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18.10.2005 General News

Commonwealth Ministers meeting opens in Accra

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Accra, Oct 18, GNA - The Cabinet has approved the United Nations (UN) Convention against corruption, which will be ratified by Parliament at its next meeting later this month, President John Agyekum Kufuor has said.

He said, "Despite the absence in our domestic legislation of some of the preventive measures contained in Chapter 11 of the Convention, our current legislation does have some preventive measures against the illegal acquisition of wealth," he stated.

These were contained in a speech read on behalf of the President by Nana Akufo-Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the opening of the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM), in Accra on Monday. About 160 delegates from Commonwealth countries are attending the four-day meeting, to share knowledge and experiences to enhance progress not only in the legal field, but also in other areas law has an impact such as governance, politics, security, commerce and socio-economic development.

President Kufuor said the government had taken steps to strengthen integrity and to prevent opportunities for corruption by enacting the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) and the Finance Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654).

He explained that, "The Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) prescribes administrative and institutional arrangements for procurement with correlative sanctions aligned to offences under the criminal code 1960 (Act 29) for non-compliance", adding "the Finance Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654) regulates the financial management of the public sector and empowers the Attorney-General to institute criminal prosecution for the recovery of money lost to the State".

President Kufuor further explained that anti-corruption bodies such as the Serious Fraud Office, established under the Serious Fraud Office Act, 1993, (Act 466) have powers to investigate complaints of corruption and the commission of economic crimes, saying, these may be prosecuted on the authority of the Attorney General.

He stated that the Office of Public Accountability in the office of the President had been established administratively to compliment the work of the statutory anti-corruption bodies and plays the role of an advisory body to the President on checking corrupt behaviour among senior government officials.

The President remarked that, "the Commonwealth continues to remain an institution of great value to our nation and that is why government readily agreed to host this important meeting". "The Commonwealth legal community must lead the way in championing the rights of our citizens and develop new initiatives for progress in various fields of justice and this, Ghana is proud to be part of that process," President Kufuor stated.

The rule of law serves as the foundation for democracy and good governance to thrive, he said adding that, it provides the context in which the separation of powers can work constructively for the good of society. "These are key factors that promote sustainable development and nowhere is this more apt than in Africa, large parts of which has seen systematic retrogression in development and a concomitant erosion of the tenets of the rule of law over the post-independence era," President Kufuor added.

Mr. Joseph Ayikoi Otoo, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, noted that the Commonwealth symbolised the values, ideas and philosophies fundamental to the development of a peaceful, tolerant and prosperous society.

He stressed that collaboration was important in the face of globalisation and international commerce, where uniform laws are useful in facilitating trade and investment.

The Attorney General said Commonwealth countries had a shared heritage of common law and jurisprudence, which enhance co-operation in the development of common standards.

In a good-will message, Mr. Justice George Kingsley Acquah, Chief Justice stated that the judiciary in Commonwealth countries were not well resourced, to enable them perform their duties efficiently. He appealed to the delegates to endeavour to discuss with their governments, to help improve service conditions of the judiciary, saying, "a little more attention should be given to the bench". Mrs. Florence Mugasha, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, stated that "the Commonwealth should not only focus on issues of international interest that impact on our community, but we should collaborate in pioneering new legal framework in various areas such as counter-terrorism, money laundering, asset repatriation and anti-corruption".

She said constitutional development and other law reforms were taking place at a rapid pace in many Commonwealth countries, and forums such as the CLMM to promote best practices and progress that supported the Commonwealth's values of good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Commonwealth Secretariat discloses agenda for meeting Accra, Oct. 18, GNA - Terrorism, human rights and juvenile justice in the Commonwealth are some of the major issues on the agenda of the 13th Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) in Accra taking place from October 17 through 20, 2005. Ministers and their representatives from the 53-nation Commonwealth, comprising over 160 delegates will discuss global and Commonwealth legal issues and their impact on international law at the triennial meeting.

Ms Geraldine Goh, Communications Adviser, Communications and Public Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat told the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Monday that the delegates would devise strategies to put in place appropriate legal responses to common problems.

The meeting would facilitate the sharing of experiences and the development of ways to strengthen collaboration on legal issues in the Commonwealth and enable member states to respond proactively in the interest of its 1.8 billion citizens.

Counter-terrorism initiatives on the agenda include curbing the abuse of refugee systems by terrorists and ways to combat the abuse of technology to prevent terrorist acts.

Other issues of common interest include the rights of landlocked states under the United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea, private international law, international humanitarian law and good governance. Ministers are expected to adopt several model bills on the protection of personal information and competition law, and receive reports of initiatives on environmental law and intellectual property law. They plan to issue a statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. A Communiqu=E9 would be issued at a closing news conference on October 20.

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