Govt To Revise Criminal Offences Act

The government is proposing to revise the Criminal Offences Act to redefine corruption to include the more expansive definition covered in the United Nations (UN) Convention Against corruption and the Africa Union ( AU) Convention on Preventing and Combating corruption. The Deputy Northern Regional Minister, Alhaji A.B.A Fuseini, said this and, stated further that the government had also resolved to give further impetus to the fight against corruption by strengthening the anti-corruption agencies and sanctioning culpable persons to serve as a deterrent to others. Alhaji Fuseini said this in a speech read on his behalf by the Tamale Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), Mr Abdul-Rahman Gundadom, at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Harmattan School of the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale last Wednesday. The annual Harmattan School, organised by the Institute for Continuing Education and Interdisciplinary Research ( ICEIR) of the UDS, which is in its eighth year, is to create a platform for researchers, civil society organisations, policy makers and non-governmental organisations to meet and discuss development issues relevant to the country. This year's edition of the Harmattan School was on the theme: " Accountable Governance- A Key To National Development." Alhaji Fuseini, who is also the Member of Parliament ( MP) for Sangnerigu Constituency in the Northern Region, said the work of the Sole Commissioner into judgment debts was to also bring to order the unacceptable phenomenon that had become a huge burden. He stated that the government was also pushing for critical reforms in the Attorney-General's Department as part of its commitment to fight corruption, adding that the government had resolved to implement the Freedom of Information Act as soon as it was passed by Parliament. Alhaji Fuseini admitted that the consistent progress in consolidating democracy in Ghana had not led to a corresponding progress in the fight against corruption. There was, therefore, the need for ordinary citizens to mobilise themselves to demand greater accountability and transparency in the governance of the country. The Deputy Northern Regional minister commended the UDS for instituting the lecture series and for the thought-provoking theme for this year's lecture series, adding that the government was fully satisfied with the strides UDS was making in its efforts at improving the lot of the people in Northern Ghana. A lecturer of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Professor Stephen B. Kendie, who delivered the keynote address on the topic: " Accountable governance in Ghana: Rhetoric or a reality?" to open the 2014 Harmattan School, called on successive governments to show real commitment to fight corruption instead of the rhetoric and slogans. According to him, successive governments have alluded to accountability in governance as one of the cardinal principles of their administration by coming out with statements such as "probity and accountability"; "zero tolerance for corruption"; and "our commitment to the fight against corruption remains unshakeable", but have failed to fight corruption as the country's performance in the transparency index continues to decline. He noted that some of the perceived corrupt practices surrounding the sale of the Ghana Telecom to Vodafone and the drill ship by the Kufuor administration and the ongoing debacle of the Fortiz-Merchant Bank, Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) in the Mahama administration did not reflect this rhetoric. "The Asamoa-Boateng conflict of interest case has been in court since 2009 and many other cases in court (such as the Woyome case) do not seem to be ending. Are these ‘delay tactics’ for us to forget the cases as the public's attention wanes?" he queried. Prof. Kendie, therefore, called on the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to intensify its civic education at the community level to build the capacities of the citizenry to hold politicians accountable for their stewardship. He also stressed the need for the school system at all levels to inculcate in students a high sense of patriotism that would empower them later in life to see politics as simply a system of differing ideas solely for the socio-economic development of Ghana. Prof. Kendie bemoaned the way the country's multi-party system was being practised, which is not based on issues of development but on patronage ( financial and ethnic considerations) and the winner-takes-all syndrome, adding that now politics have been reduced to vituperations and insults. "Ghanaians need a system of government that will talk about food security and agricultural transformation, industrial development, healthcare, education, corporate and individual tax issues, climate and energy reforms without worrying about losing elections," he said. Prof. Haruna Yakubu, the Vice Chancellor of UDS , earlier in his welcome address, said the theme for this year's Harmattan School was relevant, considering recent national debates on the varied social and economic challenges in the country, adding that accountable governance had become so paramount in political, policy and advocacy issues such that it presented thoughtful challenges for academic research. This, he said, explained why the UDS - as an academic and research institution - could not pretend to be divorced from the current debate, saying we stand to lose our core mandate of training the needed human capacity for the total development of Ghana and in particular the northern regions. The West Mamprusi District Director of Education, Alhaji Mohammed Haroun, who chaired the opening ceremony, in his remarks, attributed the high level of corruption in the country's body politics to nepotism, favouritism and cronyism, stressing that nowadays people were appointed to certain positions based on these factors and not competence, thereby breeding corruption.