Public Officials Destroy Documents

Justice Apau
A professor of Archival Studies at the University of Ghana has told the Commission of Enquiry investigating the payment of judgement debts that he suspects that some public officials have been destroying public documents in order to cover their fraudulent deals.

Prof. Harry Akosa, of the Department of Information Studies, said even though there might be ‘chaos’ in the current system of record keeping and management, ‘people are trying to obliterate evidential transaction.’

The Sole-Commissioner, Justice Yaw Apau, of the Court of Appeal, had invited the Department of Information Studies to enlighten the commission on the importance of record keeping and management. Prof. Akosa was subsequently nominated to make the presentation.

The professor said; ‘We suspect fraudulent behaviour on the part of some public officials. We always hear or read in the news how this commission and others are not able to lay hands on documents to make the needed input for development, and you clearly see that people are obliterating vital documents to cover their tracks.’

He said that ‘records are the corporate memory of any country, but in Ghana we are losing our memory because of our attitude towards record keeping and management.’

‘We are slowly moving towards what I would call collective national amnesia and I think the commission’s recommendation should be strong so that sanctions are evoked.’

‘If this commission establishes that some public officials wilfully damaged records, sanctions must be evoked. The cost of creating record is very high so sanctions must apply.’

He said in the past there was ready market for graduates from the department, but the recent embargo on recruitment has affected the employment of people who have the professional skills to keep and manage records at public institutions, adding that ‘as the squeeze started, there are a number of them hanging around without jobs and I think it is discouraging new entrants.’

Prof. Akosa said that the private sector was doing better than the public sector in the area of record keeping and management and stated that public institutions do not pay attention to records.

He said the lack of importance attached to record keeping and management is harming Ghana, saying that ‘records are for accountability and the fight against corruption and there is no way we can promote good governance with our poor record keeping.’

He said the donor community helped Ghana to restructure how it should keep its records, but added that ‘we are surprised we are slipping back to where we were.’

Prof Akosa also said government should make sure that the records policy is fully implemented, especially Act 535 of 1997. He also urged the government to accelerate the recruitment of qualified people into records keeping sections of the MDAs as well as the immediate sensitisation of public officials to understand the role played by records.

Felix Nyarko Ampong, Acting Director of Public Records and Archives Administrative Department (PRAAD), who also testified, told the commission that they were striving to gain access to the MDAs to sensitise them on the need for safe record keeping and management.

He disclosed that when they wrote to the various ministries and reminded them of their obligation to submit all government contracts to the PRAAD, only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs complied.

By William Yaw Owusu

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