The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) has appealed to Parliament to implement stiffer punishments to defaulters in declaring their assets under the new Public Office Bill, 2018, currently, before it, to ensure compliance.
The coalition explained that the lack of definite punishments along with other factors in the country’s current asset declaration regime as captured in Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution and the Public Officers Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550) were major reasons for the non-compliance to the Act.
Deputy Executive Secretary of the Coalition, Mr Bright Sowu, who made the appeal said stiffer sanctions would therefore serve as enough deterrent to people who under-declare their assets and liabilities.
He was speaking in an interview with the media on the side-line of a workshop organized for public officers on assets and liabilities declaration in Accra, on Tuesday.
The workshop was organized by GACC in partnership with the Audit Service and sought to empower public officers on the need for public officers to declare their assets.
It also aims at promoting more effective asset regime and to increase compliance to assets declaration.
It was funded by the Strengthening Action Against Corruption (STACC).
Mr Sowu said: “We have article 286 in the Constitution that talks about assets declaration and we have a substantive law, Act 550, which also talks about asset declaration, but what the challenge has been the fact that the potent elements of asset declaration, the things that make it work such as verification, publication, explicit sanctions, we have not had those ones in our laws.
“Our law says that sanctions should be applied if a person does not declare, but which particular sanction? If you look at our criminal code there is always a term given, whether a penalty unit or imprisonment and so it is not left at the discretion of any public officer, they are clear and we want this with assets declaration that the sanctions should be clear.
“It should also be a bit more biting and go beyond just administrative sanctions so that it can add a bit more bite to the regime,” he added.
The Public Office Bill was laid in Parliament in July 2018. The bill when passed will strengthen the current legal framework governing the conduct of public officers.
In furtherance of that, the bill seeks to repeal the Public Officers Act, 1962 (Act 114) and the Public Officers Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550).
Mr Sowu commended the Audit Service for undertaking various programmes that aimed at addressing the issue of non-declaration of assets.
Assistant Public Relations Officer, Audit Service, Mr Bernard Conduah, said the Service was currently putting in place measures that would make it possible for persons to download and fill the assets declaration forms via online.
He said the Service was waiting for the passage of the Public Office Bill, 2018 after, which it would roll out the project to facilitate the compliance to the act.
Mr Conduah cautioned public officers against defaulting in the declaration of assets, saying, the practice could have dire consequences for them when the law finally caught up with them.
The Team Leader, STACC, Mr Howard Tucker, commended GACC and the Audit Service for showing commitment to implementing a more effective asset declaration regime.
He assured them of STACC’s continued support toward the realization of the programme and the fight against corruption.
The workshop was attended by officers from the Ghana Immigration Service, the Ghana Police Service, Bank of Ghana, and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and some ministries, among others.