Monday, June 18, 2012

CSOs, Media Schooled on Anti-Corruption Laws

Research by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) following the passage of the Whistleblower Act (Act 720) into law in 2006 has revealed that, there is lack of effective use of it. The major reason assigned to this is the lack of education and understanding of the law.

A Whistleblower is that person who makes a disclosure of impropriety where that person has reasonable cause to believe that the information tends to show that a crime has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed. The Act is a tool for anti-corruption and serves as a guide to anti-corruption crusaders in their work. It provides legal backing to victims and witnesses of corruption to act on their complaints as well as provides an incentive to report corrupt practices; that is, the reward system and protection of Whistleblowers, article 12 (1).

According to the Communications Officer of GACC, Mrs. Beauty Emefah Nartey, the Coalition since the research outcome, had been implementing a number of activities to enhance the use of the law. She cited for instance, a simple guide book developed by the organization on Whistleblowing in Ghana which was recently translated into three local languages including Ewe, Akan and Hausa.

Also, she disclosed that capacity enhancement workshops were being organized for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs) as well as the media and Traditional Authorities across the country.

Speaking at a workshop in Tamale organized by GACC to sensitise a select number of media practitioners and CSOs, Mrs. Nartey noted that in Ghana, some measures had also been implemented to enhance a culture of transparency and accountability although these had so far yielded only a little or not much needed impact.

These attempts, she noted, spanned from administrative reforms, politically-motivated approaches, pressure from the international community and recently most favoured legislative and institutional approaches. Many statutes on “anti-corruption” have also been passed including Public Procurement Act, Financial Administration Act, Internal Audit Agency Act, and the Whistleblower Act, she mentioned.

In 2011, a ten-year National Anti-Corruption Action Plan was developed as a road map to minimize corruption with the participation of all key stakeholders and citizens both at the national and local levels. However, there was very limited education and campaign at the local level to mobilize grassroot support to promote transparency and accountability to prevent corruption.

There was also very limited presence of various institutions that had been mandated to implement anti-corruption laws at the local level. CSOs and CBOs for instance, were more involved in monitoring processes with very little or no emphasis on corruption prevention strategies. Citizens were also not aware of avenues and processes available to ensure that they called duty bearers to account.

In view of the above, GACC was currently implementing a project under the theme “Mobilising grassroot level participation for effective implementation of anti-corruption laws: a focus on the Whistleblower law 2006 (Act 720).” 

According to the Communications Officer of GACC, the overall goal of the project was to promote the effective utilization of the basic anti-corruption laws especially the Whistleblower law for increased accountability and transparency at the local level.

Under the project, over 100 CSOs, CBOs and Media practitioners from the Volta, Western, Northern and Greater Accra Regions were expected to be engaged and their capacities strengthened for grassroot level sensitization on the knowledge and enhanced utilization of the Anti-Corruption laws and especially the Whistleblower law.

With this, the ordinary citizens in the four regions would be well informed and understood their rights and demand accountability from duty bearers, Mrs. Emefah Nartey hoped, adding that, this would go a long way to enhance the delivering of basic social amenities at the local level. Citizens in the regions would also be well equipped to use the laws to derive the benefit from their resources and contributions towards the development of their regions, she added.  

Corruption is believed to be more endemic in Ghana and there was the need for a deliberate and urgent attention of everyone to deal with it. Indeed, corruption is now regarded deadlier than HIV/AIDS as it affects all fiber of society regardless of one’s location and deprived many people of quality education, roads, health facilities, water among others.

Thus, it is believed that the Whistleblower law when effectively used by many committed citizens of Ghana could be one of the best ways to reduce corruption drastically.

George Amoh, Coordinator of Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, local chapter of Transparency International, cited bribery, nepotism, fraud, looting, extortion, money laundering, embezzlement, moonlighting, facilitation fees, among others as some of the types of corruption that exist.

He also mentioned money, assurance of developments/projects, promises of employment, valuables, gifts, favours, sex and land as the tools used by people to commit corruption.

According to Mr. Amoh, corruption undermines the rule of law; leads to low productivity; kills competition; weakens the capacity of institutions to deliver on their mandate; constraints investment and retards growth; leads to joblessness, undermines the quality of environmental control in the extractive sector as well as leads to impunity or disrespect for laws. 

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