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Thursday, December 10, 2009

All State Officials to declare Assets

Vice-President John Dramani Mahama
Vice-President John Dramani Mahama
Vice-President John Dramani Mahama on Wednesday said the presidency would ensure that state officials complied with the President's directive to declare their assets.

"The President gave a directive for all his appointees to declare their assets before they take office - we will follow it up to ensure that all concerned public officials adhere to the directive," he said.

The Vice-President gave the assurance at a ceremony to inaugurate a working group on National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) and launch of a Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

The ceremony, organised by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), was to mark the Sixth International Anti-Corruption Day, which fell on December 9.

The day was set aside by the United Nations to allow state anti-corruption institutions, civil society organizations and the general public to engage each other on how to make the anti-corruption campaign succeed.

Vice President Mahama noted that corruption was the most serious social disease that undermined economic growth, rule of law and democracy.

He said in Ghana, at least four coup makers had justified their actions by accusing the governments they overthrew as corrupt.

"It therefore behoves political leadership to lead by example in the fight against corruption as a way of safeguarding the integrity of our democracy," he said.

The Vice President said it was on the account of showing political leadership that the NDC government endorsed the formation of the NACAP Working Group and introduction of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials by CHRAJ and its collaborators, including the office of the president.

Vice President Mahama said government was also committed to the speedy passage of the Freedom of Information Bill and the introduction of a Plea Bargaining Legislation, to enable persons who were forced by public officials to pay bribe to report.

The Vice President expressed the hope that the proposed NACAP would coordinate all anti-corruption efforts and resources into one force that would deal with corruption in a more comprehensive, systematic, realistic= and definite manner.

He assured CHRAJ that government would deliver all the over GH¢7.0 million budgetary allocation to CHRAJ in the 2010 budget to enable it do its work effectively.

Mr Francis Emile Short, the Commissioner of CHRAJ, said there were 18 anti-corruption legislations, which needed to be coordinated into one NACAP to serve as the benchmark for measuring government's performance on anti-corruption.

He expressed worry over why some top public official had till date not declared their assets in spite of the President's directive to do so, and warned that CHRAJ would investigate the matter.

Giving an overview of the state of corruption in Ghana in 2009, he said despite several efforts at combating corruption, it still remained endemic, as between 23 and 49 per cent of Ghanaians sampled under the Ghana Barometer survey reported paying bribes.

This, he said, indicated that beyond the legal framework, which was in abundance, there was the need for concrete action to combat corruption.

Mr. Short said challenges of the anti-corruption campaign included lack of coordination in the efforts and resources, lack of adequate protection for witnesses and whistle blowers, delay of the freedom of information bill and inadequate budgetary allocations to anti-corruption institutions.

He expressed the hope that CHRAJ would get its full budgetary allocation to enable it to employ more quality staff and open district offices.

Touching on the Mabey and Johnson case, Mr. Short noted that CHRAJ was anxious to bring the matter to a closure.

The Commission has requested for some important documents from the British Serious Fraud Office and the Ghana Ministries of Finance and of Transport "then we can go for a full public hearing and bring the matter to a close in due course", he said.

Ms Anna Bossman, the Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ who presided, said the strength of any government lay in how it upheld its citizens' rights and the integrity of its good governance and accountability institutions as well as its public service.

"Slogans and good intentions by politicians do not bring integrity to the public service - it takes carefully developed action plans to win the anti-corruption battle and deliver integrity."

She said it was against that background that CHRAJ developed the 26-page Code of Conduct for Public Officers to inject some ethical behaviour into public service.

Ms Bossman said corruption was not a private matter that affected only the individuals involved, adding that "we all have a role and a stake in it and so our sustained and concerted 'no' is necessary to make corruption go away."

The NACAP comprises 20 persons drawn from CHRAJ, the Serious Fraud Office, the Judicial Service, Office of the President, Office of Parliament and National Development Planning Commission. Other member-organisations are the Public Services Commission, Royal Danish Embassy, Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), and Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD).

Source: GNA

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