OccupyGhana® vs Attorney General Anniversary Lectures

OccupyGhana® vs Attorney General Anniversary Lectures

13 June 2019
 
OccupyGhana® Press Statement
 
OccupyGhana® vs Attorney General Anniversary Lectures

For us at OccupyGhana®, one of the achievements of which we are most proud is getting the Auditor-General to recognize the power inherent in his office – the ability to disallow illegal expenditure and losses to the government, and then to surcharge those who are responsible for the expenditure and losses. The Supreme Court judgment has given the Auditor-General a much-needed impetus to chase after monies stolen from the public purse and to recover those monies from the perpetrators.

Driven primarily by the wish to see Ghana on a better path, a legal battle commenced with a 12th November 2014 letter to the then Auditor-General, and culminated with the seminal judgment by the Supreme Court on 14th June 2017. The judgment upheld our position that the Auditor-General should be compelled to exercise the power to disallow, surcharge and recover public monies.

By the last Auditor-General report from 30th November 2018, the exercise of this power to disallow since the judgment and the installation of this present Auditor-General in 2016 has saved Ghana the net total of GHS 5,445,676,134.53 (5.4 billion Ghana Cedis) – monies that some government officials fraudulently claimed was owed on various government contracts, but which had been already paid. Further, through his surcharging and recovery efforts, the Auditor-General has retrieved GHS 67,137,517.86 (67 million Ghana Cedis). There are currently further outstanding surcharges in excess of half a billion Ghana Cedis. 

It is based on these successes that the Audit Service and OccupyGhana jointly present the first ever “Anniversary Lectures”. These lectures, which we hope will become an annual event, will seek to explore the issues of safeguarding the public purse.

The theme of the first one is: “From Surcharging to Safeguarding: Next Steps in the Fight to Protect the Public Purse.”

Speakers will include the Vice-President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Auditor General, Mr. Daniel Domelevo, and our own Ace Ankomah.

We hope with these lectures to explore ideas that will help Ghana protect its wealth, encourage a fairer and more honest interaction from all and inculcate ethical practices in dealings with the government.

We look forward to seeing all there at 0800 on 14th June 2019, at the British Council in Accra.

For God and Country.

OccupyGhana®

OccupyGhana® Salutes all on the Presidential Assent to the Right to Information Act

OccupyGhana® Salutes all on the Presidential Assent to the Right to Information Act

22 May 2019
 
OccupyGhana® Press Statement
 
OccupyGhana® Salutes all on the Presidential Assent to the Right to Information Act


OccupyGhana® is delighted at the news of the Presidential Assent to the Right to Information (“RTI”) Act on Tuesday, 21 May 2019, finally bringing the law into force. We are impressed at the urgency with which the President gave assent to the law, an indication of the importance given to this legislation, following 20 years of delay by previous governments.

The full implementation of this Act promises to provide a major milestone in the fight against corruption. OccupyGhana® calls on journalists, citizens and public servants to use the RTI Act as an effective tool in seeking greater transparency and accountability of public institutions.

There are powerful examples of ways in which similar laws in other countries have been effectively used to check corruption. For example, following the passage of the United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act, journalists used the law to expose details of fraudulent expenses claims by MPs. This led to the 2009 prosecution and jailing of 4 Members of Parliament, and widespread changes to the parliamentary expenses regime, and brought in a new era of UK parliamentary integrity. More recently, in 2018 in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator resigned following the vigorous use of the Freedom of Information Act to reveal his infringement of ethical rules and longstanding norms that regulate the conduct of government officials. In Ghana, and even before the passage of this Act, OccupyGhana® and Citizen Ghana used the right to information under the Constitution to expose details of serious public procurement lapses in the Smarttys bus branding affair. Things can and must only get better. 

We at OccupyGhana® call on journalists and concerned citizens to study the detail of the RTI Act, and familiarize ourselves on how to make effective requests for information. We call on the public to identify key issues in their communities and make focused and relevant requests for information. Information obtained should be used to take effective and fact-based action to address issues of national interest. This law should lead to a raising of the standard and quality of national debate on public interest matters.

The procedure for requesting for information is relatively straightforward and simple. A person must simply make the request in writing. The request needs to contain the necessary particulars to enable the information to be identified by the information officer in the public institution. The information officer will then take a decision and send a written notice to the applicant within fourteen days from the date of receipt of the application. A public institution may refuse access to information where the application is manifestly frivolous or vexatious. Where a person is aggrieved by a decision made on his or her application, the person may submit an application for internal review of that decision to the head of the public institution.

Many have bemoaned the fact that the Act will take time to come into force. The reality is that the Act will be in force in a mere 6 months’ time, and Ghanaians must be prepared for its implementation. It is particularly critical that public institutions and officials be ready to take up the challenge and respond transparently and timeously to requests for information, when they commence.

Finally, OccupyGhana® signals that the passage of the RTI Act should be a wake-up call for any and all public officials or citizens currently perpetrating acts of corruption against the State and hoping to go unnoticed. We call on you to desist from such corrupt activities, lest a well-placed request for information exposes your wrongdoing in the months to come. The RTI Act should be a deterrent against corruption across Ghana, heralding a new era of integrity and transparency that this law can bring about.

Yours, for God & Country,

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® ENDORSES INQUIRY INTO AYAWASO WEST WUOGON ELECTORAL DISTURBANCES

OCCUPYGHANA® ENDORSES INQUIRY INTO AYAWASO WEST WUOGON ELECTORAL DISTURBANCES

7th FEBRUARY, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® ENDORSES INQUIRY INTO AYAWASO WEST WUOGON ELECTORAL DISTURBANCES

OccupyGhana® has seen the statement issued by the Presidency yesterday, 6th February 2019, establishing an Inquiry into the Ayawaso West Wuogon electoral disturbances, literally moments after we issued our letter to the Minister for National Security on the same issue.

We have closely considered the Inquiry’s terms of reference. Much more importantly we have noted with satisfaction the calibre of the persons who have accepted to serve on the Inquiry. We are impressed by the reputation of the chairperson and members of, and the secretary to, the Inquiry.

Although we would have preferred the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry under Chapter 23 of the Constitution, we believe that this Inquiry has the potential to find answers to the questions that we posed in our letter of yesterday, 6th February 2019, to the Minster of National Security, and probably quicker than any court proceedings would take.

We fully expect that the Inquiry will address the following questions that we raised in our letter:

  1. The legal bases upon which the armed force of the National Security Council was assembled, maintained and deployed, if any;
  2. The circumstances under which the Ghana Police Service facilitated the acts of that force by supplying vehicles or other logistics for the operations of that day;
  3. The reason and necessity for maintaining the said force outside the legally and constitutionally recognised services established by law;
  4. The procedure for recruiting persons into the said force; and
  5. The financial provision made for maintaining the force.

It is in expectation of a full disclosure on these and all other matters that we endorse the Inquiry and its members. We anxiously await their report and will be watching to see the implementation of measures that we hope will reduce drastically, if not totally eliminate the scourge of electoral violence that has plagued this country for several years.

We wish the Inquiry well. Ghanaians are watching.

OccupyGhana®

Letter To National Security Minister

Letter To National Security Minister

6th February 2019

The Honourable Minister for National Security

Accra

Mr. Albert Kan Dapaah

Dear Sir:

DEPLOYMENT OF AN ARMED FORCE BY THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL.

During the 31st January 2019 parliamentary by-election held at the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency in the Greater Accra Region, your office deployed an armed force (not established by law) to ostensibly perform policing duties.

We have seen video footage of these men, attired and bearing arms, engaging in acts of violence that we have condemned in our Public Statement of 1st February 2019.

We have also seen that some of these men were being driven in vehicles bearing the name and insignia of the Ghana Police Service and were, in some instances, chauffeured or accompanied by persons who appeared to be regular police personnel.

Concerned about the legality or otherwise of that force, we have checked the Constitution (particularly articles 83 to 85, 200 and 210) and all statutes relevant to National Security and have found no law that backs the force that your office deployed.

Sir, Ghanaians have exercised our “natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government” for ourselves, which is required to secure for us and posterity the blessings of liberty among others. It is for this reason that our Constitution affirms that “all powers of Government spring from the Sovereign Will of the People,” in “whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in [the] Constitution.” Thus any act(s) and/or omission(s) that threaten these aspirations and legitimate expectations of Ghanaians ought to arouse the concern of all responsible and well-meaning Ghanaians.

Therefore, we write to demand that you kindly indicate to us:

  1. The legal bases upon which you assembled, maintained and deployed that force, of any;
  2. The circumstances under which the Ghana Police Service facilitated the acts of that force by supplying vehicles or other logistics for the operations of that day;
  3. The reason and necessity for maintaining the said force outside the legally and constitutionally recognised services established by law;
  4. The procedure for recruiting persons into the said force; and
  5. The financial provision made for maintaining this force.

We demand answers to these questions because the powers of government, as required by law, must be exercised, first, in the welfare of the people who were inexcusably violated by this force, and second, “in the manner and within the limits laid down in [the] Constitution.”

This letter is a formal request for information under Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, it constitutes statutory notice of our intention to take appropriate action against the Government should you fail to respond to and address the issues we have raised.

Thus if we do not hear from you we shall go to Court to seek reliefs including (but not limited to): (a) providing the information requested above, (b) declaring the said force illegal, (c) ordering that the force be disbanded, (d) ordering you to account for all of sums of money expended on maintaining this force, (e) and further ordering that all such sums be refunded to the State, the expenditure on the said force being contrary to law.

We are counting on your co-operation

OccupyGhana®

cc.

His Excellency the President

His Excellency the Vice-President

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minister for Defence

Minister for the Interior

Minister for Finance

Chief of Defence Staff

Inspector General of Police

The Auditor-General

National Security Coordinator

OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS RECENT ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND DEMANDS INDEPENDENT INQUIRY

OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS RECENT ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND DEMANDS INDEPENDENT INQUIRY

1st FEBRUARY, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS RECENT ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND DEMANDS INDEPENDENT INQUIRY

OccupyGhana® has noted with grave concern, reports of violence, including shootings with live ammunition that occurred during the by-election that was held in the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency in Accra.

We are disappointed that a by-election right in the capital of Ghana could degenerate into such acts of violence, some of which were captured in pictures and videos that are making the rounds in the traditional and social media.

We condemn all such acts and call for the perpetrators to be brought to book and punished in accordance with the law.

We note that the Ghana Police has stated in a Press Release dated 31st January 2019 that it will investigate the incidents of violence. While agreeing that the police may investigate the matters with a view to causing the prosecution of offenders, we would propose that an independent body conducts a full-scale inquiry into the matter. Some of the video footage that we have seen show that some of the masked men who are accused of the intimidation and violence, and certainly one of the persons who assaulted a Member of Parliament, were in vehicles that bore the name or insignia of the police. The police that stands accused, at the very least, of complicity in these matters, cannot investigate the overall issue of the violence that occurred.

We certainly are at pains to understand why security personnel being sent on election duties would have their faces covered as if they were on some special forces operations in a war zone. We find that unacceptable and a gross breach of modern day policing methods.

That is why we are calling upon the government to immediately constitute a proper commission of inquiry under Chapter 23 of the Constitution to inquire into these matters. No person or group of persons should be allowed to destroy our reputation, disrupt our peace and denigrate the pillars of civility we have worked so hard to achieve

Yours, for God & Country,

OccupyGhana®

29th January 2019

The Honourable Minister

Ministry of Finance

Accra

Dear Sir,

RE: CONCERNS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT GHANA’S FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT

OccupyGhana® is delighted that Ghana has passed a fiscal responsibility act. It’s a step in the right direction.

But we at OccupyGhana® are still grappling with the basic question: “will the Act actually control excessive government expenditure now and in the future?”

For instance, according to the law, “… the overall fiscal balance on cash basis for a particular year shall not exceed a deficit of five percent of the Gross Domestic Product for that year; and an annual positive primary balance shall be maintained.”

We note that:

Overall budget balance = (Primary balance) + (Government Interest Payments).

From this, the following questions and concerns arise:

  1. If the primary balance must be positive, why doesn’t the Act specify how big it must be (say as a proportion of GDP)?
  2. Is it not the case that without specifying the size, arguably, any small positive amount (even GHC 100) would satisfy the law?
  3. Wouldn’t a cynically pro-spending government have the incentive to choose a primary balance approximately equal to zero?
  4. Then given that the primary balance is approximately equal to zero, we get: Overall budget balance = interest payments. That would be legal, but wouldn’t that defeat the aims of the law?
  5. We note that the law caps the budget deficit-GDP ratio at a maximum of 5%. Doesn’t this imply that a government could always borrow to pay interest payments such that annual interest payments are equal to 5% of GDP?
  6. Would it then not be the case that Parliament cannot reject it because it is the law and also that with the primary balance at almost zero, only borrowing can finance interest payments?
  7. How does the law prevent a government from rolling over the debt perpetually by borrowing to service its debt?
  8. In each year, the government sells additional bonds (debt) to pay the interest on the debt and to pay off holders of maturing government debt. However, if the annual interest payments on the debt (before the law became effective) exceed 5% of GDP, would this not imply that the primary balance must have a sufficiently big and positive value?
  9. How do we ensure that a self-interested government cannot game this law?
  10. Section 3 states the circumstances under which the fiscal responsibility rules may be suspended. These include occurrences such as natural disaster, public health epidemic, drought, an unanticipated severe economic shock including commodity price shocks; and periods where the Gross Domestic Product growth rate is one per cent or less. Although this provision appears necessary for fiscal flexibility, aren’t there any chances that it could weaken the law?
  11. What if a minister of finance claims that because tax revenue fell unexpectedly, pushing the primary balance to be negative, the overall budget had to exceed 5% of GDP? Technically this might not be a violation of the law. In fact, the minister would have considerable discretionary power because the law provides that the “… unforeseen economic circumstances referred to … shall be such that as a result of the occurrence of the circumstances specified, the Minister is of the OPINION that the implementation of any of the fiscal responsibility rules would be unduly harmful to the fiscal, macroeconomic, or financial stability of the country.”
  12. Perverse fiscal incentives may not arise if the circumstances that warrant the suspension of the fiscal rules are outside the control of politicians. Commodity price shocks in global markets and natural disasters are examples of events that are outside the control of politicians. But a GDP growth rate of one per cent or less or a low tax revenue need not be events that are outside the control of politicians. They could be the result of mismanagement by politicians and bureaucrats. Why then does the law not define “severe” in “unanticipated severe economic shock”?
  13. If a shock is severe but anticipated or should have been anticipated, does this scenario fall under section 3?
  14. Further, doesn’t a positive primary balance imply that all non-interest expenditure must be financed from revenue, not borrowing?
  15. Is it consistent with this government or any government’s big plans (e.g., infrastructural plans)? For instance in September 2018, President Akufo-Addo said that his government may issue a 100-year $50 billion bond for infrastructural and industrial development.

We note that India enacted a Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) law in August 2003. However, the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis disrupted the fiscal consolidation process, leading to a progressive loosening of fiscal targets and eventually an amendment of the FRBM Act in 2012.

We ask these questions and raise these concerns because historically, although the Bank of Ghana (BoG) Act places a limit on advances from the BoG to government, this has been violated by nearly all governments. And, parliament has really never provided effective fiscal oversight of the executive.

Thus while this law is a step in the right direction, we must admit that no law is perfect and laws tend to have technical loopholes. It would appear to us that this law needs “a few good men and women” for it to work.

However, that is a quality that we cannot guarantee and that is why we wish to raise these questions and concerns, aimed at exploring ways in which the law could be further tightened to prevent future abuse.

Yours in the service of God and Country,

OccupyGhana®

OCCUPYGHANA® SALUTES AUDITOR-GENERAL ON DISALLOWANCES AND SURCHARGES AND URGES THE PROSECUTION OF PERSONS FOUND CULPABLE

OCCUPYGHANA® SALUTES AUDITOR-GENERAL ON DISALLOWANCES AND SURCHARGES AND URGES THE PROSECUTION OF PERSONS FOUND CULPABLE

3rd JANUARY, 2019

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® SALUTES AUDITOR-GENERAL ON DISALLOWANCES AND SURCHARGES AND URGES THE PROSECUTION OF PERSONS FOUND CULPABLE

OccupyGhana® has received and studied a copy of the first ever Special Audit Report of the Auditor-General on Disallowance and Surcharge. This is the report as at 30th November 2018, that mentions how much has been saved to the nation in Disallowances, how much has been surcharged, and how much has been recovered. We salute the Audit Service, led by the current Auditor-General for this. We are however concerned that there appears to be little effort at prosecuting those who have committed these infractions, and call upon the Attorney-General to commence prosecutions in this regard.

The heart of every Ghanaian would be gladdened at the saving of the net total of GHS 5,445,676,134.53, which some government officials fraudulently claimed was owed on various government contracts, but which had been already paid. This attempt to fleece Ghana of this colossal sum was only stopped by the Auditor-General issuing Disallowances. Further, the recovery of GHS 67,137,517.86 as a result of the Auditor-General’s Surcharges and recovery efforts must be lauded by all Ghanaians. Meanwhile, there are Surcharges of almost half a billion Cedis outstanding, waiting for enforcement.

For us at OccupyGhana®, this Report and the developments it contains are a major manifestation of the victory Ghana won in OCCUPYGHANA V. ATTORNEY-GENERAL, where the Supreme Court stated emphatically that:

“…the Auditor-General is expected to NAME the persons who commit irregularities etc., under article 187(7)(b) and section 17 of Act 584 respectively, RECOVER the amounts from them and thereafter those persons be made to FACE appropriate punishment. THAT SHOULD BE THE WAY FORWARD” [Emphases added.]

For us, this Report is also the culmination of the journey that started on 12th November 2014 when we first wrote to the Auditor-General then, demanding the exercise of the Disallowance and Surcharge powers given to that office by the Constitution. We cannot forget the quick 13th November 2014 response of the Acting Auditor-General then, first reminding us of the independence of the office and then offering to educate us “on the validity or otherwise of matters raised in your letter concerning disallowances and surcharges.”

We vividly remember our 25th November 2014 response in which we pointed out to the then Auditor-General that his independence did “not preclude the power of the court from inquiring into whether or not you have performed your functions according to the Constitution.” We reminded him that the Constitution “places a mandatory duty on administrative bodies and officials like you to comply with the legal requirements imposed on you, and then vests in persons dissatisfied with your work, such as us, a right to seek redress by commencing court proceedings against you.” We concluded that “simply, either you have done your work or you have not done your work.”

What followed this initial fiery exchange of letters, was a year and a half during which the then Auditor-General pretended to collaborate with us to institute the Disallowance and Surcharge regime, but failed to take any concrete steps. He even formed a Joint Working Group with us, which was never duly constituted and never worked. It was not as if we were just spoiling for a fight. That is why in this period, we were honoured with the opportunity to draft and submit to the Rules of Court Committee the rules that were finally passed into law as the HIGH COURT (CIVIL PROCEDURE) (AMENDMENT) (NO. 2) RULES, 2016 (CI 102). This law inserted a new Order 54A in the High Court Rules to regulate Disallowances and Surcharge appeals, in compliance with article 187(9) and (10) of the Constitution. It was therefore with great reluctance that on 21st June 2016, we filed the action titled OCCUPYGHANA V. ATTORNEY-GENERAL (WRIT NO. J1/19/2016) in the Supreme Court.

In its seminal judgment dated 14th June 2017, the Supreme Court rejected each defence that was put up, including challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter. The Court granted each of the reliefs that we sought, pointing out that

“…the ‘may’ in article 187(7)(b) of the Constitution, 1992, becomes a mandatory ‘may,’ and no longer permissive. This affords us the opportunity to enforce the provisions of article 187(7)(b) which will deepen probity and accountability.”

For us that was not a personal victory or even a vindication. It was a colossal victory for Ghanaians who would read, on a yearly basis, a merely journalistic recount by the then Auditors-General to Parliament of blatant stealing of national wealth, accompanied by obviously impotent recommendations, and which saw no tangible or concrete results. What was even more painful were these words that featured prominently and repeatedly in each of the Auditors-General’s annual report:

“The cataloguing of financial irregularities in my Report on MDAs and Other Agencies has become AN ANNUAL RITUAL THAT SEEMS TO HAVE NO EFFECT…” [Emphasis added.]

We applaud the bold steps taken and results obtained by the current Audit Service under the leadership of the current Auditor-General, Daniel Domelevo. We urge them not to relent in enforcing the judgment of the Supreme Court, prevent, where possible, the theft of the nation’s monies, and recover for Ghana whatever is stolen.

We conclude by urging the Attorney-General to commence the prosecution of the persons who either caused, attempted to or conspired to cause these losses to Ghana. The Supreme Court was clear that there must be “appropriate punishment” and stated thus:

“…the Attorney-General is hereby ordered to take all necessary steps to enforce the decision or steps taken by the Auditor-General… to ensure compliance including in some cases criminal prosecutions.”

The Auditor-General appears to have done his part. The ball is now firmly in the court of the Attorney-General.

Yours, for God & Country,

OccupyGhana®

#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION

#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION

27th November, 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION

OccupyGhana® announces that it has joined hands with likeminded Media and Civil Society Organisations to declare Friday, November 30, 2018 and every other Friday before Christmas as #RTIRedFriday against the demonstrable lack of commitment and delay by Parliament in passing the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.

We note that even though the Bill is in Parliament, there appears to be a deliberate ploy by some parliamentarians to engineer delays. That is why on consecutive occasions, Parliament could not form a quorum to discuss the Bill which is at the Consideration Stage.

As noted by OccupyGhana® a year ago, the inexcusably long delay of over 19 years by successive Governments under the Fourth Republican Constitution to pass this law suggests that Governments are simply afraid to pass a law that will help actualize a right that the Constitution has already given to Ghanaians. Unless and until the law is passed, Ghanaians are entitled to conclude that Governments will seek any and every excuse to defer the passage of this law for as long as possible.

We, and indeed many Ghanaians cannot help but notice the sense of urgency with which Government and Parliament rush to pass bills that they consider important. On such occasions, Parliament has been recalled from recess or stayed in late to work on certain bills. OccupyGhana® is particularly disappointed in this delay considering the much-touted credentials of this Government and the President as regards to the rule of law and good governance.

We remind Government that the courts have held that the right to information does not require an Act of Parliament to be exercised. Yet there remain substantive and procedural impediments to the exercise of this right. The current ‘default’ position of Government departments is to either refuse or simply not answer any request for information. This forces citizens to go to court every time they seek to exercise that right. This is unacceptable and has to be addressed to ensure a straightforward and low cost system for the public to be able to enforce requests for information.

This Government and this Parliament is at serious risk of showing the people of Ghana that they are no different from their predecessors over nearly two decades when it comes to giving the people of this country their right to information. OccupyGhana® is therefore calling on the President to rally his Government to pass this law without further delay.

OccupyGhana® further expects that the Bill, when passed into law, will set out clear parameters and instances where the government will exercise public interest privilege (this is the privilege that allows government to refuse the disclosure of a document or information which is against the public interest.) The current wide-bound interpretation of the government on this privilege is, in our view, the greatest substantive and procedural hurdle to the full realisation of the right to information. Any law that does not deal with this matter in a manner that eases the right to information would be worthless and not have been worth the wait. The law should ensure that any doubts as to whether there is such a privilege be resolved in favour or granting, rather than withholding, such information.

OccupyGhana® is calling on the public to exert even more pressure on government and parliament to pass this law by participating in the activities lined up as part of the #RTIRedFriday. We must not accept the status quo and the excuses coming from Parliament on this nearly 20-year delay.

Yours, for God & Country,

OccupyGhana®

RE: ALLOWANCES FOR BOARDS AND COUNCILS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE

14th November 2018

The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Finance
Accra

Dear Sir,

RE: ALLOWANCES FOR BOARDS AND COUNCILS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE

OccupyGhana® has noted with delight and approval Government’s directive to the Public Service through you, on the above-entitled matter, and dated 2nd November 2018, to streamline the basis for paying sitting allowances to members of state Boards, Authorities, Council, etc., and to ban the payment of monthly salaries/allowances to such persons. This ties in very much with our Press Statement dated 20th May 2018 that expressed deep concerns about such matters, and in which we called for the specific ban of such payments, among others.

While we applaud this all-important step towards reining in unjustified payment of monies, we respectfully want to bring to your attention certain wrong practices engaged in by members of such Boards for several years and which, if not checked alongside your directive, would completely erode its essence and violate its spirit.

First, with the primary aim of accumulating sitting allowances, certain Boards and Board Committees are known to meet several times in a month, even when the meetings are repetitive and meaningless. We are aware of Board and Board Committee meetings that are called without agenda, ostensibly just to review minutes of a previous meeting. Heads of such institutions and Board chairs have to be held responsible for unnecessary meetings and surcharged with any sitting allowances so paid.

Second, some Board and Board Committee members have essentially become parallel structures to those existing in the entities, and insist on undertaking work that would ordinarily be undertaken by employees of the entities. Some insist on, for instance, touring facilities or educating the public around Ghana. Even worse are the scandalous and ridiculous travel budgets presented for approval. It leaves very little to the imagination the real reason behind such ventures.

Third, you would have to take the additional step of cutting out expenses associated with the unfounded belief on the part of Board Members and members of Board Committees that they are entitled to training and conferences, especially abroad, at the expense of the tax payer. We believe that it is a person’s already existing experience and knowledge that gets that person to serve on a Board or Board Committee. That knowledge and experience are not to be acquired after appointment and at the expense of the tax payer. Thus, paying for the cost of training, costs of airfares, hotel expenses and per diem should be a thing of the past. Boards and Board Committees do not need members who are there to line their pockets with undeserved allowances, enjoy paid travel and enhance their personal curriculum vitae.

We reiterate a point we made in our Press Statement dated 20th May 2018 that no board member is entitled to monthly remuneration, an office, official accommodation, official vehicle, etc. To the extent that any such facilities have been, or are being, provided, they are unlawful.

These are only some of the things that have to be checked as part of your directive, if it is not to be defeated on the ground.

Yours, for God and Country,

 

OccupyGhana®

 

CC.

 

The Chief of Staff

Office of the President

Accra

 

The Chief Executive

State Enterprises Commission

Accra

OCCUPYGHANA® RESPONDS TO K. T. HAMMOND ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL AND CALLS FOR MORE PUBLIC PRESSURE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL INTO LAW

OCCUPYGHANA® RESPONDS TO K. T. HAMMOND ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL AND CALLS FOR MORE PUBLIC PRESSURE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL INTO LAW

13th November, 2018

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

OCCUPYGHANA® RESPONDS TO K. T. HAMMOND ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL AND CALLS FOR MORE PUBLIC PRESSURE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL INTO LAW

Our attention has been drawn to a news item published by myjoyonline.com on 1st November 2018 in which Mr. K. T. Hammond, Member of Parliament for Adansi Asokwa, is reported to have expressed opposition to the passage of the Right to Information Bill into law because “there will be no secret in government.” Mr. Hammond is reported to have uttered the following words:

“You need peace of mind to run a government. You need to concentrate and if you have a bill and before the ink dries on it, somebody is asking you to ‘bring this document’… to the extent that we are talking about communication between the president, the vice president and cabinet, potentially there will be no secret in government…

‘Free society’ and all that is a journalist’s jargon and until they sit on the seat of an administrator, they will not know what it feels like to be pestered for information…

Gold nuggets are in there for journalists. One single slip, ministers cannot operate, government cannot proceed effectively, governance cannot take place meaningfully with this sort of albatross hanging over our heads.”

By these words we understand Mr. Hammond to be saying that attempts to exercise the right to information that is guaranteed under Article 21(1)(f) of our Constitution constitutes some disturbance or irritation to the government. Mr. Hammond thinks that the concept of a “free society” that the Constitution guarantees is merely “a journalistic jargon.” He considers requests for information as a shackle or impediment to running a government effectively.

We have also noted that on 7th November 2018, Parliament was forced to suspend the consideration of the Bill for a second time due to alleged lack of a quorum. Again, it was the same Mr. Hammond (this time with Mr. Samuel George, MP for Prampram in support) who was too pleased to take advantage of this and thereby stultify this Bill making progress in parliament.

Mr. Hammond’s fears are not just false and unfounded, they are antiquated and out of sync with modern day democratic tenets. Mr.  Hammond does not appear to us to fully appreciate what the Constitution provides and the role of statute in shaping the constitutional right to information.

We respectfully draw Mr. Hammond’s attention to the State Secrets Act, 1962 (Act 101), which protects from all duly classified state secrets from disclosure. There is also the public interest privilege that is recognised under the Constitution as an exception to the right to information. The Constitution contains details provisions on how this privilege is claimed and challenged, if need be. Thus passing the RTI Bill into law will not affect the fact that the state will have secrets or that some information should not be disclosed because its disclosure would not be in the interest of the state. An RTI Act can and will exist side by side with the State Secrets Act and constitutional provisions, and complement each other, so that all public information that do not constitute state secrets or qualify for the exercise of the public interest privilege, should be made available to Ghanaians either by the government itself or upon request.

Mr. Hammond has to be aware that the courts of Ghana have upheld the right to information even without the statute being in place. All that the draft Bill seeks to do is to set down the mechanics and processes for interested persons to obtain information without having to go to court in each instance. The current ‘default’ position where almost all public information is treated as a state secret or as falling under public interest privilege unless the person seeking the information goes to court, is backward, unacceptable, unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Our Article 21(1)(f) on the right of citizens to information is arguably one of the most progressive in the world. Thus while the United States Supreme Court has held in the US, there no constitutional right of access to government information or sources of information within the government’s control, our constitutional provision on the right to information and its interpretation and enforcement by our Supreme Court are more forward-looking and more liberal. That is why our Supreme Court has affirmed “the right of all persons to information, as expressed in Article 21(1)(f) of the Constitution,” adding that the “right to information implies a right to access public document.” The same Court has described attempts to withhold information from citizens as “reprehensible” and “a wilful violation of the Constitution.”

OccupyGhana® is calling on the public to exert even more pressure on government and parliament to pass this law. We must not accept the status quo and the excuses coming from parliament on this nearly 20 year delay.

Yours in the service of occupying minds for God and Country

OccupyGhana®