Professional bodies must stand out and be counted

Recently, the Office of the Registrar of Companies (ORC) issued a statement highlighting the non-compliance of several professional bodies with statutory requirements. It is just one example of many instances that calls for re-examination of professional governance in this country. 

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The fact that only 26 out of 91 registered professional bodies or professional associations have submitted their annual accounts and updated membership records is worrying and calls for concern. Even more alarming is the fact that some have failed to comply in the last two years.

An ORC's directive, issued in December 2023, required professional bodies to submit their audited accounts and update their membership records by December 23, 2023, or risk being struck out of the Professional Bodies Register.

The Daily Graphic’s concern stems from the fact that professional bodies are expected to lead the way in establishing professional standards, ethics and best practices in their respective fields.

This lack of accountability is particularly disturbing, given the role that professional bodies play in promoting ethical standards and upholding the rule of law. How can lawyers and journalists, whose professional bodies have fallen foul of the law and are expected to hold others accountable, fail to demonstrate the same level of accountability in their own professional bodies?

This lack of transparency not only erodes the credibility of individual members but also undermines the integrity of the professions they represent. The Daily Graphic urges executives of the bodies to take immediate action to address this situation.

They must recognise that their failure to comply with statutory requirements is not only a legal issue but also a moral and ethical one. By neglecting their responsibilities, they are compromising the professional influence of their members and undermining the trust that the public has placed in them.

While we commend the ORC for bringing this matter to light and encourage them to continue monitoring professional bodies and providing regular updates on their status, we also urge members of these bodies to demand accountability from their executives and to use their general meetings and other gatherings to exact transparency and compliance.

Professional bodies must establish robust systems for financial management, accounting and membership records. They must also ensure that their executives are held accountable for any lapses or breaches of statutory requirements.

As the nation prepares for the December election, it is essential that professional bodies lead by example as thought leaders and demonstrate the highest standard of moral decorum and professionalism.

This issue of non-compliance with statutory requirements is only a wake-up call for professional bodies to go beyond mere compliance and embrace ethical excellence. In Ghana, professional bodies are governed by various laws, including the Professional Bodies Act 1973 (NRCD 143), which mandates them to maintain high standards of professionalism and ethical conduct.

Section 11(b) of the Act requires professional bodies to submit their audited accounts and updated membership records, a requirement that they have flagrantly disregarded. Even beyond compliance with the ORC directive, professional bodies must recognise that they have a greater responsibility to society. As guardians of their respective professions, they must promote ethical standards, fairness and equality.

In an election year, professional bodies must be seen as shining examples of moral decorum and professionalism. They must demonstrate their commitment to fairness, equality and transparency in all their dealings. By doing so, they will inspire confidence in their members and the general public, and contribute to the growth and development of their respective professions.

It is imperative that our professional bodies or associations make their voices heard, especially on critical national issues and must be the voices of reason but they will lose that moral authority if they cannot comply with a simple directive.

In the heat of electioneering campaigns, political actors such as presidential and parliamentary candidates and their followers throw caution to the wind and spew invective and hate speech that threaten national peace and we expect our professional bodies to be the moderating factors in our society.

We cannot afford to have professional bodies or associations who have lost their voice because they did not pass the credibility test. That will be a sad narrative.

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