Ways to meeting high standards of good corporate governance and the Ghanaian


By Constance GBEDZO

This article seeks to answer the question on whether the Ghanaian is capable to manage its own affairs and truly ethical. It also examines the factors that debilitate our quest to achieve high performance in our businesses, governance, and works or jobs. We are going to do this by looking at essential aspects of our lives.

In recent times, Ghana has witnessed serious corporate and economic failures in many fronts; the collapse of 7 commercial bank, several savings and loans companies and finance house companies between 2017 and 2019, the collapse of the national economy as witnessed between 2020 and 2023 with high levels of debts overhang, high cost of living and rising inflation, worsening unemployment situation, that were at a level that can described as unprecedented in Ghana.

The above are attributable to the much talked about lack of economic diversification and high dependence on few export crops, high dependency on excessive borrowing for infrastructural development and even for recurrent expenditure, high debt repayment obligations denominated in external currency, high cost on the service sector as opposed to the productive sector, massive corruption and wastage across board, and largely, the hatred to see others make progress in Ghana. We have witnessed, over the years, institutionalized regulatory infractions with impunity.

This, however, leaves the question as to whether truly ‘the black man is capable of managing its own affairs’.

The general attributes of ‘the Ghanaian’   

Generally in Ghana, the community is everything. As a people, we share an immensely powerful bond with each other, and it is evident all throughout the country. For example, if you are eating next to a total stranger who does not have anything in front of him, our customs oblige us to say, “you are invited.” Everyone shares. This is heartwarming to visitors to Ghana to see such a simple kindness between two unrelated individuals. Complete strangers may show up at funerals, weddings, or any other ceremony because all are welcome.

In Ghana, greetings are imperative; basic conversation is expected in most environments, especially when asking for something, it is considered impolite to get straight to the point; first one should question the other on their day and well-being. When you desire to ask a Ghanaian a question, you need to start it with ‘please,’ as it is usually considered that the one answering you is performing some favor when doing so. Closer friends frequently use a handshake, a kind of snap between one’s thumb and middle finger for casual greetings.

We are a people of music and dance. We adore dancing!! We love soccer. We are largely casual in nature.

The resultant effect, in my view, is that as a people, we detest following laws, rules/procedures, policies and standards. We would prefer doing things in our own ways. Where rules must be followed, we either do it blindly, forgetting its substance or we are orchestrating how to circumvent such rules. We are naturally averse to systems of accountability, and lay credence to collective responsibility; when something goes wrong within an organization, a community and the nation as a whole, we would rather give it the color of collective responsibility and do the fire-fighting.

Our casual attitude, even at the level of the state, regulators, corporations etc. leads us into finding only temporary solutions to our economic growth and developmental challenges. We adore speaking good English, even better than the owners of the language, the English. In doing so, we mostly lose out on the substance. In Ghana, Systems Don’t Work, rather People Do. To us, face-to-face interaction is more effective than any program or technology. It is ‘a way to say that efficiency comes second always.

In the developed world, time is associated with money and productivity. In Ghana, we take it slowly and easy. These   characteristics described of the Ghanaian reflect in everything we do. This characterization of the Ghanaian has negative impact on our performances. I would demonstrate this by categorizing ‘the Ghanaian’ as follows:

Ghanaian as religious bodies:

In my humble view, church goers and their pastors form part of our bigger challenges. There is some degree of religious bigotry, untruthfulness, extortion and in large part, lack of accountability among the church leadership. The church has rather become a space for business where the poor are extorted using the very word of God that was intended for shaping moral uprightness in any society. To muddy the waters, the politician is able to manipulate the leadership of the church.

Ghanaian as Family

Family refers to biological, associations, professional groupings, etc. Socialization and parenting in Ghana is largely built on pretense. The child grows up only knowing how to pretend to win favour from others. As a child and at tender age, you are exposed to how to manipulate people to win their favour. For example, when your mother requires some favour from your father, her husband, that moment she becomes more responsive to the needs of the husband. For the first time you hear your mother calling him, honey, sweetheart…. etc. As soon as the need is satisfied, the relationship reverts to normal.

We therefore extend this same manipulative attitude to the work place. Such work places become polarized, leading to poor organizational culture and terrible job output.

Ghanaian as the Professor, Lecturer (PhD), Tutor/Teacher

The role of teachers is to help students learn by imparting knowledge to them and by setting up a situation in which students can learn effectively. He is expected to set the moral standard for the students to emulate.  In Ghana, the situation is different. If your lecturer can photocopy someone’s book and sell to large number of students and make income thereof, if your lecturer makes the buying of his handout a condition to you passing his examination, if your lecturer would not review his lecture notes which remains unchanged, for example, between 1980 and 2020; what character are you then acquiring as students?

Currently, our Professors have become appendixes to the political actors. They blatantly would even support their wrongdoings. In Ghana, you will find that while the economic actors; market women, farmers, industrialists, civil society, students, etc. are not served appropriately with economic policies, you would see or hear the Professor vehemently justifying those. They fail to bring knowledge to bear on our economic forward match.

Academic researchers have little/no bearing on national development. Student engage in butter trade to acquire degrees etc. What kind of character are we building?

Ghanaian as Professionals; Banks/Banker, Accountant, Auditor, etc.

In Ghana, the moral question remains, how does one become professional when your background is largely pretense. Our professionals lack detailed knowledge and the requisite skills to discharge their jobs. Our professionals only depend on hearsays and misleading information and half-truths in the discharge of their jobs.

Our audited financial reports are largely a misrepresentation of the facts, largely because the internal auditor did not do his job well, the internal control officer went to sleep, management lacked direction, and the external auditor told himself that his job was not to detect fraud. For him, management explanation is enough.

Any institution that has collapsed would have had weaknesses in their financials over the past five years. Who were the internal and external auditors of UT, Sovereign Bank, UniBank, Capital Bank, Heritage Bank, etc., and others that were bailed out? Do they not belong the ICA/ACCA? Were they held accountable? No.

How about the public sector issues of corruption, misappropriations and misapplication of funds? These institutions also have managers, internal auditors and Auditor General. Are they being held accountable? What happens after the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament? Who follows up to ensure closure on those corrupt cases?

Ghanaians as Regulators

Where was the Bank of Ghana in case of the collapsed banks? Were the staff of Bank of Ghana held to account? A typical BOD staff on the job has little knowledge of the job and depends on counter information from sections of the institution to make reasoned opinion on a matter. In doing so, he is fed with half-truths and misleading conclusions. If they devote time and energy to undertaking the jobs independently and verifying their findings, most challenges would be nipped in the bud. No doubt, they need to become more competent, knowledgeable and skilled in order to make some positive impact.

Ghanaians as Service provider; Farmer/Trader, doctor, nurse, teacher, hotelier, etc.

Just go to our markets, supermarkets and stalls, you would find expired products, substandard electrical products, adulterated foodstuffs, questionable environmental standards, etc. Who are the regulators of these economic activities in Ghana? Who regulates our agronomic practices; use of agro-chemicals etc., who certifies our agro-products for the market. When you go to the supermarkets, you would find that foodstuffs, meat products, eggs, fruits, etc. have been certified. When you come to the open markets where large volume of foodstuffs is traded, no such certifications are spotted.

Go to the hospitals; the attitudes of our doctors and nurses. Someone is having malnutrition and you prescribe paracetamol and chloroquine. That is the doctors’ level of knowledge.

Ghanaian in Sports; footballer, athletics, etc

A case in point is Ghana Blackstars in Brazil, the leadership crisis, cash problems and the eventual airlifting of cash to Brazil. Were there concluded negotiations before departure from Ghana to Brazil? What was going to be the mode of payments to the playing body? How did the playing body lose confidence in their Manager, Ministers and even the President of the Republic? How were these matters investigated? Were the lessons learnt documented to guide our future endeavours? Were there punitive actions considered credible taken?

Ghanaian in Showbiz, as movie maker, artists, singers etc

Can we talk about the standards of our movie industry today? As a nation, we are good at pointing out the problems, but do little to address them. The content of our movies are of substandard, everyone says it. Our lyrics in music are problematic. They are mostly sexual and love oriented and mostly uninspiring. The industry also suffered leadership crisis many times. A case in point is when during an award ceremony, one artist pulled out a gun…..surprisingly. Were there processes to follow in making entry into the auditorium? Who was responsible to ensure safety of the attendees? Many more questions remain unanswered.

Even our beauty pageants contests suffer leadership and moral crisis. Ghana has difficulties organizing credible contests with scandalous accusations levelled against organizers and leaders on every occasion.

How about Ghanaian as President and/Parliamentarian or Assemblyman?

I wish I could leave this to the judgement of my readers. You will realize that our casual nature affects everything we do, and that involves the presidency, the legislature and the judiciary. In any case, how do we expect do choose a leader that is different from who we are with levels of leadership crisis enumerated above? It does appear impossible right! I think that Ghana needs national reorientation on parenting, education and socialization, professionalism and ethical leadership.

Just take a look at the conduct of our parliamentarians on the floor of Parliament in recent times, especially on the issue of the controversial electronic levy, the popular e-levy. From a broad perspective, it was largely because the executive arm of government has over the years failed Ghanaians by imposing an avoidable fiscal mismatch on Ghanaians which require critical policy measures to address, but rather chose to impose a further burden on the ordinary Ghanaian.

I believe this was unfair to the poor and the destitute who had little to do with our fiscal imbalances. Then a group of Ghanaians in the minority in parliament, purported to be serving the interest of the masses were pretending to prevent further injustice being served the marginalized poor that resulted in the brawl we witnessed in parliament. This was avoidable right?

Over the years, the Auditor General’s Report contained some levels of scandals and financial irregularities. It begs the question as to why government decided not plucking the loopholes for financial irregularities to save the economy rather than an e-transactions levy that among other things threatens the government’s own policy of financial inclusion for all. E-ley poses a grave danger to MoMo businesses, and deliberately targeting business capital etc. If we are deep in our analysis, we would come to realize that e-transaction levy would negatively impact the financial inclusiveness that took Ghana some time to build.

Far from the political rhetoric, today, Ghana’s economic situation has been so dire to the extent that its survival was dependent on GHs6.8 billion which was only about 20% of all the monies lost through irregularities.  Indeed, the justifications for the strange levy were ill-procured as total revenue from e-transaction levy would be too little to afford infrastructure financing in Ghana. Our fiscal deficit position was/is too wide to have solution in e-levy.

What was obvious was that parliament succeeded in passing this regrettable, regressive and unfair tax,  and the business community suffers, the pro-poor suffer, and eventually the market responded, our financial inclusion project gets damaged.

The question has been, how did we get here, where did all borrowed funds and revenues go. Did parliament as the controller of government do its job, Has the composition of our parliament and constitutional requirements allow it to be effective in the discharge of its job, how long we are going to be doing the fire-fighting even at the level of the state; the state finds itself in severe trouble, and the actors only resort to ways and means to address it.

If we had answered these questions appropriately, the already poor and marginalized Ghanaians would have brazed up to take further hit in e-levy.

It is imperative that our leadership become more accountable, transparent and equitable in the distribution of our national resources. The corruption, misappropriation and misapplication of our public limited funds has become too much. Already, we have taken a lot of decisions that have implications financially on our future financial potentials. We indulged in huge borrowings with future revenues in mind. This appears convenient and lazy approach to national development.

And this brings to the fore our political campaigns issues; who monitors to hold government responsible? For example, the current governing party while in opposition had a position on going to the IMF, moving the economy from taxation to production, and all other promises. What had become of these promises?  Did they materialize? Who is holding these political actors to accounts?

I think we need to become a bit more critical of ourselves as parents, teachers, professionals, regulators, parliamentarians, chief executives, entrepreneurs, men of God, and as citizens of Ghana. When issues happen, we need to face them with an open mind, devoid of politics, ethnocentrism, and become more accountable.

>>>the writer is a governance expert

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