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"Civil society gives me hope"

In October, Auditor General Daniel Domelevo travelled to Copenhagen in Denmark to participate in the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC). Back in Ghana after the conference, the Auditor General agreed to an interview with the Embassy of Denmark to share some of his ideas of how Ghana can achieve more in the anticorruption area and how these ideas can be implemented in the Ghanaian reality.

“When I came into office two years ago, it was very clear to me that if I didn’t change the course of auditing, the citizens would throw me away, because people are getting fed up of us just reporting abuse after abuse after abuse,” Daniel Domelevo reflects. He participated in the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen together with the Deputy Minister of Finance, Honourable Kwaku Kwarteng and Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu. 

The fight against corruption can seem like a hopeless and never-ending battle – so will it ever be worth fighting for? Daniel Domelevo seems to think so and he is not afraid of criticizing the systems and the people making corruption possible.

“It is sad that people do not work in public offices because of the desire to serve the nation, but because they see it as an opportunity to rip the nation. Corrupt officials should be feared. We cannot count the number of road accidents that has happened because of corruption. Money that was meant to construct a good road goes into somebody’s pockets instead, and so several lives have been lost due to poor roads. If we can see money is going into a sector – but we do not see any results – we know that there has been corruption,” Daniel Domelevo explains.

Auditor General, Daniel Domelevo, reflects on the IACC 2018.

Vissions for a less corrupt Ghana

The Auditor General is a well-known man. He has strong views and he is not afraid to express them – even if this might make somebody furious. But an Auditor General with a visionary approach to his work might be what Ghana needs to get rid of corruption. One of Domelevos visions is privatizing the prosecution of corrupt officials. Daniel Domelevo has a mandate to audit – but not a mandate to prosecute.

“If we look at the anti-corruption institutions, they are all crying that they are not well funded. That is why I have proposed that we should privatize the fight against corruption. Corruption is a crime against the civil society, and therefore citizens should be able to take an official to court”.

In Domelevo’s opinion, it should be beneficial for citizens to prosecute for anti-corruption and in that way, it could become a demand-driven business. He underlines that it would only be registered and approved private firms that should be able to do such corruption prosecutions. He also mentions that before this can happen, the necessary laws should be made, including the passing and implementation of the Rights to Information Act. If the Right to Information Act is not implemented, getting information on anticorruption to the public will be a difficult task.

International cooperation as the solution     

Domelevo’s strong views made him an active player at the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen. His conversations with Auditor Generals from other countries made a big impression.

“Many of the participants were of the view – like myself – that democracy is a major source of corruption. Democracy has become expensive. Let’s say that you want to become president. By the time you have won the election, you have borrowed money from people. Hence, when you come into office, you will have to open the door for these ‘investors’. Knowing how much you owe them, it is difficult to say no. And you know that in four or five years’ time, you will still need their support again”, Daniel Domelevo states.

“You find corruption in all countries in the world – developed countries as well as developing countries. But the difference is the level of corruption. We have many corruption cases, but business just continues as usual. It seems like society does not care. Africa is living the true meaning of the statement: “the end justifies the means”. People do not care how others make money. We need to change that on the national level.”

At international level, Domelevo is calling for a broader and better cooperation across national borders; the appetite to steal public funds would go away, if there were no benefit in doing so. If every country helped to inform each other when money is transferred across borders, we could diminish corruption.

“We must make sure that there is no safe place to hide the money. If a Ghanaian public official is coming to Europe with USD 20,000, the officials in Europe should inform Ghana and we should investigate where he got the money from. They should look at his pay and ask him questions,” Daniel Domelevo says and hesitates before he continues:

“We all have bad children. But when a child brings a problem to your backyard – you should inform me. And if your child comes to my yard, I’ll inform you. If someone said “Hey Ghana! This man has arrived from Ghana with a lot of money that he cannot account for, so we are bringing him back to you”, that would make corruption a bit more distasteful”.

It is clear that an international collaboration would be part of the solution and international institutions have a role to play: “I think an international treaty or a UN resolution or something like that will be necessary. We need an approach, which will make people not want to benefit from the process of corruption. We should start bilateral arrangements,” he declares.

The Ghanaian delegation to IACC together with the Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Tove Degnbol.

An international conference with exchange of experience

At the IACC in Copenhagen, 1600 participants from 120 countries met and discussed the fight against corruption, exchanged experiences and debated possible solutions. Domelevo had the opportunity to meet with the Danish Auditor General, Ms. Lone Strøm. Even though the two of them face very different political and societal challenges, they had a fruitful sharing of information and discussed solutions to the canker of corruption.

“In Denmark, they emphasize that the audit should address the issue of value for money. That is my personal focus as well. If you are interested in value for money, you will ask questions like ‘this chair that you bought – is it useful? Can you say that there was a need to buy this chair? Is this a good use of public funds?’”, he tells and goes on:

“The Danish Auditor General was surprised about my mandate to fine perpetrators. This is very unusual to other auditors in the world: to disallow and to fine - that is unique to Ghana. When I explained this to her, she said ‘Wow! That is the mandate we all need as auditors,’” he recalls laughing.

However, the conference also offered a possibility for Daniel Domelevo to discuss anti-corruption with his colleges from across the African continent. “My other colleges are very interested in the mandate I have. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zambia and South Africa have recently passed the same law [allowing the auditor to fine perpetrators, ed.]. This shows that our story from Ghana is gradually receiving recognition”.

It is clear that there has been some progress in the anti-corruption fight, but has it been enough? Is there still hope for Ghana? Daniel Domelevo points to e.g. IT systems and performance evaluation systems ways to eradicate corruption. Introducing systems that reveal when employees are not doing their job properly or demanding money to speed up processing time will help diminish corruption. Overall, it seems that Domelevo has a strong belief that the Ghanaian society will conquer the challenges of corruption at all levels:

“There is hope for Ghana. Civil society gives me hope. Ghana’s civil society is getting stronger and better armed to hold public officials accountable. If we want the country to develop, we need a lively private sector. However, the private sector is dependent on a well-functioning public service. Therefore, it is important that we have a dynamic civil society and I hope it will grow bigger and stronger. A vibrant civil society plus an active media sector will certainly get us the good results we hope for”.

Read and watch the films from the IACC 2018 here.

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