The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has advised public officers to reject gifts that have the semblance of bribes.
“Drawing the line between a gift and a bribe is difficult. Corruption often starts with small flavours-the ‘sweetening process’, gifts are sometimes abused to camouflage corruption”, it said.
The Commission said this at a three-day workshop on its “Guidelines on the Conflict of Interest for Public officials” organized by Commission and the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII),
Mr Charles Ayamdoo, Deputy Commissioner, Anti Corruption, said very soon it would be criminal for public officials to receive gifts of doubtful nature when Parliament passes the guidelines into law.
“Assessing whether a particular gift is in deed a ‘gift’ the quantum, or size, occasion, timing of the gift and the source of the gift must be taken into consideration.”
He said any gift that can change your life significantly is not a gift but a bribe.
He said realizing the corrupting influence which gifts could have the framers of the 1979 Republican prohibited it to public officials.
Mr Ayamdoo said the excuse that Ghanaian culture does not discriminate in the types of gifts was false.
On the contrary Ghanaian culture as elsewhere frowns on gifts that appear tainted.
He said for example gifts to chiefs were not made secretly to them but through their elders and such gifts were shared among them all.
Mr Ayamdoo said Ghana would not be the only country to outlaw gifts to those who render public service.
He said in Malaysia a gift to a public official must be reported regardless of its value if the background of the gift is doubtful.
In Latvia gifts are generally prohibited except for a few while in Kazakhstan gifts must be handed over to a fund and in Japan it must be reported to supervisors.
“In Hong Kong, gift of a meal or drink must be consumed at the place that it is provided-No Take Away”, he said.
Mr Ayamdoo said Christianity and Islam also warned about the corrupting influences of gifts to those in public office.
Some of the participants were of the view that the existence of machinery at workplaces was necessary to check conflict of interest situations.