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17.06.2005 General News

Fighting Corruption in Ghana: CHRAJ Takes Charge

Ghanaian Chronicle

Initiates fresh moves, cites weak political will as major problem IN THE face of recent widespread allegations of corruption among public officials in the country, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is putting fresh mechanisms in place to ensure the effective discharge of its constitutional responsibilities.

As part of the fresh moves, the commission is putting finishing touches to a document that would deal with the issue of Conflict of Interest (CI) among public officials in the discharge of their duties, which the Commission views as one of the major issues of corruption in the country.

The document, expected to be ready by the end of July 2005, is aimed at complementing the provisions under articles 284 and 287 of the 1992 constitution, which talks about CI without expressly defining what constitutes CI.

"The absence of a definition of conflict of interest in the constitution, no doubt, makes investigations into matters of conflict of interest an uneasy task. To facilitate its investigations of conflict of interest, the Commission has produced prevention of conflict of interest Guidelines," the Acting Commissioner of CHRAJ, Madam Anna Bossman, said at a workshop yesterday.

The commissioner pointed out at the workshop, attended by regional directors and other top officials of the Commission, that one of the major problems confronting the institution in the discharge of its duties was weak political will.

She cited that during the last sessional address of the president to parliament, he (The president) stated that as part of the government's commitment towards fighting corruption, the anti-corruption institutions including the CHRAJ would be strengthened.

Madam Bossman expressed surprise that contrary to the president's promise, there was a large percentage decrease in the budgetary allocation to the commission, compared with the amount the commission received in 2004.

"There must be political will from the very top to eradicate corruption. This enables the agency to be truly independent and free from interferences and influence," she said.

The acting commissioner further cited lack of financial autonomy, insufficient funding from government, lack of enforcement powers, lack of prosecutorial powers as well as the absence or non-implementation of anti-corruption legislations such as the Whistle blower protection and Freedom of Information laws as other problems impeding the work of the commission.

Madam Bossman gave the assurance that CHRAJ had developed an intolerable behavior towards corruption, stressing that the Commission and the Commissioners would not allow themselves to be directed or controlled by any person or authority in the discharge of their functions, which were enshrined in the constitution.

Touching on the work of the commission since its establishment, the commissioner said the Commission had so far handled a number of high profile cases.

She named some of the cases as the investigations into allegations of corruption and illegal acquisition of assets made against four ministers of state and senior government officials during the NDC regime, the case of conflict of interest brought against President Kufuor by the minority in parliament, the case of car loans to Members of Parliament and what she termed, "The SSNIT probe."

Debunking recent public criticisms that the Commission had not been performing its duties effectively, she presented the statistics of the Commission's work, pointing out that between 1994 and May 2000, the head office of the Commission had handled 17 corruption-related cases including those of conflict of interest, between 2000 and 2004, 61 cases, adding that the office was currently investigating five corruption cases excluding the recent ones involving Dr. Richard Anane and President Kufuor over the Alexandria O'Brien and the "Hotel Kufuor" sagas respectively.