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Anti-Corruption Coalition backs CHRAJ ruling on Anin Yeboah’s asset declaration petition

Chief Justice Anin Yeboah.jpeg Justice Anin Yeboah is the Chief Justice of Ghana

Wed, 27 May 2020 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) has said a recent decision by the Commission on Human and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on an asset declaration petition against Chief Justice Anin Yeboah is adequate.

The GACC is a cross-sectoral grouping of public, private and civil society organisations with a focus on promoting good governance and fighting corruption in Ghana.

Deputy Executive Secretary for the anti-graft coalition, Bright Sowu, said after studying CHRAJ’s full ruling on the matter, he is convinced that although Ghana’s asset declaration law needs strengthening, CHRAJ’s decision to dismiss the petition was sound.

Petition

Executive Director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mensah Thompson, had alleged in a petition to CHRAJ that Justice Anin Yeboah has breached Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution regarding non-disclosure of assets.

ASEPA also alleged that Justice Anin Yeboah has been Justice of the Supreme Court since 2008, but has since failed or refused to comply with Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution.

However, CHRAJ dismissed the petition on grounds that its preliminary investigation found that the Chief Justice has complied with Article 286 of the constitution by declaring his assets and liabilities to the Auditor-General, although this was done late.

ASEPA reacted to the ruling by describing it as "extremely inconclusive", alleging that “it was cooked just to exonerate Justice Anin Yeboah.”



CHRAJ decision

Commenting on the ruling, Bright Sowu, who is also Head of Programmes at GACC, noted that based on the question posed by Mr Thompson, he sees nothing wrong with the response from CHRAJ.

“I think his question seeks to ask whether since 2008, when Justice Anin Yeboah became a Supreme Court Judge, he has declared his assets; which will mean that as at 2008 he would have had to declare and 2012 – which is after four years – he would have to declare and now that there is a promotion [to Chief Justice]…so basically has he made all these declarations?

“The Commission itself is not a repository of declarations…So for CHRAJ to determine whether Justice Anin Yeboah made these declarations it has to write to the Auditor General. The Auditor General says that 'yes' he has made the declarations during the period,” he told Ghanaweb.com in a telephone interview.

Mr Sowu also notes that the ruling raises the issue of what constitutes late submission of assets declaration documents.

“Although CHRAJ in the report sort of mentions it [late submission] they don’t back it up with the records from Auditor General to say when basically it was declared and why they are calling it a late a declaration. Because what does late declaration means? Does it mean he declared a six months later or a year later?” the anti-graft campaigner asked.

Mr Sowu said the GACC has been at the forefront of efforts to make the Assets Declaration Law stronger and the loophole created in the law about what constitutes a major setback.

“That is problematic because if I am sworn in in 2008 and I have not declared two years after, it is difficult to call this a late declaration. I think they [CHRAJ] should have gone forward to add more information that will enable us to know what they meant by late submission,” he said.

Stronger Assets Declaration Law

The Deputy Executive Director of the GACC also noted that the relevant laws on Assets Declaration for public office holders are silent on the issue of late submission and said that must change.

“The law [Act 286] mentions failure to declare and knowingly making a false declaration. It does not tackle the issue of late submission. It is silent entirely on that. Then the substantive law which springs from Act 286, which is Act 550, the Public Office Holders Act, in section 7 also does not mention the issue of late submission. It also makes mention of ‘failure to declare and knowingly making false declaration.’

“This leaves a bit of a hole in the law. At what point do we say this late declaration and at what point can we say this is a failure to declare?” he said.

He said this lacuna in the Assets Declaration law is of interest to GACC. He revealed that GACC has been engaging the Audit Service on how to make the Assets Declaration Law stronger.

“There is a bill in Parliament on the Code of Conduct for Public Office Holders and we hope we can use that path to make the law stronger. So maybe we will draw the attention of the lawmakers too on the matter,” he stated.

In his view, the current law on Assets Declaration could tap into the exhaustive nature of PNDC Law 280, Public and Political Party Office Holders Law, 1992, which in his view blocks most of the loopholes in the current law on Assets Declaration of public officeholders.

Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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