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02.03.2006 General News

Chief Justice & Batidam Disagree On Corruption

By Chronicle

Prevalence of corruption in body politic, judiciary

As part of strenuous efforts to stamp out corruption in the Ghanaian society, Chief Justice, Kingsley George Acquah, has advocated the need to expose individuals and corporate institutions that engage in bribery.

“It is therefore important that in fighting corruption, we make conscious efforts at exposing those who offer bribes and other items to gain advantage over their counterparts,” he said.

Speaking at the launch of Ghana Integrity Initiative's (GII) Judiciary Watch project in Accra, the Chief Justice, noted for his anti-corruption campaign, said if we as a people are able to expose and punish these bribe givers “we would be making a meaningful stride in our fight against corruption”.

Corruption, he said, is an institution which, in order to occur, takes at least the giver and receiver.

“In most cases, when we talk of corruption, the very persons who harass officials with envelops are the same persons who stand up and accuse institutions of being corrupt,” he said, stressing that it therefore becomes difficult to track down and deal with the problem.

Undoubtedly, he pointed out corruption as a canker facing the entire world and that no country is completely free from it.

On the controversial issue of perceptions of corruption and proof, Justice Acquah did not mince words. “A finding based solely upon mere assertion of a cross section of the people is certainly deceptive because most of such individuals may be ignorant of the nature and scope of the function of the institution, in respect of which the interview relates.”

He therefore noted that it would be important that the basis of Ghana Integrity Initiative's (GII) corruption index is capable of providing positive proof.

In a country like Ghana where most of the people do not really know the scope of work of the courts, from the other institutions of administration of justice, every lapse in the administration of justice is blamed on the judiciary, Justice Acquah indicated that “the perception of a large number of individuals may be faulty”.

“The judiciary is not the only actor in the administration of justice,” he said, emphasizing that the other partners are the prosecution division, made up of the Attorney General's office and police prosecutors, lawyers who represent parties, the litigants themselves, Prison Service, Department of Social Welfare and other agencies like the security services.

He also mentioned the legislature, which enacts the laws for the entire machinery of the administration of justice.

“Under our system of justice inherited from the colonial masters, the courts are impartial arbiters that do not prosecute nor defend offenders nor claims of aggrieved persons; the courts do not search for the witnesses of the party to prove or disprove a claim; neither do the courts have the power to initiate actions or impose sentences not authorized by law,” related the Chief Justice.

In his opinion, the best way to fight corruption is to institute anti-corruption measures.

Thus, in the judiciary, he identified the setting up of the complaints and courts inspectorate division and the institution of a comprehensive code of conduct for judges as part of measures to trunk corruption and its related incidence.

On his part, Daniel Batidam, the Executive Secretary of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) noted, “In this country, the issue of corruption has become a highly controversial one; it appears we all know it exists but we are not certain about its dimensions.”

“It is often also said in high places that what we all think we know about corruption in our society, especially with regard to its prevalence within governmental institutions and agencies, is based solely on perception,” he stressed.

He said since perception is not always the same as reality, we cannot therefore claim with any amount of certitude that perceived corruption is real corruption.

However, he indicated that it is always important to point out that sometimes what people perceive is not a figment of their imaginations to be dismissed easily.

“In other words, it may often turn out that the gap between perception and reality is either narrow or non existent,” Batidam explained.

As a civil society organization whose core business includes educating, monitoring, and advocating for anti-corruption reforms, he said the Ghana Integrity Initiative deems it a duty to attempt to bridge the gap between the perception of corruption and its reality.

The Judiciary Watch project has thus been designed as a kind of pilot programme that would seek to answer the question whether, and to what extent, perception of corruption is close to the reality.

Under the project, trained law students from Accra and Kumasi would monitor for a three-month period, cases currently in court concerning land and commercial disputes with a view to finding out the extent to which, if any, the process is attended by corruption.

The project has thus developed and will continue to evolve indicators of corrupt practices that would guide the students in their monitoring exercises.