1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Why are Ghanaians reluctant whistleblowers?

Maxwell Suuk / mc (Reuters/AFP)
August 2, 2016

A decade ago, Ghana passed its Whistleblowers Act offering protection to concerned citizens wanting to speak out about the corrupt practices of others in the public interest. Hardly any have come forward.

Afrika Tamale Ghana Whistleblowing in Ghana
Anti-corruption officer Adam Banni is forming 'community integrity clubs'Image: DW/M. Suuk

Ghana's 2006 Whistleblowers Act enables citizens to disclose information about the corrupt or unlawful activities of other people. It offers them protection from victimization linked to such disclosures.

The law was passed after Ghana was rocked by a series of financial scandals. But ten years later, most Ghanaians DW spoke to appeared unwilling to acquire the whistleblowing habit.

"The dangerous part is that people are going to know who reported the issue and when that happens the ones that reported it will be in trouble," said one Ghanaian woman.

In Ghana's northern Tamale region, only two people have made use of the provisions contained in the Whistleblowers Act over the last two years.

Suspicions persist

Ghanaian Abdul Somed finds it hard to believe that his safety can, or will, be guaranteed if he turns whistleblower. That's why he won't report anyone. "You don't know what's going to happen at the end of everything," he told DW.

Adam Baani, an anti-corruption officer with Ghana's Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), is trying to disarm such suspicions by telling Ghanaians that citizens who make disclosures under the Act won't face criminal or civil proceedings. He says that Ghana has some "very fine laws" to tackle malpractices but finds himself wondering "how come that in our part of the world it is [so] difficult to combat corruption."

John Dramani Mahama bei Conflict Zone
Ghana, led by President John Mahama, is one of nine African states classified by The Economist Intelligence Unit as 'democratic'Image: DW

According to the office of Ghana's Auditor General, billions of cedis (hundreds of thousands of dollars) go missing from state coffers every year because of fraud. Banni says he is forming "community integrity clubs" to act as watchdogs over public officials. He explained that protection was afforded to whistleblowers, because people who leak their identity face a "jail term of two years."

But public aversion to whistleblowing runs deep in Ghana and is unlikely to abate any time soon.

Ghana ranked 56th out of 168 countries surveyed by Transparency International for its 2016 index of business perceptions of corruption, performing better than many other African countries.