The cacophonous noise that greeted the treasonous ongoing investigation of the NSS ghost names has literally petered out. On the other hand, I hope the anger and frustrations of ordinary Ghanaians is still simmering for the ultimate explosion that will finally extricate this canker from our society. Corruption is killing Ghana slowly. It is a drawn out suicide that we seem to be enjoying. It is like a drug addict who knows his reckless lifestyle will eventually terminate his life prematurely, but cannot help it. Ghost names in the civil service and the activities of ultra greedy custom officers at our various ports functions as the heartbeat of this cancer.
About a year ago I wrote an article entitled: Ghana Should Be Formally Renamed Republic Of Corruption. It attracted a fairly balance commentary. However, one of the commentators who was diametrically opposed to what I wrote did emphatically call me stupid. In fact, there was an inference of lack of patriotism for washing my dirty linen in public. He categorically suggested that I renounce my citizenship. On a positive note, a very sensible contributor placed him exactly where he belong. To say that I was surprised by that reaction is an understatement; the fact is, not even in a million years could my suggestion become a reality. The title was a literary work meant to trigger discussion, and the content was near to certainty. So, I felt that kind of mentality was beyond redemption, and I did not bother to even comment on it. Now, for those who may harbour such feelings this is my measured answer: sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; naming our problems is the surest way to solicit the best solutions.
Ghanaians did not invent corruption; it is as old as when the first Homo sapiens coveted the property of another. Nevertheless, Ghanaians have perfected it, and it is inflicting mortal damage to our existence. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong; I think it is the single cause of our backwardness on the whole continent. I will not attempt to school anyone in this piece, because everyone understands its lethal nature and what it is doing to our society. Currently, the only consolation I clutch unto is that a lot of people are talking and writing about it. Of late, Dr Samuel Adjei Sarfo, who writes for The New Statesman and ghanaweb, has honed in on the subject with all the seriousness it deserves. Nonetheless, the responds was not encouraging. I was gobsmacked by the levity with which one of the contributors treated the topic. He was being philosophical, but ended up with the most useless piece of comment. He opined that we are all corrupt so we should pack our tools and go home, because there is nothing we can do to solve that deadly vice. I hope such less inspiring comments does not add a single straw to anyone?s effort to eradicate it. This is the link to that comment:
In my opinion, dealing with the pervasive threat of corruption to our very existence is, currently, more important than writing about free education, Ebola or our fake spirituality, which is hitching a ride on the back of our economic helplessness. The reality is, once we are able to capture the phantom of corruption the solutions to all these problems will fall in place. Of course, we all corrupt, one way or the other. Even eating too much ? gluttony can be deemed as corruption. Obesity is a time bomb waiting to go off in Britain, America and most affluent countries. The flaw in that line of argument is the elimination of the concept of degree. After all we are not talking about eschatology and redemption, but here and now. We turn to pardon, or mitigate the punishment for someone who steals to alleviate his hunger. And we don?t hang people on gibbet for stealing chicken, but we do when a murderer takes someone?s life. Lies are sometimes told when facing life and death situation, and not many will frown against that. However, according to his argument they all fall into the same category. Being able to draw a line to differentiate the grey areas of morality is what makes us sophisticated humans.
The history of corruption can be trace to the doorsteps of Nkrumah and his CPP. It was during his time that the 10% kick back had its baptism. And the communist economic ideology he adopted, which he sold to Ghanaians as scientific socialism provided a fertile ground for it to bloom like spring flowers. By the 70s, produce buying division clerks have perfected their skills. They started using money meant to buy cocoa beans for their private business. The practice became the norm and abusive. So, the government had to replace the system with the Akuafo cheque. At this sorry point, the brazen arrogance of the corrupt officials has come full circle. They have the impunity and temerity to issue bad cheques, which was extremely frustrating for the farmers. Obviously, they had to be wise. Some did not reseed their plantation when their trees reached the end of their productive age. Others cut down their cocoa trees and planted hustle free crops. Those who were bold and tough resorted to smuggling, which yielded instantaneous revenue and better price than what they could obtain from the government. Funny enough, the very people whose harmful activities drove the farmers into the arms of that vice turned around to accuse them of being unpatriotic.
Within a decade, an industry that was able to produce more than half a million tons with a population of less than six million could barely produce 200,000 tons with twice the population of the mid sixties. We, therefore, gave up our premier position to the Ivorians courtesy of our own corruption. As a result of the chicanery of the produce buying clerks, the next generation of cocoa farmers were lost forever to dog chain peddling on our high streets. As surely as night follows day, low productivity in our main foreign exchange earner decimated our balance of payment. The decay had reached the point of no return. Every aspect of our lives felt the relentless hammer of destruction. Our hospitals turned into death traps as the national currency began depreciating at alarming speed. Survival became a game for government officials who had favours to peddle. The effect was like the tumbling of dominoes going in multiple directions.
In other to survive, the workers of SOEs like State Fishing Corporation will fill their trawlers with diesel, paid for by the state. They will then go fishing only to sell it on the high seas, and come back to port with empty vessel. I lived in Tema, and at the time we used to call them State Selling Corporation. It was around this time that heads of state institutions that couldn?t engage in the selling of state assets like State Fishing Corporation resorted to ghost names to shore up their dwindling purchasing power. As inflation ? the inevitable by- product of corruption ? took hold; the wages of most Ghanaians became worthless. Those at the helm of government institutions with the power to cause mischief started keeping the names of those who had gone on retirement on their payroll. At this juncture the corruption virus had completely done its work. State auditors were bought right-centre-left with part of the booty and those involved enriched themselves at the expense of the masses.
?Kalabule?, the ubiquitous Ghanaian word for corruption found its way into our lexicon. Sadly, those who did not have anything to do with the decay became the target of a lot of Ghanaians and some ignorant men of the armed forces. The horrendous effects of the state sponsored corruption gave copious alibi for a thug like Rawlings who never understood the dynamics of the problem to come and further worsen it.
In reality, the ghost name cancer is not yesterday?s problem. However, the magnitude of the current NSS rot takes it to a different dimension. As Kweku Baako rightly indicated on News File a few weeks back, it is only a tip of the iceberg. It was around mid last year when Korle Bu was embroiled in a similar scandal. You would have thought Mahama with all the power of the state behind him will take the opportunity to embark on a national audit using a firm that has got its name and reputation to protect. Strangely, the Flagstaff House was silent as the grave. Yet, his lackeys will be first to jump to his defence as doing everything to fight corruption. With such attitude, am I not right to extrapolate that, perhaps, he has got some few ghost names in his own cabinet. Don?t be surprised, because it is the obvious logical conclusion. If not, then he is engaged in some form of corruption, which strips him of all moral leverage to go after these nation wreckers.
I honestly believe unreservedly that the ghost names saga is treasonous offence. If you think about the fact that the government borrows every month to make these illegitimate payments, which has huge impact in terms of interest rate and its effect on the whole economy you turn to lose your cool. It is like having a blood transfusion and simultaneously haemorrhaging same. I think they should be treated as murderer and that is what they are. People are dying of cholera as a result of our filthy environment, which could be remedied by a fraction of what is being stolen every month.
At present, the national debt stands at GHc63.6 billion subject to upward revision. I don?t think it is pedestrian to query how much of that has been piled up by these murderers. Stay with me, because I am going for the jugular. The GHc7.9 million represents 22,612 ghost names in only 100 districts out of a total of 216. Clearly, there is no evidence to suggest that the rest are ghost names free. To make an educated guess the state loses around GHc20 million every month if you take all of them into consideration. Now, picture what is probably going on in the ministries, the health service sector, armed forces, police, teachers and all the institutions of the government including the judiciary. We will be looking at a figure of around 150, 000 ghost names payment every month. In effect, the government loses around GHc1 billion every year, i.e. using a modest figure of GHc500 per head. After that play around with GYEEDA, SUBAH, Woyome and all the rotten deals attracting flies all over the place. Whiles you are with me, imagine how many thermal plants that can see the light of day, besides the number of schools under trees, which can be eliminated with that prodigious money.
According to a reliable source Mahama ordered the BNI to investigate the NSS when his hand was forced by a whistle blower. All the same, don?t be fooled. I can assure you he is sleeping on his watch, and so is the accountant general and all his staff. This is an earth sized problem, and all Ghanaians who matter with a lot of weight behind their words should push for a national audit of all state institutions including the police, armed forces right down to parliament. We owe this to ourselves else Ghana will sink under the crushing weight of corruption.
Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr.