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I did not declare my asset as High Court, Court of Appeal judge—Justice Anin Yeboah confesses

Source The Ghana Report/ Seth J. Bokpe

Chief Justice nominee, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, has admitted that he did not declare his assets and liabilities when he was appointed to the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Although Article 286 required that judges of the superior courts declare their assets and liabilities when they assume office, the Chief Justice nominee confessed to failing to do so before joining the Supreme Court.

Justice Yeboah had a stint with the Court of Appeal from 2003-2008 before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2008. Before then, he served as a High Court judge from 2002-2003.

With Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mohammed Mubarack,  questioning when he declared his assets, he said his first declaration was at the instance of Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood when he was appointed to the Supreme Court in June 2008.

“Last week,  I filed it at the Auditor-General’s office,” he responded.

Before admitting that he had not declared his asset on the two occasions he went through the Judicial mill, he insisted that judges were overwhelmed with their work to meet the requirement.

“It has not been very easy for judges to comply because it comes to the performance of our duties, even the submission of our tax returns should be done by the Accounts Section of the Judicial secretariat.

“When we were appointed, it was the Chief Justice who instructed that we should be furnished with the forms,” he explained how he first declared his asset.

He said he would not agree to the interpretation of the law by Mr Mubarack that judges had to declare their assets and liabilities every four years.

Referring to Article 286 (1)(c), he said nowhere was it clearly stated that he had to declare his assets and liabilities every four years.

“Please, I am still serving the Judiciary. My tenure has not ended.  On being appointed as a Supreme Court judge, I did,” he said.

Asked if he was aware of Act 550 which provided guidelines on asset declaration, he said the Constitution was supreme to any act.

Petition to CHRAJ

Ahead of Monday’s vetting, a private citizen had petitioned Parliament over the failure of the Chief Justice nominee, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah,  to declare his assets and liabilities.

Mr Mensah Thompson is strongly opposing the Parliamentary approval of Justice Anin Yeboah because it will contravene Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution.

The petitioner alleges that the nominee has not declared his assets and liabilities as required by law when he became a Court of Appeal judge.

“The basis of my petition is that I have filed a complaint against the nominee with the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) under article 286 of the 1992 constitution for non-disclosure of assets and liabilities. I have attached to this petition my letter to CHRAJ and the acknowledgement of receipt for your attention.”

“The nominee has been a Justice of the Court of Appeal since 2008 and was required under the constitution of Ghana, which is the highest law of the land, to have declared his assets and liabilities,” says the petition.

President Akufo-Addo on December 12, 2019, nominated Justice Anin-Yeboah as Chief Justice subject to Parliamentary approval.

Asset declaration in Ghana

In Ghana, two main laws regulate asset declaration — Article 286 (1) of the 1992 Constitution and Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550).

Article 286 (1) of the Constitution obliges public office holders, including the President, the Vice-President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, as well, ministers and deputy ministers of state, ambassadors, the Chief Justice and Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature to declare their assets and liabilities.

Others on the list are the Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and his Deputies and all judicial officers, managers of public institutions in which the state has an interest.

Auditor-General receives in writing all declarations of all property or assets owned or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly.

The Constitution, however, forbids public disclosure of the assets declared by the public officers concerned.

Unless it is demanded as evidence by a court of competent jurisdiction, a commission of inquiry appointed under Article 278 or before an investigator appointed by the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

Act 550, on the other hand, provides the framework and guidelines for asset declaration in Ghana as a tool to combat corruption among public officeholders.

Who should declare assets?

Globally, there are divergent categories of public officials covered within the declaration system.

The debate touches on what categories of public sector employees are considered public officials, and whether any individuals other than public officials should be covered by these laws and even the types of assets and liabilities that should be covered.

In Ghana, Act 550 defines public office to include: “An office the emoluments attached to which are paid directly from the Consolidated Fund, or directly out of money provided by Parliament and an office in a public corporation established entirely out of public funds, or money provided by Parliament; except that, for declaration of assets under the Act it does not include the Armed Forces.”

 

 

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