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Ghana - Corruption

Corruption has deep roots in the Ghanaian political culture, and to a large degree, society accepts and expects patronage and largesse as part and parcel of an office-holder's prerogatives. A powerful executive branch with little oversight or regulation, low remuneration for civil servants and security agencies, opacity in the procurement process, and a prevailing sense of official impunity all create a system that is hospitable to corruption.

Corruption in Ghana is comparatively less prevalent than in other countries in the region, but remains a problem. Corruption was present in all branches of government, according to media and NGOs. The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and some officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices. For example, police set up barriers to extort money from motorists, and judicial officials accepted bribes to expedite or postpone cases or to “lose” records. The World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a problem.

A few American firms have identified corruption as the main obstacle to foreign direct investment. Ghana's 2015 score and ranking on the Transparency International Global Corruption Perceptions Index slipped slightly from 2014, tying with Cuba for 56th place out of 167. In 2015, there were a number of corruption allegations involving government officials. Corruption in government institutions is pervasive. In fact, the judiciary is reeling from a major bribery scandal that was exposed in September 2015, resulting in 20 judges being fired and several others being suspended while the judiciary conducts internal inquiries into the allegations.

The Government of Ghana has taken steps to amend laws on public financial administration and public procurement. The public procurement law, passed in January 2004, seeks to harmonize the many public procurement guidelines used in the country and also to bring public procurement into conformity with WTO standards. The law aims to improve accountability, value for money, transparency and efficiency in the use of public resources. However, some civil society observers have criticized the law as inadequate. Notwithstanding the procurement law, companies cannot expect complete transparency in locally funded contracts. There continue to be allegations of corruption in the tender process and the government has in the past set aside international tender awards in the name of national interest.

Commercial fraud in the form of scams is common in Ghana. Similar to the better-known Nigerian "419" scams, Ghana’s homegrown ‘Sakawa’ fraud typically originates through unsolicited email proposals. The most common fraud scams are procurement offers tied to alleged Ghanaian government or, more frequently, ECOWAS programs. U.S. companies frequently report being contacted by an unknown Ghanaian firm claiming to be an authorized agent of an official government procurement agency. Foreign firms that express an interest in being included in potential procurements are lured into paying a series of fees to have their companies registered or products qualified for sale in Ghana or the West Africa region. U.S. companies receiving offers from West Africa from unknown sources should use extreme caution and conduct significant due-diligence prior to pursuing these offers.

Offering the sale of gold or gemstones at discount prices is also a common form of fraud in Ghana. Buyers of gold and diamonds are strongly advised to deal directly with the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) in Ghana. Gold and diamonds can be exported legally from Ghana only through the PMMC and prices are based solely on the London Exchange price on the day of export. No discounting or negotiation of prices prior to export by the PMMC is valid. There have also been a number of commercially oriented scams whose sole aim is to obtain a U.S. visa fraudulently. American firms can request background checks on companies with whom they wish to do business by using the United States Commercial Service's International Company Profile (ICP). Requests for ICPs should be made through the nearest United States Export Assistance Center.

The 1992 Constitution established the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Among other things, the Commission is charged with investigating alleged and suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public funds by officials. The Commission is also authorized to take appropriate steps, including providing reports to the Attorney General and the Auditor-General in response to such investigations. The Commission has a mandate to investigate alleged offenders when there is sufficient evidence to initiate legal actions. The Commission, however, is under-resourced and has conducted few investigations leading to prosecutions. In November 2015, President Mahama fired the CHRAJ Commissioner after she was under investigated for misappropriating public funds.

In 1998, the Government of Ghana also established an anti-corruption institution, called the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), to investigate corrupt practices involving both private and public institutions. SFO’s name was changed to Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) in 2010 and its functions were expanded to include crimes such as money laundering and other organized crimes. EOCO is empowered to initiate prosecutions and to recover proceeds from criminal activities. The government passed a “Whistle Blower” law in July 2006, intended to encourage Ghanaian citizens to volunteer information on corrupt practices to appropriate government agencies. In December 2006, CHRAJ issued guidelines on conflict of interest to public sector workers. In December 2009, CHRAJ and the government issued a new Code of Conduct for Public Officers in Ghana with guidelines on conflicts of interest.

In September 2011 an Accra Circuit Court dismissed a narcotics case after one kilogram of seized cocaine was allegedly and surreptitiously replaced with sodium carbonate. The disappearance of the cocaine prompted an investigation by the BNI and a judicial panel of inquiry. Although the panel found improper behavior and procedures, it cleared the judicial service in the cocaine’s disappearance. The BNI placed blame on a deputy superintendent of police, who was subsequently dismissed from service.

After British authorities at Heathrow Airport intercepted a significant quantity of cannabis and cocaine on two commercial flights from Accra in September 2012, the BNI detained five officials from Ghana’s Narcotics Control Board in connection with the seizures. Reportedly, the BNI questioned the officials on how a record amount of cannabis made it past airport security. Authorities had not brought charges against the officials at year’s end.

In October 2012 authorities arrested two officials from Ghana’s Electoral Commission and the presidential candidate of a small political party on allegations of corruption. Allegedly, the presidential candidate bribed the two officials in order to be included on the December ballot. The suspects were released on bail while authorities investigated the case.

The government came under criticism in 2012 due to the Woyome scandal, which involved a substantial judgment debt payment to an NDC financier, Alfred Woyome. Following an alleged breach of contract for a government construction project, the courts awarded Woyome an abnormally large judgment debt. Under the late President Mills, the EOCO conducted an investigation and presented a report alleging that corruption and government incompetence led to the judgment debt. The former chief state attorney; his wife, the former legal director in the Ministry of Finance; and Woyome were all arrested. Woyome was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, and corrupting public officials. The others were charged with aiding and abetting Woyome’s crimes. All four pled not guilty and were released on bail. Corruption concerns persisted as more large judgment debt controversies surfaced during the year. In response, the government appointed a commissioner for judgment debts to address the issue.

In November 2013, President Mahama pledged his support for a National Anti-Corruption Action Plan developed by the CHRAJ. In remarks to CHRAJ officials and funding partners, Mahama stated that he had taken a number of steps to reduce corruption, including sending the Public Officers Code of Conduct Bill to Parliament, clamping down on misuse of government vehicles, launching an online complaints platform, and reviewing several suspect government contracts. The plan was approved by the Parliament in July 2014, but many of its provisions have not been implemented due to lack of resources.

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Page last modified: 06-12-2016 19:43:32 ZULU