In 2014, Ghana began to implement its National Anti-Corruption Action Plan, adopted a decade after the West African country signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption. With over 120 goals, the plan’s strategy was wide-ranging and ambitious. The goals included strengthening the public service code of conduct, improving the asset declaration system, and expanding freedom of information, as well as adopting many new laws. About 15 other countries around the globe had announced similar aims, though few included as many goals in their plans or required as many statutory changes. Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, which was responsible for translating the strategy into practical accomplishments, faced stiff challenges, including limited coordination capacity, electoral disruption, reluctant legislators, and a few scandals that drew the government’s credibility into doubt. By the early months of 2017, the commission was still struggling to implement important parts of the strategy, but there were a few signs of progress: more public agencies were beginning to report regularly on the actions they had taken to meet their goals, a memorandum of understanding to improve coordination among parts of the anticorruption system was in place, and the Electoral Commission had stepped in to require asset declaration by candidates—even while bigger changes remained mired in the legislature. Ghana’s experience illuminated the challenge of introducing broad anticorruption policies in the face of embedded opposition and the ways that dedicated citizens and officials could take smaller but still significant steps to improve governance.
Tristan Dreisbach drafted this case study based on interviews conducted with the assistance of Gordon LaForge in Accra, Ghana, during September 2016, February 2017, and August 2017. The British Academy-Department for International Development Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Progamme funded the development of this case study. Case published September 2017.