothing but lies and fool’s gold. Is it any wonder that as of this year, 817 Ghanaians have renounced their citizenships, lured to foreign shores by offers of better wages and other opportunities by governments who actually treat its citizens fairly? Or that the erstwhile supporters of the Black Stars are reluctant to return from Brazil?
My fellow Ghanaians, the Ghana we thought we knew and loved has proven to be nothing but an elaborate ruse, a state that exists not for the benefit of its general populace, but for the benefit of a privileged few. We were blessed with the honor of being Africa’s first sovereign nation, to have been a golden sapling of freedom sprouting the harsh bedrock of colonial oppression. I hope we do not let this nation, so full of some of the most vibrant, intelligent people I have ever met, wither and die under the shadows of corruption.