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Opinions of Monday, 31 March 2003

Columnist: Anane, Baffuor Gyau

Admission Of Corruption Within The Judiciary:

The Cause And The Solution

To err is human. That is what they say. But to deliberately err for years and decades is ungodly. Human nature is no excuse for wrongdoing. A member of the Judiciary recently admitted that there is corruption within the judicial system, resulting in adjournment of cases and unfair court decisions. This is a big blow to Freedom and Justice, the Ghanaian motto. There is no true democracy in any society when the judiciary is not independent and is controlled either by the government or by corruption. For a judge to admit that bribery exits within the ranks of the Justices is a clear indication that whatever is ailing the system can be remedied. It takes a courageous man to admit that he has shortcomings. This is a cry for help.

Unfair justice is pure evil. An innocent person is languishing in prison because of a corrupted judge. An innocent person is on death row because of a corrupted judge, and a murderer or a rapist is out there on the street because he could afford to bribe a judge. Unfair court ruling and adjournment of cases are draining the pockets of a poor fisherman who for the past ten years has been going to court for the same case. He won the case but it has been appealed by the defendant. This poor fisherman is not a degenerate individual to go about bribing judges so that his case could be heard.

Unfair court rulings have resulted in the loss of properties. Rightful owners have lost them to thieves who were able to influence corrupt judges directly or indirectly through their clerks. The judge who threw this bombshell admits to this.

How can people professionally trained to be fair when judging cases be so corrupted knowing very well that any unfair decision could be disastrous? It is heartening to know that most judges are fair. Are these ?bad apples? what they are because Justices are not adequately remunerated? The possibility is there that they are underpaid. But this does not justify any unethical behaviour. Disregarding overwhelming evidence against the guilty by judges is very unfair.

The admission of corruption within the Judiciary is a step in the right direction to give Ghanaians a better judicial system that they are thirsting for. This admission of guilt of tampering with justice is good news in the sense that the Judiciary in now on the threshold of positive change. If a man admits to wrongdoing the healing process begins. By bringing this out publicly is a clear indication that the people will be provided with a better Judiciary where the Justices will temper justice with mercy instead of tampering with justice. A judge can be compassionate but ethically he can never be biased. The lives of the people who come to his or her court for justice depends on his or her rulings. In other words if a judge violates his or her oath of fairness he or she is tarnishing the image of the profession as well as destroying the lives of the people seeking justice. Unfair rulings impact very negatively on the society as a whole.

Fair justice is one of the strongest pillars of true democracy. Ghanaians are craving for true democracy. They want to embrace true democracy the same way a true Christian clutches the cross. If true democracy cannot be firmly rooted in the society because one of its strongest pillars, fair justice, is wobbling, the other pillars of freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom to practise one?s religion, freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, etc. will weaken and the society will have nothing but a tumbledown democracy. The Judiciary has gone haywire because of bribery and corruption. Inadequate remuneration could be a reason why judges, highly respected in the society, would succumb to this behaviour. Justices, and other high skilled professionals like doctors, pharmacists, nurses, professors and teachers, accountants, and engineers must be adequately compensated for their services to the society to stop the brain drain that the government has been worrying about. The standard of living of these high-skilled individuals should range from middle to upper class. Together with businessmen and businesswomen (apostles of free enterprise who are able to create jobs), they are the oil that lubricates the economic engine. The government should take all the necessary steps to expand this group. The shrinking of this group due to inadequate remuneration or bureaucratic red tape retards the progress of any society. The stability and the freedom of expression that Ghanaians are enjoying now, coupled with good fiscal policies by the government, will uplift the society to the level of respectability among nations.

Healthy criticism or suggestions from a strong Opposition, especially from Opposition Members of Parliament, will be an added help. ?Yea,? Yea,? when things are going wrong does not help democracy. Ghana is on the move democratically and all necessary steps should be taken to help this progress. Ghanaians should rule out vengeful passions and let the spirit of forgiveness dominate the society.

The government, as the Captain of the Ship, should steer the country from rough waters and establish policies that will help in the expansion of the middle class. Skilled workers should be encouraged to stay in the country by giving them good pay and benefits like low interest loans that will help them enjoy middle class lifestyle.

If a judge admits that there is a problem within the Judiciary, it is the responsibility of the government to find out what is causing the problem. The cause of the problem, sincerely speaking, is inadequate compensation. There is no justification for unethical behaviour. But the big question is, why would a judge, highly respected in the society, be taking bribes that could sully his reputation if caught. It is hunger. They want to be adequately compensated for their skills and to be able to lead the upper middle class lifestyle they are entitled to after staying in school for so many years. Any society that enlarges its middle class is considered a progressive society. Ghana is on the right track towards expanding its middle class. Unfortunately, the income of skilled workers is putting brakes on this move. Very few of them can afford to buy cars with the income they receive. How many of them own houses?

More than half of the medical students who graduate from Ghanaian medical schools leave the country for better pay elsewhere. The only way to stop this is to compensate skilled workers adequately. The society needs them.

Judges play a big part in the democratic process and for that very reason the government should do its part to help these highly educated Ghanaians to perform their duties professionally by freeing them from financial worries. Financial worry is enticement to bribery and corruption.

There is a lot of talk about the brain drain and there is also a lot of talk regarding the judicial system not offering fair justice to the people because of corruption. Looking at these two very important issues what comes into mind is money. A top labour leader says that, ?low-income levels in the country is a disincentive to productivity and national development.? Though the labour leader is referring to unskilled and not too highly skilled labour, the statement equally applies to the highly-skilled. The concern here is ?productivity and national development.?

Good pay is therefore the greatest incentive to productivity and national development. Good pay will help judges perform their duties without fear or favour and it will also keep doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, professors and teachers, accountants, and engineers at home. Unethical behaviour on the part of judges is unacceptable. What is important is determining the cause of this behaviour and uprooting it so that, as a young student leader says, ?true democracy, the bedrock of any human being?s faith in a society,will become a Ghanaian ?thing.??

BAFFUOR GYAU ANANE ? March 30, 2003
FREELANCE WRITER

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.