Date Published: 10/20/09
Don’t Accept Gifts. They Are Bribes. By Daniel Danquah Damptey.
Whoever attended school in those days when men were men and Ghana was a force to be reckoned would not forget the essence of this slogan. It was an attempt to insulate public officials from any act which was likely to influence them in the discharge of their functions to the detriment of the country that the sages came up with such a slogan.
In those good days, acquisition of illegal wealth was frown at by both the society and the family. Any person whose wealth could not be traced to any visible means of income became ostracized from the community. But now, the children of Adam and Eve, under what they claim to be modernization have thrown this cardinal principle overboard and the result is what we see - people grabbing property left and right without any moral compunction. These days one has to bribe his security/watch/gate man before the latter will open the gate for him. Become poor and see how society will treat you. Perhaps, it is to circumvent this unforeseen or unfortunate circumstance that Ghanaians have resorted to underhand or under current tactics to remove the likelihood of any tsunami sweeping them off their feet. Men will be men no matter the circumstances.
The Questions: When did we derail from our God-given path? Where did we go wrong? When did it dawn on us that poverty was a curse and that a life of good living was akin to sharing the national wealth among top members of the government and their cronies? When did we lose our sense of humanity to the extent that it has become our birthright to ‘appropriate’ or commandeer an entire community’s property for our personal use? Does it not reveal our sense of depravity when we engage in the demonic and occultic practice of using our fellow human beings for money making rituals? Today we have thrown away all those good lessons which in effect culminate into the principle that. “A good name is better than riches”. The result is that we have missed our way to the glorious path of happiness that awaits those who uphold such tenets of probity, accountability and uprightness.
The conviction of Professor Tam David West: Attempts to malign political opponents through trumped-up charges of corruption have been going on for a very long time. But that does not mean that some of such allegations might not be true. In the early Nineties, a Virology Professor, Tam David West the Nigerian Petroleum Minister was given the assignment of negotiating with Stinnes Interoil Company an increase of quota for Nigerian Bonny and Forcades oil. He successfully discharged this assignment and also helped in a price reduction for the country’s oil in the midst of an oil glut.
But a greater shock awaited him when instead of being complimented, he was hurled before a tribunal on ‘charges of corruption resulting in causing financial loss to the Nigerian nation’. He was sacked, prosecuted and convicted on a six count charges which included enriching Stinnes, receiving a ‘bribe’ of a wristwatch and drinking cup of tea from the company during the negotiations. He served some period in jail.
Why do foreign companies pay bribes to Government Officials? Companies pay bribes to traitors, detractors and betrayers of peoples’ trust in third world countries for numerous reasons. In the first place, they do so to circumvent the laid down rules guiding the bidding process. In short it allows them to cut corners. Bribery makes it possible for the process to be manipulated in favour of the qiver when he/she or the company is not qualified for the job.
Bribery gives a blank cheque to the giver to execute a job/contract haphazardly without regards to standards or specification. Thus, a contractor might do a shoddy job and get away with it because the members of the Bidding Committee have compromised their positions and integrity. If you take money from me, do you have the moral authority to condemn me for not doing a good job? Where do you expect me to get the remaining amount needed to complete the project? This is the dilemma that confronts corrupt African Governments and their foreign collaborators.
But the question is, why should a full-blooded Ghanaian who has sworn before the Almighty God and his/her fellow countrymen and women to discharge his/her duties in accordance with the laws of the country put his/her selfish interest above that of the common good? Do such people have any atom of conscience at all?
Mabey and Johnson: This is an open and close case, no two ways about it. The questions are, were monies paid into those accounts, and if they were for what reason(s)? Were those monies withdrawn from the various accounts by their respective owners?
George Sipa-Yankey has stated that, the new agent of M&J, Baba Camara, who had taken over from the former one, Danny Ofori-Atta came to demand for his account number. I do not think it was wise for Sipa Yankey to have disclosed same to Baba Camera if he was not expecting a windfall. My understanding is that he knew all along what the money was meant for.
What is bad is bad. Sipa Yankey, being a top member of the Government compromised his position as a Minister by accepting money which he knew deep down his heart that he had not honestly earned it. Thus, he brought his own credibility and that of the NDC government into disrepute.
At least, the founder of their contraption, ex-President Rawlings has alerted us sometime ago of attempts by state security to compromise him by paying some huge amount of money into his personal account. Why didn’t Sipa Yankey and his fellow “traitors” do a similar thing? But they kept mute and chopped the money which they knew at that time that they were not entitled to. I can imagine what might have been going through their minds ever since they betrayed their country. They might have been offering a prayer of thanks to God as each day drew to an end without their being exposed. But payback time is here and they must be prepared to answer for their misdeeds at the people’s court.
Sika-Yankey’s outburst against ex-President Kufuor: O when will these people look straight into the eye of Ghanaians and tell them the real truth as they are? What do you make of such allegations against ex-President Kufuor, the British High Commissioner in Ghana and some lawyers in the NPP? This is what I will refer to as the tantrums of a drowning man. He wants something to cling on in his moment of disgrace. Were those monies paid into his account? Why were those monies paid to him? Is he suggesting that ex-President Kufuor conspired with those he is accusing to pay the monies into their accounts? Why wasn’t the money paid into any other Ghanaian account but his and is fellow conspirators only? It was because he was a member of the ruling government and the money was to grease his palm to enable the foreign company sabotage the country’s economy
You see, in the Muntaka’s case, President Mills used some technicalities to exonerate him on the grounds that there were no PVs raised and signed for by the ex Minister. But in this particular instance, there was no way Sika-Yankey and his collaborators could say they did not collect any money for the payments were effected through crossed cheques into the various accounts and the authenticity of this could be verified. You see how God works?
Now, let us analyze one of the interviews George Sika Yankey granted on one FM Radio Station when the scandal first broke out. He said if he had wanted to collect a bribe why should he collect such a paltry sum? Hmmnn. So George Sika Yankey has become so rich that Fifteen Thousand Pounds Sterling is peanuts to him. Is this not a smear on the intelligence of the average Ghanaian? Does he realize the take home pay of the average Ghanaian worker? If Fifteen Thousand pounds Sterling is little to him, I want to remind him that it means so much to the hard-working, overtaxed and over-burdened Ghanaian! What is the ratio of the Cedi to the Pounds Sterling? Multiply the exchange rate of the cedi to the Pounds by fifteen thousand and an astronomical figure will be staring directly at your face. It is then that we can talk of Opepepeepee.
You see, Chinua Achebe’s proverb sums up all those traits in George Adja Sipa Yankey. He said, ‘those whose palm kernels were cracked for them by the help of benevolent spirits must learn to be humble.” George Adjah Sipa Yankey, together with some greedy, selfish, dishonest and mischievous individuals in the then NDC regime, devised some tricks which enabled them to ‘conjure’ monies from some undisclosed sources to enable them behave as if they were living on top of Mount Olympus. Now that their cover has been blown off they should come down to earth and face the realities on the ground – which is that Ghanaians are suffering.
Sipa Yankey’s latest Press Release: I was shocked to read about what was contained in the press release. He said he has never taken his salary since he was appointed a Minister, because his son asked him not to. According to him, the son told him he was ready to pay him Ten Thousand Pounds a month. Whether that is true or not, I cannot say and I leave that to his conscience and that of Almighty God. But what he forgot to tell us is that it was the Fifteen Thousand Pounds he took at that time that enabled him to educate his children abroad to make them what they are today. Can George Adja Sipa Yankey also tell Ghanaians whether he has been forfeiting all the ‘free this, free that’, that go with his position as a cabinet minister? In line with what then candidate Mills said during the campaign period that he would ask all his Ministers and top Government officials to pay for utilities, I would want to know if he, Sipa Yankey has been doing so or passing the bill on to Ghanaians.
President Mills’ intervention: I must applaud the President for the prompt manner he waded into the scandal. But I disapprove of his sending the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to the UK to carry out investigations. What sort of investigation did she go to do? The public whose money was used to send the Attorney General to the UK deserve to be told of what she had gone to do. Is it the duty of the Attorney General to carry out investigations? What has happened to the investigative bodies like the SFO, CHIRAJ, the CID and the BNI? If it was to get a copy of the court’s proceedings, couldn’t this have been obtained from the Ghana High Commission in the UK?
Has the President, in sending the Attorney General and her entourage to the UK not impoverished and overburdened the already overtaxed and overworked Ghanaian worker? And does that not constitute financial loss to the country? And if I may ask, does the Attorney General have any constitutional right to undertake such a trip and investigation? As an adviser to Government on legal matters, couldn’t she have advised the President about the futility of sending her abroad to conduct such an investigation? Does her handling of this scandal so far not say a lot about her competence as head of the Government legal team?
Timing is of no consequence: Some people have argued that the corruption scandal is not relevant because of the time lapse between the period the bribery was alleged to have taken place and the present. Others too have questioned whether the monies could be termed as bribes, bonuses incentives or whatever you call it.
Bribery is a crime depending on how you look at it. While it may take many years to smoke out perpetrators of some heinous crimes, others can be solved within a reasonable length of time. The scandal involving Sipa-Yankey and his fellow”conspirators” falls into the first category. And just as it happened to David, when he sent Uriah to the battle front and got him killed so that he could marry his wife, so it is in the case of Sipa Yankey and the rest. The Prophet Nathan found him out. The SFO, with their investigative skills and through a court of competent jurisdiction has come to the conclusion that some of these so-called apostles of ‘uprightness’ are themselves not what they have portrayed themselves to the entire world. They have skeletons in their cupboards which they have tried so hard to hide through the instrument of threat, intimidation and coercion. But thank God, their masks have been ripped off and now everybody can see the hideous faces of the medusa.
On whether or not the monies were paid before or after the contract is immaterial. If it was paid before the contract was awarded, that makes it a simple case. Grease their palms so that the process could be speeded up! If those monies were paid while the recipients were not in any position to influence the outcome of the bidding process, why don’t you have a deeper thought of this Biblical saying that, cast your bread upon the waters and you will find it one day. Sure they will. These were top members of the then ruling government. There was the possibility of some of them rising to positions where their tentacles could extend beyond what the ordinary mortal could reach. And in the case of George Sipa Yankey, he wielded a lot on influence then. He was Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of Finance. Any loose end of the contract could be knotted or tied up on his advice. And if he claims he was not in a position to influence the award of the contract, why did he claim that the money was paid him because of his negotiation skills in resolving some difficult issues amicably? What were those issues?
Samuel Okudzeto here, Samuel Okudzeto there, Samuel Okudzeto everywhere: This reminds me of what one commentator said of Kwame Nti, a Kotoko football player. Kwame Nti was ubiquitous on the field of play. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the arrowhead of NDC ‘rabid dogs’ would not be outdone by his colleague ministers. His voice had to be heard. Indeed he had that right. - That the Government of Ghana has indicated that it is not going to accept any reparation from Mabey and Johnson, the UK construction firm in the bribery scandal. Hear him: “Let me state unequivocally that we are not accepting any reparation!”. The Almighty Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has spoken and that was the end of the matter. Period! Where is Mahama Ayariga? What about Koku Anyidohu? Where is the substantive minister for Information? Why is it that any sensitive information which needs tack and diplomacy to pass across to the public is always handled by Okudzeto Ablakwa?
Does the Mills administration love this country? Does their action indicate that they indeed have the interest of Ghana at heart? It doesn’t appear so to many people, at least not to me! Why should government refuse reparation which could go a long way to improve the lot of Ghanaians? Have these foreign companies, through the collaborators like Sipa Yankey and ‘dem dem’ not cheated us for long? And if they are giving us peanuts of what they have stolen from us why should we refuse? Have President Mills and his advisers sat down to analyze the cost implication of the action of the ‘Achans’ in their Government? I hope you know what Achan did in the Bible after the battle of Ai. Because of the action of those greedy, traitors and dishonest men in the government, the life span/expectancy of most of the bridges could not be guaranteed. And do you know what that mean? It means, millions of our hard earned monies have gone down the drain, thanks to the conspiracy of men we trusted with our lives and mandate. Do you know the number of bridges that have been washed away as a result of shoddy work executed during the construction stage? Do you know the number of Ghanaian lives that have been lost in accidents on those bridges, all thanks to some dishonest, greedy, selfish and traitors in our midst masquerading as angels of light whereas they are angels of doom and darkness. And what our elected President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills through his anointed hawk is telling us is that accepting reparations from the company would mean his ministers are guilty. And the best way out of the quagmire is to reject the reparations. May God have mercy on us!
Causing Financial Loss: The stance taken by the Mills makes his administration a prospective institution to appear and explain before a legal team of experts why they should not be charged with causing financial loss to the State. They may use their state power of intimidation to suppress all agitations to account for their stewardship, but they will surely fail. It will only delay the cause and process of justice for just a while. The Greek military took their citizens for granted and messed up the country. But the day of reckoning came when the Greek Parliament enacted a law to take retrospective effect in hurling before the people all those who had had a hang in flinging back the clock of progress. Yes, it did happen in Greece and will surely happen in Ghana, if the Mills administration does not have a rethink in the handling of the affairs of Ghana, particularly with regards to the Mabey and Johnson scandal involving to members of his government.
Conclusion: I am, through this medium, appealing passionately to President Mills and the NDC to put the national interest above their parochial party interest and do the right thing. Ghanaians are suffering and that the reparation, even though very little if accepted could go a little way to mitigate our suffering. It will also give the Ghanaian a sense of national pride when foreign companies realize that they cannot come down to our country to do their own thing and get away with it. To the perpetrators of this heinous crime against mother Ghana, I appeal to them to own up in their disgrace and humiliation and ask for forgiveness and I believe the good people are ever ready to forgive. But for George Sipa Adjah Yankey and his fellow “traitors”, their night has definitely come.
Fellow Ghanaians, Not all that glitters is Gold. Empty barrel makes the loudest noise and Still Waters run deep. Finally, it is not an understatement that those who live in Glass Houses should not throw stones.
Daniel Danquah Damptey.
E-Mail address: email@example.com