Vigilant populace needed to fight corruption

CHRAJ Boss, Emile ShortThe fight against corruption requires the involvement and total commitment of a very vigilant populace, the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice Emile Short has said.

Speaking at a human rights leadership forum organized by the American-based non-governmental organisation, Mr. Emile Short said corruption is a human rights and a developmental issue.

“Corrupt practices undermine the confidence of the public in the administrative state and the advancement of human rights and high ethical standards.”

The forum which was a leadership training programme for students drafted from second cycle schools, who presented paper on different topics relating to human rights and corruption, was targeted at strengthening the capacity of the students to appreciate the importance of human rights to their daily lives and how they can uphold them.

Forty-five students were selected from various schools which include Chemu Secondary School, Presec (both Legon and Osu) and Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, and they competed against each other.

The 45 students divided into three coalition teams, each with members from the spectrum of participating institutions. Each team aimed to produce an effective campaign on a human rights issue of that team’s choosing. Team A chose the issue of government corruption, Team B, armed robbery, and Team C, access to justice.

Mr. Emile Short said corruption kills the very essence of the country’s development especially when funds voted for specific projects are misappropriated by greedy individuals for their personal gains.

“The inability of the state to provide such needed services often results in the death of many citizens.”

He made allusion to the negative effect of corruption on the nation’s psyche, adding; “there are those who view government corruption as worse than armed robbery because of its disastrous consequences.”

Touching on the commission’s work towards the fight against corruption, he said CHRAJ since 1993 has always been serious about tackling corruption. The commission, he said, has investigated many allegations and complaints of corruption and embezzlement of state funds.

“There are currently not less than 15 of such cases” at the commission.

“It is also significant to note that Parliament has also enacted useful legislation such as the Procurement Law Whistleblowers Act to help combat the menace of corruption.”

He however said despite these measures “the level of corruption in Ghana is still unacceptably high. Bribery, embezzlement of public funds, improper procurement processes, and award of fraudulent contracts and violation of conflict of interest provisions are gradually becoming pervasive in Ghana.”

Mr. Emile Short, who was until recently working as a judge at the UN court in Tanzania, also added that the commission’s anti-corruption armpit is working seriously to investigate cases of alleged corruption that has come to their attention.

He also advised the youth against the use of violence in resolving their differences, and urged them to rather “appreciate the importance of using democratic ways of resolving their grievances.”

“Appreciating the importance of democratic and peaceful means of conflict resolution will create by a far better platform for the youth to address the issues confronting them, and help deal with the lawlessness that pervades our society.”

Betty Mould Iddrissu, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, advised the youths to learn from neighbouring countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia where decade long civil war has not only displaced thousands but destabilized the very essence of their systems.

She said there are lots of young people in such countries who, unfortunately, got drafted into such wars and the memories they keep are that of wars.

Tim Bowles, director of the American-based NGO Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), organisers of the programme, said “the competition format has introduced these students and youth to basic leadership principles and purposes as well as trains them in presentation of human rights education to their peers,”

“The teams have also documented their work in still and video, presenting work at this past Friday’s concluding event, judged by college student leaders and civil society representative, Michael Amoah Awuah, Country director of YHRI also said.

Joseph Yarsiah, regional coordinator for West Africa, said “the students were expected not only to gather the consensus views on the problems and solution to those issues from the youth they reach in the schools but also from community and national opinion leaders and other members of the public. We also wanted to ensure that each team focuses in particular on the difficulties presented in the justice system in effecting the eradication of its chosen human rights abuses.”

Story by Osabutey Anny