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01.12.2004 General News

A-G struggles to defend anti-corruption record

By Chronicle
A-G struggles to defend anti-corruption record
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Chronicle -- Bombarded but defiant, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Papa Ankomah loudly defended his government's anti-corruption drive yesterday but admitted mildly that the zero fight against the menace had not been a jolly ride and a perfect one.

When it was all over, the efficiency and the already dwindling reputation of the Serious Fraud Office suffered a distant attack from the A-G who said his outfit doesn't block prosecutions and that on some occasions, when they gave SFO the green light to proceed with prosecution on dockets submitted to his outfit, they came back to him saying they did not have enough evidence to initiate criminal prosecution.

“This is a docket prepared by SFO themselves,” the A-G said, almost confirming certain public accusations that the SFO was not up to the task of fighting corruption.

It is recalled that this week, the Attorney General declared that he had asked his office to invite the Chief Executive of Korle-Bu Hospital to substantiate allegations that the SFO is corrupt and incompetent. The Korle-Bu Chief publicly challenged the credibility of an SFO report and said it was influenced by bribes.

From 'Bambagate' to corrupt DCEs, from accusations of lack of political will to prosecute corrupt government officers to the low performance of the government in several international corruption surveys, the government's commitment to fighting corruption was yesterday brought close to disrepute.

The A-G was speaking at the last of the series of the media-political parties' encounters organized by the Ghana Journalists Association and sponsored by the US Embassy. KAB Governance Consult, a Non- Governmental Organization, which specializes in governance issues, facilitated it.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the People's National Convention (PNC) were not represented at the meeting.

But when the A-G rose to his feet to answer these questions, he first said his government had done creditably well in fighting the canker but added that corruption in the country was systemic and endemic and needed multiple hands to curb it.

Hon. Ankomah said his government had embarked on a drive to strengthen institutions of public accountability, including the Police Service and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

As much as possible, the A-G whose recent comments on 'bambagate' drew very negative criticism and headlines from the media, stayed away from answering questions on very controversial issues, saying, 'as a lawyer and Attorney General, it is not my duty to discuss these private things in public.”

Hon. Owusu Ankomah touched on the usually mocked Office of Accountability and said contrary to public misunderstanding on the functions of the office, it was meant to be an 'in-house' mechanism to check public officials from engaging in corruption.

He noted that his government had realized that the work of certain institutions of accountability were overlapping each other so they had commissioned a diagnostic study on the work of these institutions.

The A-G noted that as part of his government's commitment to ensuring greater transparency and accountability, they pushed for the passage of the Public Procurement Act but the passage of this Act had been described by experts as donor-driven. The A-g also spoke about the push being given to the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, which he said would promote honest and transparent governance. CPP's KWESI PRATT Mr. Kwesi Pratt, a leading member of the Publicity Committee of the Convention People's Party (CPP) also made a very eloquent presentation on what the party would do to curb corruption if they were elected to power.

Mr. Pratt spoke of the seeming unwillingness of the government, coupled with the sometimes-strange disappearance of dockets, which seem to indict key government officials as no positive pointers that the ruling NPP government was in for a big fight against corruption.

He lamented that there had been occasions when government officials and District Chief Executives indicted of corruption had “been quietly asked to resign” whilst opponents were prosecuted with alacrity and speed.

“There should not be different laws for NDC, different laws for CPP and different laws for PNC,” Mr. Pratt said.

Mr. Pratt noted that the media was a very strong ally in fighting corruption and any media, which engaged in praise singing, could not be counted as an ally in the fight against corruption.

He said a CPP government would ensure that the media industry was cushioned to allow flexibility of operations. He spoke of the need for a revolving fund to assist the media and tax holidays on media inputs as some of the means of ensuring that the media was strong enough to face their challenge.

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