At the peak of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s first term, he had sworn in more than 126 ministers and deputy ministers. Some of them resigned and were replaced.
They took the sacred Oath of Ministers, to “uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.”
But, five years later, The Fourth Estate has found that at least 18 of them reneged on one of their first and basic obligations to the constitution—the declaration of their assets and liabilities.
President Akufo-Addo has complied fully with the asset declaration law since coming into office as president in January 2017. He has declared his assets three times since assuming office.
Records available to The Fourth Estate indicate that the president declared his assets on January 24, 2017, February 17, 2021, and May 7, 2021.
His ministers and deputy ministers who served in his first term and are serving in his second term are supposed to also have declared their assets and liabilities three times by now.
On July 18, 2017, president Akufo-Addo said that all his appointees had declared their assets.
Information available to The Fourth Estate, however, reveals that at least 19 of the ministers and deputy ministers have not declared, not even once since 2017.
What does the Asset Declaration law say?
By law, ministers are to declare their assets within six months in office and latest six months after the end of a government’s first term.
Article 286 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states that “a person who holds a public office mentioned in clause (5) of this Article shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by, him whether directly or indirectly (a) within three months after the coming into force of this Constitution or before taking office, as the case may be, (b) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his term of office.”
The Constitution requires the declaration to be done before the public officer takes office. However, Section 1(4)(c) of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act directs public office holders to meet this requirement not later than six months after taking office, at the end of every four years and not later than six months at the end of his or her term.
The law requires that the President, Vice-President, the Speaker, Deputy Speakers of Parliament, ministers and deputy ministers of state, ambassadors, the Chief Justice and managers of public institutions in which the state has interest submit to the Auditor-General written declarations of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly.
They are required to declare their assets relating to:
(a)lands, houses and buildings;
(d) trust or family property in respect of which the officer has beneficial interest;
(e) vehicles, plant and machinery, fishing boats, trawlers, generating plants;
(f) business interests;
(g) securities and bank balances;
(h) bonds and treasury bills;
(i) jewellery of the value of ¢5 million [now ¢500] or above; objects of art of the value of ¢5 million or above;
(j) life and other insurance policies;
(k) such other properties as are specified on the declaration form.
On March 4, 2022, The Fourth Estate wrote to the Audit Service, under the right to information law, requesting information on public office holders who had declared their assets from January 2013 up to that date.
The Audit Service responded with the data on May 17, 2022. Combing through the two booklets of almost 350 pages, The Fourth Estate did not find the names of 19 ministers and deputy ministers who have served in the Akufo-Addo administration since 2017.
Who are the defaulting appointees?
Prof Kwesi Yankah: The Fourth Estate could not find the name of the minister of state in charge of tertiary education, who served in the Akufo-Addo administration from 2017 to 2020. An academic don, Prof. Yankah contested the 2020 parliamentary election in the Agona East Constituency on the ticket of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) but lost. He was in office from April 4, 2017, to January 7, 2021.
Tangoba Abayege: She succeeded Rockson Bukari as the Upper East Regional Minister after Mr. Bukari was moved to the presidency as minister of state in 2018. Like her predecessor, Tangoba Abayege did not declare her assets. Tangoba Abayage, who lost the Navrongo Central parliamentary polls in 2020 was also missing from the list. Before becoming regional minister, she was Ghana’s ambassador to Italy. She was in office from November 2018 to January 7, 2021.
Salifu Adam Braimah: He was the Savannah Regional Minister, who contested but lost the Salaga South parliamentary seat. He did not disclose his assets. He was in office from March 27, 2019, to August 2021.
Evelyn Ama Kumi-Richardson: When the Bono Regional minister-designate came to the floor of parliament for approval in April 2019, it met stiff opposition from the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The NDC lawmakers alleged at the Appointments Committee of Parliament that Evelyn Ama Kumi-Richardson, who had been a former Sunyani Municipal Chief Executive, committed perjury in the declaration of assets and refund of money to the state as demanded in the Auditor General’s report.
There were also unanswered questions regarding the redistribution of a vested land. But the report of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, which recommended Ms Kumi-Richardson’s approval by majority decision, cleared her of all the allegations by the Auditor General.
After secret voting, the minority had their say but the majority had their way.
Despite this, Ms. Kumi Richardson did not declare her asset when parliament approved her to become a regional minister. She served from March 27, 2019, to January 7, 2021.
Also, on the list of the ministers and deputy ministers who failed to declare their assets are the following and the portfolios they served:
- Sulemana Alhassan–Upper West Regional Minister (March 27, 2019, to January 7, 2021)
- Carlos Ahenkorah–Deputy Minister, Trade and Industry (April 11, 2017, to July 3, 2020)
- William Owuraku Aidoo–Deputy Minister, Energy (April 11, 2017, to January 7, 2021.) He was reappointed when President Akufo-Addo won a second term.
- Vincent Sowah Odotei–Deputy Minister, Communications (April 2017 to April 2020).
- Bernard Oko Boye–Deputy Health Minister (April 20, 2020, to January 7, 2021).
- Anthony N-Yoh Puowele Karbo–Deputy Minister, Roads & Highways (April 11, 2017, to January 7, 2021)
- Francis Kingsley Ato Cudjoe–Deputy Minister, Fisheries & Aquaculture (April 11, 2017, to January 7, 2021)
- Siaka Stevens–Deputy Regional Minister, Bono (March 27, 2019, to January 2021)
- Samuel Yeyu Tika–Deputy Regional Minister, Savannah ( March 27, 2019, to January 2021)
- Tahiru Tia Ahmed–Deputy Regional Minister, North East – (March 27, 2019, to January 7, 2021)
- Johnson Avuletey–Deputy Regional Minister, Volta Region – (March 27, 2019, to January 2021)
- Thomas Adjei Baffour–Deputy Regional Minister, Central – March 3, 2017, to January 7, 2021
- Joseph Tetteh–Deputy Regional Minister, Eastern (March 3, 2017, to August 2018)
- Elizabeth Kwatsoo Tetteh Sackey–Deputy Regional Minister, Greater Accra (March 3, 2017, to January 7, 2021).
Two out of the 19 defaulters, Carlos Ahenkora and William Owuraku Aidoo, are still lawmakers in the current Parliament. But Vincent Sowah Odotei, Bernard Oko Boye, Anthony Karbo, Francis Kingsley Ato Cudjoe, Siaka Steven and Joseph Tetteh lost their seats in the 2020 election.
Four others who were deputy regional ministers in Akufo Addo’s first term have been offered new jobs in the president’s second term.
They are William Owuraku Aidoo, Bernard Oko Boye, Elizabeth Kwatsoo Tetteh Sackey and Samuel Yeyu Tika. They are expected to declare their assets in their current positions but they haven’t.
The MPs in the list also swore the oath of lawmakers to “uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.”
But they desecrated the oath.
Responses to The Fourth Estate
Asset declaration is seen as crucial in fighting corruption by helping to track illicit wealth public office holders acquire while in office.
You may also want to read: EXCLUSIVE: Sir John did not declare his assets
Per the law, any assets acquired by a public officer holder after the initial declaration, which does not come from “sources reasonably attributed to income, gift, loan, inheritance or any other reasonable source would be classified” as illegal.
The Fourth Estate reached out to the ministers whose names were not found in the asset declaration list for comments. Here are those we contacted and their responses.
- Thomas Adjei Baffoe –Deputy Regional Minister, Central
The Audit Service stated that no public office holder declared their assets in the Central Region from 2017 to 2019.
But Thomas Adjei Baffoe, who served as deputy Central Regional Minister from March 2017 to January 7, 2021, insisted, he did.
“I declared my assets. I deposited them at the regional office of the Audit Service. It was even one of the employees of the Local Government who does audits, who did it for me. His name is Ben Issah,” he told The Fourth Estate.
Asked for the evidence of his declaration, he said he was not sure he took it from the said officer but said he would check and get back to this reporter because he was not in Cape Coast.
- Prof Kwesi Yankah–Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education
All attempts to reach him failed. Calls, texts and WhatsApp messages were not responded to.
- Carlos Ahenkora–MP for Tema West & former Deputy Minister of Trade
He resigned in July 2020 after public pressure mounted on the president to sack him for breaching the COVID-19 restrictions. He had tested positive for the virus and went to campaign instead of self-isolating.
Mr. Ahenkora told The Fourth Estate he fulfilled his asset declaration obligation and that he submitted his forms to the Tema office of the Audit Service.
“It is not true. I have declared my assets,” he said, but added, “I don’t know if I can give you the date, but I did declare my asset. Check with the Audit Service.”
“The Audit Service has given us the document [list of those who declared their assets] we needed, from 2013 to 2021,” this reporter pointed out to him.
“My brother, I am telling you that I have declared my assets and I am asking you to check well before you make pronouncements, because I know I declared my asset in 2017,” he said.
“I didn’t finish the term because I resigned along the line. I am 120% sure that I declared my asset,” he added.
“So, when you exited, too, you declared?”
“I resigned so I did not declare. My term was terminated. I did not finish.”
“But, sir, when you exit, you still have to.”
“I don’t have that information. I didn’t have that advice.”
- William Owuraku Aidoo–Deputy Minister of Energy (MP, Afigya Kwabre South)
He said he declared his assets in the Ashanti regional office of the Audit Service in Kumasi.
“I did. I did it in Kumasi after the elections,” he said but couldn’t remember the exact date.
When The Fourth Estate asked if he declared in 2021, after he exited as a deputy minister, his tone turned condescending.
“But in what capacity are you calling me. You are a journalist. You cannot call and interrogate me like this.
“Sir, I am not interrogating you. I’m just giving you a fair…”
“Why don’t you write to me,” he snapped
“I should write to you?”
“Yes, if you think there is something I have not done right, write to me. Today is Sunday, you don’t have the temerity to call me that I haven’t declared my asset (sic). Massa, don’t call me again.”
- Tangoba Abayege–Upper East Regional Minister (former Ambassador to Italy)
She said she declared her assets to Parliament prior to her vetting because she thought that was expected of her.
“I didn’t know it was supposed to be the Audit Service. It was Parliament that vetted me. That is where I submitted every document, including my tax clearance certificate.”
She, however, urged the Audit Service to make the declaration easy because some of the questions were cumbersome and unreasonable, including the value of family land, which she said she didn’t buy.
Anthony Karbo–Deputy Roads & Highway Minister (former MP, Lawra)
In a response to a WhatsApp message, he said, “It was done as far back as 2017 and submitted to Audit Service. Thank you.”
A follow-up question on whether he declared in Accra or Wa and if he also declared again when he exited and any evidence was not responded to.
- Joseph Tetteh–Deputy Eastern Regional Minister & Former MP, Upper Manya Krobo
He said prior to the 2016 elections, he filed the document at the Audit Service Head Office in Accra as part of the election requirement.
“We did it before we entered Parliament,” he said.
“So, you did it as an aspirant?”
“Yes, by then.”
“So, when you became an MP, you did not?”
“No, I didn’t. I also became a minister. I didn’t until I left parliament.”
“When you read Article 286 and Act 550, it says when you become an MP you have to declare your assets and when you become minister, you have to.
“Ah! That is what I didn’t do. I didn’t do anything like that.”
“But is there any reason why you didn’t?”
“I thought I did it before entering Parliament. Maybe parliament would take that one. I was not asked to do it again.”
“There was no orientation to do it again?”
“I can’t remember.”
“The president said at a point that you all had declared your assets.”
“I can’t remember.”
“He said it on July 18, 2017, that all his appointees had declared their assets. At that time, I’m sure you were a deputy minister.”
“July 18, yes, yes, I was a deputy minister.”
Joseph Tetteh said he would check from his personal assistant if he did, but he couldn’t remember.
- Johnson Avuletey–Deputy Volta Regional Minister
He said when he was in office, he didn’t add any property to what he had, so he didn’t know what to declare.
“I was in my own house before I was appointed. Is it necessary for me to declare that one too?” he asked, suggesting it was only properties gotten from the public office that had to be declared.”
“When you come to the office, you have to declare within six months and when you exit, too, within six months, you have to declare,” The Fourth Estate reminded him.
“Ok, ok,” he said, like someone who just received a new insight.
“Was there no orientation on this?”
“We didn’t have any orientation about that. I was not given any form to declare my assets. When I was an assemblyman, I declared assets. When I became a deputy minister for just two years, there was nothing like that,” he added.
Rockson Bukari–Upper East Regional Minister
Mr Bukari told The Fourth Estate his lawyer did it on his behalf in Bolgatanga.
He, however, said he couldn’t remember where he had put the receipt.
Asked whether he did when he left office, he said he couldn’t remember.
But he said he would get in touch with his lawyer for clarity.
- Evelyn Ama Kumi Richardson–Bono Regional Minister
She insisted she declared her assets.
“Please, I declared,” she said.
“Do you have records of it?
“I would be very grateful if you could provide the evidence. You know when you file it, they give you a receipt.”
“Well, I’ll see if I can submit the receipt.”
“I would be grateful if you do because we want to get this clarity.”
“I did. Even Parliament was demanding a copy. So, I sent it to them.”
“When you were leaving, too, you declared?
“When I was leaving, I think I picked a form. But I’m not too sure…”
- Vincent Sowah Odotei- Deputy Minister, Communication (former MP, La-Dadekotopon MP)
He was relieved of his job in April 2020. Calls, text and WhatsApp messages to him were not responded to.
Francis Kingsley Ato Cudjoe – Deputy Minister, Fisheries & Aquaculture (former MP, Ekumfi)
He said he completed his application with his personal assistant and handed it over to him for submission. He, however, admitted not declaring his asset when he left office.
- Samuel Yeyu Tika – Deputy Regional Minister, Savannah (now Deputy Chief Executive, Minerals Commission)
He told The Fourth Estate he declared his assets in the Tamale office of the Audit Service.
He, however, said he couldn’t remember the exact dates he filed the document.
He was also not sure if he filed it when he contested for parliament or afterward but was confident that he did.
He said he would reach out to his accountant for the details. He later called to say the accountant was not sure.
- Siaka Stevens, Deputy Bono Regional Minister
He said before he became a deputy minister, he had declared his asset as a member of parliament.
“I spent two years in office as a Deputy Minister. I didn’t add anything to it.”
“When you left office, did you declare?”
“If you exit? I’ve not seen that portion of the law that says so.”
“So, when you enter office, you declare within six months and when you exit too, you have six months to do so.”
“I’m not privy to that law.”
“You can check Article 286 and Act 550”
“But where did you file it?”
“I filed it in Accra. The day I went to file, I even met Akua Donkor. I went right after her.”
Mr Stevens became a deputy minister in March 2019.
He said he didn’t declare his asset as a deputy regional minister.
“We were there for only two years.”
“Sir, the law doesn’t say if you’re there for two years you shouldn’t declare your assets. If you even spent six months, you have to. A lot can happen in six months.
With that, he laughed …
“As for that, I didn’t do it.”
- Sulemana Alhassan–Upper West Regional Minister
When he was asked about his asset declaration profile, he laughed out loud and said, “I’m no more even in the system.”
According to him, he had started the process with the regional coordinating director at the time, but could not remember if the document went to the Audit Service.
- Tahiru Tia Ahmed– Deputy Regional Minister, North East
He couldn’t be reached for comment.
- Elizabeth Kwatsoo Tetteh Sackey–Deputy Regional Minister, Greater Accra (now Metropolitan Chief Executive, Accra Metropolis)
She didn’t respond to calls, text and WhatsApp messages.
- Bernard Oko Boye — Deputy Health Minister (now CEO, National Health Insurance Authority)
He didn’t respond to calls, text and WhatsApp messages.
Reacting to The Fourth Estate’s findings, the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Beauty Emefa Narteh, expressed disappointment at the revelations. She wants the president to be more than just a role model in asset declaration.
“You can’t appoint people and then they do the opposite of what you do. What measures did the president put in place to even ensure that his appointees do what is required in terms of asset declaration?” she asked.
She continued, “It shouldn’t take the president too much to determine if his appointees have declared their assets or not. As an appointing authority, he could have added that they show evidence of declaration. He could have easily confirmed it. This situation is a wake-up call to the president to ensure that his appointees do not go contrary to what he is promoting.
“Based on this information, those who are currently in government, I think the president should do the needful by sacking them for embarrassing him in such a manner.”
She said the President should be worried about the non-compliance because the appointees may be breaking other laws on his blind side.
She also urged the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to immediately investigate such appointees.
In February this year, CHRAJ banned the former board chairman of the Public Procurement Authority, Prof. Douglas Boateng, from holding public office for the next two years after CHRAJ found out in the Contracts for Sale investigations that he had failed to declare his assets.
Asset declaration law is a weak law
Critics of Ghana’s asset declaration laws say it is opaque because what is declared cannot be verified or published by the Auditor-General.
A former Auditor-General, Daniel Yao Domelevo, agrees. “What is missing in Ghana’s situation is verifying the asset to ensure that it’s in conformity with what has been declared.”
Mr Domelevo recommends a lifestyle audit for public office holders to match their income with their possessions, he told Joy News.
“The current asset declaration is a substandard measure of transparency and accountability. If we can’t verify what you declared, where lies the transparency and accountability. It’s unfortunate,” Beauty Emefa Narteh agrees.
Anti-corruption campaigners believe the repealed Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) Law 280 in 1998 which regulated asset declaration during Rawlings’ military and civil administration was much more transparent.
Under that law, public officials had a thirty days grace period to declare their assets and it had to be done every two years. The Auditor-General also had 14 days to publish all assets declared by public office holders.
However, even that law had its critics who claimed it was nothing more than a charade.
For instance, the Ghanaian Chronicle reported on October 26, 1992, that the bank balances declared by some senior members of the PNDC were less than one month’s pension of a retired civil servant.
But, unlike the current laws, it had a relatively stiffer punishment for those who broke it.
Section 4 of that decree stated that persons who contravened the law were “liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred penalty units or to imprisonment not exceeding two years or to both the fine and the imprisonment.”
With the current system, at worse, a person guilty of failing to declare his or her assets can only be banned from holding public office for 10 years, according to provisions of Act 550.
The law, however, gives CHRAJ a lot of discretion to decide the appropriate sanction. It is probably the reason the former Board Chairman of the Public Procurement Authority, Prof Douglas Boateng, was in February this year banned from holding public office for two years.
That discretion, Beauty Emefa Narteh said, must be taken away and specific punitive measures put in place to deal with any kleptomaniacs in public office.
Editors note: In an earlier version of this story, Rockson Bukari, was listed as one of the appointees who didn’t declare his asset. He has, however, produced evidence showing he did it on April 28, 2018. He, however, didn’t repeat the obligation when he exited office.
Adwoa Adobea-Owusu, Evans Aziamor-Mensah, Paul Gozo & Prosper Prince Midedzi of The Fourth Estate also contributed to this story.