Why integrity should drive business practice in Ghana

Country analysis of Ghana’s performance on the Global Corruption Barometer

Integrity is the card Ghana must play to successfully project an image of a society that frowns on corrupt business practice, according to panellists on the Corruption Watch radio programme.

“Today, we know that many people feel they have to make facilitation payments, many people feel that there are a lot of hindrances in their way to doing proper business in Ghana,” Mary Awelana Addah, Programmes Manager, Ghana Integrity Initiative said on Wednesday when contributing to the Corruption Watch radio programme via telephone.

She added, “We know of the common 10 per cent or 15 [per cent] or the others. These do not encourage people to want to do business.”

Integrity and Corruption

Corruption Watch is a project that aims at reducing public corruption through transparency and persistency in the fight against corrupt officials from exposure to closure. Its mission is to promote integrity in public life by demanding and activating the responsiveness and accountability of all actors in the anti-corruption space. The partners are Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana); Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII); Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC); Africa Centre for international law and Accountability (ACILA) and Joy FM.

The August 14, 2019 episode of the bi-weekly show aired on Accra-based Joy FM, a member of the Multimedia Group. The episode focused on how the integrity of business or the lack of it affected people and its broad impact on efforts at fighting corruption.

According to Transparency International (TI), integrity is “behaviours and actions consistent with a set of moral or ethical principles and standards, embraced by individuals as well as institutions that create a barrier to corruption.”

The 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released in January 2019 by TI scored Ghana 41 out of a possible clean score of 100 and ranked Ghana 78 least corrupt out of 180 countries. Ghana’s performance improved by 1 point from its 2017 score of 40, serving a positive departure from the continuous drop the country had experienced since 2015.

Similarly, the results from the latest edition of Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer – Africa, built primarily with data from Afrobarometer’s Round 7 survey, demonstrate marginal improvements in the pace of progress in fighting corruption in Ghana when comparing 2018 to 2019.

Even though the percentage of citizens who perceive business executives to be corrupt has dropped by half from 44% in 2015 to 22% in 2019, there is still concern that the business community needs to be cleansed from the tendency to be corrupt.

This view is informed by the potential for the private sector to become collaborators in the public sector’s perpetuation of corrupt conduct as has been demonstrated in several reports of the Audit Service of Ghana.

The aggregate opinion is that when public officials use their office to extort money from business people and business pays, these costs are passed on to consumers. In the end, everybody suffers. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest to advocate integrity in business.

Apart from that, the emerging trend globally is that a critical mass of people is swelling around the idea of integrity or ethical business. For instance, integrity is being built into the production of cocoa beans to the extent that chocolate manufacturers do not want to purchase cocoa beans produced from questionable activities like child labour. Similar compliance measures are being enforced in the timber sector where they are frowning on illegally acquired timber.

Integrity of business

On the Corruption Watch programme, Mary Awelana Addah observed that one of the core principles of business is fairness and emphasised that integrity in business is very important because integrity as a concept goes beyond fairness and honesty.

“It promotes a lot of things in the world, she said. “In business, as well, we believe that it is the grease that…creates an atmosphere where all people doing business would compete fairly and on grounds that have no bias.”

Co-panellist Eric Nii Boi Quartey, a chartered compliance specialist, posited that integrity manifests in the obedience to or compliance with law.

A business entity operates in a legal jurisdiction where there is a set of laws which speak to things that should be done.

The next step is compliance, which has to do with “adherence to set rules and regulations, ethics, conducts; things that have to do with people,” Nii Boi Quartey stated.

He identified two environments within which compliance should operate; the level one environment and level two environment. “The level one environment is the external environment involving the laws and everything outside of one’s domain. Level two environment is the ability and capability of an individual or organization to be able to deal in that external environment,” he explained.

Writer’s email: f.asiamah@cw-ghana.org