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Opinions of Saturday, 16 February 2008

Columnist: Prof Lungu

CHRAJ Morphs Mandate and Does Not Respond!

Recently, we tackled the idea that the President\s office is setting up a 'Charter Association' for Ghana's public agencies. New information reaching Ghanaweb readers and other news media, including the GBC, indicates that CHRAJ is also going to develop a 'Code of Conduct' for Ghana's agencies. So what is going on? What about the Constitution of Ghana and the laws already on the books? What about the Conflict of Interest (COI) manual? And why are these officials afraid to talk about the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB) or Asset Declaration laws. But we digress!

Today, we will talk about the responsibility of agencies to answer mails. As I am writing this piece, the British High Commission today has responded to a piece by Mr. Kwami Agbodza on Ghanaweb about 'allegations of systematic race prejudice and discrimination.' Their response informs me that readers on Ghanaweb are experiencing a Government that is not asleep or uncaring. The British High Commission even offered data, if one cares to follow up, from a very recent Customer Satisfaction survey (December 2007). This is akin to the Dr. Asemfofro democracy lesson. But But we digress again.
Question is, where does the Ghanaian public agency fit in? Are they as responsive and conscious of their public mission? Do they respond?
Bad news!!
It is a bit distressing that in this age of global communication, internet, and emails, many Ghanaian agencies will neglect to respond to inquiries about their organizations and programs. It is particularly sad on the part of agencies with a mandate to fight corruption and improve administrative performance for the benefit of citizens. Such is the sorry tale of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). It is sad because this is the same agency that has the chutzpah to tell us that they will publish a Code of Conduct for all Ghanaian public agencies. Never mind if it will take them a whole year to do that, perhaps after the election! Never mind if this same agency has a ?Conflict on Interest? manual and the Constitution and laws are still good.
The interested reader will recall that in a previous article titled, ?Chief Justice Wood's False Choice, (Ghanaweb, 14 Jan 08), we reported that that we had sent an email to CHRAJ requesting information and had not heard from CHRAJ. Well, we have still not heard from CHRAJ. We sent the email to the Commissioners (Mr. Emile Short, Ms. Bossman, and Mr. Quayson) at CHRAJ, 1 Jan 08.
READ THE MAIL TO CHRAJ: ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2008 02:15:12 -0800 (PST)
From: "Professor N. Lungu"
Subject: Recent Supreme Court Ruling on the CHRAJ Mandate & CHRAJ Website
To: ?CHRAJ?
ATN: Commissioners (Mr. Emile Short, Ms. Bossman, and Mr. Quayson):
I have read with great distress the recent Supreme Court sub-panel decision on the requirement for a "Formal" complainant before CHRAJ can act. I do contribute comments and feature articles to the Ghanaweb forum (online), and am writing a piece about that Supreme Court 4-1 decision.
Question 1: Is the text of the decision available, and can I get an electronic copy from any source, including CHRAJ?
Question 2 (with comments): A cursory review of the CHRAJ website shows that the CHRAJ website is not frequently updated by the Webmaster?. The last time I checked there was zero information from the "Regions" and no information had been posted to the website regarding the latest Supreme Court ruling, or the next step for CHRAJ on that matter. The other thing that struck me was a paucity of cases on the CHRAJ website. Seems to me CHRAJ ought to post every case that is decided anywhere in Ghana, including all its findings, for or against CHRAJ or any individual on the CHRAJ website, and in a timely manner. Seems to me CHRAJ should let the people decide what is important and what is not important (what is a Landmark case or what is not a Landmark case). Also, the last report required by the Parliament of Ghana on that website is dated 2005. Where are the two reports for 2006 and 2007, and why are they not posted on the CHRAJ website?
Thanks so much for taking time to read this note. I will be very grateful if CHRAJ or one of its officers can assist with providing an electronic copy of the latest Supreme Court ruling against CHRAJ.
Thanks so much.
Prof Lungu Tokyo, Japan.
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SO WHAT, PROF LUNGU?:
We are still waiting to hear from CHRAJ, even if it will be from a ?lowly? clerk or intern. After all, we understand that the Commissioners may be too busy. But while we are waiting, we will endeavor to re-visit the CHRAJ website.
In the rest of this piece, we provide some pointers and questions for CHRAJ to begin to get its act together, for all it is worth. The CHRAJ website is at http://www.chrajghana.org for those interested.
NINE (9) HUMBLE POINTERS/SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:
1. CHRAJ has a mission statement and 4 goals one of which is ?Using a well trained and motivated workforce and the most modern technology. With respect to the latter and our ?complaint,? CHRAJ has failed on that technology thing.
2. CHRAJ does have 4 goals alright. But those 4 goals are mischaracterized as ?Objectives.? They are not ?Objective? even if CHRAJ says they are - they are not measurable. This may explain why CHRAJ is all over the map, without a focused sense of priority or purpose. A properly focused CHRAJ would have the Ghana FOIB as one of their goals and would provide concrete steps to help Ghana achieve that, regardless of what the current President and Attorney General say or do.
3. There are no ?Annual Reports for 2006 or 2007 or any other year, except for 2005. But Annual Reports are required of CHRAJ. In the 2005 report, CHRAJ says that most of their funding came from DANIDA, the Royal Danish Embassy, and bemoans the fact that CHRAJ?s funding is controlled by the Minister of Finance. This matter is not properly elevated by way of a goal and real objectives.
4. There is not a single word, paragraph, photograph, or citation on the page titled ?Regional Reports? from any region in Ghana. We have concluded that every other region in Ghana is invisible as far as CHRAJ is concerned. Our guess is in this age of ?most modern technology,? CHRAJ is an Accra-Tema agency.
5. There are about 21 cases listed on the page titled ?Landmark Cases.? We will argue that every case ought to be available in true ?Freedom of Information style? on the CHRAJ public website. But even with the 21 cases, only cases are listed ? there are no abstracts or brief intros to inform the visitor why a particular case might be a waste of time to review. (Funny thing is - most of the cases are from the 1990s).
6. The recent Wood sub-panel decision is not available on the ?Landmark Cases? page. In fact, there is not a single word on the entire CHRAJ website about that case, nearly two months after that ?Landmark? event.
7. The ?CONTACT US WORLDWIDE? web page has only telephone numbers. No addresses or description of location is provided for the 12 offices listed. Further, no email addresses are available. (If Ghana will tax people by the number of mobile phone calls they make, clearly, CHRAJ and other agencies cannot rely on those calls to do their business with citizens given that few people in Ghana actually have landlines).
8. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is embedded in the wrong place. FAQs should be on the ?Home? page or on a separate page where it is available at the first ?click? to the agency web site. It is currently hidden in the page titled ?CONTACT US WORLDWIDE.? If Mrs Afia Halifu Doe Akwokwo has already decided to ?Contact? CHRAJ for whatever reason, she does not need that FAQ diversion. Surprise!!
9. The ?News & Events? page is out-dated. All ?UPCOMING EVENTS? date to December 2007 or earlier. Further, no details or links are provided to the 8 odd events.
FOUR (4) RESPECTFUL QUESTIONS FOR CHRAJ:
We understand very well if the people at CHRAJ and CHRAJ supporters will tell us CHRAJ is being responsive. However, many people will disagree, including even our Mrs Afia Halifu Doe Akwokwos. To help us get a better gripe on the entire situation, we provide three more questions for CHRAJ officials and CHRAJ supporters to ponder, as CHRAJ goes about their business as usual.
1. Why should another Ghanaian public agency listen to CHRAJ if CHRAJ itself is not responsive?
2. Why does CHRAJ think that Ghana?s agencies need a ?Code of Conduct? when there is something called the Constitution of Ghana and CHRAJ itself has a ?Conflict of Interest? manual that has not been updated since 1994, as far as we can tell?
3. How many interns does CHRAJ require to respond to inquiries and routinely update the CHRAJ website once a month, perhaps, so people have less reason to contact them directly unless the people have more urgent matters to report (?complain? about) about matters that go to the heart of CHRAJ?s most important mandate?
4. What is the CHRAJ official response to the Chief Justice Wood False Choice for Ghana?
CONCLUSION:
Professor Lungu has in the last few months commented on the fact that many in Ghana?s executive, judiciary, and quasi-judiciary organizations are seeking end-runs over accountable, responsible, and lawful administration. There are proposing Charters, Codes of Conduct, and sundry other light-soup measures, without emphasizing the rule of law and its requirements. It is sad that they continue to be unresponsive and will not respond to simple requests for information.
It is time to learn for the British, the Americans, the Japanese, even, about how to professionally run a public agency. Come to Ghanaweb and take a cue from the British High Commission. They even conduct ?Customer Satisfaction? Surveys.
NOTE: Email addresses deleted to avoid unnecessary junk emails to either party.

Prof Lungu
Tokyo, Japan
9 Feb 08


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