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16.06.2005 General News

CHRAJ to draw guidelines on conflict of interest

GNA

Accra, June 16, GNA - The Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on Thursday started consultation work for the drawing up of Guidelines on Prevention of Conflict of Interest among public officials.

A draft document made available to the Ghana News Agency defines conflict of interest as "any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, a participation in any business transaction or professional activity, an incurring of any obligation of any nature, which is or appears to be in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of an official's duties in the public interest."

The document also considers the general principles of the Conflict of Interest (COI) in terms of financial interest, impartiality in official performance of a public officer, employment and recruitment practices and moonlighting, and abuse and misuse of office for private gain. The rest are post-employment activities of an officer, definition of gifts and gratuities and suggestions on what to do in a conflict of interest situation.

According to CHRAJ the objectives of the guidelines were to take preventive measures against conflict of interest, assist public officials manage apparent COI and to safeguard public interest, which is central to democratic governance. The document would augment a strategic measure adopted by Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) to combat corruption. The guidelines seek to promote and set the parameters where a public service culture of conflicts of interest are properly identified, resolved or managed, what gifts public officials must not accept and what to do with forbidden gifts received already.

Addressing Legal Officers of the Commission at a workshop to fine-tune the document, Mr Charles Ayamdoo, Senior Principal Investigator of CHRAJ, said the guidelines sought to complement the Article 284 of the Constitution on the Code of Conduct for Public Officials. This reads: "A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the function of his office." He said the 1992 Constitution mandated the Commission to investigate allegations made against a public officer, adding that the Constitution imposed a great responsibility on the Commission to investigate allegations of breaches of the code of conduct for public officers, including conflict of interest, and take appropriate action in respect to the outcome of the investigations.

Mr Ayamdoo said the framers of the 1992 Constitution however, failed to define what constitute conflict of interest, "CHRAJ must therefore define what constitute conflict of interest," hence the drawing of the guidelines. "The absence of a definition of conflict of interest makes investigations into matters of conflict of interest an uneasy task." He said through the guidelines, a general framework for determining and managing conflict of interest situations would be set, unethical behaviour in the public service would be addressed. In a welcoming address, Mrs Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner of CHRAJ, said corruption was pervasive in Ghana and its cost and effects on development were enormous and debilitating.

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