New Civil Society Report on Ghana: Political will on UNCAC implementation and enforcement hinders the fight against corruption in Ghana

3 November 2021 –

Ghana has made a significant effort in improving its legislative and institutional frameworks with regards to the implementation of provisions under both Chapter II (Preventive measures) and Chapter V (Asset Recovery) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). A recent report authored by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) discusses the country’s strengths and weaknesses in UNCAC implementation, illustrated by several interesting case studies of recent events and scandals in the nation. The report concludes with key recommendations to various state bodies and institutions for tackling corruption more effectively in Ghana. The report is intended as a contribution to the UNCAC implementation review process in its second cycle, with technical and financial support from the UNCAC Coalition.

Ghanaian anti-corruption legislation and institutions are largely in line with UNCAC articles on paper, but in practice the impact of preventive measures on a national scale has been minimal at best. Efforts to raise awareness on the comprehensive National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), passed in 2014, have not resulted in tangible change, with many sectors still oblivious to its implementation and reporting protocols. Multiple anti-corruption bodies working to undertake preventive, investigative and punitive actions related to corruption in Ghana are faced with challenges such as a lack of resources and sufficient independence to exercise their mandate. For instance, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) – the foremost anti-corruption body in the country – is unable to initiate an investigation without an identifiable complainant or petitioner, presenting obstacles to its work on corruption cases.

While several of the UNCAC’s provisions in relation to Chapter V on Asset Recovery have been legally implemented in Ghana, legislation on several specific provisions, such as measures for direct recovery of property (Article 53), requires review in order to be compliant. National asset recovery legislation and anti-money laundering institutions are still at a nascent stage, and only few assessments of Ghana’s asset recovery efforts, such as tracing and tracking assets, have been conducted.

The official UNCAC review process in Ghana is complete. The governmental experts list and executive summary are available on Ghana’s UNODC country profile page, while the self-assessment checklist was provided to CSOs but not published online. Furthermore, civil society stakeholders were invited to contribute and participate in the country’s UNCAC review process, including the provision of input to official reviewers during the country visit in October 2019. The government of Ghana has yet to commit to making all documents, including the full country report, available once finalized.

The full civil society parallel report can be found here, or at the bottom of this page.

Main findings

Below are several of the key findings from the report, grouped according to topic:

Public sector

Recruitment into the public service in Ghana is codified, with clear criteria on hiring protocols and assessment structures. The tools for a modern public service are in place in Ghana, complemented by recognized salary grades, promotion and training opportunities. Yet, adherence to existing initiatives and policies is a work in progress, with recruitment riddled by corruption, nepotism and favoritism. Low levels of transparency in public service recruitment have been illustrated by politicians openly speaking about ‘helping’ thousands of their constituents to find a job. Situations involving fake qualifications and ghost workers are commonplace: around 27,000 ghost names were removed from the Finance Ministry payroll in 2017 alone. Although appeal mechanisms for challenging recruitment into the public service exist, they remain unknown and under-utilized due to weak publicization. 

Access to information & civil society participation

In 2019, the Right to Information Act was passed, guaranteeing Ghana’s citizens access to information from public institutions. The media has played a critical role in exposing corruption in the country, enjoying considerable freedom in what is published and disseminated and media freedom is enshrined in the constitution. Ghana has ranked highly in terms of media freedom in Africa for many years, and currently ranks as the third highest country in Africa on the World Press Freedom Index.

Key anti-corruption institutions such as the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), the Judicial Service and the Ghana Audit Service have sought to encourage reporting of corruption by providing platforms for this purpose. These include telephone lines, reporting via email, websites, mobile applications and walk-ins at offices. Such institutional efforts have been complemented by anti-corruption civil society organizations – the Ghana Integrity Initiative (local chapter of Transparency International) has also set up an Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) for corruption reporting. The ALAC can be reached via toll-free telephone, email, mail, mobile app and walk-ins, with sub-national offices.

Despite the availability of platforms and services, corruption reporting in Ghana is quite low: in 2018 the Eastern Regional Division of the CHRAJ recorded 359 reported cases of impropriety in its half year report. 351 were related to human right abuses, while 8 cases were related to administrative injustice and there were no reported corruption cases. The low level of corruption reporting is a reflection of the low publicity given to the reporting platforms, but also of the wavering level of trust citizens have in the institutions to sufficiently address and handle corruption cases. In addition, the current media climate in Ghana has been deemed unsafe for journalists, as a culture of impunity for attacks against media personnel has proliferated, with further media freedoms being threatened during the Covid-19 crisis.

Judiciary and prosecution services

In 2015, Ghana’s judiciary and judicial service came under scrutiny after an undercover investigation exposed widespread bribery and corruption. Since then, the judiciary has taken steps to strengthen integrity and ethics among their members by adopting its own code of ethics. The judicial service has strengthened its Public Relations and Complaints Unit, creating platforms to report corruption and related impropriety in the courts. In addition, electronic services allow citizens to obtain information and documents online, thus minimizing human contact. Nevertheless, there have been limited assurances to guarantee the public confidentiality and redress when judicial issues are indeed reported through available platforms.

Money laundering

In terms of cooperation among institutions, Ghana has legislation and practices in place that enable cooperation between national institutions and encourage information sharing. Ghana is also part of international efforts to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA). The country enforces Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards and other relevant international instruments with a view to combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

Despite all of these instruments, Ghana’s ability to comply with checks that could forestall possible money laundering is limited. As a result, the EU Commission has listed Ghana among “third countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks,” and therefore as a significant threat to the EU’s financial system and in need of more robust Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) frameworks.

Chapter V articles

Ghana’s laws, specifically, the Mutual Legal Assistance Act, 2010 obliges the country to work with foreign entities on asset recovery. There is no record that Ghana has successfully cooperated with another country to return the proceeds of crime under this law, however, it has taken the first step by ensuring that there is legislation to support such an action.

The Republic of Ghana is not in compliance with UNCAC Article 53 on Measures for direct recovery of property. To be compliant, Ghana must amend its EOCO and OSP Acts. The amendment will permit another State Party to initiate civil action in Ghana’s courts to establish title to or ownership of property acquired through the commission of an offence. It will also allow courts to order those who have committed offences established in accordance with the UNCAC to pay compensation for damages to another State Party.

While Ghana’s Financial intelligence centre (FIC) actively receives, analyses, and disseminates information to the appropriate institutions on suspicious transaction reports, it is still in the process of building institutional capacity, as well the capacity of key stakeholders such as other financial institutions to detect suspicious transactions and report back to it.

Key recommendations

 In its report, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition makes several key recommendations to authorities to ensure the full implementation of the UNCAC in Ghana, for example:

  1. Undertaking a mid-term assessment of the effectiveness of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), focusing on the Plan’s capacity, structures and outcomes.
  2. Making corruption reporting convenient and confidential by adopting electronic platforms.
  3. Sustaining and updating the judicial service’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan.
  4. Taking appropriate actions to protect the freedom of the media.
  5. Improving the monitoring of financial activities and enhancing inter-agency collaboration.
  6. Increasing cooperation among institutions, including private financial institutions, to help uncover money laundering schemes.

More detailed recommendations are provided in Chapter VI of the report.

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