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16.12.2005 General News

Litigants contribute to corruption - says GII

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Accra, Dec. 16, GNA - Mr Daniel Batidam, Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), on Friday said the Judiciary was a critical institution in the national effort to fight corruption and, therefore, needed to be strengthened and made free of corruption. However, factors such as the role of litigants contributed to the persistent perception of the canker in the judiciary.

Mr Batidam said this during a meeting of legal experts in Accra to discuss and contribute to a concept paper for a judicial watch pilot project in Ghana initiated by GII.

The concept paper identified litigants as a source of corruption in the judicial system in Ghana.

Mr Batidam thus said it was necessary to project the role that litigants played in corruption so as to solicit their assistance in the fight against it.

"For litigants seeking relief for breach of business or investment contracts or for judicial clarification of uncertain title to land, high transaction costs could be raised as a result of judicial corruption," he stated.

More than 20 experts from the Supreme and High Courts, FIDA, Judicial Services, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Serious Fraud Office and Private legal practitioners are taking part in the expert meeting aimed to seek answers to the question on whether and to what extent perception of corruption was closer to reality.

Mr Batidam said the Judiciary was chosen for this pilot project because the institution was the most important in the fight against corruption.

"...the judicial power of the State remains a key resource in the development of anti-corruption policies. Corrupt public and political officeholders can only be dealt with in accordance with the law as interpreted and applied by courts of competent jurisdiction.

"However, to be able to hold other public officials accountable, the Judiciary itself must possess the requisite moral and ethical integrity as well as the financial, technical and human resources to do so," Mr Batidam said and added, "a corrupt Judiciary cannot preside over the prosecution of other public officials".

He said the issue of corruption had become highly controversial and it appeared everyone knew it existed but did not know its dimensions. "To be sure, since perception is not reality, we cannot, therefore, claim with any amount of certitude that perceived corruption is real corruption," Mr Batidam said and added, "it is, however, important to point out that sometimes what people perceived was not a figment of their imaginations to be dismissed easily".

The most difficult aspect, he said, was how to identify corruption and how to uncover it.

He said the GII, therefore, deemed it a duty as a civil society organisation to attempt to bridge the gap between the perception and the reality of corruption.

Mr Batidam also said the efforts of the GII was to complement the work of the Chief Justice in dealing with corruption within the Judiciary.

Mr Dominic Ayine, a private legal practitioner and project consultant, giving an overview of the project said apart from litigants, disappearance of files, frequent adjournment and delays in delivery of judgment were some of the indicators used to identify corruption in the Judiciary since it was difficult to see deals being struck and money changing hands.

Delays in the execution of court orders where there was no appeal, judicial bias and animosity and absurd rulings were some of the indicators.

Mr Ayine said the practice assumed legal, political and economic dimensions and that for both developing and developed countries, they arose from need and greed.

The project would be undertaken in some courts in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi and in some circuit courts in Koforidua. The German Technical Corporation (GTZ) is sponsoring the GII's initiative.