Ghanaians are, and rightly so, indignant over reports that certain deals entered into by the government with a foreign entity and a public transportation agency, whiff strongly of graft and corruption. The allegations, if proven, are deeply troubling.
The anger and vitriol being directed against the ruling NDC center around the purchase of ten gas turbines from the Africa Middle-East Resources Investments group (AMERI) and the rebranding of 116 metro transit buses.
Driving the anger are charges that in both deals, money changed hands; the Ghanaian tax-payer was fleeced. Speculation is rife that in the turbine deal, the cost was stiff, that it was too high and that it was padded from an initial $220 million to half a billion dollars to benefit a government functionary or a well connected business tycoon. Critics point to other vendors who could very well have sold the turbines at a much cheaper rate, thus saving the country millions of precious dollars.
In the rebranding of the metro buses, Smartty’s Management, a company owned by the wife of an NDC honcho reportedly charged the government a staggering 3million Ghana cedis when in reality the charge was a mere 11,000 Ghana cedis. Outrageous.
While representatives of AMERI, have denied overcharging the Ghanaian government, and the minister of transport, Dzifa Ativor, who blessed the rebranding of the metro buses has tendered in her resignation, opponents of the deals, nonetheless, have pounced on the transactions to cry foul and to bemoan the high levels of corruption in government.
We are going into an election year, and there is the temptation therefore to dismiss the critics as opportunists, looking for an opening to savage the government for electoral gain. But in this instance as in other cases that reeked of corruption, the critics have a point; corruption in high places has become deeply rooted and official response has been, at best, tepid.
Some critics have deemed the turbine deal ironclad and that Ghana will run into road blocks were it to attempt to undo the deal and recover damages. International trade regulations, the critics maintain, would not allow Ghana to walk away from the deal without huge financial consequences. But this is where I part company with the critics.
The International Court of Arbitration, a component of the International Chamber of Commerce, which settles trade disputes between nations, has a moral as well as a legal obligation to do the right thing.
So, if the court were to ascertain that the turbine deal was tainted with corruption, and that the people of Ghana are victims of a shoddy transaction, it would have no qualms dismantling the deal.
Poor Mrs. Dzifa, the transport minister has taken the fall for the government and I am sure critics pop-opened bottles champagne in celebration when she elected to resign, an action that underscored the enormity of the scandal. That she would approve something that would ultimately enrich a private individual is mindboggling.
These latest scandals should be the final wake-up calls for the NDC government which has been accused severally by its political opponents of being inept and unresponsive to corruption. The president, John Mahama, particularly has come in for harsh criticism because from the surface, he appears to be nonchalant and indifferent to the naked looting of the national coffers that is going on around him.
Yes, of course, the government’s opponents would continue to hammer away at its inability to rein in corruption, a weakness the opposition would exploit relentlessly as elections draw closer. They have the right to direct venom at a government they think is lax in the prosecution of those caught in the web of corruption.
All the government can do to counter charges of ineptitude vis a vis corruption is to begin a process of singling out corrupt officials and punishing them severely if they are found guilty in a court of law. It is the only way to restore public confidence in its ability to govern. Ghanaians deserve a government that is willing to take the fight to those who feed shamelessly at the public trough.