1. In what areas of business does corruption typically arise in Ghana?

Corruption in Ghana can take many forms, ranging from petty bribery to more large-scale graft. Petty forms of corruption, such as facilitation payments, can be common – especially among the police and bureaucrats in the customs and tax administrations. A World Bank survey of managers and owners of business in Ghana revealed that approximately 35 per cent of companies expect to give a gift (a dash) to secure a construction permit and 24 per cent expect to give gifts to public officials, just “to get things done.” According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, 79 per cent of respondents in Ghana reported paying a bribe to the police and 57 per cent said they had paid a bribe to the judiciary. In 2015, a widespread bribery scandal hit Ghana’s judiciary; 180 officials of Ghana’s Judicial Service were caught on camera allegedly taking bribes. 

While facilitation payments are not defined in Ghanaian law, they are not permitted under the U.K. Bribery Act and other anti-bribery laws. Canadian companies are subject to Canada’s foreign anti-bribery law, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA), which makes it a serious offence for Canadian companies and individuals to bribe foreign government officials. The current exception for facilitation payments under the CFPOA is set to be removed, making any such payments a risk under that law, as well.

2. Are specific economic sectors more vulnerable to corruption?

Ghana’s economy relies on exports of commodities such as gold, oil and cocoa; their economic importance makes these sectors more vulnerable to corruption. For example, small-scale corruption in the gold industry has fueled an underground, unlicensed mining and gold trade, known locally as galamsey. Reports of corruption have also arisen in the agricultural sector. For example, cocoa farmers have claimed that they were made to pay for fake fertilizer orders by officials of the government-controlled institution that fixes the buying price for cocoa in Ghana. A 2011 study by Tropenbos International Ghana found instances of corruption in Ghana’s forestry sector, including government officials colluding with timber contractors to exploit unapproved concessions, and forestry and enforcement officials allowing timber-exporting companies to smuggle and trade timber without paying appropriate taxes.

3. How can foreign companies best protect themselves against corruption risks in Ghana?

Companies should try to avoid signing any contract with false urgency or under duress without heightened scrutiny, as these may point to underlying impropriety. Companies should also pause before doing any business with companies operating in Ghana that are registered in known tax-haven countries. As in any international business context, business partners should have demonstrated technical and financial capability to justify their retention. 

4.  What anti-bribery compliance support is available in Ghana?

Ghana consistently ranks high in global indicators for freedom of the press and freedom of speech including in the TRACE Matrix, a global business bribery- risk index. Ghana has an active civil society with numerous watchdog and media organizations dedicated to addressing bribery within the country. The Ghana Integrity Initiative, a local chapter of Transparency International, has organized various anti-corruption projects in-country. The Africa Centre for Energy Policy offers training and works to reduce corruption in the oil and gas industry in Ghana. And the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition has initiated several public-private partnerships to combat corruption. Additionally, international organizations, such as PYXERA Global and Invest in Africa, are leading capacity-building initiatives that incorporate compliance into their programs. TRACE partners with these organizations to train and certify local small- and medium-sized enterprises on anti-bribery best practices. Companies may also refer to TRACEpublic, the first global register of beneficial ownership information, which allows companies to share and search for beneficial ownership information at no cost. The database supports the efforts of companies seeking to conduct business ethically.

5. What can be done if a company has been exposed to suspect behavior and practices?

If companies suspect that a competitor may be involved in bribery, or if they are the victim of extortionate demands, they can submit a complaint either to Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice or The Economic and Organised Crime Office. Many companies also raise their concerns with the local embassy. Companies can also work with TRACE Certified companies, which have completed a rigorous due diligence process based on international standards, including training and continuous daily screening against international sanctions and enforcement lists. If a company believes one of its employees may have been involved in inappropriate conduct, a thorough internal investigation should be conducted to understand the scope of the wrongdoing. The need for remedial action and discipline of the employee should be evaluated. The company’s accounting department may also need to correct books and records if they reflect fraudulent transactions or do not accurately describe the true nature of an improper payment. 

This Q&A article was originally produced for ExportWise.ca, Export Development Canada’s online magazine.