OCCUPYGHANA® – 2019 IN REVIEW

23rd December 2019
OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT
OCCUPYGHANA® –  2019 IN REVIEW

As the year draws to a close, we at OccupyGhana® reflect on what we have done this year, what is left to be done and where we want to go next year in the service of God and our dear country Ghana, as follows:
1.    We started off the New Year by congratulating the Auditor-General on the first ever Special Audit Report on Disallowances and Surcharges. The news that he had saved the country the net total of GHS5,445,676,134.53 in disallowances and recovered GHS67,137,517.86 in surcharges was very good. We also urged the prosecution of all persons found culpable in the Auditor-General’s Reports. That is yet to happen, to the best of our knowledge.
2.    Later that month, we sent a letter to the Minister of Finance in which we raised concerns about the new Fiscal Responsibility Act. We are yet to get an answer to any of the 14 questions we posed.
3.    On 1st February, we issued a statement that condemned the violence during the bye-elections at Ayawaso West Wuogon. We also demanded a commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the events that occurred that day. In a subsequent letter a few days later, we also questioned the legality of the National Security Council deploying armed personnel during the violence that marred the elections, stating firmly that any armed force operating in Ghana without parliamentary approval was an unconstitutionality.
4.    We were glad when the President announced a commission to investigate the violence during the elections a few days later. We note that the Commission’s Report was aligned with our position on the unconstitutionality of having an armed force operating without parliamentary approval. We demand that the government should either disband the NSC force or obtain parliamentary approval for it. We also urge Ghanaians to continue following the Commission’s Report to ensure that we end partisan and electoral violence once and for all.
5.    On 31st March, after a rather horrific and fatal accident involving two passenger buses on the Tamale-Kitampo road a few days earlier, we asked for measures that would reduce the carnage on our roads in a statement that elucidated the possible steps that could be taken. We can only hope that the authorities are considering those suggestions seriously.
6.    April saw us issuing a statement that disagreed with comments the Senior Minister, Hon. Yaw Osafo Marfo, made about the deportation of the Galamseyer and Chinese National, Aisha Huang. We were shocked at the justification given for that, especially when she was only properly charged with substantive offences after our intervention with and petition to the Attorney-General. We still disagree with the government on this. And as things turned out, the government now disagrees with its own action in this matter.
7.    In May, we saluted the President and Parliament on the Right to Information bill.
8.    On 13th June, we announced the inaugural OccupyGhana v. Attorney-General Anniversary Lectures. The event celebrated our work towards the Supreme Court decision that ensured that the Auditor-General now fully exercises disallowance and surcharge powers.
9.    In July, we joined most Ghanaians to question Parliament over its plans to build a new 450-seat chamber in light of all the other problems the nation faced and also since it did not appear in the annual budget. Those plans were rightfully shelved.
10.    Later on in the month, we questioned the circumstances surrounding the flouting of Afoko’s bail orders. We felt rightfully that those actions encroached on his civil rights.
11.    On 23rd August, in response to revelations by the journalist Manasseh Awuni on the Public Procurement Authority, and the collapse of several financial institutions that seemed to have no end, we demanded that the government enforces the laws to bring order in the procurement and financial sectors.
12.    We followed that with a statement a few weeks later that highlighted the importance of public officials appreciating the importance of avoiding Conflicts of Interest in the course of their work. We are still demanding the passage of a comprehensive legislation on the conduct of public office holders.
13.    Also in September, after the President finally expressed regret about Aisha Huang not facing trial before her deportation, a position we had advocated, we strongly expressed, once again, our disappointment with the government over that turn of events. In our view, that deportation, its justification and then its condemnation, all by the same government, marks one of the lowest points this year.
14.    A month later, we issued a statement condemning the heavy-handedness of the police against demonstrating law students in Accra. We hope that such acts of senseless brutality against Ghanaians will become a thing of the past.
15.    We followed it later with a statement demanding assets and liabilities declaration by over 40,000 public officials, who have flouted the constitution by not declaring. We urged the government to assist the Auditor-General in developing a robust software for assets and liabilities declarations.
16.    In mid-November, we demanded the government make good on the promise to set up an effective emergency response service in Ghana. To that effect, we asked for the release of the ambulances parked in front of the State House into use and also for the set up of command centers. We received a not-wholly satisfactory answer and will continue to demand more information and action on this.
17.    On 1st December, in a letter to the Attorney-General, we stated our view on the unconstitutionality of the 6-month extension given to public officials for asset and liabilities declaration. We expect the government to effect the necessary amendment of the extension provision in the law to bring it in line with the Constitution, without us having to resort to a court action on the matter.
18.    A few days ago, we reiterated the issue of the constitutional independence of the Auditor-General, and the need for the continued exercise of his disallowance and surcharge powers. We raised again the question on why no one was being prosecuted.
We cannot end this release without making two specific demands of government, and in respect of which we require answers before the end of the year:
(i) the Attorney-General must present a full update to Ghanaians on the status of the high profile corruption cases that are being investigated or prosecuted, including the status of recovery and enforcement in the Woyome and the Assibit/Abuga Pele cases; and
(ii) a full investigation into the alleged unauthorised development of a property at the Airport Residential Area that attracted the public ire and intervention of the Minister of Road and Highways, and the much publicised arrest of the developers.
As one can see, we have been busy. From the formation of this organisation, we have emphasised on a fight for hearts and minds, and we have stuck to that with a lot of successes chalked. We believe that our strength lies in the fact that our efforts are based on using, primarily, the law to enhance governance. We believe that the victories won this way are longer-lasting and more effective.
We will continue to stay vigilant and fight for good governance for our dear country. We cannot take on every fight. That’s not what we seek to do, and we do not even have the capacity to do that. Within our means and abilities, we occupy our space and have combined as a group into something formidable.
As we wish every Ghanaian a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, we urge each one to occupy his or her space and in so doing, help right the wrongs that plague our land and put this country on a true road to becoming greater and stronger.
For God and Country!
OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® HAILS CONSTITUTIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF AUDITOR-GENERAL

12TH DECEMBER 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® HAILS CONSTITUTIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF AUDITOR-GENERAL

OccupyGhana® has closely followed the story about the Auditor-General disallowing a one million dollar payment and surcharging the Senior Minister with that amount.

We have also seen a statement dated 11th December 2019, issued by the Senior Minister in which he states his disagreement with the Disallowance and Surchage and communicates his intention to challenge them in court.

We do not think that these momentous developments in our history ought to pass without comment.

This is probably the first time in this Fourth Republic (and possibly in Ghana’s political history) that an Auditor-General has dared to issue a Disallowance and then Surcharge a minister; and no less a minister than the Senior Minister.

And under the constitutional dispensation that we are blessed with, the Auditor-General who issued the Disallowance and Surcharge cannot mysteriously disappear. He cannot be shut up. He cannot be arrested or lose his job for doing his work. Rather, people he surcharges (whoever they are) have no option but to work under the principles of constitutionalism and the rule of law, and to challenge the Auditor-General in court.

When in November 2014, OccupyGhana began the fight to compel the Auditor-General to exercise the constitutionally-mandated powers of Disallowance and Surcharge, our biggest obstacle was the several naysayers who were convinced that we had no case and would lose. But we were confident because our cause was just and our course was right. We were fortified in our simple argument: that where the Constitution donates a power and prescribes the circumstances under which the power is to be exercised, it is a breach of the Constitution if that power is never exercised. We were convinced that especially where the Auditor-General himself issued annual reports showing the routine illegal dissipation of Ghana’s resources, the non-use of the power to check that wrong was in and of itself an abuse of the power.  We therefore urged the Supreme Court to interpret the empowering word “may” in the Constitution as the imperative “shall,” so that whenever the Auditor-General discovers what he considers to be a wrongful use of Ghana’s money, he would be mandatorily required to disallow and surcharge.

When on 21st June 2016 the Supreme Court came out with a judgment that granted each of the five reliefs we had sought, we knew that the history of public sector accountability in Ghana had changed forever. But the Supreme Court was not done. It gave one further relief that we had not even asked for, as follows: “Finally, the Attorney-General is hereby ordered to take all necessary steps to enforce the decisions or steps taken by the Auditor-General…to ensure compliance including in some cases criminal prosecutions.”

 

Going to court cost us a lot in terms of energy, time and resources. But Ghana was and remains the winner from our convictions and resolve.

We do not know as yet the legal route that the Senior Minister plans to take in his promised challenge. However, if it is an appeal under the new Order 54A of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 (CI 47), then we are even more gratified because we were proud to work on and submit the original draft that gestated into the Bill, which was adopted by the Rules of Court Committee and passed by Parliament as the High Court (Civil Procedure) (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules, 2016 (CI 102), and which we have happily named “the OccupyGhana Rules.”

We believe that in the final analysis, if the Auditor-General erred in the Disallowance and Surcharge against the Senior Minister, the court will say so. However, if he was right, the court will also say so and hold the Senior Minister liable to pay the money paid under the transaction to the state.

That is democracy. That is constitutionalism. That is the rule of law. Ultimately, when the story of Ghana is told, it ought to end with three words: “…and Ghana won.”.

Yours in the service of God and Country,

OccupyGhana®

GHANAIANS WILL NOT BE SPECTATORS OF PARKED AMBULANCES

17th NOVEMBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

GHANAIANS WILL NOT BE SPECTATORS OF PARKED AMBULANCES

Last year, the direness of medical care in Ghana was heightened significantly after several high-profile deaths due to a lack of beds in our hospitals and/or lack of a functioning emergency response system.

In the brouhaha that followed these deaths, OccupyGhana® and Citi FM petitioned the President on 27th July, 2018, to among other things, complete and operationalise several uncompleted hospitals, set up a bed management and a functioning emergency response system. Regarding the emergency response system, we did not only ask for ambulances and paramedics but we especially noted the need for the establishment of a Command Centre to coordinate and direct the supply of emergency services. We saw that as the first step in setting up an emergency response service.

In the year since then, a few of the hospitals have been completed but not fully operationalised. According to the Special Development Initiatives Ministry, 500 paramedics are being trained and due to graduate soon. The government has taken delivery of 48 ambulances out of 307 that have been budgeted for. However, since their arrival several weeks ago, they have been parked in front of the State House. Also, contrary to what the President promised last year, there is still no Command Centre. We also do not know the status of the bed management system.

Like most Ghanaians, OccupyGhana® wonders why in light of the fact that the country has so few working ambulances, these new ambulances would be left idling before the State House instead of being out in the constituencies being used to save lives. In a recent interview, even the Public Relations Officer of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) had no idea when the ambulances would be released by the government for deployment.

Finally, we heard this last Friday from the Minister of Health who said that distribution was delayed because the ambulances were being received in batches. More clarity came from the Special Development Initiatives Ministry which gave a rough timeline of when the ambulances will be deployed and why they are still parked in front of the State House. Three of the steps being taken deserve further consideration. According to the ministry the ambulances have not been deployed because:

– they are being fitted with trackers;

– receiving points are being set up; and

– paramedics are still being trained.

We can excuse the fitting of the trackers. We can even excuse the training of the paramedics. But what cannot be excused is the lack of receiving points for these ambulances.

In emergency care, the stepwise care of the critically ill or injured goes by algorithms that are known as the “ABCDs.” They are important because following them leads to the saving of lives.

In establishing an emergency service, that same order is needed to prevent chaos. Ambulances are a very important part of an emergency response service but even more important are the receiving points or what we termed “Command Centres” in our petition to the president a year ago. Once you have that, the pieces that make up an emergency response service are easier to arrange as you get them. If we had a Command Centre, we would have been ready even before the ambulances arrived. Instead, these ambulances are gracing the courtyard of the State House in all their splendour. They have become eye candy for a desolate populace whose voices precipitated a rapid acquisition of these ambulances.

This demands us to ask these very pertinent questions:

– Are there plans afoot to set up a central command centre or is the national Ambulance Service going to be the de facto Command Centre?

– Are these receiving points going to be command centres or just places where the ambulances are housed?

– Is there a bed management in place to allow the ambulance drivers to take patients to facilities that have available beds?

– Will the ambulances be equipped with suitable mapping technology to help them find patients?

– What plans have been made for constituencies with no hospitals? Where will their emergency cases go?

We did applaud the government for its response in making these ambulances available in the first place. But we equally express our disappointment that the ambulances since arrival have been inactive. Thus, we ask these questions because these ambulances just sitting there while people are dying, is a mark of gross irresponsibility and paints a vivid picture of lack of completeness in the thinking that went behind acquiring the ambulances in the first place.

It is enshrined in the Constitution, Article 34(2) that the citizenry has a Right to Good Health Care. How does parking the buses in front of the State House ensure that?

We rallied behind the President to his clarion call to be citizens. We will not settle to be spectators, especially to parked ambulances. Accordingly, we demand answers and no excuse but prompt and immediate action.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS ASSETS AND LIABILITIES DECLARATION BY OVER 40,000 AFFECTED PUBLIC OFFICERS

16th OCTOBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS ASSETS AND LIABILITIES DECLARATION BY OVER 40,000 AFFECTED PUBLIC OFFICERS

NON-COMPLIANCE
Article 286 of the Constitution demands the declaration of assets and liabilities by the occupants of certain public offices under three circumstances: (1) upon appointment, (2) every four years, and (3) at the end of the appointment. This provision has become notorious for the breach of it rather than compliance with it.

Often, the discourse has focused on the political offices that article 286(5) specifically mentions. Scant attention has been paid to the chairpersons, MDs and CEOs, General Managers and Departmental Heads in public corporations and companies “in which the State has a controlling interest,” who are also covered. Possibly no attention is paid to the category the Constitution specified as “such officers in the public service and any other public institution as Parliament may prescribe.”

In the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550), Parliament prescribed several additional, covered officers including officers “in any other public office or public institution other than the Armed Forces, the salary attached to which is equivalent to or above the salary of a Director in the Civil Service.”

From preliminary and raw data to which we are privy, the number of public officers who fall within this ‘salary-based requirement’ but who do not comply with the mandatory declaration of assets and liabilities exceeds 40,000.

In the Ministry of Education alone, over 5,000 officers are covered. Others include the Ministries of Finance and Health, each of which has over 3,000 officers covered. Each of the Ministry of Interior, Ghana Health Service and Controller and Accountant General’s Department has over 1000 officers covered. The Audit Service has well over 600 officers affected.

When we apply the ‘salary-based requirement’ to officers of the various other Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Authorities, Commissions, Councils, Boards, Services, Institutes, Organisations, Secretariats, Colleges, Programs, Diplomatic Missions, and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, then our 40,000 estimate appears extremely conservative. The actual figure could exceed 10% of all public servants.

The effect is that all of these public officers are in breach of article 286 of the Constitution and should be facing sanctions under article 287.

ONLINE DECLARATIONS
The sheer volume of declarations required brings into sharp focus the capacity of the Auditor-General to receive the declarations and then verify them to ensure that the correct declarations are made. The statutory requirement for obtaining, completing and submitting hard copy forms is clearly obsolete and impractical, and a fetter to both compliance and the Auditor-General’s audit and verification responsibilities.

We therefore call upon the Government to, as a matter of extreme urgency, procure necessary, appropriate and robust software that will make it easy both for affected officers to comply by simply filling the forms online and for the Auditor-General to audit and verify the declarations made. We also call for the immediate amendment of Act 550 to provide statutory support for the online declaration regime, if deemed necessary.

CONCLUDING COMMENTS
In our press release on Assets and Liabilities Declaration issued on January 28, 2018, we stated that the Auditor-General’s post-declaration audit and verification function, which to the best of our knowledge have never happened, are critical to ascertain whether the assets and liabilities are declared in accordance with the law, upon the assumption the public officer assuming office. The audit and verification would investigate whether 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. The audit and verification would also determine whether the declarations were submitted within the time provided by the Constitution, and whether 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 acquired genuinely.

We repeat that the only way to give voice and flesh to article 286 is to equip the Auditor-General to verify and audit declarations that are submitted, or at least a sample of them.

We once again call on the Auditor-General to outline a verification and audit procedure that reflects the true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, particularly article 286, in line with the above, and implement it forthwith.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS POLICE BRUTALITIES AGAINST DEMONSTRATING LAW STUDENTS AND DEMANDS REFORMS TO PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION

OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS POLICE BRUTALITIES AGAINST DEMONSTRATING LAW STUDENTS AND DEMANDS REFORMS TO PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION

9th OCTOBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS POLICE BRUTALITIES AGAINST DEMONSTRATING LAW STUDENTS AND DEMANDS REFORMS TO PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION

POLICE BRUTALITIES

OccupyGhana® is appalled by the brutal assault that the Police meted out to unarmed and peacefully demonstrating law students and their sympathisers on Monday, October 7, 2019. We have seen footages and photographs that show several infractions against the rule of law and of humaneness on the part of the Police. This Police high-handedness and brutality against students exercising nothing more than their constitutional right to demonstrate and air out their grievances makes a mockery of the democracy we claim to respect, and we wish to unequivocally announce our disgust with that turn of events and to condemn same in no uncertain terms.

We have closely studied the Police Statement on the matter which, to all intents and purposes, is a poor attempt to throw dust in the faces of Ghanaians concerning a true and accurate account of the day. For instance, how does the Police Service explain how the protestors somehow procured arsenals of stones to hurl at Police officers on the Independence Road stretch between the Canadian Consulate to the Golden Jubilee House? How is it possible, in 2019, for the police to call an exercise of the constitutional right to assembly “illegal” when police permits are not required to stage a demonstration, and the notice requirement in the Public Order Act can never morph into an unconstitutional demand for some kind of police permission?

We could ask a dozen questions about the Police Statement, which we find as offensive as we find their unwarranted abuse of power and their impunity in a civilised society governed by respect for human rights, human dignity, the rule of law and justice. And we wonder how Government can bear the news that many of these harmless student protestors reportedly found shelter at a foreign consulate from the atrocities of their country’s own Police Service.

We repeat and remind the Police that the right to demonstrate is an inalienable right that requires absolutely no police approval or censure beyond notification. And no edifice, building or “zone” should exist which, having the benefit of public access roads, public traffic and public thoroughfare in whole or in part, cannot accept the presentation of petitions by unarmed and inoffensive demonstrators. No ground in this country is so sacred that it cannot tolerate the lawful exercise of unarmed students’ rights to demonstrate.

We demand, at the very least an apology from the recently-confirmed Inspector General of Police who bears ultimate responsibility for this egregious display of brutishness. We also demand that all Commanding Officers who directly supervised, sanctioned and called for these barbaric attacks on innocent protestors be punished in accordance with the law.

PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION

We must also emphatically state that the time is ripe to address the root cause of this matter: the inability of the state to provide sufficient facilities to enable law students from the various law faculties and law schools gain access to professional legal education. We cannot, as a people, grant accreditation for several law faculties and law schools to be opened and run, and then maintain the current size of the School of Law for the professional law course, a completely unjustified bottleneck and another evidence of our lack of planning.

It is a fact that the introduction of the entrance examinations and the erstwhile interviews remain a formalised knee-jerk reaction to a problem that has an obvious solution that we refuse to provide. Ghana is not an island. Several other countries have resolved this problem in a manner that allows prospective lawyers to be trained and given the opportunity to write the final bar exam, however often they may write it. There is nothing wrong with learning from others and adapting what we learn to suit our purposes.

The Government cannot absolve itself of blame in this regard. It is statute that created the General Legal Council. That statute gives the Council the power to regulate professional legal education, sometimes with the approval of the Attorney-General. We insist that the same legislative process should be used to fix this problem once and for all.

A country of almost 30 million people cannot be proud that its official roll of lawyers has just about 3,000 lawyers. A ratio of one lawyer to 10,000 citizens is highly anaemic, and any existing or new policy that unduly restricts access to any form of education, especially in a developing economy, is not forward-looking and should be jettisoned. The time for action on this matter is now, and this buck stops at the desk of the Government.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, we demand of the Police Service, the General Legal Council and the Government of Ghana to be guided by the principles outlined in the Ghanaian constitution that all power emanates from the people and not the other way round.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS CLARITY AND DIRECTION ON THE COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION (CSE) DISCUSSION

3rd OCTOBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS CLARITY AND DIRECTION ON THE COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION (CSE) DISCUSSION

OccupyGhana® has keenly followed the active discussions and strong views on the alleged or proposed introduction of CSE into the curriculum of public basic schools.

The lack of clarity and apparent contradictions in statements and actions by government officials on whether such a curriculum is to be implemented at all, and if so what the content would be, is at the heart of the confusion that is festering.

We note that the Minister for Education has been careful to emphasise that CSE is not a part of the “approved” curriculum and curriculum framework for use by the Ghana Education Service for all public schools, that no teacher has been trained on CSE, and that CSE was not included in teacher resource packs and manuals.

However we have seen video footage dated February 2019 in which the minister referred to some guidelines and was emphatic that sexuality education should be part of the curricula to be launched in September 2019 “all they way from Kindergarten to Senior High School.”

This, we believe, was at a program held in Accra where Ghana and UNESCO announced the launch of a CSE program called “Our right, Our lives, Our future (O3),” the implementation of which was reported to have already started in 2018.

Further in paragraph 369 of the 2019 Budget Statement, the Finance Minster announced that the National Population Council and “other stakeholders” had collaborated to develop CSE guidelines “for incorporation into the national education curriculum,” and making reference to the National Condom Strategy.

Much earlier in June 2017, the Ministry of Education participated in the launch of the comprehensive sexuality education manual for young people titled “KnowItOwnItLiveIt,” a product of the Planned Parents Association of Ghana (PPAG) and Marie Stopes International Ghana (MSIG). We note that the GES also participated in the launch and were reported to be developing content for the project. Although there is no evidence that this document would be considered or treated as part of any proposed curriculum, it is difficult to divorce the circumstances surrounding its launch from the current discussions.

Further, we have seen what purports to be a Ghana Government and GES document (the foreword of which bears the following name and title “KWASI OPOKU-AMANKWA (PROF), DIRECTOR-GENERAL, GHANA EDUCATION SERVICE”) containing guidelines for CSE in Ghana, and which has modules for teaching CSE from Pre-school to SHS. Page 8 of this document discloses that “the choice of topics is informed by the six features of CSE in the Bogota Declaration of 2010,” the first of which is captured as “Respect for human rights and diversity with sexuality education affirmed as a right.” The Report issued in Bogota, Colombia in December 2010 and, titled “Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Advancing Human Rights, Gender Equality and Improved Sexual and Reproductive Health,” contains and endorses aspects of sexuality that some Ghanaians might object to.

We have also seen the Teacher Resource Pack of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA), titled “RESOURCE GUIDE FOR THE ORIENTATION OF PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS TOWARDS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE REVISED CURRICULUM FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS,” and it states at page 11 that CSE was one of the “contemporary issues addressed through the National Pre-Tertiary Curriculum Framework (NPCF).”

It is these and more that make it difficult to accept the Minister’s claim that CSE is not part of the approved curriculum. Even if it has not been formally approved, it is definitely under consideration. Our view is that the time is ripe for full and frank disclosure and a full-throttled debate on the matter and path going forward.

Ghanaians deserve and demand clarity on this once and for all. Specifically, we demand the following:

1. A definite position of the Government on the introduction of a CSE curriculum in our schools;

2. Before any approval or implementation, key stakeholders, including parents, traditional leaders and faith-based organisations must be actively engaged and involved in discussions surrounding it, so that the final product fully reflects our Ghanaian cultural and religious values;

3. If CSE is to be approved for implementation, then the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service must publish the detailed contents of the materials via traditional media channels, websites or/and social media; and

4. Parents must be given an “opt out” option for their wards. Parents whose wards remain in the programme must be supplied the same teaching material that the teachers would use and then constantly engaged by the teachers, so that the parents would emphasise their peculiar cultural, religious and other values to their wards as they are exposed to the topics being taught in school.

It should be clear to the Government that Ghanaians will not accept any CSE or other initiative that is suspected or believed to be the work of any foreign bodies, and which does not reflect our cultural and religious values, and public concerns. We believe that the education of Ghana’s future leaders in relevant subject areas is necessary to build a holistic character in them.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

Re: Fight Against Galamsey – OccupyGhana’s Response To The President’s Regret On Aisha Huang’s Deportation Without Trial

Re: Fight Against Galamsey – OccupyGhana’s Response To The President’s Regret On Aisha Huang’s Deportation Without Trial

23rd SEPTEMBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

RE: FIGHT AGAINST GALAMSEY – OCCUPYGHANA’S RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT’S REGRET ON AISHA HUANG’S DEPORTATION WITHOUT TRIAL

OccupyGhana® has noted with wry resignation the recent statement by the President that he regrets the Government’s decision to deport Aisha Huang without first completing the trial of her for mining-related offences. The President specifically said that that decision, “on hindsight, was a mistake.”

We appreciate the President’s candour in admitting this mistake. We agree with him that that decision was a mistake, a grave and regrettable one. What we are concerned with is that it had to take hindsight, an understating of the situation only after it had happened and almost two years after the fact, for the Government to realise how bad a mistake that was. Ghanaians knew right from the start that it was a mistake and said so to the Government, which ignored us, making this regret very little and very late.

And, while the legislative amendment that enhances the punishment regime for mining-related offences might deter some from engaging in Galamsey, we do not see how that, in and of itself, will prevent the repetition of the government’s mistake. That is because the mistake, the decision to free Aisha Huang without trial, had nothing to do with the law as it existed at the time.

We take these positions because there was sufficient basis, at the time of the decision, to show that the deportation without trial would hurt and weaken the fight against illegal mining. Certainly, the Government was aware of the message that that act gave to the whole world: the law will be enforced against citizens, but foreigners who breach the same law would be flown to their countries to sleep in the comfort of their beds and enjoy their illegal made-in-Ghana Galamsey booty. Yet the Government went ahead, took that decision and implemented it. That was the mistake, not the law.

For several years, OccupyGhana has been involved in the campaign against illegal mining. From that, we know that Ghana cannot divorce the scourge of Galamsey from the invidious roles played by several foreign nationals who exploit our weak and sometimes non-existent internal security system to engage in illegal mining.

That is why we were extremely disappointed when the then Minster of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. Peter Amewu, instead of seeing to it that the law was simply enforced, was reported to have met with the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana and the Mayor of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Province on 27th March 2017, to solicit their help to fight Galamsey, saying, “we are begging you to help us address this particular difficulty that we are having.”

Disappointed in this anemic and pathetic approach by the Minister towards the fight, it was refreshing and reassuring when the President, in a speech at Akyem Wenchi in April 2017, called the bluff of Galamsey operators. We issued a statement on 2nd May 2017 to stand with the President on this matter. Pleased with the stance taken and leadership provided by the President at the time, we expressed the “hope that the fight against this scourge will continue on an even higher level,” and that “with the President taking the lead and the support of all well-meaning Ghanaians, we will win.”

This was followed by the launch of Operation Vanguard by the military in July 2017 to combat Galamsey operations.

However, the matter involving Aisha Huang and the Government’s handling of it beggars belief, insults our intelligence, contradicts the President’s numerous pledges to fight Galamsey, and is probably the most obvious indicator that the Government’s commitment to the anti-Galamsey fight has been at best half-hearted.

When Aisha Huang was first arrested, being as obviously involved as she was in Galamsey, she was only charged with petty immigration infractions, namely hiring foreign nationals and disobeying directives. The steepest penalty for these was a risible and ridiculous GHS12,000 administrative fine!

It took an OccupyGhana Petition addressed to the Attorney-General in May 2017, protesting this and demanding that proper charges are laid under the Minerals and Mining Act, for that to happen. In that petition we pointed out that “the fight against illegal mining in Ghana is a fight to protect, not only the present, but the future of this country. It is therefore imperative that the law must be applied to all who fall foul of it, without fear or favour.”

But we were to be disappointed again when after several fits and starts, the prosecution on the charges laid by the Attorney-General only after OccupyGhana’s petition, was truncated and aborted by the same Attorney-General’s nolle prosequi; and then Aisha Huang was deported without standing trial. The result is that Aisha Huang did not even pay the GHS12,000 in administrative fines for the petty immigration infractions she was originally charged with before our protest and the Attorney-General’s intervention. We recall a petition from the Media Coalition Against Galamsey (MCAG) dated 21st December 2018, pointing out in real time that that decision was a mistake, and which fell on deaf ears.

It was sad that in the face of protests by the public over this action, a Presidential Staffer and the then secretary to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining, Mr. Charles Bissue, in apparent answer to the MCAG’s petition, added insult to injury in December 2018 by claiming that the Government deporting Aisha Huang was to prevent tax payer monies from being spent on her trial and possible imprisonment. What Mr. Bissue was unable to tell us was what that cost of prosecution and imprisonment would have been, compared to the damage that Aisha Huang’s alleged activities had caused, and as compared with the Ghanaians and others who had been tried for, convicted of and punished for the same offence.

Then, as recently as April 2019, the Senior Minister Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo compounded the situation, justifying the lack of prosecution of Aisha Huang on the basis of Ghana’s relationship with China and the prospect of receiving $2bn under the Sinohydro bauxite project.

In our statement dated 22nd April 2019 in response, we were emphatic that “the Senior Minister’s comments make complete mockery of the fight against Galamsey and critical decisions Government and the coalition against Galamsey have taken to address this issue. This statement suggests that there is a price tag for the exoneration of foreigners implicating in the appalling desecration of Ghana’s environment, rivers and laws. It positions foreigners who break/flout our laws as untouchable and above the law because their countries offer a trade partnership and benefits, we will receive from them.”

Neither Mr. Bissue nor Mr. Osafo-Maafo has withdrawn and apologised for these offensive and insulting statements. That is why we think that the Government’s alleged volte-face, captured in the President’s “mistake on hindsight” statement gives no, little or very cold comfort.

We are unable to agree with the President’s claim that this would not happen again simply because the punishments provided in the law have been enhanced by a recent amendment. The decision to free Aisha Huang without trial had nothing to do with the state of the law or punishment regime at the time. It was simply an unfortunate political decision, the real reason being possibly what Mr. Osafo-Maafo’s epiphany revealed. The amendment that the President refers to will not compel the Attorney-General to prosecute foreign nationals who are arrested for engaging in Galamsey or any other offence. Indeed, in July 2019 Huang Yanfeng, another Chinese national who was arrested in May 2019 for illegal timber operations, was also quietly deported, reminiscent of a pattern in dealing with foreign nationals who defy our laws regulating natural resources.

Thus, in our view, what the President should do is to assure Ghanaians that the executive power vested in him under the Constitution shall not be used in this manner again. And then we expect the President to order that all persons who have been arrested for being involved in Galamsey, especially the foreign nationals who are routinely simply handed over to Immigration for deportation instead of standing trial, should immediately be put before trial.

This “on hindsight mistake” has been a rather unfortunate, deflating and regrettable phase in the fight against Galamsey and a slap in the face of Ghanaians. We expect that all subsequent acts will match the realisation of the titanic mistake we made with Aisha Huang and more recently with Huang Yanfeng. We will judge the Government in this matter, not based in its words and assurances based on hindsight, but on its acts that are based on foresight. Let the Government beget fruits that befit the repentance of the “on hindsight mistake.”.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OccupyGhana® Calls For Urgent Government Action On Public Officer Conflicts Of Interest

4th SEPTEMBER, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® CALLS FOR URGENT GOVERNMENT ACTION ON PUBLIC OFFICER CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

OccupyGhana® has noted, fully identifies with and wholeheartedly endorses the 2nd September 2019 call by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) for the enactment into law of the long-standing Conduct of Public Officers Bill. It would be recalled that we made the same call in our press statement dated 23rd August 2019 titled “OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS FIRM ACTION ON THE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AUTHORITY AND COLLAPSE OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MATTERS,” where we also stated that “there is no justifiable or acceptable reason for the failure to pass that into law.” Tellingly, we added that “public office holders ought to know that there would be painful legal consequences for engaging in conflict of interest and conflict of duty acts.”

It is almost ironic that within days, Ghana has had to deal with yet another ‘scandal’ involving allegations of conflict of interest concerning a Board Member at a major public institution. Without commenting on the facts of any particular case, these latest issues and the rapidity of them throw into stark relief the urgent and continuing need to enact legislation to enforce public officers to take seriously their duties as guardians of the public purse.

More fundamentally, there is a crying need for thorough investigations and stiff penalties where public officers are found to be placing themselves at potential conflict of interest. This can be achieved by government immediately bringing back to Parliament debate on the Conduct of Public Officers Bill, which has been sitting dormant since 2015.

OccupyGhana® has repeatedly discussed and brought up for discussion, the duties and roles of a Board and Board Members. That is because what is often apparently misunderstood is the utmost duty of good faith and bona fides that comes with serving in a fiduciary position, which is what Board Membership really means. A fiduciary relationship is essentially one of a trustee. It is a basic principle of a trust that a trustee cannot profit personally from the property to which they have been entrusted. A Board Member of a public institution must never place themselves in a position where they may be suspected of profiting (directly or indirectly, including through any company or property they own) from the institution’s funds. That is why Article 284 of the Constitution prohibits, not just actual or real conflicts of interest and duty but even the likelihood (possibility, potential, chance) of it.

That brings into question whether the normal requirements of full disclosure, non-participation in decisions and even full arm’s length transactions, which might pass muster under the common law, are sufficient to meet the constitutional standard in Ghana. If mere likelihood is prohibited, then it stands to reason that under no circumstances should any Board Member allow their company or property to be offered to the public institution for which they serve, whether for profit, personal benefit or otherwise. Thus, it would appear to us that a bid won by a public official’s company, concerning the institution for which they serve, is a tainted bid and brings into question the value for money of the bid concerned, and whether the bid was truly fair and competitive.

We are of the view that simply declaring an interest and not participating in the decisions are not enough to deal with suspicions over the use or abuse of insider information. Worse, declaring their interest could in fact heap substantial pressure on fellow Board Members and staff, especially significantly, on those in the entity who have to take procurement decisions. This can skew the playing field in one direction and would prevent other companies from entering the bidding process with any confidence that they can compete fairly and, on a level, playing field.

We believe that it is for this reason that the framers of the constitution prohibited both actual conflict and the “likelihood” of conflict. In our view, the proper course for a public officer facing a conflict of interest is to remove themselves and any company they own completely from pitches or offers of contracts with the institution concerned.

The proposed Conduct of Public Officer’s Bill makes clear that conflicts and likely conflicts of interest are forbidden. Further, not only must a public officer facing a conflict declare that conflict to the institution concerned, but they must also declare it to CHRAJ or other prescribed body, and comply with any directions thereafter.

OccupyGhana calls for any new Bill to go further and state in no uncertain terms that in any situation of a likely conflict of interest, the public officer must ensure that any bid for contracts or other interaction between their private company or property and the public institution be immediately withdrawn.

It is now imperative that firm measures are brought into law to restrict the excesses of certain public officials, and to provide a key deterrent against further abuse of public office. It will simply state what we accept or do not accept in Ghana. This must be combined with a campaign to educate Ghana’s public on this vexed and deeply misunderstood issue of conflicts of interest and duty.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS PUNISHMENT OF OFFICERS WHO FLOUTED AFOKO’S BAIL ORDER

16th JULY, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT 

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS PUNISHMENT OF OFFICERS WHO FLOUTED AFOKO’S BAIL ORDER

OccupyGhana® is demanding a full and impartial investigation into the apparent refusal of the State to comply with a bail order given by the High Court in favour of an accused person, Mr. Gregory Afoko. We also demand that agents of the State who violated the court’s orders should be punished to the fullest extent permissible under the law.

Ordinarily we would hesitate to comment on a matter that is pending in court. But we must be concerned when there is any appearance of gross and blatant violations of the constitutional rights of any citizen. Definitely, the actions of agents of the state in refusing to allow an accused person to take full advantage of a court order of bail, thereby holding him in illegal custody until a trial court makes a different bail order, should be repugnant to all.

It is a fundamental right for every person to be considered and treated as innocent until proven guilty. The criminal justice system must therefore not be deployed or manipulated to punish any person who has not been found guilty of any offence.

The facts as we know them show that at some point, a court of competent jurisdiction granted Mr. Afoko bail. The State appealed and applied to stay execution of the bail order. The State lost.

Thereafter, and once Mr. Afoko met the bail conditions, his continued detention for even one second was grossly wrong, blatantly unconstitutional and an egregious slap in the face of basic human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law.

It is for these reasons that we call for an immediate, impartial investigation into this matter. Every officer of the state who was involved in this must be disciplined. If Mr. Afoko sues and wins, the damages must be borne personally by the public officers who did this. If our taxes are used to pay such damages, it would add insult to the injury caused to Ghana and our reputation by these repugnant acts.

The people of Ghana enacted this Constitution and stated in its Preamble that we believe in “the blessings of liberty,” “Freedom, Justice, Probity and Accountability,” “The Rule of Law,” and “The protection and preservation of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms.” If we lose or compromise these core principles, we would be lost as a people. We must all strive and fight to protect these.

No one is above the law.

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS FIRM ACTION ON THE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AUTHORITY AND COLLAPSE OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MATTERS

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS FIRM ACTION ON THE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AUTHORITY AND COLLAPSE OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MATTERS

23rd AUGUST, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS FIRM ACTION ON THE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AUTHORITY AND COLLAPSE OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MATTERS

OccupyGhana® is saddened by recent developments in Ghana, particularly relating to the Public Procurement Authority and the collapse of several banks, non-bank financial institutions and deposit-taking institutions. We demand firm action that will result in root and stem reforms, and punish wrongdoing.

PPA DOCUMENTARY

The documentary produced by Manasseh Awuni is disturbing. It suggests a system that has been put in place, well-rehearsed, properly honed and perfected to beat the well-intentioned Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).

We recall that when that Act was first passed, it was hailed as a solution to the absolutely corrupt and corrupted procurement system that existed at the time. Yet the Act was breached by the very government that passed it in the infamous Macmillan books contract saga, leading to the 18th October 2006 judgment in Republic v. Ministry of Education & Sports and 2 Others, ex parte Ghana Book Publishers Association, which excoriated the government for the breaches and set that contract aside. It is instructive that the PPA has operated as if this judgment does not exist.

The Act provides two exceptions to the general rule on competitive tendering for government contracts, namely single source procurement and restricted tendering. What we have seen is that these exceptions have become the rule, in a cynical attempt to evade the strict provisions of this law. In the Bus Branding saga, civil society organisations protested about an alleged abuse of the law, where “national security considerations” were laughably cited as one of the reasons for giving out the single sourced contract, and where payments made to the contractor  from government coffers were designated as payments for a “Western Corridor railway project” at “Osu, Accra.” The results of the investigations allegedly conducted by the then Attorney-General and submitted to government, remain hidden from Ghanaians to date. We are not aware that any person was prosecuted for that, although we have strong cause to believe that the then Attorney-General recommended prosecutions. In more recent times, civil society has protested about an alleged abuse of restricted tendering in the KelniGVG deal, which strongly suggested that the process was rigged to produce a pre-determined winner. We are not aware of any official investigations into that matter.

We also note that within months after the Act was amended in 2016 to provide for a stricter regime for disposing of government vehicles, the same government that introduced the amendment, sold hundreds of vehicles at ludicrously low prices to its departing ministers and other public officials, in complete breach of the provisions of the Act. The transactions have not been set aside and no one has been punished for that.

When successive governments engage in such complicit acts and omissions that are never punished, they encourage others to do the same or take the breaches a notch higher, comforted and emboldened by the knowledge that breaching the law has no consequences. If investigations into this new saga prove wrongdoing, that would be largely due to government repeatedly turning a blind eye to previous breaches and thereby encouraging others to do the same.

That is why we are gratified with the President referring this matter to both the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice. We are even more gratified by the almost instantaneous reaction of the OSP. We are waiting to see similar first steps from CHRAJ. We believe that there are grounds for further action by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, requesting the Auditor-General in the public interest, to audit the all of the impugned transactions under article 187(8) of the Constitution. This audit should not be limited to the PPA but should also target the relevant ministries, departments and agencies that entered into the impugned contracts, with a view to disallowing all illegal transactions and surcharging public officers and the contractors with any payments made.

It is in the light of the foregoing that we call upon the Executive and Parliament to take immediate steps to pass into law the long-standing Code of Conduct for Public Office Holders Bill. There is no justifiable or acceptable reason for the failure to pass that into law. Public office holders ought to know that there would be painful legal consequences for engaging in conflict of interest and conflict of duty acts. We also remind public office holders of the requirement to declare their assets and liabilities upon appointment, every four years and upon leaving office. We demand an amendment to the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550) to make it a criminal offence for any eligible public office holder to fail, neglect or refuse to declare their assets and liabilities in accordance the law.

FINANCIAL SECTOR

We express our unreserved and unalloyed support for the steps taken by the Bank of Ghana to address the contagion that hit the financial sector. Sadly, the effect has been massive with the potential of loss of funds and job losses. It is blindingly obvious that if the Bank of Ghana had taken preventive and early corrective steps (which it was empowered to do even under previous laws) to address these matters when they first began, the tide could have been stemmed and damage limited.

However, the Bank of Ghana and its leadership at the time simply sat by and watched things deteriorate, and in some instances just poured more money into banks that had already breached the law and misused depositors’ funds. Even when the Bank of Ghana’s own investigations showed blatant breaches of the law by licensed operators, the Bank of Ghana inexplicably did nothing.

It also beggars belief that to date, the government has not commenced any prosecution against any persons who are alleged to have been involved in the acts that have led to the current melt down, or informed Ghanaians that after due investigations, there are no bases for any prosecutions. This unpardonable silence by government is in part to blame for the eroding confidence of Ghanaians in the system. Nobody ever gets punished for anything.

What is worse, the Bank of Ghana and government have been aware of several illegal deposit-taking institutions (often blatant Ponzi schemes) operating in Ghana, and who simply disappear with depositors’ monies at the end of the day. The Bank of Ghana has done its part by issuing warnings to the operators and then publishing (admittedly few and far between) notices that warned the public not to deposit monies with such institutions.

We are not aware of any attempt by government to prosecute any of the offending companies and their directors for the blatant illegalities. Indeed, there appears not to be any completed prosecution of any of such persons in Ghana’s history. The recent comedic drama and risible pantomime on these matters show that we have simply failed to apply the law, for reasons that we simply cannot fathom.

We conclude by calling on the government to make the law work, irrespective of whose ox is gored. A great and strong nation must be bold to defend forever, the cause of freedom and of right.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®