The impact of corruption on development and enjoyment of human rights in particular is not in doubt. It denies individuals especially the vulnerable access to basic social services which otherwise would have impacted positively on their lives. Transparency International defines corruption as an abuse of trust for private gain. It is more often than not for the benefit of few individuals and their allies at the detriment of the general public. The devastating effect of corruption on society and individual lives is thus colossal in both tangible and intangible forms. According to Imani Ghana, corruption costs the country about $3 billion annually‒sometimes, more than how much is borrowed for development. This estimation by Imani thus highlights how much as a country is lost in terms of resources.
Human rights generally are universal guarantees for all people irrespective of one’s ethnicity, religious, social, gender or economic status. Experts say that human rights are like armour which protects the individual; they are like rules which expect certain level of behaviour; they are also seen as abstract‒like emotions; and like emotions they belong to everyone; and like time –they treat everyone in like manner‒ whether rich, poor, old or young. As rightly articulated by John Stuart Mills “when we call anything a person’s right, we mean that he has a valid claim on society to protect him in the possession of it, either by the force of law, or by that of education and opinion”. The main duty bearer for human rights is the state. However, there can be no effective realisation of human rights without the role of money. For example, a credible election which realises people’s right to vote cannot materialise without budgetary allocation for the procurement of electoral material and so on. Children cannot experience the best of education if government does not allocate resources for the construction of schools, training and employment of teachers, and provision of teaching and learning materials. Same holds for right to health care services and several other rights.
How Does Corruption Affect the Society?
The provision of social goods and services to Ghanaians cannot materialise without financial resources. But what has become of our national fiscal space? Ghanaians are overwhelmed with reports of corruption almost daily. Ranging from procurement breaches, fraudulent behaviours by public officials, over and under invoicing, bribery, extortion, tax evasion, fraudulent breach of trust just to highlight but a few. What is regrettable is that, some of these corrupt tendencies emanate from institutions which are supposed to serve strategic interests of the state and whose mandate have huge implications for human rights. This phenomenon obviously does not in any way augur well for the establishment of the egalitarian society which Ghanaians strive to have.
Given the sheer amount of resources lost due to corruption calls for worry if our society is to yield the necessary dividend – full realisation of human rights for all. For instance, monies cited in some of the corruption cases being tried and investigated runs in excess of millions of Ghana cedis. This has occasioned some human rights challenges such as poor and dilapidated schools popularly called ‘schools under trees’, hospitals and clinics without necessary consumables and inadequate staff, lack of portable drinking water for some communities, life threatening roads etcetera.
The other subtle effect which often go unnoticed is the tendency of this canker to undermine democratic institutions like the judiciary as uncovered by Anas Aremeyaw Anas few years ago. Furthermore, at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, any act of corruption in the health delivery system is likely to undermine government’s efforts in containing the pandemic which must therefore be checked.
The Way Forward
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) therefore calls on government to deploy enough resources at its disposal in addressing this canker. One of such ways is to adequately resource anti-corruption agencies such as the Commission to effectively carry out its mandate.
Additionally, government must inspire confidence among the citizenry by establishing avenues for reporting graft such as providing toll-free lines, punishing corruption within reasonable time, addressing legislative lacunas and educating the public on the consequence of corruption on their lives.
Lastly, the clergy must capitalise on their hallowed pulpits to positively influence the behaviours of their flock. Parents must also teach positive values to their children as part of the socialisation process.
By Human Rights Department, CHRAJ