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Panellists recommend passage of Conduct of Public Officers Bill [GACC in the News]

Panellists at a public forum have recommended the speedy passage of the Conduct of Public Officers Bill to fight corruption and protect the public purse.

The bill which is still at the Cabinet level, the panellists said must be moved from that point to Parliament for its immediate passage.

It seeks to address the issues of conflict of interest, the gift of assets, the declaration of assets and liabilities.

The panellists were the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), Beauty Emefa Narteh, a private legal practitioner and lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Justice Abdulai, an anti-corruption crusader, Vitus Azeem, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni.

They were unanimous in pointing out that even before the new bill was passed into law, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Ghana Audit Service (GAS) must be more proactive in the implementation of existing laws on asset declaration.

This, they noted, would ensure that the two institutions were not perceived as the “weakest link” in the enforcement of the Public Office Holders Act 550 of 1998, an existing law on declaration of assets.

Discussions

Ms Narteh said among the limitations identified in the existing law were the failure of appointing authorities to penalise appointees for deception, verification and imposition of sanctions to determine those who complied with the law and those who failed to comply with it.

She observed that when the new Bill was passed into law it would also address the issue of electronic declaration of assets.

Ms Narteh indicated that issues of concealment of wealth, illicit enrichment and in the current era of cryptocurrencies, where people were concealing wealth, there was the need for the promulgation of new laws to help address those issues.

Administrative, verification

Mr Abdulai, for his part, said verification of documents provided by public office holders on assets and liabilities declaration should come in three forms, which the new Bill must address. They are interrogation, tracing and documentation.

Mr Azeem recommended for the creation of a unit within CHRAJ to conduct follow-ups to ascertain and verify documents provided by public officials as declaration of their assets.

Mr Awuni stressed the need for “naming and shaming," adding that the CHRAJ and GAS though had done well on some occasions to implement the law in the past.

He, however, said they had failed in some instances, including providing leadership in rendering that service for the public to know those who were complying and those who were not complying with the laws.

Rebuttal

In their rebuttal, the Director of Anti-Corruption at CHRAJ and a Legal Officer at GAS, Stephen Azantilow and Anita Danquah respectively, said the two institutions as far as they were concerned were doing their best regarding the implementation of existing laws on declaration of assets by public office holders.

Mr Azantilow for his part announced that CHRAJ was investigating 428 cases involving non-compliance of public office holders of the existing law on declaration of assets.

The forum was organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).

Source: https://www.businessghana.com/site/news/politics/271882/Panellists-recommend-passage-of-Conduct-of-Public-Officers-Bill

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