A recent story about the sentencing of some National Health Insurance Authority personnel for their part in a scam has really left me scratching my head. There were three accused persons, yet one of them who pleaded guilty managed to escape with nothing more than an order to refund the stolen money.
Now a situation like this on its own is not particularly remarkable, but you couple this with other happenings in the country; such as the Presidential Committee sittings where people come and admit their wrong doings, apologise and then leave unscathed, and I see something seriously wrong with our concept of justice in this country.
The case involving two NHIA officers and a co-conspirator, which led to the scheme being defrauded to the tune of Ghc 131,409.26, was resolved after the judge sentenced the two to five years imprisonment.
The third party in the swindling case, Juliana Opoku-Manu, the administrator of the Samatex Hospital whose stipends were diverted by the trio for their own gain, pleaded guilty to the charges and managed to escape with a directive to refund her part of the money.
This might be nothing to raise a storm over, she might have accepted a plea deal to help nail the other two; but I mention this because cases like these occur far too often down here, and far too many times we confuse an admission of guilt with contrition and thus let the offending party go scot free.
That should not be the case; an admission of guilt does not make the offence committed any less wrong! By allowing people the luxury of being let go after admitting their wrong we’re just setting an unfortunate precedent for beating the system in the future.
Earlier this month, police arrested Shatta Wale for causing some traffic problems with his motorcade on the 37-roundabout stretch of road. The disruption caused by his actions was massive, but he told Police he was late for a flight and promised not to repeat his actions; he was let go with nothing but a verbal warning.
That is nothing more than an unwitting free pass to the artiste; why would the hubris that led to him blocking traffic because he was late; leave him, particularly after he got away with his actions?
How about the currently ongoing Presidential Committee into the World Cup fiasco? So far almost everyone called before the commission has given evidence that proves either gross incompetence, criminal negligence, or a wilful attempt to gulp down as much money as possible without being caught.
Yet what is the response of the esteemed committee members? Elvis Afriyie Ankrah shed a few tears and he was consoled by the committee. An appearance by a marketing consultant, Fred Darko, contradicted a chunk of Elvis’ testimony, pointing to a deeper problem that needs to be unravelled.
The former Youth and Sports Minister is the furthest thing from a martyr, yet his appearance before the committee was carefully orchestrated to give that vibe, and the committee members bought it hook, line, and sinker; because he came with a contrite demeanour.
An outward show of repentance does not equal a cancellation of the seriousness of the crime committed. The sooner we understand this concept, and punish those deserving, the better. Otherwise we’re just giving carte-blanche to people, particularly the powerful in society, to offend, knowing a show of remorse is all that is needed to get out of any repercussions.