..last year Kufuor disappointed many Ghanaians The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) has challenged the government to declare 2006 a year of action against corruption, saying that it will look up to the President to set practical examples in that respect. The call comes in the wake of similar expectations expressed in various new year messages by individuals, traditional rulers, religious leaders, corporate bodies and civil society organisations. Speaking to a local Ghanaian newspaper - Daily Graphic, the Executive Director of the GII, Mr Daniel Batidam, asserted that last year the President disappointed many Ghanaians when he had the opportunity to take practical measures in dealing with the problem of corruption. He cited the vetting of ministers by Parliament at the beginning of 2005, saying that the process provided an opportunity for the President to do a house cleaning since question marks were raised on the credibility of some of his nominees, which, he said, eroded the confidence of many people in those nominees.
He said there was a perceived reluctance on the part of the government to put in place preventive measures against corruption and further cited the delay in the passage of the Whistle Blowers Bill to encourage members of the public to report corrupt practices without any fear of reprisal.
He said it was unfortunate that government officials always came out to defend allegations of corruption levelled against some public officials instead of taking concrete steps to address the problem.
Mr Batidam said because of political expediency, it was very difficult for politicians to deal with corruption, pointing out that corruption was a national issue and politicians needed to acknowledge it as such.
Mr Batidam called for a halt in the blame game between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) on corruption issues, saying, “The blame game is not a way forward. It's a way backward.”
Giving his expectations on how the fight against corruption must be waged this year, he said the fight should not be limited to the government alone and urged all partners, especially professional bodies, to be at the front-line.
Mr Batidam said the fight against corruption was a “stakeholder crusade” and indicated that the GII would engage religious bodies and traditional rulers, who had important constituencies in the crusade.
He said fighting corruption was about development, poverty alleviation and how to manage the country's little resources to the benefit of everyone, adding, “If we fail to address corruption, we fail to address development and poverty.”
On the country's performance in the fight against corruption in 2005, Mr Batidam described the year as a year of challenges for anti-corruption lobbying groups like the GII because many key issues bordering on the canker emerged and that increased the debate among members of the public, as well as the resolve of the nation to deal with the problem.
He described the development as positive and gave credit to greater openness in government, vigilance by governance institutions, the repeal of the criminal libel law and the fact that society had become very active in corruption issues and urged them to move the debate on corruption forward this year.
Mr Batidam said the nation also had a “good Christmas present from Parliament”, on December 14, 2005, when the House ratified two key international conventions on corruption, namely, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the African Union Convention Against Corruption.
He said beyond the legal framework put in place to deal with corruption, many people wanted to see the leadership demonstrate by example their commitment to dealing with the canker to encourage them to emulate it.
Mr Batidam noted that in a society such as ours in which many people were illiterates, the law meant very little to them and so they, invariably, looked up to the country's leadership and followed their footsteps.
He expressed disappointment at the President's inability to act more decisively on some alleged corrupt practices especially recently and expressed the hope that he would do “something more concrete this year than what he did last year".