Prof. Douglas Boateng brought at least 11 professional qualifications to his job when he was appointed Board Chair of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) in September 2017.
MSc, EngD, FCILT, FSOE, FIPlantE, FCMI, FIC, FInst.D FIOM FCIPS, FIoD, CDir.
But none of them is enough to keep him in that or any similar position for, at least, the next two years.
A fresh report released by the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has banned him from being the board chair of the PPA. It gets worse.
The report also bans him from sitting on any public board or council for two years, effective 2022.
It is because he failed to declare his assets, a legal requirement designed to fight corruption and ill-acquired wealth among high-ranking public officials and political appointees.
Prof. Boateng is the second official to be banned from holding public office, a fallout from the “Contracts for Sale” investigative documentary by award-winning journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni.
The first was the PPA CEO, Adjenim Boateng Adjei. The documentary showed that A.B Adjei used his office to help his own company, Talent Discovery Ltd, win high value government contracts after which the company sold the contracts to the highest bidder.
He was sacked in October 2020 and faces criminal prosecution. This was after President Akufo-Addo suspended him and referred him to the Office of the Special Prosecutor and CHRAJ for further investigations.
The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), a shark in Ghana’s anti-corruption fight, smelt blood and went after the PPA board too.
In an October 2019 petition to CHRAJ, Ghana Integrity Initiative said it suspected collusion between the disgraced CEO and his board. GII asked CHRAJ to investigate all eight Board members and the chair.
Two years since the investigation began, CHRAJ’s report is out. It has felled the Board Chairman, a man described as a “vertical global strategic thinker” but who did not follow local laws.
The laws are Article 286(1) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 1(1) of the Public Officers Holders law, Act 550. It instructs every chairman, managing director, general manager, departmental head of a public corporation to declare their assets.
These persons are supposed to pick a form from the Auditor-General’s office, fill it, stating their assets and liabilities; seal the form and submit it to the Auditor-General who is even barred from checking if the form was filled properly.
The chairpersons and managing directors have six months to comply with this law. Prof. Douglas Boateng was appointed in September 2017. His deadline for submission was March 2018.
But more than four years has elapsed before he began the processes to file his assets – at the insistence of CHRAJ.
Prof. Douglas Boateng partly blamed “Covid-19 disruptions” for his failure to comply with the law. CHRAJ would have none of that. The report time-lined Boateng’s failure.
“Reference to the Covid-19, which started late 2019 and became a real issue from 2020, would not be a relevant excuse to this case,” a portion of the report reads.
“In short Prof. Boateng failed to comply with Article 286 of the Constitution and Act 550… although he indicated that he was now taking steps to do so.”
Prof. Boateng is not the only person on the Board who did not declare his assets. The dismissed former CEO, A.B. Adjei, also failed to comply with the law. In his case, the CHRAJ report said although his attention was drawn to his failure, he still did not file his assets.
Two others, Godfred Dame, who was the deputy A-G at the time of the scandal; and Stella Williams, a director at the Finance Ministry; have indicated they had declared their assets.
The rest: Mrs. Ernestina Swatson Eshun, Mr. Samuel Richard Nii Baidoo, Dr. Emmanuel Boakye, Mr. Francis Dave Kofi Owusu, explained that the law on Asset Declaration and Public Officer Holders did not apply to them.
CHRAJ agreed with their explanations.
While CHRAJ cleared the board of any collusion with A.B. Adjei, it had no praises for the Board and its members. CHRAJ expressed disappointment in the failure of the board to enforce its own resolution that A.B. Adjei would recuse himself anytime his company, Talent Discovery Ltd, was involved in a procurement application.
The report said, “although this is not evidence of collusion, conflict of interest or inappropriate conduct…the Board could have prevented or reduced the opportunity for the CEO to take improper advantage of his office…”
In another instance, the CHRAJ report criticised the PPA Board for approving applications for the use of restrictive tender method without demanding any justification as required by law.
It said, with the exception of an application from the Ministry of Education, many applications for restrictive tender method between March 2017 and August 2019 did not meet this requirement. Yet the PPA Board granted approvals.
“The PPA Board is directed to pay closer attention to this irregularity,” the report said. CHRAJ also criticised the Board for failing to publish a code of conduct to guide the behaviour of its officers.
The concluding part of the report leaves a warning to Prof. Douglas Boateng.
The report directed him to comply with the “mandatory exit requirement under Article 286(1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution and file his assets and liabilities.”
It indicated that if Prof. Boateng did not take these steps, then the man described in his C.V as “Africa’s first-ever appointed Professor Extraordinaire for supply and value chain management” and a “Lifetime Achiever” award winner may never hold any public office in Ghana in his lifetime.
Time to review asset declaration laws
CHRAJ in its report repeated its calls for the review of the country’s asset declarations laws described by The Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD-Ghana) as “absurd”.
The law does not allow the Auditor-General, who receives the written declaration to examine the forms submitted or authenticate the content of the declaration forms. Only a court, a specialised commission of enquiry or CHRAJ can order for the written declaration.
Calling for its review during the debate on the approval of the Special Prosecutor in August 2021, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensa Bonsu said in parliament, “Mr. Speaker, how is anybody to know that a person has failed to declare or knowingly made false declaration in respect of his asset if the Auditor-General is not allowed to look at his declarations?”
The Majority leader was concerned that the current law reduced anti-corruption institutions to “toothless bulldogs who can only bark. I believe that time has come for us to take a second look at Article 286…” he said.
Failure of a public officer to comply with Ghana’s Asset Declaration Law is not a crime. Article 19 (11) of the 1992 constitution does not allow for the trial of a person whose alleged crime is not defined by law and which no penalty has also been prescribed.
The law gives CHRAJ the power to investigate asset declaration failures to “take such action as he considers appropriate in respect of the investigations or admission.” But there are no specific sanctions for the failure such as in Kenya where a guilty officer could be jailed.