The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is heading to the nation’s highest court for the interpretation of Article 227 of the 1992 Constitution.
Article 227 states that “The administrative expenses of the Commission including salaries, allowances and pension payable to or in respect of persons serving with the Commission shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.”
Mr Joseph Whittal, the Commissioner of CHRAJ, said going to the Supreme Court for the interpretation of Article 227 had become necessary because all calls by the Commission on the Special Budget Committee of Parliament to get the Minister of Finance to respect the Constitution by desisting from reviewing downwards its budget estimates had proved futile.
Mr Whittal made the disclosure during his presentation on the topic: “Strengthening Anti-Corruption Institutions in Ghana,” at the ongoing 70th Annual New Year School and Conference at the University of Ghana.
It is on the theme: “Building Strong Institutions for Democratic Consolidation in Ghana,” and organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education of the College of Education, University of Ghana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Mr Whittal said the Supreme Court had the occasion to interpret Article 187(14) of the 1992 Constitution in the case of William Brown versus the Attorney General.
He said the Court was also to determine whether the administrative expenses of the Office of the Auditor-General, including all salaries, allowances, gratuities and pensions payable to or in respect of persons serving the Audit Service, being charged on the Consolidated Fund, did not require that the budget be subjected to the Finance Ministry’s budget ceiling before presenting it to the Special Budget Committee of Parliament.
In the case of the Auditor-General, Article 187(14) declares that “The administrative expenses of the Office of the Auditor-General including salaries, gratuities and pensions payable to or in respect of persons serving the Audit Service shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.”
Mr Whittal said this same provision was repeated in the case of CHRAJ and some other independent constitutional bodies such as the Electoral Commission, the National Commission on Civic Education, and the National Media Commission.
He said the Supreme Court unanimously held, among other reliefs, that the Minister of Finance had no discretion in reviewing downwards the estimates determined by the Audit Service Board provided they dealt with the administrative expenses.
“Despite this very clear declaration by the Highest Court of the land, the Minister of Finance (not referring to any particular person) persists in the unconstitutional conduct of setting ceilings, reducing the budget, and presenting the reduced budget of CHRAJ to Parliament,” he said.
Mr Whittal said despite calls on the Special Budget Committee by CHRAJ to get the Minister of Finance to respect the Constitution, nothing had come out of it so far.
“The Commission will advise itself with regards to a similar suit as in the case of the Auditor-General to stop the impunity,” he said.
“The point here is that, over the years, the Ministry of Finance treats anti-corruption state institutions in terms of allocation and release of funds as any Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs). But that is wrong.”
He said the nature of corruption investigation and prosecution require availability of funds at all times in order to gather evidence and preserve it timeously and/or secure documents or interview people before they were tampered with.
Mr Whittal said strengthening those institutions would require adequate financial resources released on time from the Ministry of Finance and the Controller and Accountant General’s Department.
One key area impeding the performance of anti-corruption state institutions was the inadequate budgetary provisions given each year from the Ministry of Finance, he said.
“Indeed, out of the meager allocation in the Appropriation Act not all is released at the end of the year. Some years, out of four quarters, only two or two and half quarters are release to institutions to perform their broad mandates. It is very essential to resource them appropriately.”
Mr Whittal said when those resources were also not released, it became too much to expect of them to perform to expectation.