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24.03.2006 Politics

Weak Assets Declaration Regime needs Parliament's action - CDD

By GNA

Accra, March 24, GNA - The Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), in assessment of governance in Ghana in 2005, has described the current Public Office Holders Assets Declaration regime as weak, and called on Parliament to initiate action to improve it.

Prof. Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of the Centre, commenting on the parliamentary vetting of the President's nominees for ministerial office, flawed the present Public Assets Declaration regime describing it as "weak, too weak to be useful." Prof. Gyimah-Boadi was answering questions at a press briefing on the report of the Centre's assessment of governance in Ghana last year, published in the Centre's quarterly, Democracy Watch. He suggested that Ghanaians who were not happy with how assets declaration was handled during the vetting, or the Auditor General could have gone to court to seek legal clarification to areas of inadequacy in the Assets Declaration Bill.

Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said some features of a bad Assets Declaration Bill were difficulty to accessibility of the assets, information was nearly impossible to verify, very long coverage period, too many exemptions, and when there were well-placed assets in the names of relatives and even children. The report said the present public office holders' regime lacked credibility because it was inaccessible and non-verifiable. It said progress in the area of 'good governance under the current political administration, in 2005, compared to previous years was rather modest.

"Events in the year revealed continuing governance gaps and the deficits and exposed a surfeit of political will to tackle the tough governance issues and to consolidate some of the past gains, especially in institutional means." It stated for instance, that the Executive continued to drag its feet on urgent legislative reforms, citing the postponement of the legislative action on the Whistleblowers Bill that was postponed to 2006; the Freedom of Information Bill also did not make it onto the legislative calendar in 2005 and apparently remained on the Executive Desk. The Public Procurement Act, the Financial Management Act, and the Audit Service Act, considered by the Government as important tools to improve public sector accountability and fighting corruption, but they did not receive the regulatory follow-up to make them fully operational and effective.

The Report noted the absence of substantive Executive Director, of the Serious Fraud Office several years now, and the resource constraints of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice, and the Auditor General Department. It observed that the office of Accountability did not adequately inform the public of its exact mandate, capacity to deliver on its mandate, and the actual accomplishment to date, despite its location in the presidency and its intention to promote integrity and probity among government officials. The Report expressed concern about the huge potential for the privilege of unorthodox means as eavesdropping and phone tapping as legitimate part of national intelligence to be abused for partisan and political gain.

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