Ghana plans to be the first developed African nation as part of its 2020 vision. This plan will need to address the claims that Ghana has lost up to 50 billion cedis (approx $11bn USD) in corruption. In the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 Ghana ranked 70 out of 176 countries with a score of 43 (0=highly corrupt and 100=very clean) – a drop of 4 percentage points from 2015. Undoubtedly, this ranking needs to improve, rather than decrease, to realize the 2020 vision.
As an expert for the EU Funded Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (ARAP) I facilitated Prosecution Workshops, with the aim of promoting proactive investigations and the development of early interaction between law enforcement officers and prosecutors on corruption cases. The jointly organised workshops with the Public Prosecutions Division of the Attorney General’s Department, were an opportunity to hear about the reality of investigating and prosecuting corruption in Ghana – from State Attorneys, Police Prosecutors, Economic and Organised Crime Office Investigators, the National Communications Authority and Police Officers.
Corruption in Ghana ranges from “payment” to immigration officers upon arrival – to the embezzlement of state funds – but the workshops opened my eyes to the issue of illegal mining in Ghana. Those who purge the environment in the pursuit of gold – without the requisite license – are another example of corruption.
Illegal mining is even more alarming considering a 2014 government survey that determined 14 percent of Ghanaian children are involved in hazardous work – which includes gold mining. This endemic problem sees no downward trend as the illegal miners and galamsays (small scale miners) are able to target children with the lure of as little as $1.50 USD (5 cedis) a day. A survey by the International Labour Organization of 400 child miners in Ghana found that one-third were aged between 10 and 14, and nearly 6 percent between 5 and 9 years old
Human Rights Watch reports: “…that although the government of Ghana has made some efforts to address child labour in mining, its systems to monitor and eliminate child labor function poorly. Inspections for child labour are not systematic, and government institutions dealing with child labour or child protection are weak and underfunded. School enrollment rates in Ghana have risen over the last two decades and are above the regional average. Still, government funds for free public education are inadequate and sometimes do not reach the schools in a timely manner. As a result, schools levy various fees in violation of Ghanaian and international law, which undermine the right to free education. Children who cannot afford the fees often work in gold mines as an alternative, or work in the mines specifically to earn money to continue their education.“
Children will toil away in the search for gold for up to 14 hours a day exposing themselves to long-term respiratory conditions and high levels of mercury that attacks the central nervous system and can cause lifelong disability, including brain damage, and even death.
Pursuant to section 12 of the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) of Ghana, no person shall subject a child to exploitative labour – defined as depriving a child of their health, education or development. The punishment for those that contravene this part of the Children’s Act is a fine of 10 million cedis ($2.25m USD) or 2 years imprisonment – surely convictions could disrupt illegal mining? Yet I’m unaware of any investigations or prosecutions targeting those who use children to mine for gold. With the promotion of joint working the time is opportune to tackle this pervasive issue.
(Please note the views and opinions in this article are my own and not that of any other institution)