- On June 30, 2015
Listen To The Story
A consortium, comprising Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and SEND-GHANA has requested that the review of assets declaration regime must require verification and publication of declared assets.
This request was contained a Press Release issued to media houses at the end of its “Experts’ Workshop on Anti-corruption Law Reforms in Ghana” held in Accra last week.
The Release, said the Consortium notes that Article 35 (8) of Ghana’s Constitution commands that: “The state shall take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power.” We also note that the Right To Information (RTI) law will give full effect to Article 21(1) (f) of the Constitution which states that: “All persons shall have the right to – information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.”
We particularly want to draw attention to what appears to be a review of the assets declaration regime that will still miss the central purpose of the purported review. The Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550) has been held, without any equivocation, to represent the single most inconsistent piece of legislation in our statute books. This is because it preserved a public officer’s right to conceal where they are envisaged by the parent law (Chapter 24 of the Constitution) to disclose their assets before assuming a public office.
Section 1 of the Act provides that:
“(1) A person who holds a public office mentioned in section 3 of this Act shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of—
(a) all properties or assets owned by him; and
(b) All liabilities owed by him; whether directly or indirectly”
The sad development which renders this law needless in its present state is that the assets, if declared, are not ever known to members of the public who are expected to report of new acquisitions (undeclared) and which may have been procured through acts of corruption.
While the bill in accordance with Article 287 of the 1992 Constitution invites any person who alleges that a public officer has contravened a provision of this Act to make a report/ complaint in accordance with Article 287, it nevertheless retrogressively still makes the Assets declared and kept with the Auditor General confidential information which must be kept as such. If there is no verification by the custodian and publication of such assets, for example, in the gazette how would members of the public get to know what is declared in order to complain if at all? The principles of transparency and accountability require nothing less than both verification and publication of the declared assets of public officers if the intended mischief the law seeks to cure is to be achieved.
The Release indicated that, a review of the regime under the Conduct of Public Officers’ Act without a mandatory requirement of verification and publication will, therefore, mark such backward progress in a democracy as such declarations were gazetted even under Ghana’s Provisional National Defence Council’s (PNDC) military regime.
The Constitution Review Commission summarized the collective will of Ghanaians in desiring as it found: “…though the Constitution attempts to curb the menace of corruption through the assets declaration regime, the absence of compulsion and the lack of transparency in the exercise defeats the very purpose of the regime.”
Whiles drawing the attention of legislators to the importance of Conduct of Public Officers’ Bill and the Right to Information Bill, anti-corruption crusaders have called on media and all citizens to keep an eye on Members of Parliament (MPs) in order to help them avoid a reproduction of yet another self-serving worthless piece of legislation.
The Consortium calls on all well-meaning and patriotic Ghanaians to police the process to ensure that the purpose of the bills and best practice is achieved by reporting any corrupt experience through I Paid A Bribe, an online reporting platform.
This campaign forms part of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Accountable Democratic Institutions and Systems Strengthening (ADISS) Project which is aimed at working with local communities and other stakeholders to promote transparency and accountability in Ghana.
The four year project is being implemented by Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), SEND-GHANA and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC).