According to the renowned private legal practitioner, the bill could not be described as “world-class” as once tagged to by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
He was of the view that previous laws were more effective in dealing with corruption among public officeholders.
“Even before PNDC Law 280, we had an earlier law where before you enter office, you had to declare all your assets and then publicly you will be investigated to see whether what you already have even before going into office was legitimately acquired.
“So, if in the 70s you had to declare even before entering and had to be investigated, then we cannot look at this today and say we have made any progress.”Martin Kpebu
He thus urged the government to return to the old laws in its bid to fight corruption.
“We have a rich culture of asset declaration… Let’s just do Sankofa”, he emphasized.
Notwithstanding, Ms Mary Addah, Acting Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, has called on Parliament to expedite the passage of the Conduct of Public Officers (COPO) Bill into law to address corruption among public officers.
“We can make some very good strides if we have laws that bark. The bill which is currently stranded in Parliament should become an urgent matter for the State to pay attention to.”Mary Addah
The Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, has argued that Act 550 contains some “shortfalls” and “challenges”. The Deputy Attorney General added his voice to the calls for amendment of Act 550, passed in 1998.
He also indicated that the government is working on the Conduct of Public Officers Bill at Cabinet.
He further admitted that the Members of Parliament are likely unwilling to pass the law because they will also be directly affected.
“That’s the reason why we need to review that Act and when we review, it will go back to them, and remember they are also part of the people who are supposed to declare their assets.”Alfred Tuah-Yeboah
Meanwhile, former Auditor-General Daniel Yao Domelevo has indicated that the publication of the declaration of assets of public office holders in newspapers will be too expensive.
He tagged such an exercise as wasteful and expensive. According to him attempts to undertake such exercise proved very futile.
“The publication in newspapers, I think, is going to be too expensive and wasteful because the list is very long. When I was in office, we were trying to determine the number of people who must declare their assets. They are more than 50,000, so if you are to publish that in a newspaper, I don’t think anybody will have the time to do that.”Daniel Yao Domelevo
There, he proposed digitizing the publication on a website.
“It is easier the law simply says that we should publish it on the website of the Auditor-General or any other website and then there will be a notice to the public that this has been published or press release.”Daniel Yao Domelevo
Also, the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) has joined the call for the publication of assets declared by public officeholders.
The think tank proposes that the publication of assets declared by public officeholders should be extended to their spouses.
“We are for the publication of the assets declared and expanding it to spouses.”Dr Kojo Asante, A Fellow at CDD,
Adding his voice, the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal described Act 550 as a shoddy job done by Ghana’s Parliament.
Mr. Whittal explained that the Act, in its form, prevents accountability.
“The nearest we came to is passing Act 550 which is the Public Officers Qualifications and Disqualification Asset Declaration Act. That I think was a shoddy job done by parliament, with all respect to Parliament, it was a shoddy job at that time.
“If you look at what should be in asset declaration law, what is provided there it is as if we are taking public service as a process we want to hide public servants from the people they are supposed to serve.”Joseph Whittal
The Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification), Act 550, replaced the PNDC Law 280. The Deputy Attorney General has also called for holistic amendments to ACT550.
Act 550 provides the framework and guidelines for assets declaration in Ghana as a tool to combat corruption among public office holders. The introduction of the legal framework for assets declaration is an indication, amongst others like the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, that the country is making efforts to fight corruption.