Earning a Reputation for Independence: Ghana's Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, 1993-2003
Focus: Anti-Corruption, Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations, Building a Reform Team and Staff, Containing Patronage Pressures, Civil Service
Topics: Anti-Corruption Agencies, Corruption in the Civil Service
Type: Case Studies
Author: Deepa Iyer
Keywords: public education, networks, human rights, building public credibility, building independence, anti-corruption
In 1993, Emile Short, a private practice lawyer, took on the challenging job of leading Ghana’s new Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice. Created by the 1992 constitution, the commission had a triple mandate: ombudsman, anti-corruption agency and human rights monitor. Short had to construct the organization from scratch and make it relevant in a political landscape dominated by the presidency. He had to execute a constitutionally broad mandate and develop a public reputation for independence, despite a limited resource base and no enforcement authority. The commission’s power lay in its evidence-based investigations and public hearings, which, combined with media and public support, helped to expose high-level corruption and mobilize social pressures for greater accountability. Short focused on building the commission’s credibility, developing public education programs and creating a network of anti-corruption civil society groups. Short asserted the commission’s independence early on, investigating allegations of corruption against sitting ministers in 1996. For the first time in Ghana, public investigations of incumbent politicians triggered ministerial resignations.