Asset declaration is an anti-corruption tool that seeks to take inventory of the assets and liabilities of public office holders before they take office, periodically and after they have left office. The objective is to deter such officials from using the power and privilege of their office to enrich themselves illicitly and to prevent conflict of interest situations.
Asset declaration in Ghana finds expression in two main laws-Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution and the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550).
Eligible public office holders are required to submit a list of their assets and liabilities to the Auditor General. Article 286 (5) of the Constitution provides details on the specific rank of public officers who are eligible to make declarations.
It has however been noted over the years that compliance by public officers to this obligation is quite low, mostly due to ignorance of this obligation and non-enforcement of the laws on asset declaration.
In response to the issue of low compliance to asset declaration, the Ghana Audit Service, supported by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and STAAC (DFID), organized a day training for selected eligible public officers on asset declaration in Accra, on Tuesday 27th October, 2020, at the Greater Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
The training which covered the areas of
Navigating the Declaration Form and Compliance to Asset Declaration, witnessed about 100 participants from State owned Enterprises (SoEs), Bank of Ghana, The Judiciary, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and the Media.
In his presentation on the legal basis on why one must Declare Assets and Liabilities, Mr. Bernard Conduah, from the Ghana Audit Service, said in pursuit of transparency and accountability, Chap24 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides the code of conduct for public officers “a person hold a public office shall submit to the Auditot-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owned by him or her whether directly or indirectly.”
On who qualifies to declare, he mentioned, Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution and Act 550 provide a list of public office holders who must declare their assets and or liabilities, and they include President of the Republic, Vice – President of the Republic, Speaker, Deputy Speakers and members of
Parliament, Ministers and Deputy Ministers of State, Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Courts,
Chainman of a regional tribunal, Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and his deputies, and all judicial officers including members of the Regional and Circuit Tribunals, An Ambassador or a High Commissioner, Secretary to the Cabinet;
Head of Ministry or Government Department or equivalent office in the Civil Service, Chairman, managing director, secretary, general managers and developmental head of a public corporation or company in which the state has a controlling interest, Governor, Bank of Ghana and his deputies, Chairman, Electoral Commission and his deputies, and many more.
According to the presentation, assets and liabilities which shall be declared are: lands, houses and buildings; farms; concessions; trust or family property in respect of which the officer has beneficial interest; vehicles, plant and machinery, fishing boats trawlers, generating plants; business interests;
securities and bank balances.
The rest are, bonds and treasury bills; jewelry of the value of 5million or above: objects of art of the value of 5million or above, life and other insurance policies; particulars creditors, trade creditors. other creditor, details of loan and bank overdraft, details of mortgage of property to others (e.g. to banks, insurance companies, building societies), details of unpaid bills, other liabilities not shown above and finally, a voluntary information if any.
On the steps in declaring assets and liabilities by declarants, Mr. Conduah, explained that one can obtain a declaration form from the Audit Service, Complete the declaration form and sign, Get a witness to endorse your form, Return the signed form to the Auditor-General or his representative for inspection, The Auditor-General or his representative would issue a receipt to the declarant after verifying the content of the form, The Auditor General or his representative would seal the declaration form in the presence of the declarant, Sealed form are kept under locked cabinet.
As to when the declaration could be made, he said it shall be made by the officer before taking office, at the end of every four (4) years; and before leaving office.
He emphasized, “any citizen who believes that a public office holder has failed or refused to comply with the law can lodge a complaint with the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). CHRAJ would investigate and based on the findings the officer could be removed from office.”
Bright Sowu, Deputy Executive Secretary of GACC, in his welcome remarks, noted that, in the last two years GACC have been implementing a project in close collaboration with the Ghana Audit Service and with funding support from STAAC, the Strengthening Action Against Corruption of the U.K government. The project according to him, is named ‘Mobilizing Support For An Effective Declaration Assets Regime In Ghana.’
Mr. Sowu explained that, Ghana’s asset declaration regime as captured in Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution and the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550) has seen some criticism owing to the issue of low compliance to the Act, lack of verification of declarations, the absence of publication of declarations and the lack of explicit sanctions for non-compliance.
According him, verification of assets would address the issue of under-declaration and over-declaration of assets. Adding that, “Publication brings in the public to validate the information provided by public officials. This is not new to this country. PNDC Law 280, the Public and Political Office Holders Law, required the Auditor General to publish the assets of public officials and their families within days after publication. Explicit sanctions simply mean that, our laws should be specific about the sanctions for noncompliance.”
He again said, “The aforementioned project has been Working on these issues in collaboration with the Audit Service, CHRAJ and STAAC. The GACC petitioned the two major political parties in this country, the NDC and the NPP, to consider amending the legislative regime underpinning asset declaration in order to include verification, publication and explicit sanctions. Fortunately, there is a bill in Parliament, which is the Conduct of Public Officers Bill that has provided us with an opportunity to address these issues.”
Mr. Bright Sowu, further disclosed that, GACC with other Civil Society Organizations have already been invited by the responsible Committee to discuss the Bill, and the Project did submit its comments on the asset declaration section of the Bill.
Currently, they are also in partnership with Parliamentary Network Africa to monitor the Bill and continue to make input.
Meanwhile, on the issue of low compliance to the declaration of assets and liabilities, he said the GACC has worked with the Ghana Audit Service to produce Educational video to promote asset declaration on TV and social media, Educational audio to promote asset declaration on the air waves, Educational animation (manga) to promote asset declaration in the newspaper and other literature, Joint programmes on radio to sensitize the public on asset declaration.
Delivering his message, the Team Lead for STAAC, Howard Tucker, intimated the Ghana Auditor Service (GAS) has, on many platforms, demonstrated commitment to implementing a more effective asset declaration regime.
He said, over the years, the GACC has worked with the Ghana Auditor Service (GAS), providing technical support to increase their ability to work towards Ghana Auditor Service’s aim on asset declaration.
“However, all these efforts will mean little if public officials do not submit themselves to the asset declaration programme. This is why this workshop is so critical to the success of this programme. Voluntary participation in an Asset Declaration programme is a massive decision that you have taken and, if I may say, a huge achievement and I applaud each and every one of you for your participation.” Mr. Howard stated.