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General News Mon, 31 May 2004

Ghana, Mali and Nigeria join hands to combat corruption

Accra, May 31,GNA - Mr Paul Asomani, Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, on Monday advocated a national mechanism to identify and sanction wayward public officials and reward the honest.

He also called for a public discussion on the time-tested Ghanaian custom of presenting gifts to public officials especially on festive occasion, as a show of appreciation since such gifts could tend to encourage corruption.

Mr Asomani was speaking on: "A Closer Look at Creative Ways to Build Integrity and Accountability in Public Management and Public Service Systems: Lessons Learned from Current Approaches", at a Democracy Capacity -Building Seminar on Anti-Corruption and Good Governance in Accra.

He said a study by the Ministry indicated that petty corruption in the form of bribery and gifts to influence such public officials was adversely affecting small businesses.

The one-week seminar is being organised by The Les Aspin Center of the Marquette University of the USA for 16 civil society leaders from Ghana, Nigeria and Mali to expose them to multi-dimensional nature of corruption.

The seminar would provide baseline knowledge of country-specific needs and offer participants the opportunity to discuss Country analysis of corruption.

Mr Asomani said payment of realistic wages was one way of improving the reward regime of workers to insulate them against corruption. This, he said, could be achieved if the defects in the country's revenue machinery were plugged.

Mr Asomani called for a review of the Constitutional requirement making it mandatory for public officials to declare their assets in camera since the practice did not offer the public and the media the opportunity to hold such officials accountable.

He said global objective of eliminating bribery and corruption was becoming a challenge.

He cited the US where companies were becoming uncompetitive among their European counterparts due to underhand deals. He stressed: "German companies alone offer about three billion dollars annually as bribes."

Dr Cephas Lerewonu, Co-ordinator of Africa Programme of the Center, said since the programme started in 1988 a number of Ghanaians including Mr Yaw Osafo- Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, had benefited as part of efforts to strengthen the private and public sector against corrupt practices.

Mr James Adisida, a Committee Clerk and Bills Officer at the Nigerian House of Representatives, said the training programmes of the Center were helping to facilitate the combat of corruption in his country "although there is more room for improvement." 31 May 04

Source: GNA