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…and my simple trick for fighting corruption in Ghana

Long, long before Bill Gates's great, great grandfather's granddad was born, Africa had pro­duced the first-ever com­puter. It did not have search engines or web pages, and was not used to post e-mail, but it was a computer nonetheless.

It was called the Ishango Bone and in case you think, I am kidding, contact the Belgium Embassy in Accra, and they will confirm that the world's first comput­er, which Africa produced, is on permanent exhibition at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

The Ishango Bone did not have a hard drive and moni­tor. It was a primitive device all right, made as it was, of animal bone, but it was a device designed along the same basic mathematical principles as the computer, oh yes. 

Our African ancestors pro­duced this primitive comput­er about 8000 years before Christ, in the same area that is today known as the Democ­ratic Republic of Congo. Our ancestors must have been mathematical wizards: The Ishango Bone had rows of notches, with the var­ious rows having sets of num­bers in "excess one" format, with number bases too com­plicated for my poor skull to comprehend.

So what ever happened to Africa and Africans? We must have fallen into a long anthropological stupor, what­ever that might be, and the white man came and shot past. His advanced technolo­gy plus our Ishango Bone eventually equaled the PC, lap top or tablet sitting on your office desk or lap.

Now that there is an opportunity for us to stake a rightful claim to a share of the benefits of this cyber age successor of the Ishango Bone, by using ICT to catch up with the white man, we appear to have fallen into yet another kind of stupor.

From the handicraft work­ers of Bolgatanga through the artisans of Kumasi Suame Magazine, to our accoun­tants, architects and engi­neers, Ghanaians can earn good money selling their skills, services and knowl­edge without leaving the country. 

That is how the tech­nology can help alleviate poverty, but guess what is happening in the case of Ghana..? Fifty-nine years after independence, we have been unable to generate on a sustained basis, enough electricity to be able to light up 40-watt bulbs every night, let alone run computers 24/7 throughout the year.

I was chewing thoughtful­ly on a piece of kebab only minutes ago and wondering how the hell we are going to address the vexed subject of official corruption more resolutely and honestly.

With every government since independence to date accusing the preceding gov­ernment of corruption, we need to confront the appar­ently contrived intrigue, mys­tery and shadowiness, clouding the subject of official corruption. If we are to fight corruption, we need to simplify what appears to be an unnec­essarily over-complex jigsaw puzzle.

On second thought, I do have the ultimate solu­tion after all: We need an inde­pendent, non-governmental Corruption Investi­gation Department (CID) and appropriate legislation empowering it to investigate official corruption. That will do the trick. 

Money cannot hide and apart from documentary evidence, an extravagant lifestyle is unavoidably the other key telltale indicator that a public official is happi­ly accumulating illicit wealth at our expense.

Let us empower anti-cor­ruption investigators to undertake standard lifestyle checks. They should be empowered to demand an explanation of the source of the money that goes to fund any public official's extrava­gant lifestyle and let us see what happens.

Corruption investigators will need to be empowered to demand and document answers to questions regard­ing unexplained high expen­diture, huge bank deposits, frequent foreign travel, luxu­ry mansions for self and mis­tresses, education abroad for children, frequent, lavish drink and food parties, extra luxury and fancy cars parked in homes, the usual army of hangers-on, and so on. 

Investigators could move from lifestyle and personal assets checks to meticulous conflict-of-interest checks, by examining documented offi­cial decisions made by people in high public office. This is where circumstantial and even direct evidence of huge financial gain from conflict of interest situations will proba­bly emerge as one of the lead­ing forms of illicit wealth.

Where an official is unable to explain how he came to acquire assets (in his name or the names of relatives), ridiculously out of proportion to his lawful means of income, he should be liable to sanc­tion!