The Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and SEND-Ghana form the consortium.
According to the consortium, “Ghana’s Public Office Holders-declaration of assets and disqualification-Act, 1998, (Act 550) represents the single most inconsistent piece of legislation” in the country’s statute books.
“This is because it [Ghana’s Public Office Holders Act] preserved a public officer’s right to conceal where they are envisaged by the parent law to disclose their assets before assuming a public office,” a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, on Monday, and signed by Mr Vitus Adaboo Azeem, the Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, explained.
Section One of the Act provides that a person who holds a public office shall submit to the Auditor General a written declaration of – all properties or assets owned by him as well as 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 or undeclared ones, which might have been procured through acts of corruption, ” the consortium pointed out.
“The bill merely invites any person who alleges that a public officer has contravened a provision of the Act to make a report or complaint.”
The Act also makes the Assets declared and kept with the Auditor General confidential information, which must be so kept.
But the group queried, “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 when it becomes necessary”?
“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,” it stated.
Ghana’s Constitution states that the State shall take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power, but governance experts say there is lack of political will to sanction public office holders who mostly fall foul of corrupt acts.
The Constitution Review Commission, in part, also states that, “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.”
The consortium, however, expressed satisfaction that Parliament has begun consideration of two related laws – the Conduct of Public Officers’ Bill and the Right to Information Bill.