The Danquah Institute has added its voice to calls for the policy on declaration of assets of public officials to be strengthened. Asset declaration is a measure whereby public
officials (including members of the judiciary and the legislature) are required to periodically declare their personal income and wealth for scrutiny by a state authority.
The policy think tank is calling for amendments to the law which will require all those public officials captured under the law and their spouses and dependent children to file assets disclosure report annually, instead of at the beginning of a new governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s four-year term and at the end of it Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and for those records to be accessible to the public and public agencies for scrutiny and monitoring purposes.
This annual report should disclose the sources and amount of all income earned by the individual concerned, including from stocks, cash savings, bonds and other instruments, property, any other investments or large debts, and gifts given to public officials beyond a certain minimum value, such as fifty Ghana Cedis per any given month.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“These required annual disclosures must include the nature, source, and amount of income, gifts and reimbursements, assets and liabilities, and transactions in real property and securities. Those state officials must make similar disclosures regarding the finances of their spouses and dependent children,Ã¢â‚¬Â according to the InstituteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head of research.
The Danquah Institute further proposes that this annual report, rather than being under the seemingly exclusive control of the Auditor-General, can then be given to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), which will study it and take appropriate action where necessary. It believes CHRAJ is in a more independent position to do the regular monitoring of assets and income of covered public servants.
A prime value of declarations is also to identify actual and potential conflicts of interest. This is an area where CHRAJ is already better mandated to make findings on.
DI argues that making it compulsory for public holders to submit an annual report on their wealth would go a longer way in minimising the negative influence of corruption on our development efforts as a nation.
The principal goal of income and asset disclosure systems is to combat corruption. Yet, it is difficult to cite examples in Ghana of how information disclosed in asset declarations has led to the exposure of unjust enrichment. This failure undermines the weakness in the current system, DI argues.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We believe full comprehensive annual disclosure is necessary to combat corruption and foster public confidence in government. It will also send a clearer message to foreign investors about GhanaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commitment to tackling international corruption,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Nana Attobrah, Head of Research for the policy think tank.
DI laments that although Ghana was a signatory to the Rabat Declaration of the 3rd Pan-African Conference of Ministers of Civil Service, Rabat, Morocco (Dec. 15, 1998), a lot more could have been done in the decade after Rabat to bring greater transparency in how the public system operates in Ghana.
But, by publishing annual reports on assets and income of covered public officials, it will also show a greater commitment by Ghana to implementing the recommendations set out in the Lima Declaration Against Corruption, 1997, DI adds.
While welcoming the ongoing legislative efforts to pass a Freedom of Information Bill, the Institute believes that there is a lot more that must be done in the fight against corruption.
Paragraph 30 of the Lima document states, inter alia, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Countries should improve the effectiveness of their laws dealing with corruption to the maximum extent possible consistent with their constitutions and international human rights norms including:
- abolishing any requirement to prove that an official who received an illegal gift actually gave favours in return;
- providing a system for the declaration of assets by persons holding public positions of trust (and their families), and placing on them the obligation to justify increases out of line with legitimate sources of income;
- introducing the periodic or random monitoring of the assets and lifestyles of significant decision-makers in the public sector (and their families and associates), where appropriate by an independent agency;
- laws which effectively empower the freezing, seizure and confiscation of the illicitly acquired wealth of officials found guilty of corruption, wherever it may be and by whomsoever it may be held;
- providing appropriate protection for witnesses (and their families) and protecting whistle-blowers;
- providing a system for the recording of gifts received by officials; ensuring that officials at all levels cannot hide behind immunities but are fully subject to corruption laws; and
- debarring convicted criminals from standing for political office and appointment to positions of public trust.
Article 286(1) of the 1992 Constitution states that:
(1) A person who holds a public office mentioned in clause (5) of this article shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by, him whether directly or indirectly?, and
- Clause 5 of the article provides that Ã¢â‚¬Å“The public offices to which the provisions of this article apply are those of ; the President; the Vice-President; the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers and a Member of Parliament; Minister of State or Deputy Minister; Chief Justice, Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and his Deputies and all judicial officers; Ambassador or High Commissioner; Secretary to the Cabinet; Head of Ministry or government department or equivalent office in the Civil Service; Chairman, managing director, general manager and departmental head of a public corporation or company in which the State has a controlling interest and such officers in the public service and any other public institution as Parliament may prescribe.Ã¢â‚¬Â