'Corruption Not Limited To Political Office Holders'

A research officer with the Parliamentary Service, Dr Abraham Ibn Zackaria, has stated that the public sittings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament over the years have shown that corruption is not limited to political office holders. He said the sittings had also revived public interest in issues of corruption and abuse of office, including misappropriation of public resources. Dr Zackaria was presenting a paper at a regional conference in Accra to deliberate on the lessons learnt and best practices in parliamentary engagement with citizens in the budget process in Accra. The conference, which was attended by selected members of Parliament (MPs) from Ghana, Benin, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, was designed to enable the participants to share their experiences and learn lessons that could be replicated and sustained in their parliaments. The platform also provided a basis for bonding and networking for information exchange. The participating countries are beneficiaries of the Africa Parliamentary Strengthening Programme (APSP) for Budget Oversight which was instituted by the Canadian Parliamentary Centre five years ago. The ASPS partner parliaments under the programme have been supported in different ways to improve citizens’ access to information and participation. Presenting a paper on lessons learnt in Ghana under the programme, Dr Zacharia stated that the PAC sittings had boosted Parliament’s efforts at promoting accountability, combating corruption, strengthening budgetary oversight and improving resource allocation. “It has changed people’s mind about the degree of political corruption in Ghana and shown that corruption is not limited to political office holders,” he said. He explained that there was also the restoration of public confidence in Parliament as an institution that was capable of dealing with the excesses of the Executive. “The PAC, as a tool for oversight, has awakened the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) from their slumber to be alive with record-keeping and following due process in their financial management,” he said. Dr Zacharia said the challenge faced by the PAC in its public sittings was that it required huge budget overlays. In addition, there was disenchantment of the public concerning the perceived non-prosecution of culprits of the sittings. The sittings were also at the mercy of the availability of airtime, he said, adding that the PAC could only sit when Ghana Television (GTV) was less busy and was not covering other events of national importance. In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Director of the Parliamentary Centre, Dr Rashid Draman, expressed worry over the lack of will by successive governments to implement the recommendations of the PAC. He cited the Woyome case to buttress his point and advised politicians across the political divide to come to a compromise on how recommendations of the PAC would be applied. Dr Draman called for the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office to help MPs in analysing budgets. “Such an office will provide MPs with adequate information to enable them to debate budgets from informed perspectives,” he said.