The Director of Anti-Corruption at the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Stephen Azantilow, has disclosed that the Commission is currently pursuing some 428 cases of non-declaration of assets by public office holders.
This came to light at a forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and The Fourth Estate, a media house, on the theme ‘Declaration of Assets by public office holders and the fight against corruption in Ghana.”
According to Azantilow, the fight against corruption is sometimes hampered by judicial processes instigated by defaulters when the Commission takes steps to rectify their obstinacy by ruling against them, a situation that has made CHRAJ wary in its dealings in matters of asset declaration.
Anti-Corruption crusader, Vitus Azeem, noted that there is a lack of commitment from the nation’s leaders to ensure effective Asset Declaration Act.
He recounted how legislators in a previous Parliament had resisted attempts by civil society to strengthen the Asset Declaration Bill and ensured that it was watered down before passage.
Azeem said, “they do not want that law to be enforced. They do not want to comply.”
He noted that “there is no point in declaring assets in a sealed envelope and nobody looks at it.”
He expressed disappointment in the lack of proactivity on the part of CHRAJ, which he believes has led to the current situation where people flagrantly flout the law.
He suggested also that a lifestyle audit be adopted as part of tools to be utilised in the anti-corruption fight, considering the sophistication with which corruption is being engaged in, noting that declarations are not the only panacea to fighting corruption.
Lawyer Justice Abdulai, was of the view that a lack of penal regime for defaulters has left room for CHRAJ to exercise discretion, which has emboldened such public officials, whom he believes are cognisant of CHRAJ’s history of not coming down hard on defaulters.
This situation he said had fostered some of the corruption that political appointees engage in.
He went further to criticise the current law which does not incorporate the assets of spouses and immediate family member in the declaration.
He, therefore, wondered at the sincerity of the commitment of the state toward the fight against corruption.
Gifty Emefa Narteh of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition faulted the current asset declaration regime for failing to provide the necessary framework for verifying the declared assets.
She also called for the authorities to make public, information on which appointees have either complied or failed to comply with the law.
As a means of further fighting corruption, she made the suggestion that public officials also declare their liabilities, as some come into certain key positions with the aim of clearing their debts with state resources.
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