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01.06.2004 General News

Go Public With Declared Assets of Public Officials

By Chronicle

The Director for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Paul Asomani, yesterday called for a mechanism to be put in place that would enable the declared assets of public officials be accessed by the public.

Speaking during a discussion at the opening ceremony of a capacity building training seminar on anti-corruption and good governance in Accra, Mr. Asomani suggested that rules be made to enable the press and the public access documents covering the declared assets of public officials.

Although Mr. Asomani further told journalists covering the seminar that the constitution currently demanded that public officials (directors) file documents covering their assets with the Controller and Accountant Generals' Department, there was the need for such documents to be made public.

"As it stands now such documents can only be accessed based on a written request from the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) or a probing committee when an allegation of corruption has been leveled against a public official or when that public official is being probed for alleged corruption."

Mr. Asomani said the government was deeply involved in instituting measures that would tackle corruption in the country.

Although there was no special anti-corruption commission in place, he said other institutions like the CHRAJ were deeply involved in the fight against corruption.

Even though, participants and the organizers of the seminar, US-based Les Aspin Centre for Government, said the suggestion was a step in the right direction to help the public monitor public officials, they thought that the declaration of assets should be a requirement for all those in public service and not directors of ministries and public corporations alone.

Fr. Tim O'Brien, Director of The Les Aspin Centre, Washington DC, told The Chronicle that an assets declaration that "does not go public does not go far enough."

"I think there should be a certain threshold of responsibility; I am not familiar with your system but anyone who is making decision and handling public assets, particularly in policy area, should be required to disclose their incomes and their network.

It must be from the top down." Fr. O'Brien said.

"If it is available within the government," he continued, "it should be made available to the public and the media, as the watchdog, and civil society groups should scrutinise it."

According to Fr. O'Brien, the public disclosure of assets could tell who would be more tempted to take bribes or enrich themselves or their families. He added that the scrutiny of public officials was the assurance of confidence in democracy.

The Coordinator of The Les Aspin Africa Programmes, Dr. Cephas Lerewonu, also agreed that the declaration of assets should not be restricted to certain public officials only but all, including messengers.

The seminar was organized for civil society leaders from Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

According to Dr. Lerewonu, since the first training in 1998, about 27 participants from Ghana, including the current Finance Minster, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, had benefited.

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