The current system by which the President solely appoints heads of investigative and accountability institutions denies those appointees the independence to hold government officials accountable for their actions, two former public officials have observed.
A former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Justice Emile Short, and a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, who criticised the arrangement, said appointments to those positions should be made through a system of vetting to get independent, fair-minded and competent professionals to man those institutions.
They said such appointees would be in a better position to hold the President and other government officials accountable.
Mr Justice Short and Mr Kan-Dapaah made the point in separate presentations at a corruption conference organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra yesterday.
The conference, held on the theme: "Purging the Nation of Corruption: Demanding Accountability from Public Institutions", was attended by Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, political, religious and traditional leaders and heads of civil society organisations.
Speaking on the topic: "Empowering Ghana's Anti-Corruption Institutions in the Fight Against Corruption", Mr Justice Short said there was the need to put in place an appointment process that was transparent and not unduly influenced by political considerations.
"One that will ensure that heads and top leadership of these independent constitutional bodies are competent, independent-minded, have integrity and will not buckle under any undue pressure from any quarter," he said.
The former CHRAJ Commissioner said the present procedure by which the President appointed members of bodies such as CHRAJ, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Auditor General, among others, in consultation with the Council of State, had come under close scrutiny in recent times.
He said the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) recommended that the chairman, deputy chairmen and other members of the EC, the chairman and members of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), the Commissioner of CHRAJ and the Auditor General be appointed by the President, in consultation with the Council of State and with the prior approval of Parliament.
He said while the recommendation was an improvement on the present appointment process, "it does not, in my humble view and in the view of many analysts, go far enough".
Mr Justice Short said he sided with the recommendation from the IEA public consultation that the President should appoint the heads of those institutions in consultation with the Council of State and with the prior approval of two-thirds majority of Parliament.
Alternatively, he said, a duly constituted independent and bi-partisan committee should advertise the vacant position, vet the applicants, draw up a shortlist and submit same to the President for appointment.
Mr Justice Short said one aspect of the three-pronged approach to the fight against corruption was effective investigation and prosecution.
"Corruption will flourish when persons implicated in the misconduct are not prosecuted and when found guilty imprisoned. The primary responsibility for prosecuting rests on the Attorney-General," he said.
The former CHRAJ Commissioner said the fusion of the Office of the Attorney-General (A-G) and that of the Minister of Justice "theoretically places the Attorney-General in a difficult position when he or she has to prosecute public officials of the sitting government".
He said the CRC had recommended the de-coupling of the A-G’s Office from that of the Ministry of Justice, which was accepted by the government.
However, he said, there was the need for the appointment of the independent public prosecutor be made in a transparent manner and with the involvement of Parliament and civil society.
Mr Justice Short said the Executive Director of the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) was appointed by the President, noting that that limitation had the potential of undermining the ability and willingness of EOCO "to investigate and prosecute high-ranking members of the incumbent government".
The former Chairman of the PAC, Mr Kan-Dapaah, who spoke on: "The Role of Parliament Against Corruption", said the challenge concerned the appointment of the Speaker of Parliament, the Deputy Speakers, Majority leaders and other leaders of Parliament by the President.
As a result, he said, Parliament was not able to hold the Executive accountable for its actions.
He said, for instance, that there was unwillingness on the part of leaders of Parliament to lay the report of the PAC before Parliament, especially when the issues were not favourable to the government.
Mr Kan-Dapaah said the current system by which the power of appointing and sacking the Auditor-General rested with the President made it difficult for the Auditor-General to conduct independent audit of government officials.
He, therefore, suggested an appointment method that would attach legal immunity to the office of the Auditor-General.
The President of the Central University College, Prof Kwesi Yankah, took on successive government officials, MPs and the Judiciary for condoning acts of corruption in one way or another.
He, therefore, challenged leaders to lead the crusade against corruption by word and by deed.
Prof Yankah said the tendency where government appointees embroiled in corruption scandals were later appointed to work elsewhere did not speak well of the government.
But reacting to the allegations, the Presidential Advisor on Corruption, Mr Daniel Batidam, said “we all have to be careful about how the commitment to fighting corruption must be demonstrated.”
“I would like to stay with the principles of our constitutions that require us to know that people are innocent until proven guilty.”
On the reassignment on persons tainted with allegations being reassigned elsewhere, he said “the perception is that people should not be appointed when allegations are hanging. It is something that is discretional.
“The President has the prerogative to go ahead of the due process and treat the person as if he was guilty or to allow that case to reach its logical conclusion, he told the Joy FM in Accra.
In a speech read on his behalf, the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, said corruption was a canker that slowed down economic and social growth and, therefore, called for a concerted effort to fight it.
The Executive Director of the IEA, Mrs Jean Mensa, said the conference would impose accountability demands on heads of government institutions to ensure that they delivered on their mandate without fear or favour.
Source: Daily Graphic
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