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09 January 2017

FLASHBACK: Mahama bans public officials from buying state bungalows

John MahamaPresident John Mahama has directed the abolition of the policy that allows public office holders to purchase state bungalows allocated to them.

The president has also instructed the Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani to, with immediate effect, suspend all requests by government officials to purchase any state vehicles assigned to them for official use.
President John Mahama issued the directives on Friday at the Flagstaff House, during a meeting with representatives of anti-corruption campaigners.

According to him, “Disposal of aged government vehicles must be publicly and transparently done”.
“A scheme is being discussed under which Senior Public Officials will be able to acquire their own vehicles under hire purchase from vehicle dealerships,” he said.

The purpose of the meeting was for the President to lay out some administrative actions his administration has taken to fight corruption.

He also emntioned steps he was taking to ensure that all funds paid through dubious means are retrieved by the state.

These include an order to the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, to retrieve all monies wrongfully paid as judgment debt to Waterville and Isofoton and prosecute those indicted in the GYEEDA and GRA/Subah scandal report.

Below is the full speech delivered by the president.

Statement by H.E John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, at a meeting with the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and its Anti­-Corruption Partners at Flagstaff House, Accra

November 15, 2013

I am happy to have this opportunity to speak candidly on the issue of corruption and the way it attempts to pervade every layer of our society, from the political to the personal. Corruption takes an enormous toll on the ability of a government to function effectively, on the hopes and dreams of individual citizens, and, ultimately, on the morale of an entire nation.

It is an issue that we all agree must be addressed aggressively but in order to do that, we must also recognise that corruption is an issue that must be defined and discussed responsibly.

Corruption has been high on the national agenda for many years; but long before that, it was a central theme of gossip and rumours, public finger-pointing and partisan acrimony. It has in our present day become something of a political club that opposing parties use to beat each other over the head with.

Since the time of Ghana’s First Republic, there has not been a single president or presiding government that has not been accused of corruption. This makes sense, given the history of post-independence Africa and the pattern of behaviour that was set from country to country by the governing elite; that pattern being win or seize power and then “to the victor go the spoils.” And the losers, were the average hardworking citizens, families, communities, and countries that, for decades, were crippled by the greed of other people’s individual self-interest.

Given this history, it makes sense that our citizens are often very mistrustful of those in positions of power and access. And they have cause to be. But times have changed; Africa has changed; Ghana, which has also been no exception to the continent-wide syndrome of seize-loot-and-leave, has changed.

Democratic governance, a free independent media, vigilant civil society, bold anti-corruption institutions have all combined to check the impunity with which corruption was perpetrated in the past. Pillars of Good Governance are being erected, pillars that are firmly anchored by the Rule of Law and a constitutional democracy. Strong anti-money laundering legislation, an active Financial Intelligence to track transfer of “dirty money” make it more difficult to hide the proceeds of corruption.

Nonetheless, corruption persists. It still persists, right alongside those institutions, as though it is an institution in and of itself.

The accusation of corruption against an individual is an easy one to make. However, if we truly wish to rid our societies of this cancer, then we must start talking about it rationally, realistically and responsibly. Over the years, we have seen different governments take measures to fight the corruption that exists within.

Sometimes those measures were drastic; people were shot dead, jailed, or censured.

Sometimes those drastic measures were indeed effective, but by and large they were not viable long-term solutions.

In other words, corruption, when defined not as the action of a single individual but as an institution, cannot be fixed with ad hoc knee-jerk reactions. It takes an approach that is also systemic; an approach that focuses on education as much as punishment; an approach that encourages a societal abhorrence for corruption on any level. It takes sustained vigilance.

It also takes transparency, accountability and leadership—all of which, as President, I am committed to giving our nation and our people.

I do this not because it is required of me as President. I do this because I am first and foremost a Ghanaian—and like any other Ghanaian from Bawku to Berekum, from Kumasi to Axim—it is my civic duty.
Ghanaians are no longer satisfied with palliatives and long-winded statements, or with one-off solutions that do not address the problem as something systemic.

We want, and we need, action now. We need action to curb the corruption that currently exists and we need action to prevent corruption from flourishing and impeding our national progress.

Over the years, I have made several appeals to the institutions responsible for fighting corruption to promptly investigate allegations of corruption and taking swift action to honor the public’s trust in them. We know our institutions are weak and are facing major challenges.

They lack adequate manpower, expertise and resources. However, for our institutions to remain relevant, they must show that they are doing the maximum they can with the little they have.

As a Ghanaian, I share the anxiety and frustration that our people are expressing every day. There can be no justification for any official or public employee to take advantage of the weaknesses in the institutions they are to serve in to facilitate the crimes they are paid to prevent. Neither can there be any justification for blatant institutional negligence.

Succeeding in the fight against corruption requires agencies in various autonomous institutions -the executive, legislature and judiciary- as well as, the general public to play their part and play it well and we must think outside the box because the old ways will not meet the expectations of our people.

As a people our ability to fight corruption is weakened and limited when we entrust it to only the political elite or limit our social responsibility only to talking about it. We need a paradigm shift.

I am of the strong opinion that the key to resolving the corruption problem is strengthening our capacity to prevent, and where it has already happened, detect, investigate, retrieve and successfully prosecute.

Every corrupt act has multiple witnesses who may have nothing to gain from it and are prepared to contribute to fighting it. So, we must create the enabling environment that empowers such people to contribute their quota. In essence, there is an urgent need to broaden the framework for fighting corruption. We must break the syndrome of sympathy for perpetrators who got caught, and muster the courage to report acts of wrong-doing.

My Government is ready to engage the various independent Anti-Corruption and Governance institutions, including the CHRAJ, EOCO, etc. That is why, under the umbrella of the CHRAJ, we have developed and adopted, at Cabinet level, this new anti-corruption instrument, the 10-year NACAP (2012-2021).

Let me take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for your immense sacrifices towards the completion of this national agenda. I am looking forward to a new partnership with the various institutions and organizations you all represent.

Let me take this opportunity to appeal to our friends in the media, all religious organizations, traditional leaders, and indeed, the entire Ghanaian public, to see this new instrument as a window of opportunity for us all to develop our country through a collective effort to tackle the canker of corruption.

Two important instruments in the fight against corruption are still pending in Parliament: One is the Right to Information Bill. I hereby call on Parliament to treat this bill with the urgency it. I undertake to give my assent expeditiously as soon as this bill is approved.

The other is the National Anti Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), which work I had the privilege of commissioning while I was still the Vice President. The NACAP spells out specific activities for sustained transparency and anticorruption. The NACAP was laid in the house in April and is currently awaiting adoption by Parliament. Here again I call for urgent action by Parliament in the adoption of this plan.

Considering the extended period between the completion of NACAP and its adoption, the budget of GHC65m that was proposed would certainly need to be revalidated following its adoption by Parliament.

Government also signed up to the Open Government Partnership Initiative. On the national action plan and implementation road map, we have made progress in achieving many milestones in the 4 thematic areas. On Transparency we are on track and work is ongoing on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill.

RTI bill is before Parliament. The PIAC is being given every support and space to do its work. And we are working with the CRC Implementation Committee to amend CHRAJ’s constitutional provisions.
We believe issues of strengthening CHRAJ and effectively resourcing it should be taken out of turn and dealt with.

In the meantime I am speaking with the Minister for Finance to, within the constraints of the budget, increase funding to anti-corruption agencies.

Also, a percentage of proceeds of corruption when recovered should be paid to anti-corruption agencies to resources them.

On participation, the Minister for Local Government and rural development and the Decentralization oversight C’tee are working on processes to improve participation of not only CSO’s but all resident of the district in the work of the Assemblies.

On Accountability, Cabinet has passed the Public Officers Code of Conduct Bill and it is undergoing final redrafting before being laid in Parliament.

On technology and innovation work is advanced on the E-Immigration project. Work on GIFMIS has taken off and is progressing steadily.

We will also be launching an online complaints platform in the next few weeks.
I commit again to work hard to achieve the milestones we set ourselves in the initiative within the agreed 2013-2014 time frame.

However while awaiting the NACAP, RTI and other anti-corruption instruments we cannot treat that as an excuse for any delay in our fight against corruption. There are a few administrative actions that I have taken to keep us marching forward in this mission, and I am happy to be able to share them with you today:

1. I have instructed the Minister for Youth and Sports to: a. Suspend with immediate effect, all payments under all GYEEDA contracts, except the payment of arrears to workers up to the end of the year. b. Complete the review of all modules and accompanying contracts under GYEEDA by the 15th of December and, before 31st December 2013, to cancel all contracts that do not pass the “value for money” test. c. Place a moratorium on the creation of new modules under GYEEDA.

2. I have instructed the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General/EOCO and the Minister of Finance to work with the Minister for Youth and Sports to achieve the following by 31st December 2013:

a. Secure refunds of monies wrongfully paid to or appropriated by any individuals or companies from contracts with SADA, GYEEDA, and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and to retrieve the monies wrongfully paid to Waterville and Isofoton;

b. Initiate legal action against the individuals or companies to secure the refunds and/or to punish them for wrongdoing;
I just received this morning, an update from the boss of EOCO on the status of their investigations. I have asked EOCO to make that update known to the public in order for the public to know what action is being taken.

3. I have instructed the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General to expedite work on the GYEEDA Bill for submission to Parliament. The Bill is expected to ensure proper oversight, efficiency in management of GYEEDA. The bill must focus on decentralizing the program to ensure local ownership and real benefits to our communities.

4. I have instructed the Minister for Finance and Minister for Justice and Attorney General to review and advice on a suspension of the contract with Subah Infosolutions seeing us the contract was not signed by the appropriate authorized Government representative.

5. I have directed the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources to:

a. Present a Plan within 2 weeks for ensuring transparency under the Accra Redevelopment Policy;

b. In the spirit of transparency publish the names of all beneficiaries of the policy by the 16th of December 2013;

c. Review all the transactions involved in the implementation of the policy within 3 calendar months from today; and d. Scrap the policy that allows public officers to purchase state bungalows allocated to them as official residences.

6. I have instructed the Chief of Staff, as of today, not to grant any request by any government official to purchase any state vehicle that was assigned to them for official use. Disposal of aged government vehicles must be publicly and transparently done. A scheme is being discussed under which Senior Public Officials will be able to acquire their own vehicles under hire purchase from vehicle dealerships.

7. I have directed for the re-registration with GV number plates of all Government vehicles to proceed in earnest and be completed by the 1st quarter of next year.

8. As of last week, I have constituted a Committee which will determine as one of the factors for the continuous stay in office of a Minister of State or head of any government Department or Agency, an annual report on the extent to which the recommendations of the Auditor-General’s Report have been implemented in your MDA.

9. Under my instruction the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General has submitted a first series of cases from the Auditor General’s Report to EOCO for investigation and possible prosecution before the Financial Tribunal

10. All MDAs must present justification for application for any sole sourcing to cabinet for scrutiny before submission to the PPA

11. Any contracts above GHC5m recurring in multiple budgets must be made public through publication in the newspaper or on the new contract management database portals to be launched soon.

12. I am awaiting anxiously the report of the Sole Commissioner on Judgment Debts and pledge to deal firmly with the report when it is presented.

13. Finally, I have requested the Minister in Charge of Government Business in Parliament to rally his colleagues in Parliament to:

a. Ensure the quick approval of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan;

b. Ensure the early Passage of the Right to Information Bill;

c. Ensure the passage of the Whistleblower (Amendment) Bill; and

d. Ensure the passage of the Public Officers Code of Conduct Bill.

If we are to sustain this fight against corruption, I expect the support and involvement of all Ghanaians. We must disrupt the status quo and create a paradigm shift.

We must create the sort of environment in our society that empowers people to take a stand.

Every corrupt act has multiple witnesses. You may have had nothing to do with it, and you may have nothing to gain from it, but you must be prepared to contribute to fighting it.

As citizens of this country each of us has a voice, and each voice carries weight.

What we say matters. What we do matters.

Our ability to fight corruption is weakened when we entrust action to only the political elite, and when we limit our social responsibility to only talking and gossiping about it, making casual allegations and ignoring our call to action. The more people who get involved in this fight against corruption, the stronger our chances of success.

My government is determined to bring the maximum transparency and accountability to the public processes that have been a fertile ground for the germination and growth of corruption. If we stand side by side in this and work in partnership—government agencies, private sector businesses and organizations, as well as individual citizens working within their communities—we will be able to bring an end to the institution of corruption in this country and perhaps even serve as a model for other countries on the continent to emulate.

I look forward to your cooperation.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Source: Myjoyonline.com

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