RE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION REQUEST ON THE STATUS OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022

Our Ref

Our Ref: OG/2023/015

30 May 2023

Secretary to the Cabinet
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Dear Madam:

RE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION REQUEST ON THE STATUS OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022

The above-entitled matter refers.

OccupyGhana is pleasantly amazed and amused to read that the Government has finally agreed to enact the Conduct of Public Officers Act, because it is now being compelled by the International Monetary Fund to do so, as part of the conditionalities for the US$3Billion Extended Credit Facility Arrangement for Ghana.

We have written to your office several times to demand that Cabinet approves the draft Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2022 that was submitted to Cabinet by the Attorney-General, and then send it to Parliament for debate and enactment. We kept the pressure on until the Government slammed the door in our faces. In your letter to us dated 14 February 2023, ref OPCA.3/3/140223, you stated emphatically that Cabinet has “taken the view that there are adequate provisions that deal with the conduct of public officers in the existing law,” and therefore “Cabinet has declined approval for the Memorandum.”

What was even more shocking was that the Office of the President chose to wrongfully stamp this letter as “CONFIDENTIAL” and then mark each page as “SECRET.” You have neither acknowledged nor responded to our letters to you dated 20 and 27 February 2023, challenging this illegal branding of the letters and demanding their withdrawal.

Overall, Cabinet’s refusal to approve the draft Bill flew in the face of all the promises that this Government had made to Ghanaians on this matter, including, particularly the following statement at page 105 of the New Patriotic Party’s 2020 Manifesto:
[Attached]

Disappointed at this volte-face, we considered several options including petitioning the Right to Information Commission for a determination of the absurd claim of confidentiality and secrecy. We also considered suing the Government or presenting a bill to Parliament to amend the specifically offending portion of section 1 of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act 1998 (Act 550), which unconstitutionally extends by six months, the fixed times that the Constitution provides for assets declaration by public officers.

That is why we are amazed and amused that the Government, now under pressure from the IMF, is promising to pass into law, the Bill that you told us, as recently as February of this year, would not be approved. We note that the IMF COUNTRY REPORT No 23/169, page 22, paragraph 44, says “The authorities are also committed to addressing weaknesses in the existing asset declaration system for public officials—which currently lacks an effective verification process—by enacting a new Conduct of Public Officers Act.”

We are tickled that in the attachment titled MEMORANDUM OF ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL POLICIES, at page 69, paragraph 52, the Government itself says “We will continue to strengthen organizational and legal arrangements for addressing corruption and enhancing accountability and integrity: This will include improvements in the existing asset declaration system. The enactment of Conduct of Public Officers Act will notably seek to address current weaknesses of this system.”

Then there is the Statement by Messrs Bijani, Sassanpour and Akosah dated 17 May 2023, which says at page 6: “The authorities are committed to address macro-critical gaps in Ghana’s governance framework, enhance accountability and fight corruption forcefully. They will enact the Conduct of Public Officers Act to address identified weaknesses in the existing asset declaration system.”

We are glad and saddened at the same time that the Government that thumbed its nose at us on this issue, has now found its way back to the table, compelled, not because the activism of well-meaning citizens, but because Ghana’s current economic dire straits and the dictates of the IMF. We however wish to assure the Government that we remain ready and willing to assist Cabinet in reconsidering the draft Bill, approving it and sending it to Parliament for debate and enactment.

We have therefore taken steps to address the previous, false claim by Cabinet that everything that the draft Bill seeks to do is already covered by existing law. We are attaching to this letter, a 20-page table containing our comparative analyses of the Bill and existing law, to show that contrary to what Cabinet claimed and which was communicated to us in your 14 February 2023 letter, the vast majority of the Bill’s clauses do not exist already in Ghana law. It is still our conviction that passing the Bill into law will go a long way to properly regulate the conduct of public officers, and bring to pass the Government’s new promise to the IMF that the new Act will “address current weaknesses of [the assets declaration] system” and “strengthen organizational and legal arrangements for addressing corruption and enhancing accountability and integrity.”

Yours in the service of God and Country,

OccupyGhana

cc. Chief of Staff
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Attorney-General & Minister for Justice
Office of the Attorney-General & Minister for Justice
Accra

Minister for Information
Ministry of Information
Accra

Executive Secretary
Right to Information Commission
Accra

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