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We Need Stiffer Laws On Corruption   
 
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11-Jun-2011  
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Mr. Ace Anan Ankomah, a senior law lecturer, says if Ghana wants to take the fight against corruption seriously, then the lawmakers should make the punishment for offences of corruption, extortion, and bribery sufficiently painful.

He said with the current provisions in the law, corruption and extortion are only misdemeanours which generally carry a maximum sentence of three years, and that the law does not generally provide civil remedies to recover ill-gotten wealth.

“What this means is that if a public official is tried and sentenced for extorting say, US$1million, he might only receive a maximum sentence of three years, keep the money, serve his sentence, and come back to enjoy the ill-gotten wealth.”
Mr. Ankomah, who is also the Managing Partner of Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah ¬¬¬(a law firm in Accra) and heads the firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Group, said as well as the fact that the punishment is not severe enough, the current state of the law doesn’t allow for recovery of the ill-gotten wealth.

On this, he recommended the provisions of a virtually forgotten law, the Government Contracts (Protection) Act, 1979 (AFRCD 58), and recommended its provisions as the way forward. He said that law forbids the falsification of certificates relating to government contracts, and provides for civil liability, and criminal liability of a fine of up to three times the amount of money of the improper payment or to imprisonment of up to 10 years, or to both, for persons who knowingly falsify certificates for government contacts.

According to him, that law also provides that “where it is proved that the falsification also involved bribery or corrupt practice, then the ‘briber’ and the ‘bribed’, and any other person who knowingly participated in it, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment (between 5 and 15 years), and a penalty equal to three times the amount of money of the improper payment.”

He was speaking at a seminar that discussed the implications of the UK Bribery Act (2010) on international trade, with emphasis on doing business with UK, and Ghana’s anti-bribery legislation. The seminar was organised by Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah, and Addleshaw Goddard LLP (a UK-based law firm) was also addressed by Ian Hargreaves and Korieh Doudu, both of Addleshaw Goddard LLP, UK.,

The Bribery Act 2010, which comes into force in the UK on July 1, 2011, introduces a new anti-corruption framework for the UK that is wide ranging, covering bribery in both the public sector and the private sector. The Act also has extraterritorial reach, which means that it could potentially create consequences for individuals and organisations in other jurisdictions dealing with UK entities.

Mr. Ankomah also pointed out that, currently, the law only punishes corruption that involves public officials; which means that private corruption is not an offence in Ghana. He therefore called on lawmakers in the country to consider making laws that will conform to the new UK law if the state is serious about checking bribery and corruption in the country. “We must extend the offences to cover private acts of corruption, and in this instance there is no shame in borrowing from the UK or any other jurisdiction.”

Mr. Ankomah said the new law might mean that UK firms will request for an anti-bribery policy before doing business with any company in the country.

He said such companies will carry out extensive background checks into its Ghanaian counterparts and their principals before any business transaction can take place. Mr. Ian Hargreaves said the UK Bribery Act is the most important legislation to have been enacted because of the new jurisdictional effects on other countries, and also simplifies the UK’s anti-corruption laws.

“This Act is even wider than the United States Foreign Corruption Practices Act because it covers private sector bribery.” He explained that the law gives UK courts extra-territorial jurisdiction to deal with bribe givers and takers, both in public and private sectors outside that country, as long as they have a UK connection.

Mr. Hargreaves said an individual may fall foul not simply because he gave or promised or accepted a bribe, but even when he failed to prevent it. He said anyone who is caught by the law will then suffer 10 years in jail, pay a heavy fine, lose their properties and be blacklisted so they cannot get a contract from the UK or do business in that country.

Mr. Korieh Doudu said the compliance with the law by businesses should be seen as a commercial advantage. He said businesses that have dealing with UK businesses should review their current business practices, contracts and relationships.

Mr. Doudu also advised that the companies should implement a code of conduct and a statement of values, apart from producing a detailed anti-bribery policy that includes guidance on hospitality and political donations.

The seminar was chaired by Mr. Kojo Bentsi-Enchill, the Senior Partner of the firm.
 
 
Source: B&FT
 
 

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