You are here: HomeNews2007 05 25Article 124618

General News of Friday, 25 May 2007

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle

Corruption Still Rife in Judiciary

The 2007 Global Corruption Report of the world's anti-corruption body, Transparency International (TI), has revealed that the menace of corruption is still pervasive in Ghana's judiciary.

Political interference in the judicial process and bribery, were the two main types of judicial corruption, the organization identified in its 2007 Global Corruption Report released by TI's local chapter, the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) yesterday.

The new revelation is in sharp contrast to a recent statement by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joe Ghartey who told a delegation of the European Union that corruption had reduced considerably in Ghana.

The Attoney General insisted that many loopholes for corrupt practices had been sealed and drug dealers were being punished, adding that the battle would surely be won.

The TI report however said many people had a bleak perception on judicial corruption in Africa. Seven out of every eight African countries polled in Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer (GCR) perceived the judiciary to be corrupt.

The report made specific reference to a 2004 governance profile commissioned by the World Bank in Ghana in which 40 percent of respondents believed the judiciary to be 'somewhat' corrupt.

Independent of the 2007 GCR, but highly complimentary, GII has conducted a study of corruption in Ghana's judiciary under its Judiciary Watch Programme.

The report, which is in the final stages of completion, seems to corroborate many of the findings of the 2007 GCR.

The 2005 Afrobarometer survey on perceptions of the performance of public institutions in Ghana, found that the courts were one of the least trusted institutions, second only to the police.

However, the 2005 survey did not differentiate between 'administrative corruption' where judicial support staff take small sums of money for typing out a judgment quickly or carrying the file to the next desk and 'operational corruption' where a judge's decision is influenced as a result of external incentives and pressures.

The survey said "court users are more likely to experience 'administrative corruption' when they interact with staff who are managing their files or processing applications, laying emphasis on the fact that interaction with judges is usually through a lawyer and evidence of 'operational corruption' is harder to find.

Corruption is also said to have the tendency of undermining economic growth by damaging the trust of the investment community and impedes efforts to reduce poverty.

Alarmed by the content of the new report, Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of Parliament, John Ndebugre, said "where the judiciary gets besmeared in and by corruption, society faces danger."

For this and other reasons, he said his Committee and Parliament, as an institution will continue to be an interested party that will be in the trenches with TI and its local chapter, GII, in the fight against corruption in Ghana, particularly within the judiciary.

In spite of this stigma, the survey findings include some laudable initiatives implemented by the judiciary in Ghana.

It makes mention of the several initiatives which were launched in the year 2000 to enhance efficiency and speed up court processes.

In 2005, the Reform and Project Management and Implementation Division of the Judicial Service were set up to oversee all reform projects.

The Judicial Council carried out a review of the service conditions of judges which led to a request for ¢50billion to be allocated to the project in the next budget.

Another measure to improve the efficiency of the judicial system is the introduction of 'Fast track' courts that aim to resolve cases within three months of initiating proceedings and provides access to documents and transcripts within 24hours of a hearing.

A comprehensive code of ethics for judges and judicial officers was also launched in January 2005. The introduction of electronic processes in some courts and the establishment of a commercial court were also among the initiatives.

These interventions notwithstanding, the Ghana Integrity Initiative says questions remain as to whether these reforms have succeeded in reducing the incidence of corruption in the judiciary.

GII thus joined TI to urge governments especially in low-income countries such as Ghana to increase their political will and expand efforts to fight corruption in order to reap the fruits of democracy and development.

It asked the government of Ghana, to as a matter of urgency, expedite action on the passage of a credible 'Freedom of Information Act' to facilitate access to information about the activities of government, the judiciary and other sectors to enhance accountability and transparency.

In order to strengthen judicial independence and fight against judicial corruption, TI has recommended among other things the introduction of an independent judicial appointment body to be at the heart of its selection process.

This it says would ensure that only the highest quality candidates are selected and that they do not feel indebted to the particular politician or senior judges who appoint them.

It also made recommendations for salaries of the service to reflect experience, performance and professional development.

For the purposes of accountability and discipline, it has been recommended that judges should receive limited immunity for actions related to judicial duties.

The report further recommends the review and strengthening of the public office holder assets declaration regime, speedy elaboration and adoption of the conflict of interest prevention regulations developed by CHRAJ in collaboration with the Ghana Anti Corruption Coalition (GACC).

The 2007 Global Corruption Report concludes, "a corrupt judiciary erodes the international community's ability to prosecute transnational crime and inhibits access to justice and redress for human rights violations."