Deteriorating governance in Ghana; CSOs launched citizens’ coalition to halt Ghana’s democratic decline & secure inclusive governance
The Northern Chapter of Coalition for Democratic Accountability and Inclusive Governance (Citizens’ Coalition) has been launched in Tamale. The coalition made up of over forty Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and pro-democracy groups and individuals and fifteen intellectuals including lawyers was formed after an assessment of governance in Ghana recognizes the deterioration that has occurred over the past 8 years.
The coalition says their latest move follows their earlier engagement with the government at different levels and expressed their views and dissatisfaction about the governance system but it has not yielded positive results. According to the coalition, citizens have been inundated with various national issues and revelations that triggered intense public outrage, condemnation, and calls for justice and accountability in recent times.
Given the worsening socio-economic and governance challenges facing the country, a non-partisan political movement is needed to harness democratic process of mass education and mobilization to stem what they called the dangerous trend and assure democratic renewal, economic and social justice. The coalition hashtag ‘WeBe Citizens not spectators’ objective is to halt Ghana’s democratic decline and secure inclusive governance and development for all.
The coalition in its press statement read by Alhaji Osman Abdel Rahman, Executive Director of Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) said cost of living is on steep rise alongside rapid hikes in fuel prices, increasing of rent, the cost of health care, astronomical increase in prices of farm inputs such as fertilizer. The coalition also identified widespread youth unemployment as another major contributory factor to economic hardship that Ghanaians are experiencing for a long while now.
The coalition mission, Alhaji Osman said, includes; establishing a culture of accountable and transparent governance that actively and consciously responds to the demands of citizens and promotes human rights, constitutionalism and actions on governance.
Corruption and the needless waste of public resources, award of Northern Development Authority (NDA) contracts to A&Qs consortium to cash in a 10,400,000 cedis, government inability to account for COVID-19 funds, government’s attempts at implementing Agyapa Royalties agreements, wanton sales of sale lands including purported reclassification of Achimota forest reserve were among key issues contains in the coalition statement presented by Alhaji Osman.
‘We call on the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to speed up its investigations into the allegations of fraudulent falsification of figures and signature forgery made by the former CEO of the Northern Development Authority (NDA), Dr. Sulemana Anamzoya against his successor Mr. Sumaila Abdul-Rahman, in connection with a contract awarded by NDA to A&Qs Consortium, to cash in a ¢10,400,000. This is a very serious matter for us in Northern Ghana given the critical importance of the NDA to development of our people and Regions’.
Young people from the five regions of the north, persons living with disability and youth activists expressed worry about lack of government disinterest on the citizens’ concerns and growing impunity by government appointees who appeared to have lost touch with ordinary people.
BELLOW IS THE FULL STATEMENT BY THE COALITION
Northern Sector Launch and Press Conference
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media, invited organizations and citizens of Ghana.
Thank you for honoring our invitation to this press conference for us to speak to the good people of Ghana through you (media), on our major concerns about the continuously deteriorating socioeconomic and governance conditions that are facing the good people of Ghana.
We will also explain the formation of our coalition, Coalition for Democratic Accountability and Inclusive Governance, or the Citizens’ Coalition for short, and its objects and principles. We shall use this platform to highlight some immediate actions which must be addressed as soon as possible.
The governance and socioeconomic challenges we shall be highlighting today have reached their peak and have become just unbearable for the people of this country. Hence, Ghanaians have in recent times complained bitterly about the downward spiraling of their living conditions which is partly due to the continuing depreciation of the Cedi.
The cost of living has been on a steep rise alongside the rapid hikes in fuel prices, increasing cost of rent, the cost of health care, the astronomical increase in prices of farm inputs such as fertilizer and other necessities have all invariable affected the living conditions of the ordinary Ghanaian, not forgetting the monster of widespread youth unemployment that exists. All these are major contributing factors to the economic hardships that Ghanaians have experienced for a long while now.
This notwithstanding, the government’s current actions, sadly, lacks the strength to significantly lessen these major problems. The government refuses to take any responsibility for the current state of affairs. Rather, our political leaders frequently cite the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia/Ukraine war as the causes of the current socioeconomic challenges, which are seen as a global phenomenon.
Our politicians’ language almost seems to imply that there is nothing that can be done to lessen the difficulties we confront until these two distinct events have stopped. Additionally, it implies that Ghanaians should keep silent as they endure the situation. Most Ghanaians are now in a desperate state because of the government’s posturing, which has stoked widespread resentment among the populace.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is undeniable that the COVID-19 outbreak and the impacts of the Russia/Ukraine war have made our economic problems worse. But these two aspects are only the surface of the issues. The root causes of these issues stem from how successive administrations and the bureaucracy have handled the nation’s affairs and the economy in the past without engaging in any systematic planning. Our problems are made worse by the carelessness with which projects are carried out, by poorly planned public investment, and by the absence of any consistent and serious endeavor to promote local industrialization. Our government spending is characterized by a senseless waste of funds without proper consideration for fiscal responsibility laws.
The callous, opulent “V8-lifestyle” of our elected/appointed public officials and bureaucratic elite—a lifestyle supported by the taxpayer—is more upsetting and, to put it bluntly, irritating/provocative. Regardless of which party is in power, the political establishment now lives a life of impunity and abuse of power. The near monopoly of executive power in appointments to the public service and parastatals, which continues to be a conduit for political patronage and corruption, is just one factor contributing to the manner of life of the political and bureaucratic elite.
Political party patronage, outright grand larceny, and high-level corruption have been features of succeeding governments. Election promises to combat government corruption continues to be just that: promises. The corruption scandals keep coming, with the most recent ones being much more shocking than the earlier ones. The notorious criminal land-grab controversy involving the former General Secretary and immediate past CEO of the Forestry Commission is one recent instance by the late Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie (known in political circles as “Sir John”) of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP)..
While this is going on, the two major parties have taken control of the media landscape by giving their supporters access to radio and television frequencies, which they then use to track down and use their army of paid party communicators to silence any patriots who dare speak out against the ongoing rape of the country. The unsavory role of unrestricted party campaign fundraising has held our budding democracy captive to moneybags, who are not publicly declared and whose source of finance remains unknown and unseen, adding to the leadership dilemma. The risk with this method of campaign finance is that criminal gangs might quickly and easily take over as the main source of party funding, further escalating our problems with government.
My fellow countrymen and women, we are deeply concerned that these events could continue to degenerate into an existential threat to our democracy if they are not stopped. It would encourage mistaken political players, groups, and even segments of our society, especially our youth, who perceive no improvement in the current situation, to examine alternatives to a constitutional democracy that are appropriate, disruptive, and dictatorial, which none of us here will wish to happen. Because of this, several organizations and individuals from civil society have joined forces to create a nonpartisan coalition or movement that will use democratic processes of mass mobilization and education to reverse the dangerous trend and ensure democratic renewal, economic equality, and social justice. The Coalition for Democratic Accountability and Inclusive Governance, or CITIZENS’ COALITION, shall be the name of this movement.
Objects and criteria and principles of membership
We extend an open invitation to all people and non-state groups to join us in our mission to reverse the loss of our democracy and ensure inclusive growth.
Members of the Coalition shall not openly support, endorse, or be surrogates for any political party or political party candidate.
Our Mission is thus to establish a culture of accountable and transparent governance that actively and consciously responds to the demands of citizens and promotes human rights, constitutionalism and the national interest.
Immediate Demands and Actions on Accountable Governance
On August 25th, 2022, we observe that some Coalition members have been responding to recent problems and events that have something to do with our country’s socioeconomic well-being collectively and have made requests of the government. We’d like to take this chance to restate and update a few of these requests and demands.
Corruption and the needless waste of Public Resources
The consolidation of our democracy continues to be gravely threatened by corruption in the public sector. It is threatening to take over the Republic and has eaten dangerously deep into party politics and public procurement. Not much progress has been made in the battle against public corruption in spite of government initiatives including the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the allocation of some resources to some anti-corruption agencies, and the passing of the Right to Information law. Recent scandals, such as the “contract for sale” case involving Mr. A. B. Agyei, the ousted CEO of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), the LABIANCA deal, and the leaked copies of the immediate-past Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie’s last will and testament, point to serious flaws in the system. The following demands are ones we want to make of our government, together with a dedicated anticorruption agent.
The Citizens’ Coalition joins the call for the Auditor General to use his constitutional authority to levy surcharges and disallowances against anyone named in the 2019 and 2020 Auditor-reports General’s for various financial irregularities. We observe that Mr. Daniel Domelovo, who was the Auditor-General at the time, recovered about GHC 66 million through surcharges for government coffers in 2018. The Office of the Auditor-General has not yet issued any surcharges, disallowances, or individuals found to have stolen public funds after his “forced” resignation in 2020. Our Coalition will take the appropriate steps to ensure that the Auditor General complies with the Constitution of Ghana if he continues to disobey the clear constitutional mandate that the Supreme Court has upheld.
The Public Office Holder (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act of 1998 and recent publications by the Fourth Estate in May and June 2022 that demonstrate the willful disregard of the already lax asset declarations regulatory framework under article 286 (1) of the Constitution worry the Citizens’ Coalition (Act 550). Approximately 10,000 public office holders failed to comply with the asset disclosure regulatory framework to register their assets and obligations, according to information from the Auditor-General that was revealed by the Fourth Estate. The Citizens’ Coalition requests that the Auditor-General issue an immediate directive to all public officials who are in violation of the Constitution. We also observe that the Constitution stipulates that the CHRAJ is obliged to take appropriate action against public officials who are in default. Considering this, we humbly request that CHRAJ take immediate action on a petition that was submitted to it on June 14, 2022 by 5 ordinary persons. We are urging that CHRAJ take necessary measures against public officials who are in default, including but not limited to starting legal proceedings against. It is our unequivocal hope that by the end of August 2022, all defaulting public officers would have fully complied with the asset declaration regime, and that the courts would have the authority to order compliance or, in lieu of compliance, impose fines on them.
The current asset and liability disclosure regime is flaky and falls short of the goals it was intended to achieve. Therefore, if we are to make any progress in the battle against public corruption, it must be tackled. The Conduct of Public Officers Bill, which has been in and out of Parliament for almost ten years, must be updated, and we want to know what it stands for at this time. Additionally, we urge that the Attorney General sends a trustworthy draft of the measure to Parliament for approval right away. Legislation is crucial for regulating public ethics and resolving serious flaws in the asset disclosure and conflict of interest regimes, as the government has correctly noted. Members of the Citizens’ Coalition have been instrumental in securing the passage of this legislation and will keep assisting Parliament technically in order to hasten its approval.
The Citizens’ Coalition applauds the OSP Board’s long delayed installation. The OSP has been positioned by the government as the frontline in the battle against corruption, particularly corruption involving people who are politically exposed. In order to ensure the OSP’s operational and functional independence, we implore the government to give enough funding. Anything less will betray the government’s dedication to creating an operational OSP. In order to establish and maintain trust in the office and its work, we also implore the OSP to deal with several legacy cases from the Martin Amidu administration as soon as possible.
We call on the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to speed up its investigations into the allegations of fraudulent falsification of figures and signature forgery made by the former CEO of the Northern Development Authority (NDA), Dr Sulemana Anamzoya against his successor Mr. Sumaila Abdul-Rahman, in connection with a contract awarded by NDA to A&Qs Consortium, to cash in a ¢10,400,000. This is a very serious matter for us in Northern Ghana given the critical importance of the NDA to development of our people and Regions.
The purported reclassification of the Achimota Forest Reserve and matters arising
A Ministerial Committee to investigate the Achimota land concerns and related issues was established about a month ago, according to an announcement made by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Honorable Abu Jinapor. There hasn’t been any official correspondence regarding the Committee’s activity. Additionally, after the committee’s announcement and all the evidence was made public, we came to the opinion that the Executive Instruments (E.I. 144 and E.I. 154) should be suspended and/or revoked immediately for the following reasons:
First, given Supreme Court rulings that lands compulsorily acquired by the State prior to the 1992 Constitution’s implementation do not need to be returned to their original owners because doing so would “create chaos and confusion in the land administration sector of the country,” we question the legal propriety of the alleged return of a portion of the forest lands to the Owoo family. [Consider the Nii Kpobi Tettey Tsuru v. Attorney General  SCGLR 904] case.
Second, from the standpoint of public policy, it is undesirable to purportedly return a portion of the forest land to its prior owners (the unidentified “Owoo family”). It might lead to widespread requests for the release of land by the state from owners of property that the government had forcedly seized around the nation. Our political leaders are more inclined to cave to these requests because of the patronage-based character of our politics. Curiously, the lands minister, who is working on behalf of the President (the constitutional trustee of public lands), could not offer any convincing justifications for the trustee-decision, President’s which is obviously not in Ghanaians’ best interests.
Third, it is questionable if the development of the forest (whether it be the much-touted “Eco-tourism park” or other development) will be compatible with its extremely delicate environmental status, where severely endangered species have found refuge.
Furthermore, one questions how successfully the Achimota Forest holdings would be administered once this alleged reclassification of the forest is actually implemented, given the usual poor administration of public lands by succeeding governments. Public lands have frequently been exploited and/or sold to politicians and their allies—often for cheap—in a manner that bespeaks of utter disdain for the larger national interest. This well-informed suspicion is strengthened by the information included in the widely disseminated leaked copies of the last will and testament of the late Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie (also known as “Sir John”), a former general secretary of the NPP and the previous CEO of the Forestry Commission.
We join the Parliament in calling for a public enquiry of the government’s practice of returning land to prior owners considering these worries. We humbly request President Akufo-Addo to halt any related plans for redeveloping Accra’s sole greenbelt as well as the Executive Instruments (EIs) 144 and 145. Additionally, we sincerely implore the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to halt all efforts to carry out plans for the development of the forest. We further implore the Lands Commission leadership to behave responsibly in carrying out their responsibilities to protect the national interests in this situation and regarding all public lands. We would continue to consider the best course of action as leaders of civil society.
Government’s steps at implementing the Agyapa Royalties Agreements and matters arising
In reaction to remarks made by the finance minister indicating the government’s clear resolve to bring the Agyapa Royalties back to Parliament for discussion, a group of 24 CSOs held a press conference on May 17, 2022. The group noted that despite the President’s pledge to resubmit the Agyapa Agreements to Parliament for a thorough examination before the 2020 general elections, that pledge appears to have been broken as the Ministry of Finance and the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) have started taking action at the SPV on the London and Accra Stock Exchanges. It is dangerous for the government to push the contract through and move through with implementation in light of the major concerns expressed by CSOs, the OSP, and other independent watchers regarding value for money, the length of the agreements, and corruption risks. We implore the administration to halt all implementation efforts so that contracts can be thoroughly reviewed by the public.
Accounting for COVID-19 Funds
The Citizens’ Coalition has constantly monitored the concerns surrounding the government’s COVID-19 expenditure accounting. The costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, for which Ghanaians continue to pay taxes, must be accurately accounted for. We applaud the Speaker of the House of Commons’ decision to charge the Parliamentary Select Committees on Health and Finance with investigating the figure’s reconciliation. The COVID-19 expenses will be covered by that work, but the Auditor-General needs to take quick action to account for the actual expenditure. We respectfully request that the Auditor-General conduct a forensic audit of the COVID-19 Funds in light of the recent allegations made public by the Second Northern Regional Vice Chairperson of the NPP, Madam Felicia Tetteh, that some funds were distributed to various structures of the governing party under the guise of COVID-19 related expenditure. In the sake of maintaining public accountability, we demand that the Auditor-General intervene in this situation with extreme vigilance.
Affirmative Action Bill
For well over ten years, the Affirmative Action Bill has been in and out of Parliament. The President stated that the Bill would be resubmitted to Parliament in his 2021 State of the Nation address. There is currently no set timetable for when it will be resubmitted to Parliament for review and passage; it is still pending at the Cabinet level. The Gender, Children, and Social Protection Ministry has been without a formal minister for almost a year now, which has undoubtedly hampered its efforts to advance not only the AA bill but also efforts to address the rising rates of poverty among children and poor households.
Are the government’s efforts to close the gender and social inclusion gap sincere? We enquire. The situation of Ghanaian women is perilous; the last census shows that the female unemployment rate is already over 15%, not including all the unpaid labor that many women perform or the abuse that many continue to endure at home and at work. The purpose of the legislation is to advance equality, justice, and fairness for all members of society, especially women and girls. Only 460 of the more over 6,000 Assembly Members in the nation are women, which is wrong and intolerable. In essence, women don’t have a voice when it comes to making decisions at the national and local levels of our government—decisions that directly and indirectly influence their lives in the places they live. This is true even though women make up most of the population.
We run the risk of undoing the progress we have made as a nation and jeopardizing the future of the young people after 30 years of democratic practice in the 4th Republic. The majority of the governance-related issues we encounter and their effects on the state of our economy are caused by the blatant disdain for the fundamental principles of inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability. As a result of the breakdown in these systems, discretionary decisions made by those with executive authority are not subject to many checks and balances. The Citizens’ Coalition respectfully requests that all citizens, whether they are in the country or overseas, wake up to their constitutional obligations and insist on doing the right thing. Democracy is not for a slack society, so we must insist that the elected and appointed authorities to whom we have entrusted our national assets act honorably and use their authority for the good of the country.
Our only home is Ghana, so we must make it a place worth living in.
In the upcoming weeks, the Coalition will communicate with the Ghanaian people our opinions and demands on other important issues, such as the country’s serious economic difficulties (including youth unemployment), internal security concerns, and potential terrorist threats, among others. For you to work with us to build the society and Ghana we want and deserve, we will also share with you a number of the events and engagements we have planned.
God bless Ghana!
Thank you for your attention!