Anti-Corruption campaigners have asked the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Auditor-General to investigate and verify all assets declared by public office holders.
The campaigners said that would enable the Commission and the Auditor-General to ascertain the physical existence of such declared assets and authenticate their ownership.
They made the call at a public forum in Accra organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa on the topic: “Declaration of Assets by Public Office Holders and the Fight Against Corruption in Ghana.”
The campaigners include Mr Vitus Azeem, an Anti-Corruption Crusader; Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh, Executive Secretary, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition; Mr Justice Abdulai, a Private Legal Practitioner and Mr Manasseh Azuri Awuni, an Investigative Journalist.
Mr Azeem said asset verification was key in ascertaining the truth or otherwise of all declared assets and helping in reducing false declarations.
“There’s no point declaring your assets, putting it in an envelope and nobody looks at it, or even if you look at it, you don’t follow up to find out if you actually have those assets. You can easily call or go to Lands Commission and find it, this person has houses in Kumasi, are they properly registered?”
Mr Azeem noted that the country needed commitment from leadership to ensure compliance.
The anti-corruption crusader, therefore, charged the Auditor-General to publish names of persons who had failed to comply with the assets declaration law to serve as a warning to others.
Mrs Narteh of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition noted that the Asset Declaration regime as it stood, had not provided the needed framework to ascertain the issues of verification of the asset.
She, therefore, called on the Government to quicken work on the Conduct of Public Officers Bill currently before Cabinet and fast track its passage.
“The President has to show faith by ensuring that this Conduct of Public Officers Bill is passed before his time in office ends in 2024,” she said.
Article 286 (1) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that “a person who holds a public office mentioned in clause (5) of this Article shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by him whether directly or indirectly (a) within three months after the coming into force of this Constitution or before taking office, as the case may be, (b) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his term of office.”
The law requires that the President, Vice-President, the Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Speakers of Parliament, Members of Parliament, ministers and deputy ministers of State, ambassadors, the Chief Justice, Judges of Superior Court, Judges of Inferior court and managers of public institutions in, which the State has an interest, must submit to the Auditor-General written declarations of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly.
The Constitution also requires the declaration to be done before the public officer takes office.
However, Section 1(4)(c) of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act directs public office holders to meet this requirement, “not later than six months after taking office, at the end of every four years and not later than six months at the end of his or her term.”
Mr Justice Abdulai noted that the six months window given to public office holders to declare their assets gave an opportunity for exploitation and amassing of wealth within the period.
He called for strict enforcement of the law to drive compliance.
“We should have a rigorous law that will serve as protecting every one of us and serving the future interest of our unborn generation,” he said.
Mr Azuri Awuni called on the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Auditor-General to be proactive in pursuing public officers who failed to comply with the law.
He also urged CHRAJ to punish persons who failed to declare their assets severely to serve as a deterrent to others who might want to flout the law.