A governance consultant and a member of the Right to Information (RTI) Coalition in the Volta region, Mr. Harrison Kofi Belley has called for a review of the Assets Declaration Law to compel Public officials especially Ministers and their Deputies to declare their assets before the appointment committee of Parliament during vetting.
This, he said would ensure timely declaration and eliminate the tendency for false declaration by appointees, noting that ‘the law in its current form do not promote transparency as officials only list their assets on paper ,seal it in an envelope , and send it to the Auditor General, who is also not permitted to verify the information presented .‘
Article 286 (1) of the1992 Constitution requires “a person who holds public office to submit to the Auditor General a written declaration of all property and assets owned by or liabilities owed by him directly or indirectly.”
Speaking at a stakeholder forum in Ho last Wednesday on the Right to Information (RTI), Mr. Belley posited that public declaration of assets by appointees would ensure greater transparency and accountability in governance, as it will empower the populace to verify and monitor the activities of such officials.
The forum organised by the Right to Information (RTI) Coalition with support from STAR-Ghana was on the theme ‘Promoting the passage of an effective RTI law in Ghana; Mainstreaming RTI into the Local Governance Structure’ and attended by members of various interest groups from both formal and non-formal sector.
Mr. Tenaso Kofi Gbedema, the Volta regional RTI focal person underscored the importance of the right to information bill but said passing it in its current state will not serve its intended purpose, noting that ‘the RTI a fundamental human right and the torch stone for all freedoms.’
|Participants at the Forum|
According to him, the current bill which covers certain state institutions in its implementation must be amended to include Private institutions and Non-governmental Organisations that are providing services to the public as well as traditional authorities who are the custodians of community resources to ensure accountability.
Mr. Martin Dzikunu, another member of the coalition said the current Bill contains so much ‘blanket exemptions and if passed into law would impede access to information and calls for the redefinition of such exemptions.
He also reiterated the coalition’s call for the establishment of an Independent Information Commission to monitor the implementation of the RTI law when finally passed and not leave it to the Attorney General department.
Participants, including Mama Agblatsu III who chaired the forum called on parliament to the streamline of all ambiguities in the RTI bill to ensure its immediate passage to promote transparency and accountability.
They also urged public institutions adopt proper record keeping methods including the use of electronic means and fire proof cabinets to safeguard public documents.