Category: Press Release

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:

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