16Jan

CHRAJ to seek interpretation in The Supreme Court on allocation of its budget

By Abigail Annoh – GhanaianTimes

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has hinted plans of going to the Supreme Court to seek interpretation into the allocation of budget to fund its operations.

The Commissioner, Mr Joseph Whittal chided successive governments for breaches of constitutional provisions that enjoined the state to fund the commission and other anti-corruption bodies through the consolidated fund.

The Commissioner was speaking at the 70th New Year School underway at the University of Ghana on the need to “Strengthen anti-corruption state institutions in Ghana.”

“By Article 227, the administrative expenses of the Commission and anti-corruption bodies instituted by law such like the Auditor-General (A-G) are a charge on the consolidated fund and should not go through appropriation and subjected to cuts by the Ministry of Finance.

So if I inform you all the time that please respect the Constitution as interpreted and you refuse, I will advise myself and seek redress at the law court so that the Minister of Finance knows that he is not supposed to be doing what he is doing,” he insisted.

Mr Whittal observed that whereas “things were better off” with the A-G following a ruling by the court in 2010 to fund the department by Parliamentary approval, same could not be said of the commission which continued to reel under extreme difficulties due to funding gaps thereby undermining its core mandate to fight corruption.

“Our budget should go to special budget committee of parliament who will examine it and we only justify why we are asking for such an amount and not through the ministry where it is capped and subjected to cuts. How do we expect such agencies to deliver on their mandate as established by law,” he quizzed.

Commending the establishment of the Special Prosecutor’s Office which, he said, incorporated the principles of independence as outlined in the Constitution, Mr Whittal feared other anti-corruption agencies like the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), the Economic Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Ghana Police Service might just be a toothless bull dog as there were lapses in the laws establishing them.

“For instance, the head of EOCO is appointed by the President and can be removed at will and his conditions of work are determined by the President unlike CHRAJ boss or the A-G who can only be removed by going through hectic procedures because the framers of the Constitution clearly defined their independence and tenure,” he said.

The Commissioner called for adequate resourcing and retooling of anti-corruption agencies to reduce the menace in the Ghanaian society saying, “if we want the state anti-corruption bodies to work effectively, we need to resource them with finances and needed logistics instead of creating new ones.”

“The fight against corruption is not about slogans, words and shouts churned on campaign platforms. It is about building strong institutions, good management and provision of equipment to do the trick when you win power,” he stated.

Anti-corruption crusader and former Executive Director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Mr Vitus Azeem deplored the decline in budgetary allocations to anti-corruption bodies in the country, a situation he said contributed to the back and forth nature of dealing with the canker.

He observed the complete disregard for recommendations made by the Constitutional Review Committee to have a relook at the powers of the Executive particularly the President and the nature of appointment into public offices.

“Ideally, three people are to be presented for the President to appoint one to head an agency, but is that the case? The composition of the CHRAJ for instance is incomplete because of politics. It is high time we stopped calling these people honorable because they do no honorable thing in this country,” he fumed.

Mr Azeem challenged citizens to stand up boldly for the fight against corruption, “hold the duty bearers to account and report corrupt activities. We should be citizens and not spectators as the President said.”