The Case of the Missing Galamsey Excavators

29 JANUARY 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY THE MEDIA COALITION AGAINST GALAMSEY AND OCCUPYGHANA

THE CASE OF THE MISSING GALAMSEY EXCAVATORS

Accra, January 29, 2019 – The Media Coalition Against Galamsey, OccupyGhana, and we believe, most Ghanaians, are disappointed and saddened by the revelation by the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Frimpong Boateng that hundreds of seized Galamsey excavators have disappeared from District Assemblies around the country.

Our deep concern at this revelation stems from the fact that the authorities have simply once again failed to follow and enforce the law. The inability of the government to enforce the law, from the facts as we know them, is only matched by the brazenness of the illegal miners.

We have a number of questions for the government that require answers; and we respectfully demand those answers.

First, under the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act, it is illegal for anyone to “erect equipment… for the purpose of mining” without being the holder of either a mining lease or a small-scale mining licence. Everyone who does this commits an offence. The government has to explain to Ghanaians whether the persons from whom the equipment was allegedly seized were also arrested. If that did not happen, the government should explain why it did not happen. Or, were the illegal miners also allowed to disappear just like the equipment?

Second, the law then provides that upon the arrest of illegal miners, the equipment they were using “shall, regardless of the ownership…, be seized and kept in the custody of the police.” It is for very good reason that the law demands that the equipment should be kept by the police, and no other institution. The government therefore has to explain to Ghanaians why the equipment allegedly seized was kept with District Assemblies and not the police. Was this deliberate? Was this to make it very easy for the equipment to simply ‘disappear’? Did anyone take an inventory of the seized equipment and if so where is that inventory? Which public officers were responsible for flouting the law?

Third, the Act demands that the arrested persons should be tried in court and then upon conviction, the court is empowered to “order the forfeiture of any equipment… seized.” The government has to explain to Ghanaians whether the persons from whom the equipment was seized were duly prosecuted, and if not, why not? Without prosecution, the seized equipment cannot be forfeited in the manner the law demands. Are any prosecutions still taking place? If so, have there been any convictions? And if so, did the courts order forfeiture? Is the government able to publish a report on these matters?

Fourth, the Act provides that within 60 days of the confiscation, the Minister for Mines shall “allocate the equipment… to the appropriate state institution and publish in the Gazette the name of the state institution to which the equipment… is allocated.” We do not need to ask this question because it is pretty obvious to all of us that this has not happened.

Fifth, the Roadmap For Lifting of Ban on Artisanal & Small Scale Mining & the Way Forward policy document says in section 3.2.1 bullet 3 that there shall be a “Directive by the Government/IMCIM to move all earth moving mining equipment for artisanal and small-scale mining to designated areas for subsequent registration and installation of tracking devices. This will be done under the direct supervision of the Regional Ministers prior to the vetting of artisanal and small-scale mining companies”. Obviously from the statement of the Minister this directive has not been implemented.

Also, section 3.2.5 states that “The Minerals Commission in collaboration with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have been tasked to register and install tracking devices on earth moving equipment to ensure that the use of equipment at inappropriate locations are monitored and reported. A committee was formed to deal with the registration and installation of tracking device on the earth moving mining equipment.” Has this provision been implemented? If it had, these excavators would have been registered and could be tracked making it impossible for them to be stolen. Can the government explain to Ghanaians why this has not happened?

And, sixth, we also need to know from the government whether all existing mining leases and small-scale licences have now been submitted to Parliament for ratification as is required under both the Constitution and the Minerals and Mining Act.

Considering the above and the revelation by the Minister, the government should be as unhappy as we are, and more so. If the government with all the power and force at its disposal is unwilling to or incapable of implementing and enforcing its own laws, then it gives a signal to potential wrongdoers that we have no respect for the rule of law; it is just something we mention to others to make us feel good. That is why the nation is still under brazen attack from illegal miners. They know that we make noise and even deploy our military, but we have no teeth to bite. Nowhere is this more evident than the blatant illegal mining at the place called “Dollar Power,” and the apparent inability or unpreparedness of the government to enforce the law there. This and the impunity it connotes should be a scar on our conscience.

We are therefore not surprised that the War Against Galamsey is generally accepted to be failing. Operation Vanguard has all but petered out. That is unacceptable. We call on the government to shake itself out of its stupor and enforce the mining law without fear or favour. We also call on the media and civil society organizations to reawaken, hold leadership to account and reinvigorate the #StopGalamsey war.

Losing this war is not an option. Irresponsible and unsustainable mining is an existential threat and should not be countenanced.

Issued by:

Media Coalition Against Galamsey
OccupyGhana

OccupyGhana® Demands Return Of Government Vehicles Illegally Sold To Political Appointees

OccupyGhana® Demands Return Of Government Vehicles Illegally Sold To Political Appointees

27TH JANUARY 2020

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS RETURN OF GOVERNMENT VEHICLES ILLEGALLY SOLD TO POLITICAL APPOINTEES

OccupyGhana® has read reports of a statement by President John Mahama on 17 January 2020 that if he is elected back to office, he would “to put an immediate and permanent end to the purchase of duty post vehicles by political appointees,” and that “Government vehicles will remain government vehicles.” On this matter there appears to be unusual unanimity among the two leading contestants, as President Akufo-Addo is also reported to have told ministers on 11 April 2017 that “No official is any longer going to have the opportunity to buy any official car, so that we put an end to [the constant buzz], ‘Where are the cars? Where are the cars?’ Nobody is going to have that capacity anymore.”

While we at OccupyGhana® wholeheartedly agree with these pronouncements, we have grave reservations that must be addressed. Simply, we are not satisfied with bare promises and assurances of executive action. We believe that this is a matter where government is simply required to respect and comply with the law as laid down in the 2003 Public Procurement Act, as amended in 2016.

Therefore, we demand proof that the government followed that law in the sale of a massive 361 government vehicles to “political appointees” between 29 December 2016 and 6 January 2017, or a return of all of those vehicles to the government for due process to be complied with and proper value realised for them. The law that applied in 2016 is that which applies now. If the law was breached then with no consequences and sanctions, there is no guarantee that it would not be breached again. That is why these the “never again” assurances provide cold comfort and ring hollow to us.

When the Public Procurement Act was passed in 2003, it introduced under its Part Eight (sections 83 and 84) a mandatory procedure for disposing of government “stores, plant and equipment.” That procedure involved establishing a Board of Survey, obtaining a Technical Report and Recommendations, and ultimately, the sale of only “obsolete or surplus items” by public tender to the highest tenderer or public auction subject to a reserve price.

While several citizens were in no doubt that this law applied to the sale of government vehicles, successive governments still disposed of such vehicles especially to their appointees after every election, without recourse to the law. The ridiculous and risible excuse from those governments was that the words “stores, plant and equipment” in the law did not specifically apply to vehicles.

However, with pressure from civil society and several others, in June 2016, Parliament finally amended section 83 of, and introduced a new section 83A to, the 2003 Public Procurement Act, so that the mandatory procedure for disposing of government assets would specifically apply to government vehicles.

Thereafter, one would have expected that the government would comply with this new law. However, in a period of just nine days starting from 29 December 2016 and ending on the night before the handover of power on 7 January 2017, and while Ghanaians were focused on the political transition, there was this massive sale of government vehicles to departing political appointees in apparent disregard and breach of the law, at an average of 40 cars per day!

On 28 March 2017, we wrote to both the Chief of Staff and the Administrator-General under our right to information under Article 21(1)(f) of the Constitution, inquiring whether the government followed the law in those disposals. It was within weeks of this letter and while we were awaiting responses that President Akufo-Addo announced the ban.

When after several months of more waiting we did not receive a response from either office, we sent reminders on 30 January 2018. This time we received a response from the Administrator-General on 7 February 2018 providing us with a schedule and details of 361 “vehicles disposed of as end-of-service benefits to political appointees,” the names of the beneficiaries, and how much they were sold for.

If the breach of the law was surprising, then the prices at which the vehicles were sold told shocking story. For instance a Toyota Camry registered in 2014 was sold to a political appointee in 2016 for GHS12,500. A Toyota Corolla commissioned in 2013 and registered in 2015 was sold to another political appointee for GHS6,000. Another Toyota Corolla, commissioned and registered in 2016 was sold for GHS6,100 to an appointee. A one-year old Nissan Sunny went to an appointee for GHS7,500. In another instance, a Toyota Avensis was sold for just GHS1,200 to another appointee. BMWs were sold to the more prominent appointees at between GHS25,000 and GHS45,000.

In the absence of the Technical Report that the law demands, it is impossible to ascertain if these vehicles were even or duly classified as “obsolete and surplus.” What has become apparent is that there was no Board of Survey or Technical Report. There certainly were no public tenders or public auctions. The vehicles were simply handed over to political appointees at ‘yor kɛ gari’ prices, all in flagrant breach of the law.

That is why in the Administrator-General’s 7 February 2018 letter, he tellingly stated that he could not provide information on whether the disposals complied with the mandatory procedure imposed by law, and then directed us to seek answers to this from the Office of the Chief of Staff. That office has never responded to us. When on 14 February 2018 we wrote back to the Administrator-General demanding data on disposal of assets since 2003, he responded on 15 February 2018 to say that his office did not have that data since it only came into existence in 2013.

Our further letter to the President dated 17 July 2018 demanding a full-scale inquiry into the matter has received neither a response nor any action. The lack of response is particularly worrying when viewed against the fact that section 92 of the Act criminalises breaches of its provisions and makes offenders (i.e. officials and beneficiaries) liable to be jailed for up to five years.

It is in the light of the above that we remain unconvinced by the assurances made by the immediate past president and the current president to end this practice. We note that they still fail to acknowledge the sheer illegality of it. That is why we believe that the best way to assure Ghanaians that this practice is or will be a thing of the past, would be to satisfy Ghanaians that the December 2016 sale of 361 government vehicles was in accordance with the law. If not, we expect the government to rescind those sales forthwith and then compel compliance with the law.

We call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to support our demands especially in the light of our shared constitutional duty under Article 41(f) “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property.”

We believe that in the coming elections, Ghanaians will judge the parties, especially those that are in power or have been in power before, not just by the sweetness of their promises and assurances, but by their deeds concerning the same matters about which they seek to make promises and give assurances.

Still in the service of God and Country.

OccupyGhana®

CONSTITUTION DAY: IT IS TIME TO TAKE THE ASSETS AND LIABILITIES DECLARATION REGIME SERIOUSLY

7th January 2020

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

CONSTITUTION DAY: IT IS TIME TO TAKE THE ASSETS AND LIABILITIES DECLARATION REGIME SERIOUSLY

OccupyGhana® salutes Ghanaians on the 26th anniversary of the coming into force of the Fourth Republican Constitution. Marking 7th January as ‘Constitution Day’ is intended to acknowledge Ghana’s collective efforts at ensuring that the tenets of democracy, rule of law and principles of constitutionalism are upheld. This has been the longest spell of constitutional democracy since independence, and it is no mean achievement.

On this auspicious day we would want to highlight, once again, an aspect of our Constitution that has been largely ignored by successive governments, but which is currently being forced to the front burner of our national discourse by the Auditor-General: the declaration of assets and liabilities by public office holders.

Our position is summarised as follows:

(i) affected officers must file the declarations at the specific times prescribed by the Constitution (for which reason the six-month extension granted by statute is unconstitutional and must be repealed),

(ii) the over 40,000 public officers in default must be compelled to comply forthwith, and

(iii) the Auditor-General must end the unconstitutional system of secret, unverified declarations.

TIME FOR FILING

The Constitution expressly and mandatorily requires that prescribed office holders must declare their assets and liabilities to the Auditor-General (i) before taking office, (ii) on every fourth anniversary thereafter, and (iii) at the end of a person’s term of office. We demand strict compliance with these mandatory timelines.

That is why we remain convinced that the provision in section 1(4) of Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550), which gives a 6-month extension for making declarations, is unconstitutional and void.

We therefore repeat our invitation to the government to take immediate steps to repeal this offending provision, without us having to proceed to the Supreme Court to have it struck down as unconstitutional.

PRESCRIBED OFFICERS

The Constitution prescribed specific public office holders who were to declare, and allowed Parliament to extend the coverage to other public office holders. This is what Parliament did when it passed Act 550, Schedule 1 of which contains the extended list.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of public office holders have simply failed, refused or neglected to make the declarations. From our conservative estimates, more than 40,000 public officers are currently in breach of the law.

While we were contemplating legal action against every public office holder in breach, we became aware of the Auditor-General’s 31st December 2019 Circular that announced that henceforth the declarations would be considered part of audits and that offending officers shall be reported to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice for action as required by article 287 of the Constitution.

Since then we have become aware of some frantic and even desperate efforts by some heads of affected institutions to ensure compliance within those institutions. We commend this to every institution mentioned in the law. As the saying goes, “better late than never.”

We also welcome this bold move by the Auditor-General and we give it our full and unalloyed commendation and support.

END OF SECRET DECLARATIONS

The fact is that even in the relatively few circumstances where declarations have been made, they have been made in sealed envelopes to the Auditor-General and remain unopened, unaudited and unverified.

However an automatic audit or verification would ascertain whether (i) the assets and liabilities were declared in accordance with the law, (ii) the assets declared actually exist, so as to prevent ‘assumptive’ declarations (where the person declares non-existing assets now, based on the assumption that through corruption those assets may be acquired later), (iii) the declarations were submitted within the time provided by the Constitution, and (iv) any new assets were acquired or liabilities discharged while in office, so that an inquiry may be conducted into whether those assets or the means to settle the declared liabilities were genuinely acquired.

Sadly, successive Auditors-General have not considered it part of their obligations under the Constitution to open the sealed envelopes, let alone verify or audit their contents.

We reiterate our position that there is nothing in article 286 that supports the current “secret declaration,” which is a contradiction in terms. The concept of a “secret declaration” that remains uninspected in the hands of the Auditor-General is not just alien to the Constitution but an anathema, and is therefore unconstitutional.

Verification by the Auditor-General is the only way to give life to article 286(3) as follows:

“Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after the initial declaration required by clause (1) of this article and which is not reasonably attributable to income, gift, loan, inheritance or any other reasonable source shall be deemed to have been acquired in contravention of this Constitution.”

The current stance therefore flies in the face of the probity, accountability and transparency provisions in the Preamble to the Constitution, negates the mandatory obligation placed on the state under article 35(8) “to eradicate corrupt practices,” and claws back the duty placed on citizens by article 41 “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property.”

CONCLUSION

This is the fifth time that OccupyGhana® is raising the issue of assets and liabilities declaration. We believe that the government must take the lead in this matter and simply ensure that affected officers comply with the law. Further, we do not think that the government wants to wait for years of litigation before simply repealing the six-month extension for the declarations.

While saluting and congratulating Ghanaians on the 26th anniversary of the Fourth Republican Constitution, we wish to remind ourselves that there is a lot more to do to safeguard the Constitution and make its provisions relevant.

We once again invite all Ghanaians to occupy our spaces because if each of us does a little, together we will do a lot.

Still in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®