The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) has resurrected the old debate over the declaration of assets by government officials which died a natural death sometime ago.
It has thus asked both members of the out-going New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the incoming National Democratic Congress (NDC) governments to declare their assets.
In a statement signed by the Executive Secretary of the GII, Vitus Azeem, he noted that “as an anti-corruption civil empowerment organization, GII wishes to draw the attention of both the outgoing government and incoming government to Article 286 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550).”
Under the provisions of Article 286 of the Constitution, the President, his Vice, Ministers and Parliamentarians are required to declare their assets at the end of their term of office. In that regard, he has asked former President Kufuor, his Vice, Alhaji Aliu Mahama and all other Ministers and Parliamentarians, some of whom have resigned or were removed from office, and have not yet done so, to endeavour to do so without any further delay.
Similarly, the GII also called on President John Evans Atta Mills, his Vice, John Dramani Mahama and with their yet to be appointed Ministers and Members of the fifth Parliament of the fourth republic to declare their assets and liabilities even before they assume office.
Article 286 of the Constitution and Section 4 of Act 550 require states inter alia – “A person who holds a public office submits to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by him, whether directly or indirectly;
(a) before taking office, (b) at the end of every four years and (c) at the end of his term of office.
It goes further to state -“Failure to declare or knowingly making false declaration shall be a contravention of this Constitution and shall be dealt with in accordance with article 287 of this Constitution.”
The Act states further that “and, shall in any event, be submitted not later than six months of the occurrence of any of the events specified in this sub-section”.
For that matter, GII, which happens to be the local chapter of world-acclaimed anti-corruption civil organization -Transparency International, reminded all politicians and political parties of the promises they made to Ghanaians with regard to the fight against corruption and to view the requirement to declare their assets and liabilities as an anti-corruption tool, and accordingly comply with it if they are indeed committed to fighting corruption.
Furthermore, it has drawn the attention of the President to the fact that there are weaknesses in the Assets Declaration Law that need to be addressed for the law to be used as an effective anti-corruption tool.
Meanwhile, the GII and other key stakeholders including the Auditor-General have identified these weaknesses for redress. These stakeholders have come out with Regulations for Act 550, which are awaiting Parliament’s approval.
It thus expressed the hope that the Attorney-General of the in-coming administration will bring them before Parliament within the NDC’s first 100 days in office.
That notwithstanding, it has also made recommendations for amendments to the law and possibly to the Constitution and thus stressed -“we are willing to work with government to get these weaknesses addressed and hope that His Excellency will provide the necessary leadership in this regard.”
The recommendations made by GII and its key partners for the Regulations and the proposed amendments, among others, include provision for verification of declarations by the Auditor-General, public disclosure to enable citizens challenge claims, more frequent declarations, either yearly or bi-annually, as happens in many countries, publication of names of people who have complied and those who have not, and the sanctions for non-compliance.
As a sign of exemplary leadership, it has therefore, asked the President and his Vice to permit the Auditor-General to publish the asset declarations that they have submitted, emphasizing that “in appointing and vetting Ministers and other appointees past compliance with the assets declaration law must be verified, as failure to comply bars such people from taking public office.”
In order to make the assets declaration law operational and to supplement the Whistleblower Act, 2006 (Act 720), the Ghana Integrity Initiative has called on the NDC government to facilitate the speedy passage of the Freedom of Information Bill in fulfillment of its promise to Ghanaians.
Source: The Chronicle