The president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, has fired his deputy communications minister, Victoria Hammah, after she was heard on a tape recording declaring that she would not quit politics until she had amassed $1 million in earnings. According to Ghanaian media, Hammah was also heard making some embarrassing revelations and comments about government figures on the tape that was leaked and then went viral on the Internet and social media networks.
Among other transgressions, Hammah was heard criticizing Rachel Appoh, the deputy minister of gender, children and social protection, for getting into a fight with her boss, Nana Oye Lithur. “I told Rachel that I really understand politics. ... I will not quit politics until I make $1 million. If you have money, then you can control people,” Hammah said on the tape. She was also heard criticizing Appoh, calling her "senseless, ugly, loud and egoistic".
According to a BBC report, Hammah previously claimed she was under pressure to pilfer public funds because she believed the public thought she was wealthy. "Corrupt politicians are the reflection of [a] corrupt society!" she was quoted as saying in Ghana newspapers. On her Facebook account, Hammah had complained about requests made by her constituents, referring to them “obnoxious demands made of me by some Ghanaians.” She added, “We must wake up to this unhealthy menace and address it comprehensively; in as much as we demand accountability from public officeholders, we as a people must demand accountability from our own conscience.”
More damaging to President Mahama, Hammah alleged that an unnamed minister played a key role in the petition battle that allowed the president’s election to be validated. The opposition had filed a petition requesting that Mahama’s narrow victory be annulled, but the Supreme Court threw it out. Some MPs have suggested that the real reason behind Hammah’s dismissal lies with the president’s annoyance with the petition allegations.
Separately, in light of the Hammah saga, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition has called for the government to quickly enact the Conduct of Public Officers’ Bill, which would monitor the conduct of public officials as well as graft in government. The bill has been approved by the Cabinet, but remains subject to a parliamentary vote. Florence Dennis, GACC’s executive secretary, told a radio show: "If somebody comes [into office] and thinks about how she can acquire wealth, then the issue about assets declaration comes into being... where people [will] declare their assets when they come into office and when they are leaving office they [are compelled to] declare their assets."
But Hammah is not the only person in trouble in this episode – Accra police have arrested her driver, Lawrence Quayeson, on suspicion of tape-recording her conversations and leaking them. The arrest followed complaints made by Hammah herself.
In fact, Ghana is not one of Africa’s more corrupt states. According to a ranking by Transparency International, an anti-corruption NGO, Ghana and Lesotho ranked in the middle of the pack in 2012 – finishing 64th out of 174 countries (with Denmark in first place as the least corrupt and Somalia as the most corrupt). Indeed, only Rwanda (50th) and Namibia (58th) scored better than Ghana among nations on the African continent. TI noted in a country report that Ghana’s educational sector is particularly corrupt, citing, among other things, that 40 percent of parents pay illegal fees (i.e., bribes) for education.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.