By John P. Frinjuah and Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye
Corruption is a wicked problem that permeates every fabric of Ghanaian society, especially the public sector. Over the years, Ghana has fared dismally in its fight against corruption. In fact, the country has dropped consistently in recent years in rankings by anti-corruption and transparency bodies, including Transparency International and the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. If we do not see a renewed commitment to the fight against corruption – especially political corruption – the country risks reversing the gains made over the years in democracy, good governance, and development.
What do Ghanaians say about corruption?
The latest Afrobarometer findings on popular perceptions of corruption in Ghana mirror those of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 and the Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2017. Overwhelming majorities of Ghanaians see “some,” “most,” or “all” public – and private – sector officials as corrupt. The perception is worst for officials in the public sector, with the police seen as the most corrupt group: 92% of citizens say at least “some” police officials are corrupt, including 59% who say “most” or “all” are corrupt. The president and his office do better than other public officials, but still, more than three-fourths of citizens perceive at least some corruption there (see Figure 1).
This leadership morass is not limited to state officials. Even traditional and religious leaders are seen as corrupt by substantial numbers of Ghanaians – a surprise given the trust society places in them and the moral high ground on which they are expected to stand.
Figure 1: Perceived corruption in the public and private sectors | Ghana | 2017
Although popular perceptions of the overall level of corruption in the country have increased since 2014, a majority (60%) of Ghanaians now express approval of the new government’s efforts to combat corruption, a significant improvement compared to the 25% recorded in 2014 (see Figure 2). This approval could be explained as a combination of people’s hope that the new NPP government – which came to power on a ticket of anti-corruption and economic resuscitation – checks the menace of corruption and honours its electoral promise to the people.
Figure 2: Government’s performance in fighting corruption | Ghana | 2002-2017
Media reports and personal conversations suggest that the Ghanaian electorate and burgeoning middle class are increasingly unhappy about the high level of corruption, lack of accountability, and economic mismanagement that have bedeviled the country. Afrobarometer data confirm that they are eager to see stiff punishment meted out to perpetrators of such acts. Almost two-thirds (64%) of Ghanaians want corrupt officials prosecuted and, if found guilty, forced to return stolen funds, jailed, and publicly named and shamed. About one-fifth (22%) favour government retrieval of stolen funds without prosecution, while one in 10 (9%) would opt for prosecution without retrieval of stolen funds (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Appropriate punishment for corrupt officials | Ghana | 2017
In its one year in office, the NPP government has taken some steps in that direction, including the setting up of the Special Prosecutor’s office. Ghanaians want more than just lip service. With alleged fraud cases[ii] such as the BOST premix scandal, arson of the Central Medical Stores in an attempt to cover evidence of fraud, and the Ministry of Special Development Initiative’s 800,000 cedi website saga, government will need to live up to its pledges to crack the whip of justice against corrupt officials, irrespective of their political inclination.
[i] Links to corruption perceptions rankings:
[ii] Links to stories on corruption cases:
Steinhoff will have to restate its 2015 accounts and maybe earlier figures, the South African retailer said earlier this week, having already warned on its 2016 numbers.
The owner of more than 40 retail brands including Conforama, Mattress Firm and Poundland is fighting for survival after flagging accounting irregularities last month and parting ways with its veteran chief executive, Markus Jooste. A review being carried out by accounting firm PwC now suggests that “accounting irregularities” may stretch beyond 2015, it said.
“Whilst the internal review and investigation into the accounting irregularities have not yet concluded, the restatement of the financial statements ... for years prior to 2015 is likely to be required,” Steinhoff said in a statement.
The company last month postponed its 2017 results until the investigation is over. Steinhoff said the timeline for the completion of the investigation remained uncertain. The company had reported a 1.4 billion euros ($1.69 billion) net profit in 2016 while its 2015 accounts showed earnings of 959 million euros, according to Steinhoff’s annual reports.
“The latest information confirms what we’ve suspected all along (about the reliability of the results for 2015 and beyond),” one hedge fund manager said, declining to be named. “What we’re eagerly waiting for is the outcome of the PwC investigation.”
The accounting scandal marks a fall from grace for the retailer which has grown rapidly via an international M&A spree that began in 2011 with the acquisition of Conforama, Europe’s second biggest furniture retailer.
It has also tainted the reputation of Steinhoff’s chairman and biggest shareholder Christo Wiese, considered one of South Africa’s most respected stewards of shareholder capital. Shares in Steinhoff, once dubbed Africa’s IKEA, have fallen around 90 percent since news of the accounting irregularities broke in early December, wiping 185 billion rand ($14.99 billion) off its market value.
It warned then that there was a 2 billion euro ($2.4 billion) hole in its balance sheet and has since said that some credit facilities have been suspended or withdrawn as it grapples with more than 10 billion euros in outstanding debt. Separately, the company has been under investigation for suspected accounting fraud in Germany since 2015. It moved its primary share listing from Johannesburg to Frankfurt late that year.
Four current and former managers are under suspicion of having overstated revenue at subsidiaries, prosecutors said. Steinhoff has said the German investigation relates to whether revenue was booked properly, and whether taxable profits were correctly declared.
The year 2017 will go down as one of the most challenging for coffee farmers, with the government’s attempts to reform the ailing sub-sector failing to have any impact.
It is also the year when most growers realised poor harvests owing to bad weather and drought in 2016 and early last year. Nonetheless, Kenyan coffee fetched good prices in the world market. But with the anticipated reforms still in limbo, there’s little for most farmers to smile about.
And they may be headed for another round of discontent following a stalemate between officials of co-operative society smallholder farmers who use saccos to market their crop and the Coffee Subsector Implementation Committee (CSIC).
This is the committee implementing reforms proposed by a task force to resuscitate the sub-sector.
Poor working relationship between the CSIC and the societies’ officials has been a disadvantage to growers. Some are yet to start accessing subsidised fertiliser. The cheap farm input is one of the proposals made by the task force that the CSIC has successfully implemented.
Some societies still buy fertiliser from retailers, maintaining that there has never been communication from the CSIC or their devolved governments on availability of the cheaper one. Farmers have also been unable to access money for cherry advance even after being provided with Sh1.7 billion (USD16.5m) kitty for the same purpose.
The fund established through the Co-operative Bank of Kenya was one of the task force’s proposals. It is also becoming a white elephant.
Commissioner for Co-operatives Mary Mungai has been urging officials of farmers’ unions to take advantage of the fund with limited success. “Millers and marketing agents are not allowed to lend growers money due to conflict of interest,” warns Ms Mungai.
And in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties, there are cases of brokers buying cherries from farmers at throw-away prices and selling the same to Uganda dealers at a profit. The government has, however, denied this.
Among the proposals the union officials have opposed is the creation of a Central Depository Unit (CDU), a new payment system, and the setting up of a committee by the Agriculture Foods Authority, the industry’s regulator, to propose coffee prices.
- Nation Media Group