General News of Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Accra, June 2, GNA - Exchange of Information Forum (EIF), a periodic engagement platform for key State accountability institutions to share information regarding their activities, has been launched. The EIF, which is a brain-child of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), local chapter of Transparency International, is to among other things help improve systems for increasing transparency and accountability to fight public sector corruption and crime.
It is also to ensure increased coordination and information flow among such key institutions to provide a systemic basis for clarifying mandates, avoiding mandate overlaps and conflicts and minimising the potential for duplicating efforts in executing mandates. Already seven institutions including the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Serious Fraud Office, Criminal Investigations Department, Judicial Service, Ghana Audit Service, Internal Audit Agency and Public Procurement Authority have signed onto the EIF, which is managed by a Steering Committee, made up of five of the institutions.
Mr John Tia Akologu, Minister of Information, launching the EIF in Accra on Wednesday, noted that corruption had taken root among societies in the country saying "people are even now prepared to accept that they are corrupt". "The indicative signals now clearly show that society is gradually accepting dishonesty and corrupt practices as a norm," he said. Mr Akologu lamented that; "It is very sad to note that services are normally done after some unofficial payments have been made. It is not only in the area of services that payments are made ahead but even bribe is paid for enstoolment, destoolment, employment, admissions to schools, colleges and tertiary institutions, contracts and even for the transfer of reverend ministers to their places of preference". He said the imprints of the effects of corruption and crime were so devastating that government had no option but to implement measures such as the Whistle Blowers' Act, the Right to Information Bill among others to check it.
Mr Akologu said corruption and crime "do not only deny a country of its potential growth but also create a scene which makes investment unattractive to both foreign and local investors". He therefore suggested the reformation of the judicial system to cut back on bureaucratic tendencies and inordinate delays in justice delivery, enforcement of the Company's Code by the Registrar General's Department, strengthening of the Ghana National Accounting Standards and human resource capacity-building such as production of more corporate lawyers and accountants to help fight corruption and crime in the country. Mr Akologu urged other State institutions that were yet to sign onto the EIF to do so.
Mr Vitus Azeem, Executive Secretary of GII, said EIF was developed following a survey of key State accountability institutions which revealed that such a system was necessary to improve transparency. He said some institution had refused to sign onto the EIF citing fears of contravening State secrecy and urged them to do so because "there is no basis for such fears". Mr Richard Quayson, Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, lauded the initiative saying it was a potent strategy in promoting open, critical and informed discussion and debate among different stakeholders and key institutions. He pledged CHRAJ's commitment to abide by the terms of the EIF as well as play a lead role in ensuring that information sharing between it and other accountability institutions was smooth, open and effective. The establishment of EIF was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).