For over a decade, public officers in Ghana have turned the office of the Auditor General into a safe deposit box where they secretly declare their assets – the ones they have and the ones they don't but intend to have while in office – and after their tenure they go back to the box and repeat the same ritual just so to satisfy a law that is useful in principle but practically useless.
The Assets Declaration Law 1998 (ACT 550) is supposed to be one of the key and effective means of fighting corruption in a country where corruption has become piously endemic.
But like many other tragic mysteries of life in our dear country where presidents increase taxes, fuel and other essential products and yet are exempted from paying same, we have managed to turn the Assets Declaration Law on its head to favour the same politicians and public officers who have made life a living hell for the common Ghanaian.
We have turned the Auditor Generals into dummies who are supposed to avail their offices as a safe haven where envelopes of undeclared and unverified assets of public officials are kept under a supposed regime of assets declaration. After four years or more the public officers return to the Auditor General, take back their assets some of which were corruptly acquired, thank him for his 'impotence', and go back home laughing at him, and at every single Ghanaian for being really stupid in allowing such a law to have any form of expression in our statutes.
Even more ridiculous is the fact that within the tenure of the politician or public official, the general public is invited to raise alarm about assets they suspect were acquired illegally.
As far as I know and for two decades nobody has dared to take up the challenge offered so graciously under the bogus assets declaration regime because everybody, except the person whose envelope is under lock and key at the Auditor General's office, is ignorant about the assets declared by the officers.
It has become fashionable and very lucrative to own fuel stations these days. At every corner of the first class N1 Highway to the dirty dusty muddy and 'jumpy' Teshie-Agblizaa road is a filling station. The widely held opinion is that these stations are owned by politicians some of whom got into politics without any scintilla of work experience; straight from the university they were made kingpins in politics because they were smart and truly they have not disappointed.
They have learnt and looted on the job and within a twinkle of an eye they have become filthy rich owning chains of properties and filling stations. Can anybody raise a challenge under our backward assets declaration regime and say that before this officer was appointed into office he did not own a car tire? By what magical means has he or she managed to own these chains of properties within this short period? Could those properties have been acquired under the one million dollar goal project?
Nobody can because the assets were declared in principle to the safe box but in practice to nobody.
Having endured this mockery of a law for over a decade the time has come for a review and as usual some of these politicians have attempted to justify why this mundane law must remain just as it is. Indeed some MPs are even on record to have said that the Ghana Anti-corruption Coalition, the Ghana Integrity Initiative all of whom are fighting against this law are late in asking that the review of the Assets Declaration Law must include verification and publication of the assets so declared.
Some of the arguments they raise for the non-verification and publication of assets are as follows;
MP for Tamale Central Inusah Fuseini on Newsfile attempted to explain the rationale in framing the law the way it has been. He said the framers of the constitution believed public officers and politicians can be trusted to honestly declare their assets before they assume office and do same when they leave office.
A politician or public officer trusted to be honest? From ages past the country never trusted in the honesty and sincerity of its own students who were preparing to write their BECE and SSSCE.
On examination days, the country unleashes on these poor students fully armed police men, who gawk and pace up and down the examination hall, as if they are superintending over hardened criminals.
This year the national security operatives were added to the battalion of policemen to ensure that the 'dishonest' pupils were kept in check. We did not trust our students to be honest and do an independent work. We never did.
It is these same dishonest pupils who have grown into politicians and public officers and suddenly the framers of the constitution think they can be trusted?
On the evidence of what has gone on and still going on in our country these days, trusting a politician to be honest is like preaching celibacy or virginity to a prostitute. It's a waste of time. So please Hon Inusah Fuseini don't waste our time!
There is also the argument about armed robbers targeting the properties of public officials if they are published. Ridiculous!
These armed robbers, don't they know the plush houses in which some of these politicians live? Don't they see them drive in their V8s with tainted glasses? If they don't attack them in their houses why would they attack other assets if they are declared? Or the houses and cars are not assets enough worthy of an armed robbery attack?
In any case if a rich businessman who has employed thousands of people is susceptible to armed robbery attacks why not the politician who is feeding large on the public coffers and not contributing anything to the economy? The bottom line is when the police are adequately equipped by the same politician, everybody; the businessman, the politician, the broadcaster will all be safe no matter where their assets are.
But if that crude logic is anything to go by I would rather have the armed robbers attack the published assets of these public officers than have these officers clandestinely loot public property under a warped assets declaration regime.
Over a decade of the backward implementation of this law is enough. For the assets that have been raped and looted already we can let it go but we must collectively safeguard what is left and guard it jealously….#DeclarePublishVerifyAssets.
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