By Bernice Bessey
The Board Chairperson of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Linda Ofori Kwafo, was caught off guard yesterday, when she was asked a simple question as to whether she had declared her assets, as demanded by law or not. The occasion was a ‘Roundtable Discussion’ of one year of the Office of the Special Prosecutor held by Corruption Watch in Accra yesterday.
The Board Chairperson, who is also the Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), local chapter of Transparency International, presumably not expecting the question, diplomatically shoved it aside by asking the questioner to check from the Auditor General’s Department.
When the Moderator of the programme, Umaru Sanda Amadu, a broadcast journalist, insisted on a definite answer, Mrs Kwafo gave in and told the forum, mainly made up of anti-corruption agencies, that she was still in the process of declaring her assets.
The response brought Mr. Vitus Adaboo Azeem, former Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), to his feet. When he caught the eyes of the Moderator and was subsequently given the opportunity to make his contribution, Vitus drew Mrs Kwafo’s attention to Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution that requires public office holders to declare their assets upon assumption of office.
The said Article reads: (1) 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 (c) at the end of his term of office.
(2) Failure to declare or knowingly making false declaration shall be a contravention of this Constitution, and shall be dealt with in accordance with article 287 of this Constitution.
Mrs Kwafo virtually became speechless after Mr. Vitus Adaboo Azeem made copious references to the above article, and argued that she should have declared her assets long ago.
Dr Kojo Asante, Director for Advocacy and Policy, CDD-Ghana, on behalf of Corruption Watch, assessing one year of the OSP, indicated that although the Office, since its establishment, had seen some amount of progress, it had not met the expectations of Ghanaians.
“But, if we have lost time at the beginning, we should not lose more time now. As long as all stakeholders are committed, we should be able to make up for lost time. From the assessment, a few key issues have to be resolved as the OSP becomes fully operational,” he said.
According to him, for the OSP, to fulfil its mandate, a coordination, cooperation and collaboration protocol was urgently needed to manage the overlapping mandate of corruption and corruption-related offences.
Dr Eric Oduro Osae, Lawyer and Governance Expert, on the other hand, kicked against the process whereby the OSP would rush to court with so many cases in an election year.