?In a democratic society, government will fail if it does not carry public confidence.? Murray (1997)

?The idea that a society?s political order reflects its people?s prevailing beliefs and values?that is, its political culture was the central theme of Almond and Verba?s well-known work The Civic Culture in 1963. They observed that the strength of political regimes is strongly correlated to the belief patterns of the people within the given political system. Thus, regime types are a reflection of the popular beliefs, values and norms of the overriding segment of the political society.

In this line de Montesquieu (1989 [1748]: 106) had long argued in The Spirit of Laws that the laws by which a society is governed reflect its people?s dominant mentality: whether a nation is constituted as a tyranny, monarchy or democracy depends, respectively, on the prevalence of anxious, honest or civic orientations. If the regime type is a reflection of popular beliefs, it stands to contend that the political orientation of the people also affects regime administration. Suffice to say in countries where the popular cultural norm is supportive of ?gifts? as appreciation for official duties performed it is most likely that such a practice without regulation could sprout within the governance system a semblance of inducement and or corruption.

Arguments have been made within democracy promotion cycles establishing a link between democracy, economic development and low levels of corruption. There is also a conditional suggestion that low levels of corruption are a feature of consolidated democracies in the long term (see, Lane and Ersson, 2000). However, there is an absence of significant literature in support of the latter relationship. What this means is that despite the increasing gains that Ghana is making within the sphere of electoral democracy, there is no future guarantee of a parallel progress in the fight against the age-old human problem. What can be inferred, however, is the relationship so established between consolidated democracies and the strength of the institutions of state such that the independence of the institutions guarantees effective application of the rules of engagement without interference even from the highest offices of the land.

Supporting the relevance of institutions and thus offering some insights into institutional development, Lane and Ersson (2000) consider institutions in two fold. On one hand institutions are seen as the structural adherence to the laws of the political system. This view of institutions mirrors the legal-rational context in which Weber considered public administration to be conducted. In adhering to the administrative rules and norms the institutions of the state are able to establish the basis on which their legitimacy is anchored in the view of the populace.

However, Lane and Ersson (2000) maintain that it is not enough for the conduct of political and administrative machineries to abide by the rules of engagement but the rules and norms that guide the institutions of the state must be incorporated into the social fabric of the society to become the way of life of the people. This means that the development and survival of governance institutions to some extent must resonate with the cultural basis of the political society.

It is here considered that public attitude towards state institutions has a defining effect on civic responsibilities to the state and hence the independence of state institutions which supports the assertion; when all are equal before the law it inspires a level of civic consciousness among the population helping to nurture a level of public responsibility to the policy decisions of the state. Sad to say, in Ghana and in Africa, south of the Sahara, the latter is the contrary.

Medard (1986:124) discoursed, if normality is taken as what is statistically probable it holds to assert that with the scale of corruption in African countries, it is corruption which is normalized and the absence of it abnormal. Thus the very existence of the problem of corruption does not attract much bookish attention as its absence in Africa.

Indeed, the politics of corruption is as old as human history as one political elite held in Ghana. In The Politics in 350 B.C., Aristotle suggested that ?. . . to protect the treasury from being defrauded, let all money be issued openly in front of the whole city, and let copies of the accounts be deposited in various wards.? However, in the 21st century Nation-State, that is if ours is one, the organization of the political system makes a mockery of the philosopher?s proposal.

As citizens? concerns are not addressed and the fundamental public goods needed to propel national development and also attract investment capital are dented due to the consequence of corruption within the public sector, it leads to the growth of disaffection for the political system especially among those who are denied their cut in the corrupt arrangements.

Accordingly, when chief Justice Acquah held that corruption within the judiciary should be seen as part of a national problem, he was in fact acknowledging the weakness of the institutions of state in overcoming corruption. The above assertion is being made with the fore knowledge that though political corruption involves huge sums as against bureaucratic ?speed money?, the direct effect of the latter on the living conditions of the country?s population and on the poor in particular by increasing the cost of access to public services is severe.

Research has shown that a 0.78% increase in the rate of corruption leads to a decline of 7.8% in the income of the poor (Lipset and Lenz in Harrison and Huntington, 2001). The perception of corruption also has negative consequences as citizens are likely to grow cynical of government when they feel the government does not work on their behalf.

As citizens are increasingly affected by the consequences of bureaucratic corruption, there is a growth of inert disaffection for the political system which has implication on the sense of nationhood and social capital. A consequence of the state fostering an environment that promotes corrupt practices leading to discriminatory attention gained from the captured institutions of the state is that citizen?s loose trust in the ideals of national development. The dire implication of which is the disengagement of the citizens from the State.

In the face of the above, it begs for understanding as to why of all the corrupt acts taped by Anas Aremeyaw Anas not a single individual has been punished but for conflicting explanations on what ?Mr President? is doing to ?fight? bribery and corruption. The scale of corruption by our revenue collection agencies epitomized by the CEPS division of the GRA, especially at the harbours is just nerve-racking.

In Ghana, the police have been ?permitted? to take bribes from motorists in the full glare of onlookers. The passport office has become a shadow market such that though passports can be issued to all applicants within a working day, the administrators have consented to a pay per service rendezvous. Thus, depending on the weight of one?s wallet, passports can be issued in hours or in months. The same holds for business registration. Again, politicians report of driving thousands of dollars in their cars without any security agency demanding to know the source of the money. There have been evidence-based reports of medical staff racketeering at the various hospitals without any prosecutions.

District Assemblies have been cited time and again for unaccountable expenditures without any known prosecutions. Procurement units from Universities to MMDAs are procuring logistics at triple the normal market rates and the news of it no longer tickles anyone. Civil servants are known to be selling their services to the citizenry without sympathy, while the formation of committees has replaced the work of the police and other investigative agencies at the mercy of the public purse. In sum, there is no leadership and institutional responsibility in this country to prevent larceny, for which reason the boss of the Ghana Revenue Authority is still at post amidst immaculate mugging in the Subah Infosystems? saga. After all, if politicians will pinch the funds, why don?t ?we? take ?our? share? Clearly, the state has been sacrificed as the bureaucrats compete with the political elite over state revenue.

As the citizens disengage from the state in reaction to the above, the locus of engagement becomes that of interest aggregation. Ultimately, as the stability of the state is jeopardized resulting from the pull and push of the various interest groups, the centres of power resort to the instruments of force to instil compliance with the policy outcomes from the administrative structures. This is most obvious in dictatorial regimes but is also subtle in organized bureaucracies like ours where the lack of voluntary acquiescence results in the adoption of inescapable taxation as the only means of ensuring all are ?milked?. Such a scenario best qualifies for the socialization of taxes and the privatization of revenue. The budding of this scenario permits burgeoning of illegal alternatives to the state such as black markets and smuggling, and the reliance on instant justice.

In their paper titled Disengagement from the State: reflections from Ghana and Guinea, Victor Azarya and Naomi Chazan observed that many citizens who find themselves in an environment of diminishing opportunities and increasing vulnerability disengage from the mainstream society by the creation of systems parallel to those of the state. This has a direct implication on the normative legitimacy of state institution.

Making extensive reference to Weber, Lake noted a political regime being legitimate means its participants have certain beliefs or faith ?Legitimit?tsglaube? in regard to it: ?the basis of every system of authority, and correspondingly of every kind of willingness to obey, is a belief, a belief by virtue of which persons exercising authority are lent prestige? (Weber 1964: 382 in Lake 2006).

As an authority has noted, ?Should the conditions for legitimacy not be met in the normative sense, political institutions exercise power unjustifiably and the commands, laws and regulations, they might produce do not entail any obligation to obey.?

With a high illiteracy rate the repulsion of civic engagement due to feelings of institutional decay leaves the society to exist ?imaginatively?. Within such a discourse, an elitist public sphere is created without roots among the majority segments of the population. Because participation within the public sphere no matter one?s level of contribution becomes a means of one?s education (Calhoun, 1992) leading to the building of interest-induced consensus even though an agreement might not be reached over the content of the discussion.

 

Bureaucratic corruption, therefore, plays a major role in explaining the poor sense of trust that citizens have about public institutions. Trust, according to Rose-Ackerman (2001) implies confidence, but not certainty, that a person or institution will behave in an expected way. By implication the underlying sense of low trust therefore informs citizen?s behaviour towards these public institutions since the expected administrative response to their engagement is not predictable, undermining commitment to civic responsibilities. As is said in informal parlance in Ghana, ?why should I pay taxes for someone in Accra to feed on it??

This observation lends support to Rose-Ackerman?s (2001) assertion that corruption, or better still bribery, is a coping strategy for citizens facing untrustworthy, dishonest officials. Such a conception will become the basis for the marginalisation of the ideals of democracy and good governance, in the long run, lending credence to Robert Kaplan?s coming anarchy.

 

Kwaku Yeboah

[email protected]

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