Eight judges of Ghana’s Superior courts rushed to the Audit Service to declare their assets days after The Fourth Estate wrote to the Judicial Service seeking clarity on the asset-declaration status of 15 judges, including the eight.
Those who declared their assets immediately after The Fourth Estate‘s letter are the Judicial Secretary, who is also a Court of Appeal judge, and seven High Court judges appointed in 2019 and 2020.
It took the judges two to three years to comply with the asset declaration law that required them to declare their assets and liabilities within six months after their appointment. And they did that only a few days after they received a letter.
The Fourth Estate obtained the full list of public office holders who had declared their assets by March 2022 from the Audit Service, through a right-to-information (RTI) request. Noticing that names of some judges appointed in recent years were missing from the list, The Fourth Estate then wrote to the Judicial Service on August 17, 2022, seeking to find out if the judges had declared their assets and liabilities.
The Judicial Service responded on August 31, 2022, with evidence of declaration for 12. But the evidence showed that eight of the 15 defaulting judges only declared their assets and liabilities after the Judicial Service received The Fourth Estate’s letter.
They declared 14 days between receiving and responding to the letter.
Justice Ernest Yao Gaewu, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court, also violated the asset declaration law when he was appointed to the High Court. The former private legal practitioner was among eight High Court judges appointed in September 2020.
Per the law, his declaration should have been done by March 2021, but he did so on June 22, 2022, a month before he was appointed a Supreme Court Judge and more than two years after he became a High Court judge. His name was not on the list because declared after The Fourth Estate obtained the list from the Audit Service.
The Judicial Service said three judges whose names were not listed as having declared their assets could not be reached for their responses.
They are Justices Yaw Owoahene Acheampong, Solomon Oppong-Twumasi and Nana Yaw Gyamfi Frimpong, who were all appointed to the High Court in September 2020.
They could not be reached because of the legal vacation, according to the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo, who declared her assets only after The Fourth Estate’s request to the Judicial Service.
Three other judges, including a Supreme Court justice, who were not on the Audit Service list, provided evidence of declaration.
The following are the eight judges who violated the asset declaration law, but declared after The Fourth Estate wrote to the Judicial Service for their comments.
- Cynthia Pamela Akotoaa Addo: The former Deputy Chief Executive of the EXIM Bank, Ghana, was appointed Judicial Secretary on October 2, 2018. She declared her asset two almost two years later on July 16, 2020. Per the law, she should have declared her assets by April 2018. She was later appointed a Court of Appeal Judge in August 2020. By February 2021, she should have declared her asset. But she did it on August 30, 2022, which is 13 days after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Gabriel Mate-Teye: He joined the bench as a Magistrate in 2008. He was elevated to the Circuit Court in 2012, where he served until his appointment as a High Court judge in December 2019. He should have declared his assets and liabilities by June 2020. But he declared on August 29, 2022, which was 12 days after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Mariam Saleh Sinare: She was elevated from the Circuit Court to the High Court in December 2019. Per the law, her list of assets and liabilities should have been filed with the Audit Service by June 2020. But she filed on August 29, 2022. It was done 12 days after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Justice Cynthia Wiredu: She joined the High Court from the Circuit Court in December 2019 and should have handed over the list of her assets and liabilities to the Audit Service by June 2020. But she did this on August 26, 2022. This is nine days after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Justice Emmanuel Bart-Plange Brew: He became a justice of the High Court after his promotion from the Circuit Court in September 2020. March 2021 should have been the deadline for his asset declaration. However, it was done on August 29, 2022, which is 12 days after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Justice William Osei-Kuffour: The private legal practitioner was appointed to the High Court in September 2020. He should have declared his assets and liabilities by March 2021. He did that on August 31, 2022, exactly two weeks after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Justice Douglas Seidu: Before his appointment to the High Court in September 2020, he was a private legal practitioner. He declared his assets on August 29, 2022, two years after his appointment when it should have been done by March 2021. His declaration was done 12 days after The Fourth Estate letter.
- Justice Elfreda Amy Dankyi: She was also a private legal practitioner before her appointment to the High Court in September 2020. She also declared her assets on August 26, 2022, when she should have declared them in March 2021. This was done nine days after The Fourth Estate letter.
Article 286 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states that “a person who holds a public office mentioned in clause (5) of this Article shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by, him whether directly or indirectly (a) within three months after the coming into force of this Constitution or before taking office, as the case may be, (b) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his term of office.”
The Constitution requires the declaration to be done before the public officer takes office. However, Section 1(4)(c) of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act directs public office holders to meet this requirement “not later than six months after taking office, at the end of every four years and not later than six months at the end of his or her term.”
This is not the first time the justices of the superior court have failed to live up to the terms of Ghana’s asset declaration laws.
When he appeared before the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament in 2019 to be vetted for the position of Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, admitted to the legislators that he had not declared his assets and liabilities.
Justice Anin Yeboah had been a judge at the Court of Appeal from 2003 to 2008 before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2008. He also served as a High Court judge from 2002-2003.
In 2019, however, when the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mohammed Mubarack, asked when he declared his assets, he said his first declaration had been 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 said judges were overwhelmed with work, a reason they failed to meet the requirement.
The Asset Declaration Law
The law requires that the President, Vice-President, the Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Speakers of Parliament, members of Parliament, ministers and deputy ministers of state, ambassadors, the Chief Justice, Judges of Superior Court, Judges of Inferior court and managers of public institutions in which the state has interest submit to the Auditor-General written declarations of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly.
They are to declare their assets relating to:
(a)lands, houses and buildings;
(d) trust or family property in respect of which the officer has beneficial interest;
(e) vehicles, plant and machinery, fishing boats, trawlers, generating plants;
(f) business interests;
(g) securities and bank balances;
(h) bonds and treasury bills;
(i) jewellery of the value of ¢5 million [now ¢500] or above; objects of art of the value of ¢5 million or above;
(j) life and other insurance policies;
(k) such other properties as are specified on the declaration form.