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Akufo-Addo’s political appointees must declare their assets now! 1

Nana Appoints President Akufo-Addo's political appointees must declare their assets

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 Source: Francis Kwarteng

“Whether you change the linen or stitch up wounds, it is in your hands to help build a public service worthy of all those who gave their lives for the dream of democracy” (Nelson Mandela).

PUBLIC SERVICE IS ABOUT ONE’S FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY TO OTHERS

The title of this essay “Akufo-Addo Must Compel His Political Appointees To Declare Their Assets Now!” only captures half of the story.

In that sense, the title misses the bigger picture as it does not say anything specifically about whether they must also declare their liabilities, not to talk of this being done before they assume public office and after their tenures expire.

The point is that they must declare both their assets and liabilities before and after serving their terms of political office. Reasons of transparency, accountability and probity dictate this commendable approach to public governance. Protecting the public purse from wanton dissipation either through public corruption or abuse of public trust further reinforces this noble idea.

In another sense, we are offered an opportunity to demonstrate proper accounting of the public purse to citizens on the basis of the fiduciary obligations of public office, all in the sacred name of demonstrating to skeptical citizens that public service is worth pursuing not for personal and crony enrichment but for the material enrichment and development of society as a whole.

The problem is that the ascendency of self-aggrandizing greed, crony capitalism, impunity, and institutional corruption in Ghanaian society renders this call for asset and liabilities declaration on the part of public holders—especially parliamentarians, government ministers and Chief Executive officers of state institutions—somewhat if not outright ineffective.

Ineffective because rigorously fighting these social and political ailments or keeping them in check means among other things that avenues to personal and crony enrichment will be a thing of the past.

Even the tax-exempt status which the president and his vice enjoy under the constitution must be scraped as it, too, contributes to corruption and tax evasion on the part of poor hardworking Ghanaians. How can Kayayes be taxed when the president and his vice enjoy this unfair tax-exempt status granted them?

Then also the additional burdens of abuse of incumbency, politics of equalization, extreme partisan politics, lobbying and illegal campaign financing of political parties and of politicians, arrogance of power, coercive power, the so-called Indemnity Clause and winner-takes-all executive dominance—all of which tend to undermine sustained efforts directed at moral investment and political morality in behalf of the national interest, when it is about the party in power paying uncompromising obeisance to the patriotic dictates of our constitution where the question borders on quality public governance, equity, public trust, and protecting the public purse from potential partisan political rape and plunder.

There is so much that needs to be changed about the present constitution—first and foremost. Getting rid of that burdensome albatross called Indemnity Clause from the constitution will be a step in the right direction because, that way, the office of the executive presidency and its human agency naturally become indebted to fiduciary matters of public governance, transparency and the national interest.

The president then becomes another ordinary human being—and not subject to being placed above the constitution, above the law. Beyond that, decoupling the Ministry of Justice from the Attorney General’s Department is the other path to pursue in the national interest.

This should then pave the way for establishing the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor although, once again, we all need to bear in mind that “special” and “independent” will forever exist only in theory.

It goes without saying that pursing and achieving all these noble objects is possible only if we do not allow post-factual (post-truth) politics, political inaction, alternative facts, and politics of equalization to mar public discourse.

A special case in point was when Akufo-Addo allegedly went to the Auditor General’s Department to declare his assets and yet again, allegedly, he could not do so because the said “Department had no receipt booklets.”

Is it not the Auditor General’s Department’s duty to enforce this constitutional requirement by being always ahead of the curve? What then is this lazy alibi about lack of ordinary basic items such as receipt stationery (logistics) all about?

On the country, Tanzania’s more serious John Magufuli would most probably have done something drastic about the continued employment of the Auditor General—but not so with our sacred corruoptocrat Akufo-Addo who, if we may add, was carried to the Flagstaff House or the Golden Jubilee House in an ornithopter of corruption and political lies.

SOME CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES

Even more troubling are those faulting Alhaji A. S. Suhuyini, the Member of Parliament for Tamale North, for demanding more information on both Ken Ofori Atta’s offshore accounts and the apparent contradictions between the latter having been reportedly awarded his MBA degree in 1988 when, in fact, Yale University began awarding MBAs in 1999! More to the point, frank answers to such queries are important in effectively addressing questions marks that hang over potential public officeholders, Ken in this particular case. Kufuor, his family and the so-called Panama Papers come to mind.

For Suhuyini never admittedly imputed any criminal intentions to the existence of the said offshore account during the vetting process. Indeed, and for the sake of clarity, all he simply wanted was for Ken to provide additional information about this account, a simple request that we believe will go a long way to disabuse the minds of those who are quick to attach or impute suspicions of creeping criminality to this account.

If for any reasons Ken does not honor this simple task bordering on the fiduciary obligations of public office now in the supreme interest of the nation it would be too late by the time he realizes he has to explain himself fully, or to give an account of this offshore account, to Ghanaians should there even be an instance of honest misappropriation of public funds on his part.

Of course, Ghanaians are known for their proverbial short memory but high-profile scandalous controversies, such as public corruption and political criminality, easily actives this memory and jolts it into national prominence when a need arises for political and partisan finger-pointing and faultfinding. Ghanaians will quickly crucify or hang the same person they once held exalted in public.

What is more, money laundering is a big issue in Ghana and for this reason no person with an objective interest in fighting corruption and protecting the public purse from rape, will want to see this offshore account converted into a transit point—a transshipment location for onward transportation of our money to tax havens in Switzerland and the United States.

For instance, if ex-President Kufuor and his close family members had made a prior mention of the existence of their offshore account to Ghanaians, exactly as captured in the released Panama Papers, there will probably not have existed the corresponding national brouhaha and unhealthy suspicions that followed the release of those scandalous Panama Papers.

Despite attempts by some eagle-eyed partisan apologists such as Ace Ankomah to justify this account held by the Kufuors by explaining it away in legalese and ornate financial jargon, some critics of Kufuor still are not swayed yet these persons still think there is more to the Kufuors and the Panama Papers than meets the eye.

Some observers are still wondering why Ken did not mention the existence of this account on his Curriculum Vitae (CV). Thus it was in the interest of the public good that Suhuyini made his request, after all, we also believe this to be the case since his direct question was not meant to unsettle Ken. Suhuyini himself has made it clear that those of his colleagues who vehemently disapproved of his maverick method of questioning Ken, should also have understood that nothing he did during the vetting process was, in fact, borne out of personal vendetta or animosity toward Ken.

The above sentiments notwithstanding, it is Ken’s patriotic duty and for his own good that he has to respond to this harmless query now in order to put all the unhealthy suspicions to rest, so that he does not leave any room for undue criticism in the likely event that something goes wrong in his management of the Finance Ministry and its affiliate branches. This point is very crucial.

We should not forget all too soon that, Akufo-Addo and his campaign team did promise Ghanaians first-class governance, of the highest kind if we correctly remember, namely, and also that even in his ignominious plagiarized speech he specifically made stark reference to the fact his administration and Ghana under his wakeful leadership will not settle for “third-world standards.”

Akufo-Addo also overtly and covertly consistently impressed upon Ghanaians to undertake vigorous public scrutiny of his actions and inactions and likewise those of his political appointees.

We want to believe strongly that Ken, a member of this team, has not forgotten this campaign promise. That aside, the unannounced familiarization visits Bawumia has been making to state institutions is welcome news and should be encourages. Tanzania’s no-nonsense John Magufuli has been doing something similar which is bearing fruit. It is political action—not partisan lip service—that well-meaning Ghanaians look forward to. We can only hope that these unannounced visitations do not become a nine days’ wonder as has always been the case in Ghanaian politics.

At the end of the day, though, vetting questions are neither unimportant nor trivial as they directly speak to the individual characters of the men and women who will be leading the nation. In theory, Akufo-Addo who nominated these men and women to represent the nation embodies their integrative characters—good and bad.

Therefore whatever they do right or wrong, eventually comes to back to reflect on his political and moral person as well as on his legacy. Though leadership is a collective responsibility, political and moral expression of this collective responsibility assumes the chaperoning province of a chosen or elected leader, in this special case Akufo-Addo.

Thus, Akufo-Addo is solely responsible for the collective behaviors of these men and women who are merely different branches of the tree of his political and moral person.

Finally, and considering the penultimate paragraph as a comical aside, parliamentary passage of the Freedom to Information Bill (FOIB) in the larger parallel context of a reliable witness protection program specifically created for whistleblowers will both enrich and expand the Ghanaian understanding of public morality, though we are willing to concede that the harsh dictates of political realism and political morality cannot and will not always co-exist peacefully in the pursuit of the national interest.

AN IMPORTANT ASIDE: SOME CRITICAL VIEWPOINTS

“I think that it is important for that person [who made the allegation] to be fished out and find out the truth…It is no child's play for anybody to go about labeling people without any shred of evidence” (Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu).

Even Mahama Ayariga’s controversial claim that Boakye Agyarko tried to bribe Minority MPs on the Vetting Committee must be proved further to ascertain their veracity or otherwise.

We can only hope this explosive allegation is untrue but one borne out of real frustration on the part of the Minority MPs, who are trying so hard to court public sympathy and use it to justify the ensuing logjam occasioned by the intrusive authoritarianism of Majority MPs on the Vetting Committee, a serious allegation whose further probing office of the presidency must also wholeheartedly endorse.

Surprisingly, it seems strange that within twenty-four hours Ayariga will withdraw his scandalous allegation and then apologize for it! Cooking up such an outrageous scandal to tarnish another person’s character just because he, Ayariga, reportedly wanted to “level the playing field,” call it politics of equalization, if you will, because Agyarko had reportedly “impugned the reputation of former President John Mahama”!

And so what? What was going on in Ayariga’s prosthetic head that made him sink so low? How could Ayariga have behaved as irresponsibly shameless and emotionally childish as the proverbial political buffoon and noise-making dung-beetle, Kennedy Agyapong, a kind of restless political toad that jumps from one radio and television station making wild, sweeping unsubstantiated allegations?

Undomesticated political cartoons the likes of which Ghanaians timidly and respectfully address as “honourable,” “civilized,” and “educated.” Yet these same Ghanaians confidently and disrespectfully address the likes of Akua Donkor as “dishonourable,” “uncivilized,” and “illiterate.” What is really wrong with Ghanaian politicians? Is this what our sham democracy has come to?

At least there could have been a better way for Ayariga to make Agyarko “feel the pinch” of character assassination other than this cheap shot at politics of equalization. At this point, it is only fair to say he failed to hit hard at Agyarko in equal measure. Has Agyarko as yet apologized for claiming the World Bank “‘breathed down’ the neck of the former Ghanaian leader to take a particular course of action’”?

And as if we thought the drama has finally come to a happy conclusion, we get this categorical shocker from Ayariga:

“Let me state categorically that I have not withdrawn any allegation against the nominee. The basis for such a withdrawal and apology does not exist because the Minority Members actually received some sums of money from the leadership which came from the nominee.”

Something smells fishy here. This is how they are all going to lie on their asset-and-liability declaration forms. Who is lying? And who is telling the truth? But who is to blame for this mess? Ghanaians have themselves to blame for voting these chameleonic ingrates and political snakes into office.

We shall return with Part 2, the concluding segment.

REFERENCES

Ghanaweb. “I Haven't Withdrawn Bribery Allegation Against Agyarko—Mahama Ayariga.” January 27, 2017

Ghanaweb. “Produce Evidence, NPP MPs Challenge Ayariga's Bribery Allegation.” January 27, 2017.

Columnist: Francis Kwarteng