Commercial vehicle drivers (‘trotro’ drivers) who experience police corruption are more likely to break traffic laws – Research

Commercial vehicle drivers (‘trotro’ drivers) who experience police corruption are more likely to break traffic laws. That’s the finding from a new study by three members of Africa Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research: Dr Tankebe, Dr Boakye, and Mr Amagnya.

The study also found that the drivers were more inclined to assist the police maintain law on the roads if they are treated fairly by the police. The study, published in the international peer-reviewed journal Policing and Society, was based on survey data from 415 drivers in Accra and Kumasi.

“Our findings show that police can reduce traffic violations by curbing corruption among traffic officers. They may be able to increase the flow of information from commercial vehicle drivers by improving the fairness of their interactions with these drivers”, the authors concluded.

Find full study here

Study looks at support for offender rehabilitation among Ghanaian prison officers

Support among prison officers in Ghana for the rehabilitation of offenders is heavily dependent on their sense of self-legitimacy, a new study by researchers at Kent and the University of Cambridge has found.

The research suggests that being treated fairly by their superiors and developing good relationships with colleagues are crucial to prison officers’ sense that the authority vested in them is morally right. In turn, that sense of self-legitimacy increases their support for the rehabilitation of those in custody.

Dr Thomas Akoensi, of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, worked on the study alongside Dr Justice Tankebe from the Institute of Criminology at  Cambridge. They argue that the link between factors affecting prison officers’ sense of their own power and their subsequent support for rehabilitation is key to maintaining order within the prison system, since prison officers’ beliefs can impact their job performance. Further, a lack of support for rehabilitation can result in deliberate efforts to undermine these programs.

The study, Prison Officer Self-Legitimacy and Support for Rehabilitation in Ghana’, saw the researchers survey prison officers working in medium and low security prisons in Ghana to investigate the influences upon their personal sense of self-legitimacy and how this affects their support for the rehabilitation of prisoners.

A total of 1,062 prison officers took part in the study. Questionnaires were distributed to the prison officers in open meetings, and were used to measure five key variables: self-legitimacy, support for rehabilitation, relations with individuals in custody, fair treatment by supervisors, and relations with colleagues.

The research provides useful evidence for prison managers seeking to understand and influence prison officers’ job performance and motivations.

Dr Akoensi said: ‘Relationships are key to prison life and an important goal of imprisonment is to rehabilitate individuals who are in custody. Support among prison officers is crucial in Ghana, where rehabilitation programs are limited in scope and where officers have to be innovative and make sustained personal investments in the lives of those in custody to assist with changing their offending behaviour.

‘In our study, attitudes towards rehabilitation programmes varied significantly according to the differences between officers’ sense of their own moral authority, which was shown to be influenced by their relationships with their colleagues and direct supervisors. Good relationships are vital for nourishing officers’ self-belief and maintaining their support for rehabilitation programmes.’

A new study on what motivates young educated Ghanaians to report corruption to anti-corruption agencies

Young educated Ghanaians are more likely to report corruption to anti-corruption agencies if they are certain it will lead to suspects being apprehended. That’s the conclusion in “Cooperation With the Police Against Corruption”, a study published in the British Journal of Criminology, the official publication of the British Society of Criminology.

Dr Tankebe analysed survey data collected from 530 final year university of Ghana students in which he examined the factors that explained their willingness to report corrupt transactions to the police.

“Among all participants, cooperative intentions depended on perceptions of the certainty of apprehension for corrupt behaviour”, the study concluded.

It also found that the young educated Ghanaians studied imagined themselves to be reporting corruption to the authorities if they perceived that other citizens were similarly likely to report corruption to those authorities.

Read the full report here.

How young educated Ghanaians view corruption

A corruption scandal is in the news in Ghana again. Media reports suggest an elaborate scheme of cronyism in the procurement of private sector involvement in the country’s energy industry. This is only the latest of many allegations of serious corruption in the country.

Annual reports by the Auditor General and disclosures from undercover investigations provide evidence of widespread corruption across Ghanaian society. The latest Afrobarometer survey also showed that 33% of the Ghanaians surveyed reported paying bribes to public officials. This is lower than the rates for Nigeria (44%) and Liberia (53%), but much higher than Senegal (15%).

And according to the country’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Ghana loses $US3bn every year to corruption. Beyond economic costs, corruption erodes confidence in democratic institutions, undermines the rule of law and violates human rights.

It was in this context that our study sought to understand how young educated adults – described in our study as prospective elites – reacted to corrupt opportunities.

What constitutes corruption?

Corruption is a complex social problem. It takes different forms in different societies, and it changes over time. A widely-cited definition comes from Transparency International: corruption is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. This is helpful, but I prefer the definition by the criminologist John Kleinig, who wrote that officials:

act corruptly when, in exercising or failing to exercise their authority, they act with the primary intention of furthering private or departmental/divisional advantage.

This definition makes the point that corruption includes both what people do and what they fail to do. The critical issue is a person’s motive. It also makes clear that corrupt officials need not benefit from the transaction: sometimes officials abuse their authority for the benefit of groups to which they belong. Examples would include a religious group, an ethnic group or a political party.

The definition also takes us beyond monetary gains to include other gains such as esteem, especially in cases of nepotism and cronyism.

More recently, I have become interested in what some describe as “delayed corruption”. Here officials exercise their authority with an eye on personal advantage that will accrue to them once they leave public office.

The why

We first sought to determine the type of corruption that the young adults were likely to engage in. We presented 530 with scenarios depicting various forms of corrupt opportunities, and asked what they would do in such cases.

In explaining why people resorted to corruption, we considered bribery and nepotism across three situations: policing; public procurement; and the abuse of power for the benefit of others rather than the young adults themselves. A number of important findings emerged.

We found that people were more inclined to engage in influence peddling – with and on behalf of friends and relatives – rather than to pay bribes directly. For example, nearly 50% indicated they would ask friends to use their positions to award them a government contract while only a third said they would pay a bribe for a similar contract.

This suggests that friendship and kinship networks, rather than direct monetary exchange, are important channels through which corrupt exchanges take place.

We also found that perceptions of being found out – in other words, risk factors – played a big role. This is consistent with research findings from elsewhere showing that corruption is more likely to happen in environments where there is weak monitoring and the risk of detection is low.

The higher the risk, the less likely that young, educated Ghanaians will get involved in corruption.

We also found that young adults who defined a successful life in terms of material possessions were consistently more inclined to engage in bribery and nepotism. They were willing to pay bribes or use friendship networks to secure public contracts, to influence police officers, and to make decisions that favoured others.

Finally, we found that a person’s attachments to the state and to kinship groups mattered a great deal for their decision to resort to corruption. A strong attachment to the state made corrupt conduct less likely; a strong attachment to kinship groups made it more likely.

What needs to be done

Anti-corruption efforts need to focus on improving the detection of corrupt transactions – whether these are bribery or nepotism and cronyism – because it is certainty of detection that deters criminal conduct. Research evidence also shows perceptions of certainty increase people’s willingness to report corruption to the authorities.

Three things can be considered.

First, the anti-corruption architecture could be redesigned to grant the police a pivotal role. The police have the capacity to build an extensive intelligence network across the country. They are present in every city and their intelligence networks can help detect efforts to hide wealth obtained through corruption. They also provide easy access for citizens to report corruption. But an anti-corruption role for the police requires improved training, better resources, and insulating them from partisan politics.

Second, invert the logic underpinning efforts to detect procurement corruption. Currently, it is presumed that procurement transactions are “clean” until evidence of corruption emerges. That needs to change to adopt the logic that underpins airport security screening: assume that every public procurement is corrupt until proven otherwise, and it should not proceed until it has gone through a transparent process of scrutiny. Proceedings of procurement boards, including reasons for decisions, should be video recorded and made public.

Third, periodic integrity testing of officials can heighten the risk of detection. This can be “targeted” at specific officials for whom complaints about corruption do not appear sufficient for criminal prosecution. An example is what the undercover journalism Anas Aremeyaw Anas has done so effectively. But integrity testing can also be “random” and aimed at potential offenders.

Anti-corruption interventions also need to be part of broader reforms to build the state’s legitimacy. Weak bonds with the state create a predatory relationship in which some citizens seek to exploit it for their individual and group interests.

This article was first published on The Conversation.

Confronting Political Vigilantism in Ghana [Policy Brief]

On 9 April 2019, Ghana’s two main political parties – the ruling New Patriotic Party and the opposition National Democratic Congress – concluded talks on political vigilantism with the National Peace Council. Their object was to find ways to disband political vigilante groups. This followed an address by President Akuffo Addo which threatened legislation if the parties did not begin a dialogue to disband their vigilante groups. In agreeing to the talks, the parties implicitly acknowledged that they recruit, train, and resource vigilante groups to act on their behalf. That reinforces reports such as one compiled by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS)1 , as well as academic research papers.

The immediate prompting for the vigilante talks was a well-publicised incident on 31 January 2019. What should have been a routine by-election, following the death of the member of parliament for Ayawaso, was marred by violence on the part of masked security officials from the National Security Secretariat. The incident revived concerns about political vigilantism and how it might be controlled. At a meeting in Kumasi a few weeks after the Ayawaso debacle, two people were shot by members of the National Democratic Congress.

Political vigilantism is not a new feature of Ghanaian politics. Some researchers say that it has its roots in the movement for independence from British colonial rule . Both the Convention People’s Party led by Kwame Nkrumah – Ghana’s independence leader and first president – and the National Liberation Movement were engaged in fierce political struggles over whether Ghana should
be a federal or a unitary state. The struggle involved violent vigilante activity by
elements on both sides.

This policy paper explores the conditions that give rise to vigilantism, the nature
of that form of violence, and what might be done to tackle the problem.


Are Murder and Robbery on the Increase in Ghana? Analysis of Police Crime Statistics

In this research brief, Dr Tankebe and Dr Boakye analyse trends in violent crimes in Ghana between 2012 and 2018. They focus specifically on robbery and murder cases as recorded by the Ghana Police Service. The results show  there were 6.5 robberies per 100,000 population in 2018, the highest robbery rate in 7 years.

However, murder rates pointed in the opposite direction: there were 1.8 murders per 100, 000 population in 2018, the lowest in 7 years.

As the authors point out, these are national figures and it will be important for additional analysis to identify particular places and times that these crimes are concentrated. Such knowledge can help police managers target their limited resources more effectively.

Download Report below:

What drives police violence in Ghana, and what can be done about it

Student protests in Ghana resulted in the temporary closure of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The cause: police use of force in the arrest of students following a vigil to protest the possibility of all-male halls becoming mixed. The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner spoke to Justice Tankebe about Ghana’s police service, and their use of force.

Does Ghana have a professional police force? What is their reputation? Is it justified?

To say a police service is professional is to claim that there’s a code of ethics that governs them, there are credible structures of accountability and that these ensure their integrity in delivering a certain quality of service to the public. These features remain undeveloped in Ghana’s police force.

The police’s reputation is it intimidates, is violent, corrupt and that it treats civilians unfairly. Earlier this year there were reports of police officers brutalising citizens without provocation. This included a video of a woman and her toddler being beaten in Accra. Police are also accused of being trigger-happy. In one incident police killed seven young men that they claimed were robbers.

This type of violence happens for a couple of reasons. I conducted two studies of Ghanaian police officers. The first showed that most police officers supported the use of force for a range of reasons. Including; they didn’t have strong bonds with the service and the rules about when and how to use force don’t have legitimacy in their eyes, so they disregard them. This lack of legitimacy was put down to the fact that there are high levels of corruption in the police force.

My second study revealed that officers were treated badly by their supervisors. The result is that officers take their frustrations out on civilians and that the supervisors lose credibility in encouraging good behaviour. Improving police treatment of civilians therefore requires paying attention to the moral climate within police departments in Ghana.

To address the problems there needs to be a proper diagnosis. This isn’t being done. Ghana’s police managers believe the issues can be traced to problems with individual rogue officers. For example, the national police chief, Asante Appeatu, said that:

we must fire the bad apples because they are dangerous.

But the problems facing Ghana’s police are systemic. There are conditions within the police service – like poor supervision, poor training, and unfair treatment of lower-ranked officers – that make misconduct more likely to happen. Focusing on individual officers diverts attention from these conditions and it also means police managers can avoid responsibility for the problems.

How does it compare to other countries in the region?

There’s no systematic tracking of police violence in the region which makes country comparisons impossible. My own work has focused on Ghana and, as Director of the African Institute of Crime, Policy and Governance Research, I have started to collate cases of police violence in Ghana. With time this will be extended to other countries so that a solid basis for comparison can be made.

Is the government taking steps to address police violence?

Rhetoric about curbing police violence haven’t been matched by concrete action or strategy. The government’s approach is reactive, responding to public pressure to investigate instances of police violence. There are no efforts to delve into the broader issues and to develop national standards.

If this type of impunity persists, the rule of law loses credibility and police become part of the problem rather than the solution. Unless government takes steps to address police violence, the situation is bound to worsen.

There are a few things that can be done.

Firstly, there needs to be independent and credible oversight institutions that can investigate serious cases of police violence and other forms of misconduct. For instance in England and Wales, the independent office for police conduct investigates misconduct by individual officers while the inspectorates of criminal justice regularly inspects police forces with the aim of improving policing and ensuring public safety. Ghana needs similar institutional arrangements.

Ghana’s police also need to develop a strategy for dealing with public disorder. This should guide the training of officers on how best to handle public order so that they can manage situations, like the one at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology campus, discretely. It was clear from the way the police behaved that they reacted impulsively, escalating tensions. Policy direction and regular training will help avert unnecessary violence.

Thirdly, part of the problem with the police in Ghana is that they confuse legality with legitimacy. They believe that just because their orders are lawful, they are legitimate and deserve public compliance. This mindset means they pay only lip-service to the hard work of understanding and engaging with local communities, taking complaints seriously, improving treatment of civilians, and holding officers to account.

Finally, police legitimacy needs to be part of a strategy. Unless police officers command legitimacy –- that is, they are perceived to be effective, to act lawfully, and to treat civilians fairly –- violence will remain a stable feature of their interactions with civilians. The strategy should involve training which puts more emphasis on building better relationships with civilians through fair treatment – explaining decisions, listening to civilians, being respectful, trustworthy, and being impartial. It could also involve investing in equipment – like body-worn cameras by officers – to track and capture data on interactions with civilians. These significantly reduce the use of force by police.
Source: The conversation

Ghanaians want death penalty expunged from justice system — Survey

A survey conducted by the African Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research (AFRICPGR) has revealed that majority of Ghanaians want the death penalty expunged from the criminal justice system.

Findings of the survey, which were presented at a workshop at the University of Ghana, Legon, yesterday, showed that of the 2,460 views sampled, 48.3 per cent of the respondents supported calls for the abolishing of the death penalty while 19.7 per cent were in favour of its retention.

For those who disapproved of the sentencing of persons convicted by the courts to death either by hanging or firing squad, they recommended the replacement of that sentence with other forms of punishment such as life imprisonment.


The survey was led by two directors of the AFRICPGR, Dr Kofi E. Boakye and Dr Justice Takebe, and was presented to students of the University of Ghana as part of activities marking the 16th World Day of the Death Penalty, which was on the theme: “Living conditions on death row”.

The findings were presented by a lecturer at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Ghana, Dr Francis Annor.

Death row

Taking the participants through conditions in Ghana’s prisons, a Deputy General Staff Officer of the Ghana Prisons Services, Chief Superintendent of Prisons Mr Thomas Mahama, said Ghana’s prisons were currently holding a total of 170 persons on the death row, including seven women.

They were all sentenced to death for murder.

He said Ghana had not executed convicted persons on death row since July 17, 1993, after the execution of some 19 prisoners on that day.

In recent years, he said, some persons on death row had had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years in custody, while others had been given 20-year terms. Others were also released through amnesty granted by the President.

He admitted that persons on death row went through trauma and stress as “they do not know when they will be executed”.

Mr Mahama suggested that such persons be given the needed attention to reduce the trauma and stress they went through if abolishing of the death penalty was not enforced in the near future.


A lawyer and advocate for the abolishment of the death sentence, Ms Joyce Adu, who chaired the function, said the death penalty was enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana and was recognised by the courts.

She expressed concern that although Ghana was among the countries that had abolished the execution of prisoners on death row, it was yet to stop sentencing convicts to death by getting rid of the punishment from its legal system.

“Death penalty was to serve as a punishment that would deter others but it has not been effective as murder cases have not reduced over the years,” she said.

Many death row inmates, she said, did not receive adequate legal representation for their trials even though they had a right to a government-appointed lawyer.


African Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research Statement on Pronouncements by Hon. Speaker of Parliament on the Death Penalty

1. The Africa Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research (Africpgr) has taken note of comments by the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, on the death penalty in Ghana. A report on Starr FM’s online portal on 25 September 2018 quotes the Honourable Speaker thus:

I believe the State of Ghana must have it [death penalty] in its pocket reserved so that where necessary, the most heinous of crimes can still be subject to such executions. These are parameters that some of the Human Rights advocates don’t seriously examine and we must be very mindful of them in the future.

  1. On this view, Professor Oquaye believes that retaining the death penalty as a ‘Sword of Damocles’ can have deterrent effects. Africpgr welcomes the intervention by the Honourable Speaker to the extent that it brings this important topic back into the public discourse. However, Africpgr believes Professor Oquaye’s views are problematic: first, they are at odds with research evidence on the deterrent effects of the death penalty; second, there is no research evidence to support the position that having the death penalty as a fallback sentencing option deters violent crime; third, his views are contrary to the recommendations by the Constitutional Review Commission and the subsequent official position as expressed in the Government’s white paper; and finally, his views are at odds with the sentiments of the majority of Ghanaians.
  2. In 2015, the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice (now Africpgr) conducted a household survey of 2460 residents of Accra on a range of topics on the death penalty. The study, which remains the first and only methodologically sound study of public opinion on the death penalty in Africa, revealed the following:
  3. The majority, 48.3%, were intensely opposed to the death penalty; 32.1% expressed moderate support, while only 8.6% indicated intense support, and 11% indicated they did not know enough to express a view.
  4. When asked about their views on the Constitutional Review Commission’s proposal for the abolition of the death penalty, 53% supported abolition for genocide, 53.9% supported abolition for murder, and 60.9% supported abolition for treason.
  5. There were no differences in opinions between those who had been person had been victims of violent or property crime, and those who had not been victims.
  6. Concerning the preferred alternative to the death penalty, two-thirds of those surveyed indicated a preference for life without parole (70.2% for genocide, 66% for murder, and 65.2% for treason).
  7. A major concern for people who oppose abolition has been the possibility of backlash effects. The results of the study provide evidence to counter the argument that there could be a backlash following abolition by aggrieved parties who might seek revenge.
  8. It is clear from these findings that Ghana is one of the few countries where government can be confident that the majority of the public would not oppose abolition. Nor would abolition produce backlash effects. On the contrary, the evidence shows Ghanaians do not see the act of killing fellow citizens as justifiable punishment by the State.
  9. Africpgr believes research evidence such as that reported here should inform the public debate about the death penalty. Without consideration of public input, sentences such as the death penalty risk losing legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. Moreover, reformation is the fundamental principle on which Ghana’s criminal justice system is based. The death penalty undermines that principle.
  10. Africpgr wishes to take this opportunity to invite parliamentarians, criminal justice professions, the media and the general public to a workshop to mark the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty. The theme for the workshop is Living Conditions on Death Row, and is to be held on 10 October 2018 at the Department of Political Science.



Justice Tankebe