When President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was sworn into office in January 2017, one of the first constitutional obligations he embarked on was the declaration of his assets.
The Fourth Estate’s sources in government say the Chief of Staff sent reminders to ministers and other top appointees to declare their assets.
In July 2017, the president said, “I declared my assets within two weeks of my inauguration and so has the Vice-President. The ministers have declared their assets, and I am insisting that all those required to do so under the law, should comply.”
In March 2022, The Fourth Estate wrote to the Audit Service using the right to information law to request information on public office holders who had declared their assets from January 2013 up to that date.
The Audit Service responded with the data in May 2022, with two booklets of information of almost 350 pages. The booklets contain the names of all public office holders who have declared their assets and the dates of declarations in all the regions of Ghana from 2013 to May 2022.
That information revealed that 28 ministers and deputy ministers of state who served or are still serving in the Akufo-Addo administration did not declare their assets at all.
The information also revealed that the president and 19 of his ministers have fully complied with the asset declaration law. The president and his ministers on that list, who have served since 2017, have declared their assets at least three times.
They declared at the beginning of the first term and declared at the end of the first term. They again declared their assets at the beginning of the second term in office.
President Akufo-Addo, for instance, first declared his assets on January 24, 2017. On February 17, 2021, he declared again for the end of his first term.
Then, on May 7, 2021, the president declared his assets to cover the beginning of his second term. He did this in conformity with Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution and Act 550.
However, the vice-president and more than 90 ministers and deputy ministers who have served in Akufo-Addo’s government have not fully complied with the law as the president did.
Some ministers who spoke to The Fourth Estate in the course of this series have argued that declaring one’s assets at the beginning of the first term and at the beginning of the second term cover for the end of the first term.
To them, not declaring at the end of the first term doesn’t amount to a breach because the end of the first term and the beginning of the second term are almost within the same period.
The declaration of assets is administered by the Auditor-General. When The Fourth Estate contacted the Auditor-General, Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, for a clarification on the Law, he said that could better be explained by the lawyers such as the Attorney-General.
“It’s an Omission but it’s not grave,”—Attorney-General
The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, told The Fourth Estate that the constitution required political office holders such as ministers of state to declare their assets at the beginning of their term in office and at the end of their term.
For those continuing after the four years, they are supposed to declare at the beginning of their second time, making it three declarations for ministers who have served in the Akufo-Addo administration since 2017.
“That is the constitutional requirement, and that’s why I did mine like that,” he said.
Mr. Dame declared his assets on July 20, 2017. He filed his exit declaration on January 26, 2021. On his elevation to the position of Attorney General in this second term of the president, he declared his assets on May 25, 2021.
Two lawyers, Samson Lardy Anyenini and Martin Kpebu, are of the view that a full declaration and compliance with the law ought to follow what the president and 19 of his ministers did.
Citing the ruling of the Supreme Court in J.H. Mensah v Attorney-General, the two lawyers argue that every appointee’s tenure ends after the four years when the president’s tenure ends.
“The argument that they are continuing and should not declare their assets at the end of the tenure cannot be right because no appointee walks into the position even if they are reappointed,” Samson Lardy Anyenini said. “All of them go through a fresh appointment and vetting.”
The Attorney-General, however, noted that if someone declared their assets at the beginning of the four years and files again at the beginning of a continuing second term of four years, their failure to declare at the end of the first term is not a grave offence.
He said the essence of declaring at the beginning and at the end of the four years is to ascertain the amount of assets and liabilities that were added on when the public officer was in office.
With that, he said the period between the end of the first term and the beginning of the second term is a few days or weeks, within which not much would change.
He said the continuing appointees who failed to declare at the beginning and those who served for one term but failed to declare when exiting commit grave breaches of the asset declaration law because it will be difficult to know what has been added to their assets and liabilities while they serve in office.
A good number of office ministers and deputy ministers, however, do not appear to appreciate the assets declaration requirement at the end of the term. Here are some of the notable names in that list:
Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia: Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, declared his assets twice since coming into office. He first declared at the beginning of the first term, on January 27, 2017. When he was sworn into office in January 2021 to begin the second term he declared his assets again. The Fourth Estate’s checks revealed that he declared on February 8, 2021.
The Office of the Vice President explained to The Fourth Estate that vice-president complied with the asset declaration law based on the legal advise he received on the matter.
The Office said the exit declaration was within the same period as the beginning of the second term of the Akufo-Addo administration and the assets or content of the declaration was the same. In the vice-president’s view, the declaration at the beginning of the second term covered the declaration at the end of the first term since the assets were the same.
However, the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Anticorruption Coalition (GACC), Beauty Emefa Narteh, said the Vice-President’s asset declaration deficit was disturbing.
“This is a surprise and a shock that a simple thing as asset declaration, the Vice-President was not minded to do the needful, I find this worrying.”
Below is the list of all ministers, deputy ministers and other appointees in Akufo-Addo’s first and second terms who declared their assets once or twice:
Other former appointees who declared their assets only once during Akufo-Addo’s first term of Akufo-Addo’s government are:
What the law says
Article 286 (5) requires 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.
Per the law, by the end of the President’s first term, all his appointees should have declared their assets twice—before or when they assume power and when the term ends—according to Article 286 and the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act.
Section 1(4) of the Act clarifies when this should be done:
“The declaration shall be made by the public officer— (a) before taking office; (b) at the end of every four years; and (c) at the end of the term of his office and shall in any event be submitted not later than 6 months of the occurrence of any of the events specified in this subsection.”
For those who were called back in the second term, which began on January 7, 2021, they were to march back to the Audit Service and hand over the list of their assets and liabilities. This will make it a third declaration for this group.
Section 4 of Act 550 requires public office holders to declare their assets and reliabilities related 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
You can reach the writer of this story, Seth J. Bokpe, via email at [email protected] You can follow him on twitter @thekekeli
Adwoa Adobea-Owusu, Evans Aziamor-Mensah, Paul Gozo, Clement Edward Kumsah & Prosper Prince Midedzi of The Fourth Estate also contributed to this story.