Governance Expert, Professor Baffour Agyeman-Duah has said the ‘will’ of the late former Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie (Sir John), if proven to be true, raises issues about how asset declarations by public office holders are carried out in the country.
Speaking in an interview with TV3’s Komla Adom on the mid day news on Monday May 23, Prof Agyemang-Duah said although the law mandates public officer holders to declare their assets prior to taking office, it is not precise on what should be done after the declaration.
On Monday May 23, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources indicated that it had taken a serious exception to some documents making rounds on social media and purportedly said to be the will of Sir John.
The documents lists some individual relatives of Mr Owusu Afriyie’s to be allocated some portions of the Achimota Forest, which has become a topical issue the past days as a result of an Executive Instrument signed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuf-Addo to declassify portions.
“I give my portion of land that I jointly own at the Achimota Forest in the name of DML Limited to Elizabeth Asare Boateng who at the time of making this will is domiciled in the USA forever,” point g. of the will of the late public official, popularly known as Sir John, stated as captured on social media.
But the Ministry says it will probe this.
“The Ministry takes a very serious view of the allegations, and has requested for all documents relating to the lands in question, as part of an initial inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the claims,” a statement issued on Sunday, May 22 by the Ministry said.
“Considering that the issues that form the basis of the allegations predate the tenure of the current Minister, Hon. Samuel A. Jinapor, MP, it is important that he is seized with the full facts to enable him take appropriate action, if, indeed, there is any merit in the claims.
“The Ministry assures the general public and the good people of Ghana that it will ensure that the national interest is protected at all times, especially in matters pertaining to the Achimota Forest.”
Asked whether the contents of the will smack of conflict of interest if proven to be true, Prof Agyemang-Duah said “Yes of course, because the person in question chaired the Forestry Commission, he was the CEO of the Forestry Commission, and part of his responsibilities had been to take care of public lands. So, if it is proven to be true that while in office he acquired pieces of land, of course it is a serious case of interest.
“I think this whole issue raises more critical issues that we need to confront as a nation as we try to combat corruption in our country. We have the Public Officers Declaration of Assets Act, that requires all public officials to submit their assets to the Auditor General.
“In fact, the law requires them to make the submission before taking office and then at the end of every four years or at the end of their term they are supposed to go back again.
“What the law is not precise about is, after you have submitted the assets to the Auditor General, what happens next?”