The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) Consortium is demanding a thorough process of verification and publication of declared assets in the new assets declaration regime.
That is the only way members of the public will be able to play any meaningful role in reporting public officers who illegally acquire property, the consortium, made up of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and SEND-Ghana stated at the end of its “Experts’ Workshop on Anti-corruption Law Reforms in Ghana.”
Under the current law, the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550), public officers are required to submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all properties or assets owned by them and all liabilities owed by them directly or indirectly prior to coming into office.
The law does not even empower the Auditor-General to open the envelope and assess the properties submitted by the public officers.
Interestingly whilst the law protects the public officer’s right to conceal details of his assets, Article 287 of the 1992 Constitution invites any person who alleges that a public officer has contravened a provision of the Asset Declaration Act to make a report or complaint.
How can the public be invited to report allegations of breaches of the Assets Declaration Act, when they are not privy to the assets declared by public officials? the Consortium asked.
Describing the law in its present state as "the single most inconsistent piece of legislation in our statute books," the GII Consortium maintains any review of the Assets Declaration Regime that does not emphasise verification and publication must be resisted.
"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.
"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," the Consortium noted in a statement.
The GII Consortium urged legislators to bear the contradictions in the Assets Declaration Act in mind when they resume consideration of these two bills – the Conduct of Public Officers’ Bill and the Right to Information Bill.