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10.07.2008 Politics

Harunna calls for assets declaration by public officials… As a tool to fight corruption

By Linda Akrasi Kotey - Ghanaian Chronicle
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The MP for Tamale South, Harunna Iddrisu, is calling for a system of declaration of assets by persons holding public positions of trust, and placing on them the obligation to justify increases which are out of line with their legitimate sources of income.

He said Ghana's asset declaration regime as it exists today, is impossible to determine whether a Public officer possesses or has acquired disproportionate assets.

The MP said this in parliament yesterday, when he made a statement on the critical need for a review of Ghana's asset declaration regime, as a mechanism to combat corruption.

He stated that a new mechanism should be developed to monitor such declarations to compare the income of a person against his declared assets, to ensure that the declarations are indeed correct. “To make our asset declaration meaningful and to ensure probity in public life, verification should be easy and open,” he said.

The outspoken Legislator mentioned that “it is impossible to know when a swimming fish is drinking water, so it is impossible to find out when a Public officer is taking undue advantage of public resources.”

He emphasized that laws which effectively empower the freezing, seizure and confiscation of the illicitly acquired wealth of officials if found guilty of corruption, wherever it may be and by whomever it may be held are necessary to end corruption.

Hon.Haruna made it clear that the current stance against political corruption was not effective, as such he does not believe that mere declarations are enough, as the declaration of assets is not an end in itself.

He cited other policies to fortify his stance, such as the Lima Declaration of 1997 that was deemed as an “effective tool to combat corruption.” Also, clause 5 of Article 286 and section 3 and the first schedule of Act 550 shows that all the top officials are held accountable, including the President, vice President, members of Parliament and the Justices of the Supreme Court.

The 1992 Republican Constitution requires a person who holds a public office 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.

Contributing to the statement, the MP for Upper West Akyem, Sallas Mensah, said the Auditor General (AG) cannot discharge its duties effectively because the Legislative Instrument is still at the Attorney General's Department.

He said the AG should not just keep documents of assets declaration by Public officers but he should follow them up to ascertain whether they are the true owners of the property.”Visit that property and make sure the official is the true owner,” he stressed.

The MP for Tamale Central, Inusah Fuseini, on his part said concerns have been raised over the years on the show of wealth by Public officials in the full glare of the public at various functions.

He added that parliament in its wisdom should extend it wings to include the declaration of Public officials' spouses and children, because the new trick is that the officials acquire properties in the names of their spouses and children.

“The reality is that because they are exempted, they have the convenience to keep those properties safe.”

MP for Ayirebi Ofoase, Oppon Kusi, said as a country we should not over rely on asset declaration as a major tool for fighting corruption, because corruption can take various forms.

He stated that we should look for more innovative ways to fight the menace, especially in public officials.

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