Public Officers Bill Must Address Lapses And Check Office Abusers – CSOs

Social Dialogue Bill
Social Dialogue Bill

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other relevant stakeholders have raised concerns about lapses in the current asset declaration regime as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.

They want the Conduct of Public Officers Bill to address the lapses to check public office abusers.

Contributing to a stakeholder dialogue organised by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) in Kumasi, the stakeholders called for the speedy passage of the Bill to strengthen the asset declaration laws for effective monitoring of public office holders.

The dialogue was part of the “Building Evidence for Increased Accountability in Ghana through a Multi-stakeholder Initiative,” being implemented by the GACC with funding from the Hewlett Foundation.

The two-year project sought to enhance transparency and accountability in governance by retrieving misappropriated public funds and strengthening public financial systems.

Another goal of the project was to monitor the implementation of assigned actions to key public institutions from the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan to reduce corruption and enhance transparency and accountability in governance.

The dialogue was to enable GACC to provide response to citizens on issues raised during the CSOs dialogue in 2021 and collate views on the Conduct of Public Officers Bill, particularly the declaration of assets and liabilities.

Madam Faustina Djabatey, Communication Officer of GACC, who led the discussions, said the previous dialogue with CSOs identified some weaknesses in the Declaration of Assets and Disqualification Act, 1998 (Act 550).

She said the Act was not effective enough as an anti-corruption tool for combating corruption in Ghana, and that the law was silent on sanctions, monitoring, publication, and verification of assets.

She highlighted the sanctions that the law prescribed for false declaration of assets as well as refusal to provide clarification which many of the participants felt were not punitive enough.

False declaration of assets, she said, attracted between 100-250 penalty units, or six months to two years imprisonment, or both.

This, the participants said, was too lenient and proposed the elimination of the penalty units and increase the number of years to serve as deterrent for other public office holders.

They also suggested that refusal to declare assets by public officers within three months after assuming office must attract severe sanctions.

Mrs. Beauty Emefa Narteh, Executive Secretary of GACC, said it was important to engage the stakeholders on the responses on issues raised in the previous dialogue, having met with key institutions mandated to address the issues, including parliament and the presidency.

She said the Conduct of Public Officers Bill was one of the oldest Bills that was yet to be passed and called on all stakeholders to show keen interest in the passage of the Bill into law to help fight corruption in public offices.

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