Publishing assets can’t expose you to robbers; lawyer tells MPs

The Spokesperson of the Ghana Bar Association, Mr. Tony Forson, says he does not buy arguments by MPs that publishing their assets may expose them to armed robbers.

He said the publication of declared assets should rather portray public office holders as honest people who will not fleece the state for personal gain.

He was discussing campaigns by the Ghana Integrity Initiative Consortium for declared assets of public office holders to be published on Joy FM and MultiTV’s news analysis programme, Newsfile, Saturday.

Under the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550), public officers are required to submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all properties or assets owned by them and all liabilities owed by them directly or indirectly prior to coming into office.

The law does not even empower the Auditor-General to open the envelope and assess the properties submitted by the public officers.

This, the GII Consortium argues, makes nonsense of the Constitutional provisions requiring citizens to hold public officers accountable. How can you determine whether or not a public officer is abusing his/her office and amassing wealth when you do not know what assets the person owned prior to coming into office, the group asked.

It said processes underway in Parliament to review the law on asset declaration must include a provision requiring all assets declared to be published.

But Parliamentarians are against the request.
Member of Parliament for Tamale Central and Minister for Roads, Inusah Fuseini, said the concerns of MPs must not be dismissed.

He said publishing the assets of public office holders may expose them to armed robbers and other criminals.

But Mr. Forson disagreed.
He said if public officers are to deal with the widespread perception that they are corrupt, then they must embrace the request of the GII and publish their assets.

“The way people spew venom at public officers, it even makes people shy away from entering politics or taking up public office…it takes a hard nut to decide to go to parliament or when he is appointed a minister, to accept it because there seems to be a certain presumption that once you are appointed a minister, you become corrupt,” he stated.

Publishing assets declared, the legal practitioner argued, will serve to enhance the integrity of public office holders and encourage “very good people,” to take up appointment in public office.

Editor-In-Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako said the MPs were simply giving excuses not to do what is right.

He said the arguments that publishing the assets may expose MPs and public officers are untenable.

Mr. Kweku Baako said he was surprised that the people’s representatives did not appear to appreciate the sentiments of the citizens about the need for greater transparency and accountability in the conduct of national business.


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