All government appointees will declare their assets in my tenure – Mahama

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Although Ghana’s asset declaration laws do not allow assets of Article 71 holders to be published, the National Democratic Congress flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama, has indicated that it will be mandatory for his appointees in his next government to publish their assets.

“It will be a requirement for all who serve in my government to publish their asset declarations and have it audited by the Auditor-General,” he announced at the official outdooring of his running mate, Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang.

Former President Mahama on July 6 announced his former Education Minister as his Vice-Presidential candidate for December 7 polls. She became the eight-woman since 1992 contest as running mate but the first woman to be selected by a major party for the role.

Monday’s event was to officially unveil her ahead of the elections.

With anti-corruption topical in the country’s elections, the former President said the decision is part of an anti-graft policy to be christened ‘Operation Sting’ which he said” will be a ruthless system that fights all corrupt political appointees and public sector workers.

What is asset declaration 

Generally, asset declaration is also meant to prevent illicit enrichment of public office holders, which as indicated by the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), involves the significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.

In Ghana, two main laws regulate asset declaration — Article 286 (1) of the 1992 Constitution and Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550).

Article 286 (1) of the Constitution states that public office holders, including the President, the Vice-President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, as well ministers and deputy ministers of state, ambassadors, the Chief Justice and managers of public institutions in which the state has interest, shall submit to the Auditor-General written declarations of all property or assets owned or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly.

The Constitution, however, forbids public disclosure of the assets declared by the public officers concerned unless demanded as evidence by a court of competent jurisdiction, a commission of inquiry appointed under Article 278 or before an investigator appointed by the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

Apart from the issue of prevention of conflict of interest and the need to protect the public purse from being looted by public officials, in my opinion, the concern about asset declaration is about ensuring public accountability and transparency.

Across the world, there are different forms of asset declaration — those in which officeholders make full public disclosure of their assets, those in which assets disclosed by public office holders are verified and those in which the assets declared are kept away from public scrutiny. Ghana falls into this latter category.

The former President took a shot at the Akufo-Addo administration’s large size, which he said he would cut down drastically and used the paycheques saved from that to reward assembly members, who are currently unpaid.

“The elephant seize of government consisting of 125 ministers or more we have been burdened with this over these four years will be reduced drastically and the savings made from the emoluments of these number of ministers and privileges that they enjoy will be channeled towards rewarding assembly members to perform the function of collecting accurate birth and deaths in their various electoral areas.

“This will give better meaning that will satisfy our Supreme Court about the value of our birth certificates,” he said of the Supreme Court ruling that outlawed birth certificates as a form of identification.

The NDC candidate also used the opportunity to put across policy intentions including what he describes as an aggressive job and entrepreneurial programme to deliver a minimum of 250,000 jobs annually.

“We will put Ghanaians back to work to earn a decent living,” he said.

[The Ghana Report]

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Edward Ladzekpo

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