Some civil society activists in Tamale, said sections and provisions in the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities as contained in the current draft Conduct of Public Officers Bill will not strengthen the assets declaration regime in the country.
In raising issues with provisions in the Bill, they argued that such sections provisions would also not stand the anti-corruption test but rather aid public officers to conceal their assets.
The CSOs raised those issues at a regional dialogue on accountability, organised in Tamale by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) as part of the “Building Evidence for Increased Accountability in Ghana through a Multi-stakeholder Accountability Initiative.”
The initiative is being sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation.
The regional dialogue on accountability was to offer the GACC, the opportunity to present the responses of the three arms of government on governance issues, draft Conduct of Public Officers Bill, especially the provisions on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities, as well as new governance issues.
The project sought to enhance transparency and accountability in governance, monitor the implementation of assigned actions to key public institutions from the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan, and engage the three arms of government on anti-corruption and governance reforms.
The current draft Conduct of Public Officers Bill, especially the provisions on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities, provided for the publication of names of public officers, who declared their assets and those who defaulted but stated that the declared information be kept confidential.
The bill recommended sanctions for failure to declare assets, stating that “Failure to submit declaration or clarification attracts 100 – 250 penalty units, or six months to two years imprisonment, or both” adding “Failure of a public officer to keep declaration confidential attracts 250 – 500 penalty units, or two years to five years imprisonment, or both.”
The CSOs demanded that the punishment for failure to declare assets should be more punitive than the punishment for the public officer, who did not keep the assets declared confidential.
Mrs Yahaya Samiratu, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Centre for Active Learning and Integrated Development, said politicians were becoming players and referees in their own matches, adding that it was highly necessary to publish the details of assets declared to help check corruption on the parts of public officers.
She said anyone, who did not want his or her assets declared to be published, should not accept to be in public office.
Mr Masud Aziz Rauf, Executive Director of RUWA Ghana, emphasized the need to implement the recommendations of the Review of the 1992 Constitution, which was undertaken during President John Mills’ era, saying this would go a long way to create strong institutions to curtail the issue of corruption in the country.
Mr Samuel Harrison-Cudjoe, Research and Policy Officer, GACC, expressed the need for CSOs and the citizenry to keep eyes on developments regarding the fight against corruption in the country to ensure that the right things were done.