The Office of the Auditor General has begun loading onto an electronic data system all information on assets and liabilities it has received from all prospective public office holders who have declared their assets and liabilities in line with the provision of the 1992 Constitution.
Once this exercise is completed, officers undertaking the 2019 financial audit will then begin to verify such assets and liabilities to ensure effective compliance and implementation of the reviewed Asset Declaration regime.
Interestingly, the Office has insisted that poor addressing system has been one major challenge hampering its efforts in the quest to verify such assets, most especially housing properties. It has lamented that while people do provide addresses of their houses, they fail however to give specific details as to the house number.
Notwithstanding this challenge, the Office is in the process of putting adequate measures in place to ensure that staff go deeper in verifying these assets as well as liabilities.
For instance, an electronic declaration platform is being developed to improve the efficiency with which the process is done. Once this comes online, all public office holders who are mandated to declare their assets and liabilities will have to provide their respective Global Positioning System (GPS) addresses to it. This is expected to give specific, tailored locations of their assets.
Last month, the Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Dame reiterated Government’s efforts in implementing the gradual process of the reviewed Asset Declaration regime.
He noted that the move will bring about transparency and accountability in the fight against corruption as well as perfecting the process aimed at preventing conflict of interest among public officials and members of the government.
The incremental implementation of the current regime follows proposed recommendations by the technical committee constituted by the Attorney General to review the erstwhile constitutional review implementation committee’s work done on the current Asset Declaration regime.
The review became necessary as some technocrats in the legal space as well as a number of Civil Society Organisations, insisted that the Asset Declaration regime has some legal lapses, thus expressing doubts about the Act’s ability to assist in the fight against corruption.
In effect, unlike the previous regime where public officers were required to declare their assets before assumption of office and at the end of every four years, the new insertion into the regime states that within 60 days after taking public office and at the end of every year in office or not later than 31st of January in the subsequent year, public officers are enjoined to declare their assets.
Another insertion into the new regime also mandates the Auditor General within 14 days after the receipt of a declaration, to submit it to the Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) who shall within six months verify the contents of the declaration.
Importantly, after the declaration of the content has been verified, the Auditor General is required to publish the declaration.