Mr Speaker, I rise to associate myself with the Motion that was ably moved by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, on the Committee's Report on the Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2013 and to indicate that, we need to ensure that the initiative is supported and we should support it.
I just listened to my Colleague, Hon Papa Owusu-Ankomah and his emphasis was enforcement. I would want to remind him that without the law, what would you be enforcing? So, while I agree with him that the principle of enforcement should be pursued much more diligently, we still need this Bill or Legislation to add to our ethics regime as a country.
I concede that the Whistle Blowers Act was done, I concede that a number of anti- corruption bills have passed through this august House and we know that what corruption hates is darkness.
Therefore, the Conduct of Public Officers Bill together with the Whistle Blowers Bill, and many other Acts intended to fight corruption belong to the category of what we call sunshine laws. This is because we need to expose and we need to, as he rightly pointed out, maintain the fate of the public trust in us as public officers.
Mr Speaker, in contributing to this Motion, let me refer you to a paragraph of the Bill which talks about gifts. I am referring to page (VII).
In discussing gifts, it is important that as a country, we begin to make a distinction between gifts that are meant to corrupt and gifts in the cultural sense of the Ghanaian cultural environment. This is because within the Ghanaian culture, if you have the cola nut, no matter how bitter it is, it is still a gift and you may want to chew it.
Mr Speaker, it reminds me of a very prominent statement the former President of Nigeria, President Olusegun Obassanjo made when he was then working on corruption and human rights.
He attempted a very interesting distinction between gifts that are meant to be corrupt and gifts in the ordinary cultural sense. And to borrow just two of his words, he said the gift that is true in the cultural sense is normally given in the open. So, if a gift was given to you in darkness or shrouded in secrecy, it would not satisfy the customary requirements of a gift.
The second requirement of his gift was to indicate that it must be a token. It should not be substantial and within the Ghanaian cultural setting. I think that if a gift is meant to pat your back on a matter, it should not be substantial in terms of what value goes into it.
Mr Speaker, the Conduct of Public Officers Bill also examines our asset declaration regime as a country. We need to make an improvement, particularly with the monitoring of declared assets. When assets are declared, per the law, nothing is known about it and there is no mechanism to monitor whether there has been lawful or unlawful additions to it.
I think that when we get to the Consideration Stage of the Bill, we may want to look at it. There has been a popular debate whether even spouses should not be captured within the limits of asset declaration and whether public officers
could not be hiding assets in the name of their spouses, and whether we would respect the United Nations Human Rights of the uniqueness of the human being and not to say that you must separate a wife from the husband in terms of who owns and who can keep property.
Mr Speaker, the other recommendation I would like to make, is on, not just the subject which Hon Papa Owusu-Ankomah related. Our enforcement regime is just not functioning accurately within the country and I do share the concern that he rightly raised, that we must ensure the enforcement of the law, not just in fighting corruption.
I would want to assure him that the President as an Executive has been dealing decisively beyond exposure with many of the processes. He does so respecting due process. He does not say that when a person is allegedly declared as corrupt, the Executive or the President must so declare the person that he is a corrupt person.
He must go through a competent trial process which is recognised under the Constitution as part of the right of the person.
The right of the person to a fair trial is embedded and important and consti- tutionally right under our Constitution. If you are accused of being guilty, you are not to be pronounced or declared guilty until otherwise determined by a competent court.
So, let me assure them that the President is walking the talk. There are a number of far-reaching trials which are on- going in the country, pursuant to some of the investigations and probes that have been done and we have gone beyond exposure to seeking to punish on the basis, without prejudice to the matters
before court and the rights of the persons so being done.
So, I think that Mr Speaker, we have made a determination as a Government to contribute to the prevention and combating corruption. The Conduct of Public Officers Bill is one of the decisions of Government to enrich our ethics regime by way of this legislation and I think that Hon Members of Parliament should pass it.
But Mr Speaker, again, in public -- and I am sure my Hon Colleagues from the other side of the isle -- social pressures on public officers, Hon Member of Parliament, Hon Minister of State -- the expectations on us. You must solve every other problem, be it a funeral, an outdooring, a social gathering, you are expected to make a contribution.
Mr Speaker, we should be asking, how are we able to cope with those pressures within the limits and constraints of what we as the legitimate income of Ghanaians. I think that this public education is very important, particularly for people to appreciate the role of a Minister and the role of a Member of Parliament.