The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has called for a firm commitment on the part of government to tackle the rampant corruption that has engulfed the country head-on.
A communiquÃ© issued in Accra and signed by Jean Mensa, Executive Director of IEA, said participants at its Corruption Conference held in late April noted that the key institutions which have been mandated by Ghana’s Constitution to prevent and fight corruption have been unable to effectively deliver on their mandate.
The institute, which is a policy analysis think-tank, assessed the strengths and weaknesses of key institutions including the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), the Attorney-General’s Office, the Audit Service as well as Parliament in the fight against corruption. It noted that these institutions needed to be strengthened in their fight against corruption.
Participants agreed that EOCO must be separated from the Attorney-General’s Department to make it an independent state agency.
‘Heads of EOCO must be granted security of tenure so they can fight corruption and organised crime among high ranking government officials without fear or favour,’ they said, adding that ‘the staffing of EOCO must be boosted by highly qualified professional investigators and lawyers capable of investigating and prosecuting complex economic crimes.’
Decoupling A-G’s Department
The participants noted that the work of the A-G was constrained by ‘the fusion of the Attorney-General’s office with that of the Minister of Justice’, saying, ‘this places the A-G in a conflict of interest position when prosecuting public officials of a sitting government.’
‘Additionally, the office is unable to attract and retain qualified lawyers. Consequently, investigations and prosecutions are fraught with inefficiencies leading to regular loss of cases and judgments being entered against government,’ they added.
The communiquÃ© said the Auditor-General ‘lacks authority to enforce audit-finding recommendations,’ and added that the absence of qualified accounts officers and internal auditors in the various government MDAs was leading to delays and inaccuracies in the work of the Auditor-General.
It also said there were inadequate staffing levels and poor service conditions and that that made auditors susceptible to bribery, adding, ‘the nation’s current asset declaration regime is ineffective and non-transparent.’
The communiquÃ© was concerned that ‘governments resort to all kinds of measures to ensure that their budgets are approved.’ It also stated that ‘because some ministers of state double as Parliamentarians, no thorough and objective scrutiny is carried out on budget estimates presented to Parliament.’
‘Parliament must be made more independent of the Executive. The practice of appointing ministers from Parliament must cease. Parliament must be given adequate financial autonomy and resources to enable it carry out its anti-corruption mandate effectively.’
The communiquÃ© further said that measures must be introduced to enable institutions to implement the report of the Public Accounts Committee within the next financial year.
Winning the Fight Against Corruption
The communiquÃ© said that the participants ‘affirmed that the fight against corruption can be won,’ but said ‘this will require strong institutions, political will on the part of government, unwavering public/civil society support for anti-corruption measures and commitment of adequate national resources to the fight against corruption.’
‘It was affirmed that the fight against corruption would be emboldened through the passage of the Right to Information Bill by Parliament and encouraging people to blow the whistle on acts of corruption,’ the communiquÃ© added.
As part of its commitment to promoting good governance for sustainable national development, the IEA organised the Corruption Conference in late April under the theme, “Purging the Nation of Corruption: Demanding Accountability from Public Institutions”.
It brought together about 200 participants from Parliament, government ministries, civil society, professional associations, political parties, media, clergy, traditional authorities, religious groups, academia, youth groups, women’s groups, development partners, Electoral Commission, security agencies and other identifiable groups in Ghana.
By William Yaw Owusu
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