THE government has begun a process to update laws on corruption in the country to conform with regional and international conventions and definitions.
The Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Kwame Osei-Prempeh, who spoke to the Daily Graphic on a wide range of topics, including issues raised at the hearings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, said the effort was in line with the government’s commitment to fight the vice.
He noted that some regional and international definitions of corruption, such as the United Nation’s Anti-Corruption Convention and the African Union (AU) Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences, had not been domesticated to become part of the laws of the country.
Currently, Ghana’s anti-corruption laws are in the 1992 Constitution, the Criminal Code of 1960 (Act 29), among other laws, and they are considered limiting because they do not take into consideration other corrupt practices that may derail the economic and social development of a people.
The minister, however, disagreed with a suggestion that the former Minister of Transportation, Dr Richard Anane, could have been found guilty on the allegation of corruption if his case had been investigated under the dispensation when international laws had been factored into the country’s laws.
The corruption laws of the country were an issue of concern for the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) when it investigated the former Minister of Transportation in September last year.
Although the commission did not find the allegation of corruption proven by evidence during its investigations, it stated in its ruling, “The commission recommends the necessary processes to be initiated to upgrade our laws to meet the AU minimum standards as contained in the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences.”
Legal practitioners and advocates contacted by the Daily Graphic on the importance of such an exercise said the domestication of the laws would expand the reach of the laws on corruption and strengthen institutions and mechanisms in preventing corruption.
International conventions and laws on corruption take into account all acts that directly or indirectly benefit a person, to the detriment of the larger social good.
Acts of corruption, under international conventions and norms, might not only be criminal in nature but could be administrative to pass of as a corrupt practice, Mr Richard Quayson, a Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ in charge of Anti-Corruption and Public Education, pointed out when contacted.
The World Bank definition of corruption encompasses patronage, nepotism and the theft of state assets, as well as the diversion of state revenues.
The definition also underscores the fact that the benefit gained from corruption does not necessary have to be financial or immediate and lists the promise or the giving of an undue payment or other advantage directly or through intermediaries to influence the committal or omission of acts for the personal benefit of public officials as corrupt practices.
Mr Quayson said the updating of the laws was in the right direction, but pointed out that for CHRAJ, updating laws on corruption, as it recommended in its ruling in the investigations concerning Dr Anane, was not to witch-hunt individuals but to improve the country’s processes, institutions and structures for dealing with corruption.
He said if the country’s laws on corruption were merged with international norms, CHRAJ would undertake a sensitisation programme for public officials to enhance compliance with the rules and regulations.