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UN survey: GHC5 billion bribes paid to public officials in 2021, bribery prevalent with the educated

Out of all adults who had at least one contact with a public official in 2021, 26.7% paid a bribe to a public official

A total of GHC5 billion was paid in bribes by Ghanaians from all walks of life to public officials, essentially to speed up service delivery to those offering the bribes, a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report has disclosed.

The survey, whose preface is signed by the Government Statistician, Samuel Kobina Annim, and the deputy commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Richard Quayson, is entitled “Corruption in Ghana: People’s Experiences and Views”.

It also points out that bribery is most prevalent among highly educated people compared to not-so- educated and younger people, who are more likely to pay bribes than older people.

The 137-page report has an executive summary and six chapters. Chapter one looks at the scope of bribery in Ghana, while chapters two and three focus on who takes bribes and how bribery works in Ghana.

The fourth chapter is on gender dimensions of corruption and the last two (five and six) are essentially on others forms of corruption and the methodology used by researchers to reach their conclusions.

Scope of bribery

On the scope of bribery in Ghana, the report indicates that “more than eight out of ten adults in Ghana had at least one contact with a public official in 2021. Some 64.8% interacted with those public officials more than once, indicating that interaction between the public and those who are employed in Ghana’s public institutions is widespread and well established.

“Out of all adults who had at least one contact with a public official in 2021, 26.7% paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked to pay a bribe by a public official but refused to do so.

“With a prevalence of bribery of 29.9%, people aged 25-34 are the age group most vulnerable to paying bribes. The prevalence of bribery decreases steadily to 17.6% among those aged 65 and over, while among the youngest adult age group (18-24) it is 23.9%,” the survey authors said.

“With a prevalence of bribery of 40.6%, people with a Master’s degree and/or a Bachelor’s degree are much more likely to have been asked to pay a bribe than those with no formal education.

“According to the survey, people with the highest level of (tertiary) education were 1.7 times more likely than people with no formal education to have paid a bribe, or been asked to pay a bribe but refused to do so, when in contact with a public official,” the survey further said.

Who takes bribes?

In the area of who takes bribes the most in Ghana, “the survey results indicate that the prevalence of bribery in relation to police officers is considerably higher than in relation to any other type of public official in Ghana, at 53.2%”.

“Ghana Immigration Service officers and GRA customs officers come next, at 37.4 and 33.6%, respectively. Elected government representatives are bottom of the list, at 2.9%,” the survey said.

Set bribery in motion

With regard to how the acts of bribery are set in motion in different ways in the country, the survey found that: “In Ghana, six out of ten bribes paid to public officials are requested directly by those officials.”

This according to the survey is “an indication that bribes are both common and expected and underlines the bargaining power of public officials, whose position enables them to solicit a payment in exchange for the promise of providing a public service that should be rendered upon request and, on occasion, totally free of charge”.

“Bribes paid to public officials come in different forms. Almost nine out of ten of those paid in Ghana are in the form of cash (84.8%). Food and drink and the exchange of a public service for another service are far less common, although in the country’s rural areas (17.8%) more bribes are paid in the form of food and drink than in its urban areas (10.1%).

“Cash bribes are 1.5 times larger in urban than in rural areas of the country, with the national average bribe amounting to GHC348. Given that roughly 17.4 million bribes were paid in Ghana in 2021, a total of roughly GHC5 billion is paid in cash bribes to public officials on a yearly basis in Ghana, or the equivalent of 32.9% of the 2021 budget of the Ministry of Education,” the survey disclosed.

“Almost half of all bribe-payers paid a bribe to either speed up or finalise an administrative procedure in 2021 (33.6% and 10.8%, respectively). This, and the fact that the majority of bribes are directly requested by public officials and are paid in advance of a service, suggests that bribes are paid because people seeking a service are informed by a public official, either implicitly or explicitly, that a procedure will not be processed without the payment of a bribe.

“Just three out of 100 people who paid a bribe in Ghana in 2021 reported it to an official or an unofficial institution. The two most common reasons cited for not reporting are that bribery is simply a common practice and people think it pointless as nobody would care,” the survey further said.

Gender divide

The survey also pointed out that “in 2021, one-third (34.1%) of all men who had contact with a public official either paid a bribe or were asked to do so but refused, while this was the case of one-fifth of women (20.7%). Moreover, women in Ghana are less likely to engage in bribery than men, irrespective of where they live, their age, educational background and employment status.

“The survey data indicate that the share of male public officials who solicit or take a bribe (25.2%) is roughly twice that of female public officials (13.1%).

“Male public officials are more likely to solicit or take bribes from men than from women, with 61.2% of all bribes resulting from interactions with men. Female public officials, on the other hand, are just as likely to solicit or take a bribe from men as from women,” the UN report found.

“Sexual corruption – the exchange of sexual favours or acts of a sexual nature in place of monetary bribes – disproportionately affects women in Ghana, with women being roughly twice as likely as men to be asked for sexual favours when interacting with public officials.

“In 2021, 2.6% of women in Ghana were asked for sexual favours when interacting with public officials, which is likely an underestimate given the social stigma that surrounds this topic,” the report further said.


The data presented in this report were collected in the 2021 Ghana Integrity of Public Services Survey (GIPSS), a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Co-operation and implemented by UNODC and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in collaboration with the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS).

The universe defined for the main survey is the adult population living within individual households in Ghana. The survey targeted 15,000 interviews in total from a nationwide representative sample of people aged 18 and older across all 16 administrative regions.

The sampling methodology adopted was a three-stage stratified cluster sampling. Stratification was achieved by dividing the national frame into the 16 regions and further separating the regions into 234 administrative districts. Each district was subdivided into urban and rural areas, resulting in 468 sampling strata.

The sample selection was done independently in each sampling stratum by a three-stage selection method.

The primary sampling unit (PSU) was the enumeration area (EA) and the second stage was the list of households as recorded in the 2021 population and housing census listing exercise. The third stage was the selection of an adult within the selected household.

Click on the link below to read the full UNODC survey:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Corruption Survey

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Accra

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