Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, Member of Parliament (MP) for Ho West, has advocated for the amendment of the Asset Declaration procedure.
The MP made the suggestion on the floor of Parliament, when he delivered a statement dubbed “Strategies and Mechanisms for the Transparent Management of COVID-19 Fundsâ€, to mark the African Anti-Corruption Day Celebration.
Mr Bedzrah recommended for consideration of the House that Section 124 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) be amended to make corruption a first-degree felony, instead of its present form as a second-degree felony.
He also suggested that persons found culpable in the Auditor-Generalâ€™s Report should be dealt with according to the law.
Touching on the COVID-19 pandemic, the MP said theme for year’s African Anti-Corruption Day was timely and relevant because, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been a series of corruption allegations on how some African Governments had used the funds received on behalf of their citizens to manage the pandemic.
“Mr Speaker, the pervasiveness of corruption and its negative ramifications are widely witnessed in most developing countries.
“The existence of porous and weak institutions have provided a firm undergird for corruption to thrive in these developing countries,” he said.
“It is significant to state that corruption related to COVID-19 has been reported in a number of African countries,” Mr Bedzrah said.
“For instance, in Cameroon, a 2021 audit revealed the misuse of about $333 million meant for the pandemic response in 2020,” he mentioned.
He noted that in South Africa, there were issues of irregular contracts to the tune of $10 million, whereas in Malawi, the Government revealed that some of its officials colluded with the private sector to misappropriate $1.3 million of COVID-19 funds.
The MP said the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority allegedly pilfered about $400 million meant to buy medical equipment.
He said in the case of Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health allegedly bought 1,808 face masks for $96,000.
He said a similar situation was reported in Uganda, where four top officials were arrested for allegedly overpricing COVID-19 food relief items leading to a loss of $528,000.
“Mr Speaker, as reported by the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, the continent loses more than $50 billion annually through illicit financial outflows.”
He said it was sad to note from the Report of the Ghana Integrity Initiative that Ghana loses close to about $3 billion to corruption annually; stating that a report by the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and SEND-Ghana also indicated that the country lost more than 30 per cent of its GDP to corruption every year.
He said in addition, a report by Imani Ghana and Oxfam revealed that, between 2015 to 2020, Ghana lost a total of GHS13.9 billion in financial irregularities covering stores/procurement, cash, tax, payroll, rent, and contract irregularities.
He said Ghana ranked 73 out of 180 countries in Transparency Internationalâ€™s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), saying “this is a clear indication that corruption is pervasive in Ghana”.
“Mr Speaker, the above statistics is a worrying trend of how corruption is becoming endemic and systemic, in Ghanaian politics, and I must emphasis that if care is not taken, Ghanaians will completely lose trust in us as politicians,” Mr Bedzrah said.