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21.05.2019 Opinion

Would the Law Catch up With The 'Greedy Necks'?

By Offin Aamaniampong

Ghana could soon be known globally as a nation of clowns. We've bulldogs trained as pets, a move that defeats the purpose and the character trait of the wild beast. They can neither bark nor bite while thieves invade our homes frequently.

Wondering when the country would be ushered into this Hall of Shame?

Check out the beams on your ceilings, the current trajectory regarding its Assets Declaration exercise gives much concern.

We shout "Julor" Julor" after the tenure of every government. But we fail to catch the supposed thief or thieves.

This explains why we've a lot of loudmouth Apostles and pocket lawyers galavanting our streets amid chest beating.

Of course, until proven guilty of a crime or any wrongdoing one cannot simply shout Julor Julor and expect the courts to hang the fellow deemed corrupt.

The Constitution
The 1992 Constitution has two laws that regulate Assests Declaration-- Article 286 (1) 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.

Ironically the constitution 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).

And this is why we appear to be losing the fight against corruption big time. From 1993 up to 2017 this ritual has been going on every four years but absolutely to no avail.

"I have no doubt that the nation has suffered more from undue secrecy than from undue disclosure. The government takes good care of itself," Daniel. Schorr .

The War Words
What do you make of the banter between former president Jerry Rawlings and Felix Ofosu Kwakye-- a former deputy minister of information?

It seemed ridiculous isn't it?
But it's also worrying, considering the degree of putrid in the system.What makes it even more troubling or worse, is the fact that public office holders that are strongly believed to have wilfully caused financial loss to the state are more likely to walk away free. The rule favours the ruler and not the ruled or the people.

Early on, I cited Article 286 and how it enjoins public office holders to summit their documents to the Auditor-General.

Well, Act 550 on the other hand, provides the framework and guidelines for asset declaration in Ghana as a tool to combat corruption among public office holders.

Are we seriously combating corruption?
It's been 24 years since we began this exercise. The question: is

What have we achieved?
The nation has been denied with one key thing -- transparency. There's no transparency, no accountability and probity is equally lost in the big game.

Obviously, when the batons change hands politics wears its proverbial short memory garb. The paradox is the government in power forgets what they preached from the rooftops while in opposition.

The PNDC Law 280 makes declarations transparent as the Auditor-General was required to publish the assets declared by public officers within 14 days of submission. While Act 550 appears like a toothless bulldog, the ultimate effect of PNDC law 280 was generally as flawed because the assets declared were no confirmed by the Auditor-General, thereby giving some senior public office holders a leeway.

The palpable Fear
I'm afraid, if we don't change the existing assets declaration regime there'd come a time that some public office holders would declare their landed properties as kiosks, but at the end of their term in office they'd be living in mansions, driving massarettis and basking in jacuuzis..

Is it a crime to buy mansions?
No, it isn't a crime. However, it begs the question: Come to think of say a minister who had no landed property, and hitherto take tro-tro to work, would be seen tomorrow owning 10 petrol/gas stations, 10 V8's, five mansions in affluent areas such as East Legon, North Ridge or Labone etc.

This is what tips the scale to the jokers kingdom, where the constitution provides all the good laws, yet they completely lack enforcement.

We shout every four years: 'declare your assets'.

But what exactly do they declare?
Who knows what they declare?
How did they acquire these assets during the period in office? The public is not privy to this kind of information.

Again, the question:
Are we really interested in fighting corruption?
Or we just love to make noise and repeat the noise-making every four years.

Therefore, when you hear
Fmr. President Rawlings crying like a chief mourner don't begrudge him.Maybe he's his foot on something. Or maybe there's no smoking gun.

Mr. Rawlings hashed out to a former Deputy Information Minister Felix Ofosu Kwakye, describing him as a ‘little greedy

But first it was the former deputy minister who appeared on a radio station to react to the charge by Mr. Rawlings that he had purchased two mansions in Accra for $3 million, one of which he gave to his wife.

"You cannot say you're an elderly person and yet when you're informed that someone has done wrong, you won't even investigate the matter thoroughly before commenting openly accusing the person wrongly just like that.."

He kind of even ridiculed the Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu:

"I am asking that didn't Martin Amidu and his team know the person who bought that mansion before they put my name down?"

The frm. President didn't let his opponent's punch land on his jaw, he responded on social media platform Twitter.

Mr. Rawlings told Ofosu Kwakye, whom he described as a ‘greedy neck’ and ‘a little person’, that his denial about the two mansions is not surprising “since after all more important people have denied bigger crimes and will continue to do same in future.”

He said little persons like him “are entitled to stand their ground flamboyant and aggressive talk. The law, nonetheless, will hopefully catch up with their greedy necks.”

According Mr. Ofosu Kwakye the former President should have called him for a discussion over the subject when he stumbled upon the information about the mansion purchased instead of drawing conclusion.

“…You cannot say you are an elderly person and yet when you are informed that someone has done something wrong, you won’t even investigate the matter thoroughly before commenting openly, accusing the person wrongly just like that….”

He fired again that “because he is an elderly person whose words are taken as the gospel truth, that is the reason why he should have been mindful of his utterances in order not to malign someone on the basis of allegation without proof and that is why Ghanaians ought to be disappointed,” he said.

According to Mr. Rawlings, a deputy minister who served in the erstwhile Mahama-led NDC administration, bought two mansions worth $3 million; each building cost $1.5 million from the property owner in Accra after the NDC lost the 2016 general elections.

The History
Once a upon time during one of the commemorations of the June 4 uprising, President. Rawlings accused Ofosu Kwakye of buying two mansions after the NDC lost power in 2016, a charge which has bothered him so much.

Mr. Rawlings continued: “The property owner was very sad and he was very angry. Why do you think he was angry? Because he has sweated to build these houses to sell for profit and instead of the money to come into his account or being given a cheque, he was being given physical cash!”

“What that meant was that he had to spend the whole night counting the $1.5 million each times two, the $3 million. Do you get me?” he asked humorously.

Then came Mr. Kwakye, “What he did (the allegations Rawlings put out) should have rather come from a young man so that he (Rawlings) can chastise and correct that person for drawing hasty conclusion based on an allegation and not the other way around … We must take note that we are doing politics and so we must be mindful of what we say; it does not mean that due to politics, we must fabricate stories against others because you are an elderly person.”

“Therefore, should someone even snitch on somebody, you have to investigate the matter before you comment on it. Like I earlier indicated, the allegation has no basis; it is not true,” he added.

On the SP
And this is what he said about the Special Prosecutor. "First of all, they have alleged that I have bought a mansion; even if I have bought a mansion, I have flouted no law because there is no law that stops anybody from buying a mansion but as I have said, I have not bought any mansion but they have my name penned down as having bought a mansion….”

“I am asking that didn’t Martin Amidu and his team know the person who bought that mansion before they put my name down? If they don’t have a confirmation from the person who made the allegation, why have they added my name to the list? So clearly, this is a huge joke which must be thrown out because it does not make sense; it is baseless and pure lies,” he added.

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