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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

Akufo-Addo’s political appointees must declare their assets now - Part 2

President Nana Akufo-Addo President Nana Akufo-Addo

By Francis Kwarteng

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest” (Mark Twain).

SOME CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS

Assets and liabilities declaration is a patriotic duty.

The President (has already declared his assets according to media reports), the Vice-President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ministers and Deputy Ministers of State, Ambassadors, the Chief Justice, and Managers of Public Institutions must all declare their assets and liabilities in accordance with constitutional stipulations.

All this is to say those who are confirmed by the Vetting Committee must declare their assets and liabilities according to constitutional prescriptions.

The Auditor General’s Department must ensure these prescriptions are strictly adhered to for these appointees to assume their official responsibilities (see Article 281(1) of the Constitution (1992); Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998(Act 550)).

It means the Auditor General’s Department should be properly and fully equipped to carry out its mandate in line with constitutional requirements. Computers, stationery, forensic accountants, mathematicians, lawyers, economists, programmers, operations researchers/management scientists, political scientists, psychologists, auditors, information technology and human resource specialists, financial planners, statisticians, investigators, actuaries, financial managements specialists, etc., should be available to the Department.

Simply put, the Auditor General’s Department should have the necessary logistics and competent men and women for the difficult job at hand.

While carrying out its constitutional mandates, the Department must always stand its ground when it knows it is acting within the remit of the law.

It should stay far away from partisan politics and strive for neutrality and equity at all times.

That is to say, the Auditor General’s Department must not allow itself to be compromised by politicians, lack of logistics, party politics and greed.

We believe also that the Auditor General’s Department should be publishing asset-and-liability declaration documents and making them accessible to the public.

The constitution should therefore be revised to make room for full public disclosures of these documents. This is just one effective way it can avoid the scandalous tag of institutional corruption, the bane of state institutions and of our development as a whole.

Yet it still appears the same Auditor General’s Department has not been enforcing its constitutional mandate. Why Akufo-Addo should be allowed to declare his assets weeks after his inauguration is morally unacceptable, is a wrong move, is a bad-setting precedent.

This delay could have offered him ample room to rather deceive the public by declaring a partial disclosure of assets. The constitution is however unambiguously clear that assets and liabilities declaration is done by public officeholders prior to their formal assumptions of office—not otherwise.

Finally, there should be serious considerations for constitutional reforms where these assets and liabilities disclosures are carried on an annual basis for as long as the terms of those public officeholders who are required under the constitution to declare their assets last.

Generally, this requirement should be sweeping enough to cover the finances, assets and liabilities of children and spouses of those public officeholders who are required under the constitution to declare their assets (and liabilities).

The Auditor General’s Department and Ghanaians at large should push for this path if this is not already the case.

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH IS FINALLY HERE

Now that Akufo-Addo has declared his assets, the time has come for his political appointees and others to replicate his example. In fact he has given his ministers two weeks to declare their assets.

This is leading by example. The interesting aspect of it all is that this mandate is captured in the manifesto (2016) of the New Patriotic Party (NPP):

“The manifesto has also committed us to implementing an effective asset declaration regime. Its relevant elements are these: firstly, the president shall within 14 days forward a list of appointments made in pursuance of Chapter 24 of the constitution to the Auditor General.”

Here, we should note that he has a new law in mind which promises to make public disclosure of these declarations, perhaps the most important component of the asset-declaration philosophy:

“Chapter 24 covers all of us. The Attorney General shall forward to parliament a law requiring the Auditor General to publish periodically the list of all persons appointed under chapter 24 of the constitution who have declared or defaulted.

“The new law shall provide for public disclosure of assets declaration. These and other measures indicate the importance our party attaches to the fight against corruption…”

Hopefully this will do away with what the Daily Graphic describes as:

“The constitution, however, forbids public disclosure of the assets declared by the public officers concerned unless demanded as evidence by a court of competent jurisdiction…”

This is all good except that politicians have always found ways to circumvent these progressive laws and steal, rape the public purse to enrich themselves, their cronies and family members, as though there is no tomorrow. But we shall be watching to see how things unfold as the new administration’s work takes shape. Let us therefore give Akufo-Addo and his new administration the benefit of the doubt.

Four or eight years, they say, is just around the corner.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The reason we are asking for broad constitutional amendments to existing laws on asset declaration is so that the Auditor General’s Department, among other things, can be put in a situation free from any unnecessary legal logjams, where it is also possible for it to effectively ensure assets are not registered in the names of public officeholders’ spouses and children—which we broadly define here as “loved ones.”

Public officeholders should not be allowed to register assets in the names of their loved ones for any other reason(s) what the law says. This is the proper thing to do. But where do we draw the line when such assets are legally willed to loved ones? What exactly do we do in this special case?

Granted, this broad constitutional empowerment of the Auditor General’s Department we are calling for is sure to give the latter enough room for efficient operational maneuverability in special cases where, for instance, public officeholders somehow succeed in hiding assets excluding liabilities in the names of extended family members and cronies, thereby necessitating grounds for going after these violators—courtesy of and in conjunction with the Commission Human Rights and Administration Justice (CHRAJ).

On the other hand if our calls for constitutional amendment make sense and that these calls are met, in addition to assets and liabilities declaration information being made public, there is a greater chance that the oversight responsibilities of the Auditor General’s Department and CHRAC will not suffer unnecessary and intrusive contingencies.

That is, if these declaration documents are made accessible to the public the chance is that patriotic members of the public who sight inconsistencies in these public documents, might come forward with vital information which the Auditor General’s Department and CHRAJ and the Ghanaian society at large may not be privy to, to implicate potential violators eventually leading to their prosecution and imprisonment if found guilty of the charge of perjury and deceiving public officials, say.

All these call for immediate passage of the Freedom to Information Bill (FOIB), a witness protection program for whistleblowers, and neutrality of the Auditor General’s Department!

But what if a case bordering on conflict of interest potentially arises where, for instance, a public officeholder who also happens to be a relation of the Auditor General or, of any of the powerful officials within the highest echelons of the Auditor General’s Department, intends to hide some assets with full underhanded support of any blood-related official(s) from the Auditor General’s Department?

CONCLUDING REMARKS: EATING “KENKEY AND PEPPER” HAS NOW BECOME A MODEL DETERMINANT OF MORAL CHARACTER

"I don't believe that Nana Akufo-Addo as president will retire and tell Ghanaians to give him a house. I've been with him and I know him very well, he has a lovely house and morally, I know him and he will stay there, I've eaten kenkey and pepper with him [and so I know him very well]. I can vouch for his integrity, he won't do it” (Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah).

Was Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah being metaphorically sarcastic or literally frank? We do not yet know if that was actually the case when he first made those outrageous statements. In any case was there not fish or meat to accompany this “kenkey and pepper”? We will like to know!

However, eating “kenkey and pepper” with another begs the question whether that alone can put a person in a privileged position to vouch for another’s integrity, another’s morality or ethos. Hardly so, since different people of all classes, ethnicity, political persuasions, and cultural backgrounds eat “kenkey and pepper”!

In other words thieves, political criminals, saints and sinners, imams and pastors, armed robbers and murderers, scientists and the unlettered, women and men, young and old, short and tall—all eat “kenkey and pepper.”

So, what was he saying in effect, if we should ask again for the sake of further clarity?

Again, we cannot say without any element of authority whether merely eating “kenkey and pepper” could qualify as a symbol of humility, incorruptibility, integrity, morality, and the like. What we do know for a fact is that Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah is a greasy political opportunist.

He may have made those captivating headlines just to curry favor with Akufo-Addo in the likelihood that the latter considers him for political appointment. Not too long ago, the same Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah would these outrageous remarks to striking Ghanaian workers:

“Every Tom, Dick and Harry gets up and is calling for a strike. If you don’t want the job Ghana is not a police state, take your passport and get out of this country…If you can’t sacrifice like what some of us have don’t then get out. If the kitchen is too hot for you, get out.”

Absent further explanation from him, Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah, one would certainly never know if the “hotness” of the kitchen he referred to was any hotter than the pepper that accompanied the kenkey he supposedly ate with Akufo-Addo!

Certainly one does not become less greedy by virtue of eating “kenkey and pepper” if one were indeed already greedy, for, if it were so, our law courts and constitutional would be prescribing “kenkey and pepper” to curb institutional or public corruption.

On the other hand compared to all the other major regions, then, Accra should be a relatively sinless place since it is the capital of the “kenkey and pepper”! Is that not the same place where the Flagstaff House or the Golden Jubilee House is located? What about parliament? And so forth?

Thus eating “kenkey and pepper” with Akufo-Addo does not mean a damn thing. It does not even mean he intimately knows Akufo-Addo.

Rather, his outrageous statements say a lot about his own opportunism and questionable intentions.

By indirectly attacking ex-President Mahama’s moral and political ethos, Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah might have thought actually doing so put him in a better position to worm his way into Akufo-Addo’s good books.

Eating “kenkey and pepper” has become an act of public service in all its moral and political manifestations.

In fact, prior to assuming office our politicians should be made to eat “kenkey and pepper” in addition to swearing on the Bible and the Quran!

And let us see what happens to those who are allergic to “kenkey and pepper.”

When all is said and done, kenkey is still what it is; and pepper is also what it still is. Kenkey and pepper are what they are. In fact kenkey and pepper will always be what they have always been.

Thus Brig. Gen. Nunoo-Mensah should put an immediate stop to patronizing Akufo-Addo while asking him, Akufo-Addo, and the Auditor General’s Department to do their jobs.

Indeed, no wonder Ghanaian politicians are just like Mark Twain “diapers.” Hear Twain:

“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason”

Only in Ghana!

We shall return…

Sources

Ghanaweb. “Auditor General Has No Receipt For Nana Addo To Declare His Assets.” January 24, 2017.

Ghanaweb. “Akufo-Addo Will Never Demand State Bungalow—Nunoo Mensah.” January 23, 2017.

Ghanaweb. “I’m Old But I Can Still Work For You—Nunoo-Mensah Tells Akufo-Addo.” January 6, 2017.

Ghanaweb. “Nunoo Mensah To Striking Workers: Get Out If…” October 20, 2013.

Ghanaweb. “Nana Addo Finally Declares His Assets.” January 26, 2017.

Seth J. Bokpe. “Asset Declaration in Ghana: Public Deception or Reality.” January 26, 2016.

Ghanaweb. “Boakye Agyarko Tried Bribing Us With GHS3000 Each—Mahama Ayariga.” January 27, 2017.

Ghanaweb. “I Made Bribery Allegation Up—Mahama Ayariga Withdraws Claim.” January 27, 2017.

Ghanaweb. “Declare Assets in Two Weeks—Akufo-Addo Tells Ministers.”January 28, 2017.

Graphic.com.gh/Ghanaweb. “Prez. Akufo-Addo Files His Tax.” January 28, 2017.

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