The outgoing British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Jon Benjamin, has identified corruption as a major setback to Ghana’s development and wants to see the Ghana government take concrete action on the canker by prosecuting persons involved in corrupt acts.
Expressing concern over the country’s failure to prosecute and jail individuals engaged in acts of corruption, he said “Ghana’s laws against corruption are very good on paper but what is lacking is implementation.”
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic prior to his departure this weekend, Mr Benjamin said as a donor partner, Britain had the moral obligation to speak against corruption in Ghana, and to call for the prosecution and imprisonment of persons caught in the crime.
Mr Benjamin, who leaves the country after a three-year tour of duly, said, “Corruption in this country is of much concern to the British government.”
He said President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had, himself, not hidden the fact that corruption was a major problem in the country.
“So it’s not me making this (corruption) up; these are facts and they are of concern to us; corruption is theft and the people who lose out are millions of the ordinary citizens,” he said.
Mr Benjamin stated that the money Britain invested in the Ghanaian economy was from taxpayers and must be accounted for “and when we hear things such as the money has been diverted it is of great concern to us.”
The outspoken envoy stated that corruption was everywhere but it had got worse in recent years in Ghana, and for a decade, no prominent individual had gone to prison because of corruption.
The development, he noted, tended to foster a climate of impunity where nobody feared suffering the consequences of corruption.
Citing the fire outbreak at the Central Medical Stores in 2015 as an example, he said it was shocking that nobody had yet been tried at the court and punished.
Mr Benjamin said about £4 million of the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded medicines and medical equipment were lost in that fire.
“So, we have a legitimate right to ask what has happened because a Ghanaian enquiry had already found that it was a deliberate arson, which had not been contested,” he stated.
I wasn’t harsh on Mahama
When reminded about suggestions by a section of the public that he was too harsh on former President John Dramani Mahama, the outgoing envoy said that was false.
He explained that he had “a very honest, frank and open” working relationship with the former President, adding that most of the discussions were in private.
“Frankly, we don’t care whether the NDC or the NPP is in power, that is up to Ghanaians but if we see poor practices, as we see corruption, if we see visa fraud, we will call it out no matter the government in place,” he said.
I’ve understood Ghana
Having travelled widely across the country, Mr Benjamin said he came to appreciate the progress of development and challenges of the country on the ground.
“I travelled around the country and used social media to interact with the people to get a wider understanding of Ghana; I have fond memories of travelling across the country, visiting towns and villages to see DFID projects and appreciating the development of the country and the challenges,” he said.