Political leaders must declare assets

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

A Deputy Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Richard Quayson, has advised Ghanaians to impress upon political leaders to declare their assets as required by the 1992 Constitution.

Mr Quayson, the Deputy Commissioner in charge of Anti-corruption and Public Education, said the declaration of assets could help minimise corruption.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, he said although the constitutional provisions on assets declaration might appear ineffective, they were sufficient to curb corruption provided Ghanaians took an interest in making demands on political leaders to abide by them.

Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution enjoins the President, the Vice-President, the secretary to the Cabinet, the Speaker and all Members of Parliament, ministers of state and deputies "to, within three months after the coming into force of this Constitution or before taking office, as the case may be, submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly".

Other public officials enjoined are the Chief Justice and all justices of the superior courts and commissioners of CHRAJ, ambassadors, heads of ministries and public corporations in which the state has a controlling interest.

The Public Office Holder (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification Act), 1998 (Act 550) details assets to be declared.

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However, the practice so far has been that an asset declaration is lodged at the Auditor-General's Department without verification.

In the report of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), Ghanaians asked for the declaration of assets to be published to promote transparency and offer the public an opportunity to attest to the veracity of the assets declared. 

But Mr Quayson said until any changes were made, what existed had to be applied.

He said public perception that public officials had to declare their assets three or six months after taking office was wrong.

"The three months mentioned in the 1992 Constitution relates to the time prior to the coming into force of the document. The Constitution has now been in operation for more than two decades," he said.

"They are to declare before taking office and reasonable time has elapsed for the current officials to obey the law," he added.

Also, public officials were to declare their assets at the end of every four years or at the end of their tenure.

Mr Quayson said apathy on the part of the public on the matter had resulted in the law being flouted, while CHRAJ was limited because although it was charged to investigate contraventions of the provision, it could not proceed on its own unless Ghanaians complained to it.

"With previous rulings by the Supreme Court in the case of Dr Richard Anane, CHRAJ cannot proceed in any of these matters without a complainant with a complaint," he said.

The complainant did not need to adduce any evidence; just complaining that someone had not declared his or her assets would set off the investigations, he said.

An asset declaration regime is seen as a tool to prevent public officers from using their offices to amass wealth.

The CRC report recommended that within 14 days of the receipt of a declaration submitted to CHRAJ, the commission should, within six months of receiving, verify the contents.

It also recommended 30 days after taking office as the period within which public officials should declare their assets and a final declaration within 30 days after exiting office.

Story: Caroline Boateng