By Nana Akua Tweneboah-Koduah
Anytime corruption is mentioned in Ghana, politicians and especially government ministers become the easy targets. Why not them? Because the impression has been created that it is only when you are a minister or a politician that you can make ill-gotten wealth or be corrupted.
As a result, many low level officials in governmental institutions and agencies who daily rob citizens of Ghana for services rendered are left off the hook. Just imagine this. A friend of mine who lives in Belgium wanted a building permit from the Accra Metropolitan Office (AMA) at Adenta in Accra, and asked me to do the leg work for her.
I went to the AMA office at Adenta one morning and was told to wait and meet the overall boss in charge of building permits. After waiting till 9:30 am this man came and gracefully walked into his office. Fifteen minutes later I was ushered into his office and I told him my mission.
This building permit guy without even inquiring who I was or where I was coming from or who may have sent me asked me if I want an expedited building permit. I then asked him to explain himself further, whereupon he told me that if I want the permit within two days I have to pay 2,000Ghana Cedis. He also told me that if I want it between three to four days I have to pay 1,500 Ghana Cedis but if I want it seven days it will cost me 1,200 Ghana Cedis. Please don’t joke with this because it is a real story and I know the name of the official concerned.
I then asked the AMA official if the levies he has mentioned were official levies and whether he was going to issue a receipt if I make the payment. The attitude of this man suddenly changed and he told me in the face that if I was not ready I should not subject him to any inquisition because he has other people waiting to see him. I left the AMA office very disappointed and wondered if what I heard was a Rambo movie I was watching.
As I was going towards my parked car I took the pains to talk to a low level official of the AMA who told me that this is all what the man who is in charge of permit does. He daily robs people who go to the AMA office at Adenta to get building permits. I believe that there may be hundreds of people who have suffered at the hands of this seemingly corrupt AMA official.
Yet, when something goes wrong in this country this corrupt AMA official may be the first or among the first people who would turn round to lambast and blame the government. But to this corrupt AMA official his illegalities and corrupt practices are okay and normal. I wonder why the overall AMA boss at Adenta is not in the known unless he/she is in league with that man.
In 2008 I lost my birth certificate and went to the Births and Deaths Registry under the jurisdiction I was born in Accra for a new certificate. The gentleman on that schedule told me that if I decide to go through the official process it will take me more than three months or more to get the birth certificate since it has to go through so much processes and signatures. In short, all what he was telling me was that if I do not part with some money my application for a replacement of my birth certificate was going to gather dust at the Births and Deaths office.
A cousin of mine who will not bribe an official of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) for a meter got his whole application and supporting documentation disappearing six months after he had submitted it in 2006. Had my cousin not known somebody in higher authority, his constant visits to the ECG office to check on the meter would have been in vain.
We have multiple instances where the little guys at the ECG take monies from people, and do illegal electricity connections for them at the expense of the nation. But these same corrupt ECG officials will put on red bands and scream on top of their voices when their annual pay raises are denied because ECG could not meet its revenue target due to the unscrupulous and criminal behaviour of some of their officials.
There is this good contractor from my hometown who was always hounded and forced to part with money by some low level officials anytime he went to the Ministry of Finance to chase for his money for a government contract he had executed. He told me that these officials at the Ministry of Finance do same to people who go there to chase for their monies.
The situation is even worse when you go to the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority (DVLA). Even though new systems have been put in place to weed out the “goro boys” for some peculiar reasons some officials of the DVLA still collude with these “goro boys” to take bribes from prospective licence seekers to beat the system.
Even at government hospitals relatives of sick people are made to part with monies in order to jump queues for their sick ones to be attended to. These pockets of corruption are deeply rooted and scattered everywhere in Ghana. Ghanaians see them and patronise them to the letter, but they hardly talk about corrupt practices by low level officials. To most Ghanaians it is only a politician or minister who can be termed as corrupt when he/she compromises his/her office. The little corrupt officials don’t matter much.
The Water Company also come to sharper focus. I know of a guy who went to the Water Company at Dansoman for water connection. First, they told him that they have run out of water meters. Then the guy who was scheduled to do the measurements and initiate the digging of the line told him he does not even need the meter since he can connect him for a fee. He succeeded in getting him connected and for years he was using water for free until he was caught.
Don’t even mention the customs where importers are made to under declare the value of their goods and at certain times some importers are even made to lie about what they actually imported in order to beat the system. We also have situations where some importers are made to clear their goods without paying a pesewa to the state.
Such situations are very pervasive in Ghana. People in the service industry are highly corrupt, yet the police, judges and others are always outed for being the champions of corruption in Ghana.
This country needs to have a different view of who is corrupt or more corrupt. These little guys at the ministries and other service points are bleeding the country and her citizenry to death. They have become untouchables and their type of corruption has become the norm. Nobody talks about it or questions these practices so it has become the standard bearer.
Ghana has to be serious about corruption because some of these corrupt low level officials are riding high flying cars and always has the audacity to accuse governments of the day of being corrupt.
Until corruption is tackled from the bottom, whereby these leaches are outed and punished, fighting corruption in Ghana will be a mirage.