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30.11.2004 NPP News

NPP promise to be robust on corruption

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Accra, Nov. 30, GNA - Mr. Papa Owusu Ankomah, Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Justice, on Tuesday said, when voted into power at the December seven polls, the New Patriotic Party would adopt a more robust approach to the fight against corruption.

He noted that the ruling party had taken seriously the negative public perception about its commitment to the fight against corruption over the past four year, saying that tough measures were therefore, being put in place to deal with corruption in the next term of the party in government.

Papa Ankomah was speaking at a Media and Political Parties Dialogue organised by the Ghana Journalists Association in collaboration with a number of public and private media organisation, with support from the United States Embassy in Ghana.

The dialogue, facilitated by KAB Governance Consult, was the fourth in a series to afford political parties the opportunity to interact with the media on issues of national concern and also make their policy on those issues known to the public through the media. Representatives from only two parties, the NPP and the Convention People's Party (CPP) were present.

Papa Ankomah said since the various international and national survey reports on public perception of corruption in government emerged, the NPP government had been doing a diagnostic study of the corruption situation in the country.

Papa Ankomah said the report on that study would be ready in a few weeks and one of the proposals would be, to actively include civil society input in the fight against corruption.

"We would also consider making governments anti-corruption efforts more transparent to the public so that public would know that the NPP government still maintains zero tolerance for corruption."

Additionally, he said, the Office of Accountability, located in the Presidency, was working on a code of conduct, which was meant to be a guide and not a law to help the office operate in a more robust and transparent manner.

He said the code had gone through three phases of consultation and was due to be ready in the early period of the NPP's second term in office.

Papa Ankomah said, "the NPP government would, for instance consider making the work of the Office of Accountability more open by occasionally inviting media practitioners to interact with the members of the office and to know more about their work."

He noted that since the Whistle Blowers Bill for instance was made public, the GJA has not made any contribution to comments on its workability, saying that the NPP government considered the input of civil society on such bills as key to the success of the anti-corruption efforts.

Touching on the several cases of accusation of corruption against public officers, none of which had been prosecuted yet, he said the NPP government did not see it expedient to follow public outcry and prosecute people even when there was no clear evidence.

Papa Ankomah said in several of those cases the A-G's office had issued instructions to the appropriate state institutions to proceed with prosecution, but more often than not, the dockets on those cases had been returned to the A-G's offices on the basis of no evidence for prosecution.

"It is not our policy as the A-G's office to make public all the actions we are taking in the dealing with such cases, moreover the A-G's office needs to be shielded from unnecessary public pressure due to those cases, so we issue the instructions without making it public," he said.

He said in spite of the negative public perception about corruption in government, the NPP government had over the past four years dedicated more resources to the public institutions dealing with corruption, such as the Police Service, CHRAJ and SFO, than previous government ever did.

"We have however, learnt our lessons over the past four years that fighting corruption is not an event but a process that does not stop at positive public perception," he said.

Mr. Kwesi Pratt of the CPP disagreed with what Mr. George Opesika Aguddey, Presidential candidate of the CPP said about the criminal libel law, when he said the CPP would consider repealing Article 185 of the Criminal code, which criminalized speech.

Mr. Aguddey, during the recent presidential debate stated clearly and emphatically that the CPP would consider restoring the Criminal Libel Law to protect innocent Ghanaians being libelled by the media.

Mr. Pratt said the NPP government had not shown enough commitment to anti-corruption since it had not prosecuted any of the public officials who had been accused of corruption over the past four years.

"It seems there is selective justice in this country because the NPP government was quick to establish a Fast Track Court to deal with cases involving ministers and officials of the previous NDC government, but had not done the same with its own ministers accused of similar acts," he said.

He said the reason the CPP joined forces with the NPP in 2000 was to help the NPP to wipe out the NDC government, which was then considered as corrupt, "but we are highly disappointed about this government's lack of commitment to anti-corruption."

Mr. Pratt said the CPP considered corruption as any act that violated due process and led government scarce national resources going into the pockets of a few and a CPP government would not countenance corruption, be it in government or anywhere.

"We believe that the fight against corruption must begin with the leader of the nation - it is not enough asking a public official found to be corrupt to resign without ensuring that he restored what he stole back to the state," he said.

He noted that the CPP also believed that the fight against poverty was key to the anti-corruption efforts, saying that in addition to strengthening the state institution which dealt with corruption, there was also the need to empower the masses to generate enough income as a way to preventing corruption.

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