ANALYSIS: Woyome and the BNI factor: Let’s not blame the messenger… By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
Public anger at the Woyome scandal won’t abate soon. For various reasons, much blame has already been heaped on President Mills and his appointees (especially Betty Mould-Iddrissu, former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, Minister of Finance) for their part in the scandal.

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President Mills is accused of lacking enough clout and his appointees for facilitating the fraud. Revelations by Martin Amidu point to more worrisome developments. Ghanaians are concerned at such fraudulent practices veiled as judgement debts; and these are genuine concerns that will definitely translate into political decision making at Election 2012.

At a broader level, we seem to be missing a poignant aspect of the episode. One wonders how such fraudulent practices can be carried out with such paralyzing impunity without being detected and prevented by the country’s intelligence and security apparatuses.

Take, for instance, the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) and other analogous agencies such as the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) and the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service and you should be shocked at why economic crimes of this sort are committed long before any official in such institutions gets wind of them; or why they fail to alert the government in advance.

These institutions are more reactive than proactive, which is one of the major weaknesses of our democracy. They are more interested in investigating crimes after they have been successfully committed than detecting them at the formative stages before they are clearly formulated and concluded for commission. It is a serious lapse that we are not considering as part of the daunting problems facing us.

Counterpart institutions of this sort in the advanced world are efficient because of their crime prevention tactics, not because they can marshal all their forces to investigate cases after crimes against the state have been successfully carried out. They do so because they have “friends” all over the place. They function, not to intimidate the populace but to worm their way into the favour of their own people to rely on them for snippets of intelligence with which to safeguard national interests.

That is why one must be very careful about whom one talks to about what in such systems. There are “friends” all over the place. You never can tell what that person is or where what you say will reach. The system relies on informants to function efficiently so that the people can live their lives in peace and national assets safeguarded. And almost everybody is an informant. Trust me, it’s considered a service to one’s country to be an informant whose timely “intelligence” will help prevent crime. Not in Ghana!!

What do we have instead? The BNI and those institutions can’t survive without intimidating the populace and using brutality as their main weapon. Under this circumstance, who will want to be friends with them to provide the help they need? Their modus operandi are antiquated and can’t help them perform their tasks efficiently to be ahead of the curve.

As a matter of course, they will continue to lag behind criminals and their nefarious activities. Such is the problem we have. Let’s be blunt to say so and blame them too; but aren’t they functioning the way they do because that is what those in authority have prepared them for? They will see and report only what will please the appointing authority. Anything that grates on the ears has unpleasant consequences.

In this case, who won’t want to play it safe by massaging the appointing authority’s feelings till doomsday strikes? And Election 2012 promises to be that doomsday for those who won’t strike while the iron is hot!!

Take this example from the Woyome scandal as an eye-opener. Betty Mould-Iddrissu virtually engineered the payment of the judgement debt to Woyome, having written letters to Dr. Duffuor on more than one occasion, pressurizing him to effect the judgement debt payment to Woyome. Forget about the reported misgivings or reservations that Dr. Duffuor claimed to have had about the entreaties to pay that debt. It didn’t stop him from conniving and condoning with Mould-Iddrissu and Woyome to commit that crime.

While the exchanges were going on, it shouldn’t have been difficult for the ears and eyes of the intelligence organization that the BNI calls itself to get wind of them—that is, if the BNI had indeed been up-and-doing and spread its tentacles to sensitive institutions of the sort. It didn’t, which made it possible for the deal to be consummated to the blind side of Ghanaians—though the Auditor-General’s report mentioned it long after it had been perpetrated. Even then, some manipulations nearly whitewashed the crime!!

The point here is that a country’s efficient intelligence and security apparatus would have detected this fraud even at its formative stages and taken measures to prevent it because of the dire consequences. In our case, the BNI and the CID failed to act expeditiously.

It is sickening that none of those privy to the exchanges was even bold enough to drop any hint to the BNI and analogous institutions for them to act on to prevent the fraud. Do the BNI and CID have “friends” anymore?

Intelligence gathering in this century demands sophisticated approaches, not what these state institutions are still using. I am not surprised that all these instances of malfeasance being reported here and there have occurred because no one in authority seems to know how to outgun would-be criminals in government institutions.

Let’s not continue to blame only the perpetrators of the economic crimes; we must include those officials and institutions that have been tasked to prevent such crimes but don’t know how to do so. It seems some of those in such institutions are more satisfied with locking the stable doors long after the horses have run out into the wild. That is why their emphasis is on crime investigation instead of crime detection and prevention, which is one of our major problems.

There are too many lapses all over the place, which makes our system vulnerable. If it is not economic crimes being committed in the corridors of power, then, it is armed robbery by those who are trained to prevent that crime or who sell their weapons to criminals to assist in the commission of crimes. Or by acting as informants for those criminals and being supported by proceeds from their criminal acts. Haven’t the Fulanis already told us that personnel of the Ghana Police Service are puppets that they manipulate with pittance?

The point is that by such failures, the BNI and the CID are giving us the frightening signal that they don’t have the mechanisms for penetrating all these government institutions to gather intelligence for prompt action by the authorities to safeguard national interests. I suspect that the agent network that every serious-minded intelligence and national security organization develops to enhance its work is no more in existence in the workings of that institution. Something must be basically wrong here because the laxity is disturbing.

Or, to put it more bluntly, may be, the agents themselves have been compromised and turned into vicarious participants in the commission of the economic crimes for huge gains. What, then, will be their motivation to gather any intelligence to prevent the commission of such crimes?

But when we come face-to-face with the other side of the episode, we become more alarmed. Reports that President Mills had twice advised against the payment of that money to Woyome, which was flouted with impunity, frighten us. It means that the President had had wind of the fraud long before it was actualized and sought to stop it; but it ended up being perpetrated. Why? Is it because the President himself is not worth his appointees’ bother or that he has been compromised? Terrible.

Within this context, then, I find it difficult to understand why Martin Amidu will blow hot air and not help us know the extent to which President Mills and those he claims to have mentioned in his report on the Woyome case have participated in the fraud. Saying today that he will be “on leave” and no more write on issues that he claims to be part of his advocacy for probity accountability in governance is nauseating.

I challenge Amidu to do so immediately and not annoy us that he will EXPOSE President Mills and his government officials only if they continue to provoke him by impugning his reputation. He shouldn’t wait any more if he has any conscience to work in the best interest of the country.

I want him to spill the beans before retiring from his advocacy. Anything short of that makes him part of the problem for this country. A responsible citizen will not wait to be provoked before revealing what is in the national interest. And when it comes to politics in Ghana, we have few of such responsible citizens.

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The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of and