05.10.2006 General News

Media educated on Conflict of Interest

Media educated on Conflict of Interest
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The fight against conflict of interest that led to corruption, injustice and abuse of power needed to be sustained, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a workshop on 'Conflict of Interest' the Commission organised for the Media in Accra; the Acting Commissioner of CHRAJ, Ms Anna Bossman said there was the need to provide resources to sustain the fight against conflict of interest.

She said there must be political will; self denial; discipline; the overhauling of cultural practices that were inimical to development to wage a relentless war against the menace.

Ms Bossman said the fight against corruption could be a lonely and dangerous task that could be accomplished when forces were joined at the national and international levels, hence the need to link with the media.

She called for the separation of the office of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General, saying that public prosecution should be independent from the Executiv e arm of Government to make it much easier for CHRAJ to operate.

It would be much easier if there were an independent Attorney General, who was not a Minister of Justice, to prosecute since it was sometimes difficult to prosecute fellow Cabinet Ministers, she said. Ms Bossman said there was the need for political will to be manifested not only in statements but in action; improving and rationalizing anticorruption legislation and adhering to international standards relating to corruption.

Increased transparency and accountability, strengthening of CHRAJ by ensuring adequate resource that was free from budgetary interference of the Ministry of Finance and improving conditions of service to attract and retain highly qualified staff were some measures the Commissioner said could make the organization effective.

Mr Charles Ayamdoo, Deputy Director in charge of Anticorruption at CHRAJ, speaking on:Background and overview of the draft guidelines on conflict of interest noted that the role of the media was crucial in creating an atmosphere in public life that discouraged corruption, conflict of interest and abuse of power.

Defining conflict of interest as an incubator of corruption, Mr Ayamdoo said CHRAJ's guidance sought to help prevent corruption and improve efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism and fairness. He said the media was an important avenue in eliminating systematic corruption in public life by sensitizing the public on the issue.

'We want the media to develop interest in the Commission's public education on conflict of interest,' Mr Ayamdoo said and noted that conflict of interest could lead to a breakdown of trust in public institution.

Mr Ayamdoo mentioned nepotism, financial interest and outside employment as the main sources of conflict of interest in the public system. He explained that favouritism based on familial relationship, financial interest and outside employment: that is taking jobs outside official duties for personal gains could lead to improper performance and abuse of power.

Public officials should not engage in any business or transaction or have any financial, personal or other interest which is incompatible with performance of official duties,he cautioned. He said public officials should avoid personal conducts that could undermine their office, adding that they should not take advantage of loans, rewards, services or favours.

Conflict of interest does not only affect high profiled people, Mr Ayamdoo noted and said it affected everybody, from people jumping hospital queues to accepting some kind of expensive gifts.A public official should not solicit gifts or accept any cash amount as a gift, he said.

Mr Richard Quayson, Deputy Commission in charge of Public Education and Anticorruption, said the workshop aimed at equipping the media to act as agents of change in enhancing professional ethics and integrity in public and private organizations.We want the media to partner the commission in putting the conflict of interest issue on the national agenda and earnestly push for a national consensus for its implementation,he said.

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