New public officer bill under review

A new public officer bill that seeks to provide code of conduct for public officials and sufficiently address key issues concerning asset declaration is ready and currently undergoing review by stakeholders.

The bill, which was put together by the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, is expected to domesticate the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on the prevention and combating of corruption.

It will also seek to address the condition under which a person is qualified or disqualified from holding public office,  legal proceedings against public officers, administrative procedures, the oath of office, sanctions and regulatory among others.

Although it is yet to be presented to parliament and cabinet for deliberation and approval, the bill, gives details of code of conduct for public officials as compared to that of the 1992 constitution.

Per the bill, “a public officer, who fails to submit a declaration, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than one hundred penalty units and not more than two hundred penalty units.”

Also “A public officer shall not sell or make a gift of a vehicle, building or other valuable asset of the government to another officer.”

These came to light yesterday in Accra, at a stakeholders workshop, organised by the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice,  to engage key agencies on the enactment of the bill.

It brought together participants from the Electoral Commission, Media Commission, Ghana Journalist Association, Judicial Service, security agencies, Pubic Service Commission, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), among others.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, said that the new bill would serve the purpose of legislation in other jurisdictions like the United States Ethics in Government Act and Public Officer Ethics Act of Kenya.

He was confident that the bill, if passed into law, would strengthen the role of CHRAJ in the investigation of allegations of contraventions, non-compliance with the code of conduct for public officers, including conflict of interest, non-declaration of assets and illicit enrichment.

“It is my respectful view that the bill will be a huge shot in the arm of the fight against corruption for our country. Currently, legislation in Ghana is inadequate to deal extensively with public office accountability.

Hence the need for legislation which meets the minimum standards contained in the United Nations Convention and Africa Union Convention on prevention and combating corruption regarding public officer accountability and corruption,” Mr Dame said.

He explained that it would also seek to address matters relating to sexual harassment and provides a gamut of stringent administrative measures and sanctions to deal with violation of the law, ranging from a bar against holding public office to penal measures.

The passage of the bill into law, the minister said, should not prevent other public Institutions from further improving accountability and ethical conduct at work place by enacting specific codes of discipline to meet the peculiar demand of their establishment.

The passage of the bill into law provides the legal framework to identify and manage conflict of interest scenarios pertaining to public officers, so as to have one global legislation for dealing with corruption, among many other things,” Mr Dame said.

BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS

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