Public office accountability: Onslaught on ill-gotten wealth - New bill to tackle corruption - President
President Nana Akufo-Addo has stated that the Attorney-General is leading an assignment to develop the Conduct of Public Officers Act to address extensively issues of financial portfolios of public officers before assuming office and links to family businesses, among others.
The intended Bill is also to address improper enrichment by public office holders, care of public property, professional practice property, investment share holdings and other assets.
That, the President said, would follow the examples of similar legislation in the USA, Kenya and the United Kingdom to check the conduct of public office holders.
It would also address self-dealing partiality in the performance of duty, and use of public or confidential information to further private interest, among others.
Addressing the 23rd annual conference of the Ghana Bar Association in Cape Coast yesterday, President Akufo-Addo said the Attorney-General would soon bring the bill for the consideration of Cabinet and subsequent enactment by Parliament upon the conclusion of consultations.
President Akufo-Addo gave an assurance that the fight to enhance standards and integrity in public life would continue under his government.
"We will enforce the law, no matter who is affected, because it is a necessary foundation for the successful fight against corruption, and for guaranteeing integrity in public life.
The law must truly be no respecter of persons,” he said.
He said it was evident that existing legislation on corruption relating to the conduct of public officers was inadequate to deal extensively with public office accountability.
He said the new Bill, which would provide a gamut of stringent administrative measures and sanctions to deal with violations of the law, ranging from a ban against holding public office for limited and indefinite periods to penal measures, was in the offing.
He said the Bill would, among others, seek to strengthen the role of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in the investigation of allegations of contravention of or non-compliance with the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, including conflict of interest, non-declaration of assets and illicit enrichment.
"The need to lay down a set of far-reaching and a more fit-for-purpose set of regulations for the conduct of public officers, which will give effect to the provisions of Chapter 24 of the Constitution on conduct of public officers, is in my view now self-evident," he said.
The President said the asset declaration regime for public officers was not an enough tool to fight corruption.
The conference is being held on the theme: "Ensuring high standards and integrity in public life: The role of the legal profession”.
The President said he came from a background where public service was considered a duty, and where privilege and good fortune demanded even greater commitment to the common good of all.
He said what was important as the country went to the polls next year was that the Ghanaian people had shown that they were conversant with peaceful democratic transitions and multi-party elections, and needed no lessons in the exercise of their democratic right.
President Akufo-Addo added that maintaining high standards and integrity in public life were key to maintaining the country's multi-party democracy.
He said the Ghanaian people were expectant that Parliament would rise as an effective machinery for accountability, ensuring and fully assuming its oversight responsibility over the Executive, while the Judiciary would inspire confidence in the citizenry and the courts seen as arbiters when dispute arose.
"A Ghanaian judge must be a reassuring presence and the epitome of fairness,” he stated.
President Akufo-Addo noted that ensuring high standards and integrity in public life had its own impact on the nation and its ability to attract substantial investments needed in the economy to help to grow it.
He said that would be achieved if the country could prove itself to be a haven of peace, security and stability, and where the principles of democratic accountability and respect for the rule of law and human rights were entrenched, adding that the legal profession had a catalytic role to play in guaranteeing the sustenance of those values.
Cost of corruption
The President reiterated that although corruption was not exclusively a Ghanaian phenomenon, the manifestations had become increasingly complex.
He said acts of corruption resulted in reputational damage to business and undermined public confidence in governments, often happening with enablers, including accountants, lawyers and real estate developers and added that if not controlled, it could stall the development of nations.
He said the debate on standards of integrity had centred on corruption and whether the government had done enough.
He said the government had taken the boldest steps after independence to restructure anti-corruption institutions and to effectively fight corruption.
"It is not my job to clear or convict any person accused of wrongdoing or engaging in acts of corruption.
That is the job of the courts and the law enforcement agencies.
My job is to act on allegations of corruption by referring the issue or issues to the proper investigative agencies for the relevant enquiry and action, including if necessary the suspension of the affected official pending the conclusion of the investigation.
Recounting some of the cases of allegations against some of his appointees, he said every single one of them had been investigated by the relevant agencies and many cleared by the authorised institutions of state and not by him.
President Akufo-Addo said the latest episode involving the former Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources was evident for all to see, saying he was not aware of any government that had subjected many of its appointees to enquiries.
He insisted that none of the accountability institutions of state had ever indicated any pressure from the Executive over their investigations.
"For my part, I will not set aside due process in the fight against corruption, no matter how a problem this incurs for me," he stressed.
He indicated that the Right to Information Act to foster transparency and accountability, the Witness Protection Act, and the Criminal Offences Act and other laws passed in the past few years all gave credence to the government's commitment to fight corruption.
The President said the digitalisation of many public sector processes was also ultimately to eliminate corruption and enhance transparency, and that the bold step to establish the Office of the Special Prosecutor was also a firm indicator of the government's commitment to fight corruption.
He said budgetary allocations to anti-corruption institutions, including the police, Audit Service, Judiciary, Attorney-General’s Office, among others, had also witnessed unprecedented increase in fighting corruption.