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11.01.2007 General News

Corruption –– the who,

By G.D. Zaney
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The Controller and Accountant-General's Department, which is responsible for the development of official accounting systems, by implication, ensures the efficient utilization of public funds, and is placed in a position to check fraud and corruption.

There is also the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, which is responsible for the effective protection of public funds through the examination of audited accounts of government by the Auditor-General.

Others are the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the Serious Fraud Office, the newly-established Office of Accountability, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service and the Judiciary.

The Ghana Accountability Improves Trust (GAIT) programme, which began from February 1, 2001 to January 31, 2003, was also an important response to the menace of corruption. It was borne out of the Government's declaration of a zero tolerance for corruption.
In spite of the existence of these institutions and efforts directed at fighting corruption, the phenomenon persists as confirmed by Transparency International and the Africa Peer Review Mechanism reports on Ghana.

Transparency international, in its corruption perception Index for the year 2004, ranked Ghana 63rd. The situation aroused the concern of institutions local and foreign, to embark on a fact finding mission as a measure of finding solutions to the problem.

One such venture was by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), in collaboration with the German Development Corporation (GTZ), when a stakeholders' forum was held in Accra on June 14, 2005 to discuss the mandates, achievements, gaps and the way forward for some key anti-corruption agencies in Ghana, namely, the Ghana Audit Service (GAS), Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD), Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the newly-established Office of Accountability.

At the meeting, many recommendations came up, the most pervasive of which is the need for adequate resource support by government to these agencies.
In a presentation by Hon. Samuel Sallas-Mensah, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, for example, it was clear that the committee was severely handicapped by way of financial resources, lack of offices or a secretariat for the committee and the low capacity of members of the committee.

Apart from the efforts of the CDD-Ghana, the Les Aspin Centre, an Academic and Experiential Educational and Leadership Training Institute of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, conducted a development programme on anti-corruption and good governance for civil society and government officials from Ghana, Nigeria and Mali in Accra.

One of the principal aims of the programme was to provide participants with knowledge and practical skills in how to develop and manage specific tools required for reinforcing or establishing accountability systems in private and public domains.
The programme specifically was to afford the participants the opportunity to learn how to use accountability standards and approach to improve and strengthen performance and management practices, as well as public resource use.

During the celebration of the 100 years of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in 2004, fraud and corruption was vehemently condemned among accounting professionals and the measures to prevent fraud elaborately laid down by Thomas Asare, Financial Analyst of the United States Agency for International Development-Ghana (USAID-Ghana), who also encouraged the employment of whistle-blowing as a very reliable tool in combating corruption and corporate misconduct.

Before this event, the Ghana Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana (ICAG) had launched the Ghana National Accounting Standards, which the one time Deputy Minister of Finance, the late Mr. Victor Selormey, described as an important tool in promoting financial transparency and accountability in the Public Sector Reform Programmes, while the 2005 Accountants' Week was celebrated on the theme 'Corruption and National Development'.

The focus on corruption and the role of the accountant as an instrument of fighting corruption by the nation's accounting profession governing institutions signify the magnitude of the problem and the dimensions to which the problem had reached or attained.

There is, therefore, no alternative but to intensify the efforts at combating the phenomenon. Accordingly, anti-corruption agencies which are resource-constrained should be adequately resourced and retooled in order to effectively execute their mandates.

Apart from these measures, fraud and corruption should be prevented by setting ethical tones from the top to the bottom, with the creation of a culture of honesty and high ethical standards.
There should also be a strong system of control and internal audit function with personnel that have fraud detection and investigation skills.

Also, all tips about fraud should seriously be investigated with a confidential system created for employees to anonymously report illegal and unethical actions they have witnessed or suspected.
Furthermore, employees should be educated on a continuous basis about illegal and unethical behaviours, while the background of new employees being hired should be verified and suppliers and customers be involved in fraud prevention efforts since they can be a valuable source of information for follow-ups. And, perhaps, an oversight body that regulates accounting and audit practices is required, as a matter of urgency.

In any case, corruption has been labeled as intractable, which, according to the Advanced Learner's Dictionary, means 'not easily controlled or dealt with, hard to mangae'.
In fact one may be apt to agree with the label because all the coup d'tats that occurred in Ghana have been justified in the name of corruption, while three heads of state and members of the erthswhile Supreme Military Council I & II have been executed to serve as a deterrent to engaging in acts of corruption, yet corruption is still rife in the country.
This presupposes that the fight against the phenomenon of corruption must begin with knowledge of the fact that victory will not come easily. There needs not thus, be any relaxation in efforts during combat else any gains will be reversed.

The fight against corruption must be brutal and sustained, but certainly without execution by firing squad or hanging or any other form of death penalty – even of the people call for their blood to flow'.
The writer works with the Information Services Dept. and is a law student at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

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