Ghanaians will be shocked to know that bribe giving and taking in the country is such a high-yielding gold mine that attracts very little attention. Millions of cedis illicitly exchanged hands between public officials and the citizens they are employed to serve. What this goes to show is that the battle on corruption and corrupt practices has still not been won.
Presently, the EOCO and other sister agencies of government put in place to check such illegalities are focusing attention on politically- exposed Ghanaians and other top government functionaries who, directly or indirectly, have access to the public treasury.
But the gratification requested by or voluntarily given to public officials for performing what is, in actual fact, their official duty, is not just a drainpipe but a gushing dam. Curiously, those institutions that Ghanaians first run to when their rights and privileges are trampled upon are the ones that are the most culpable in this scandal.
The Police is always top of the list followed by those institutions many Ghanaians refer to as the last hope of the common man – the judiciary made up of the prosecutors, the judges and the magistrates.
We are not about to put anyone on trial on the basis of this damning revelation for the simple reason that all have sinned. We are all guilty of the malfeasance. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Where there is a bribe taker, there is, unmistakeably, a bribe giver. That ought to present a worrisome scenario to those intent on cleaning up the system.
It is important to point out that this game of money for service is not peculiar to Ghana. After all, bribe is not a local Ghanain word. That it exists in the English lexicon is proof that other climes have such challenges too. What is of concern here is the degree, the extent to which Ghanaians are prepared to go in other to unduly influence the provision of otherwise free service to their favour.
From the giver’s point of view, such token which now put together amounts to much, makes files move faster. It makes traffic move seamlessly. It enables one to obtain favours one is not entitled to. That in a nutshell is the dictionary definition of bribe- to persuade somebody with enticement, to give somebody money or some other incentive to do something, especially something illegal or dishonest.
Elsewhere, bribery is viewed with all seriousness. People go to jail for it. A former Israeli Prime Minister is a good example. The Americans and Europeans involved in the Halliburton bribery scandal are another. In places like China, we have it on good authority that it will not only bring down a public figure but also send him to the gallows.
In those cultures, there is the belief that every resource is needed for national development. Therefore, bribery, a part of corruption, is seen as distortion that is not permissible if the right moral culture must be established. In Ghana, who cares? Imagine what millions of cedis could have done to uplift the welfare of the proverbial common man if it had been judiciously deployed and utilised.
The police and the judiciary may be at the top of the shameful practice, they are, by no means, the only ones involved. It cuts across the gamut of our national life- at filling stations, hospitals, motor parks and, these days, even in churches where desperate worshippers bribe pastors to fast and pray on their behalf.
Corruption still remains national canker and we need to fight it and stop paying lip-service to it. Because it is mutually agreed upon, it easily escapes the law. To stop it requires an attitudinal change that comes from within the mind of all of us. It is a difficult but doable task.