Editorial: Yes! We Need Strong Institutions, Not Individuals

On July 11, 2009, when former United States President, Barack Obama, addressed Ghana’s Parliament on his visit to the country, he said: “Now, make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen; it needs strong institutions.”

His premise was that, “Across Africa, we’ve seen countless examples of people taking control of their destiny and making change from the bottom up.

We saw it in Kenya, where civil society and business came together to help stop post-election violence. We saw it in South Africa, where over three-quarters of the country voted in the recent election — the fourth since the end of Apartheid.

We saw it in Zimbabwe, where the Election Support Network braved brutal repression to stand up for the principle that a person’s vote is their sacred right.”

We agreed with the statement then, and today, there is another reason to reiterate this profound speech that President Obama made some 13 years ago that Africa needs strong institutions.

Many admirers were enraged when the former Auditor General, Daniel Yao Domelevo was asked to proceed on leave. Their reasons were that the man was fighting corruption head on, through which he had recovered some money for the state through disallowance and surcharge. So, there was no reasonable point in relieving him from his post.

The government had very bad publicity for sacking Domelevo, with critics suggesting this administration was allegedly supporting corruption.

The appointment of Mr. Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu as the new Auditor-General sparked new criticisms of the government’s commitment to combating corruption.

In a very interesting turn of events, the report of this new Auditor-General is being hailed by the same critics, but are they not satisfied because he has not taken steps to recover the lost money, something Domelevo did.

The rot exposed by the institution in its current report refute previous claims that the government fired Domelevo and replaced him with one of its own, to cover up corruption.

But we think that the failure on the part of the institution to apply the mandate of disallowance and surcharge has stained the findings contained in the report.

We are of the opinion that if our institutions are made to work, there will be no need for yesterday’s demonstration by a coalition of civil society organisations, which picketed at the office of the Auditor-General to petition him to surcharge those implicated in the current report, which indicates that a whopping GH¢17 billion was lost to financial irregularities.

The Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584) mandates the Audit Service to disallow and surcharge, so if the institution is really working, society would not have to demonstrate before the law is applied.

We can cite another example with the Office of the Special Prosecutor. The first Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, left his office in controversy.

Fast forward, a new Special Prosecutor was appointed and he was not spared the usual claims of government appointing its own to cover up corruption, though this office was supposed to be very independent.

A few years down the lane, the OSP has been undertaking probes and its results have seen some money recovered for the state.

It is our firm conviction that public institutions should thrive as a unit. In that case, should any individual worker leave, the office would continue to function as if nobody left. That is the strong institution we are advocating for.

This, we believe, cuts to the chase of what Barack Obama said, that Africa does not need strong men; it needs strong institutions. We say, with apologies to him, that Ghana does not need strongmen; it needs strong institutions.

If institutions are made to work efficiently with the right systems put in place, appointments of heads will not become a matter for discussion because a strong system will flush out ill-motivated leaders.


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