A Senior law lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), Dr. Godwin Adagewine, has warned that investor confidence in the economy may erode if appropriate action is not taken to address the high rate and perception of corruption in the public sector.
His comments come in the wake of the 2017 Afrobarometer report which shows widespread perceptions of corruption in both government and private-sector leadership, with the police and judges most widely seen as being corrupt.
According to the report, citizens perceive 59 percent of all police to be corrupt; 38 percent of all judges to be corrupt; 35 percent of all national government officials to be corrupt; and 32 percent of all parliamentarians to be corrupt.
This, Dr. Adagewine said, creates a worrying business climate for any investor coming in, hence affecting his or her confidence in the economy.
“The police and the judiciary are two very important institutions in the country and they enforce the laws of the country, including business and investment laws. For example, when an investor is defrauded, he or she or if it is a company, will readily want to seek the intervention of the police or the court.
And the aggrieved investor will want to be sure that in the event of any such situation, there will be justice according to the law done. But if these institutions are corrupt, as the report suggests, then it will erode confidence in their ability to be fair and firm in enforcing the law,” he said in an interview with the B&FT.
“And you know investors want to put their monies where they know they can get their returns, and if disagreements arise in the process, and they cannot trust the system to resolve such disagreements fairly and according to the law, then they will not want to come.
They will look to places where the institution of the law can be trusted to be fair and firm. If they don’t trust that the system will protect their investment and interest, then they will not come. But if they are sure that their investment can be protected, then they will come,” he added.
To address the issue, Dr. Adagewine said, stiffer punishment must be meted out to officials caught in corrupt practices so that it will send a strong message to investors that the law enforcement agencies can be trusted and will protect their interest.
“We have to be seen dealing with it. If a police officer or judge is involved in corruption, the person must be punished and not transferred. If you transfer them all that it means is that they can go and continue their actions somewhere else, and investors may also be operating there too. But when we are seen to be punishing them, then the investors will know that the institution is doing justice,” he said.
Indeed, a number of diplomats, including US Ambassador Robert Porter Jackson, have, every now and then, raised concern about the high rate of corruption in the country, particularly so far government institutions are concerned.
The Afrobarometer report also states that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Ghanaians want corrupt officials prosecuted and, if found guilty, forced to return stolen funds, jailed, and publicly named and shamed.
The much-awaited Special Prosecutor’s office is expected to help do that, if the powerplay between the two leading political parties – NDC and NPP – does not lead to accusations of witch-hunting, thereby effectively pouring cold water on the work of that office.
About one-fifth (22 percent) favour government retrieval of stolen funds without prosecution, while one in 10 (9 percent) would opt for prosecution without retrieval of stolen funds.
Again, the report adds, the proportion of Ghanaians who think the government has performed very well or fairly well in fighting corruption more than doubled between 2014 and 2017, from 25 percent to 60 percent.