Clearer conflict of interest rules needed in Parliament – Mahama Ayariga

Joe Osei-Owusu, Second Deputy Speaker (left) and Mahama Ayariga, Bawku Central MP (right) in a chat during a vetting process

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga is pushing for a new policy guideline to help lawmakers in dealing with public servants on matters that constitute conflict of interest saying the current legislation is murky, difficult to interpret.

According to him, the new policy must be clear and precise with what constitutes a conflict of interest and how public servants can position themselves not to get entangled.

Currently, the constitution states in Article 284 that “A public officer shall not put himself/herself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of the office,” but according to Mr. Ayariga, there is a gap that some public officers take advantage of.

Speaking on the floor of parliament in support of the motion on the report of the vetting committing on deputy minister designates, Mr. Ayariga noted that in the case of the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance, Charles Adu Boahen, the committee was divided as to whether a bond brokerage firm he is associated to -of which he has resigned- providing services to the Bank of Ghana in the secondary market amounts to conflict of interest.

He said when the committee referred to the constitution, the action of Mr. Adu Boahen could not be clearly faulted.

The Bawku Central MP explained that: “We all appreciate the fact that when somebody is in public office, that person cannot at the same time also run a public company and that company should not do business with government in a way that the person uses his/her office to influence the business; that is the general principle and understanding.

With this the committee has allowed the situation where people resign from their companies and people declare interest. We know that in the proceedings of this house, in a matter that is before us, the constitution is clear that you declare your interest and not participate in a vote.

But here, people were concerned about a tendency for someone in public office who has left his company -a private company- is no longer in control, but that company continues to do business with government and the likelihood that when the person leaves the public office that person could go back to the company and benefit from the opportunities that the company may have had during the period the person was in public office. This is just a likelihood and we do not have clear rules,” he said.

Referring to what happens in some part of Europe, the MP said some jurisdictions do not allow a public servant to own shares in any private company within or affiliated to the sector he/she is head of or holds an influential position.

If the public servant had shares before assuming office the conflict-of-interest policy insists that the person diversify all shares in the company before assuming the public office.  The aim is to ensure that the public officer is not engaged in formulating policies that would inure to his/her personal benefit in future.

On the back of that he asked the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, to consider supporting a move to formulate clearer rules on conflict of interest to guide future engagements.

It must be noted that, the clarity of the nation’s conflict of interest law has been a long-standing debate, while some like Justice Emile Short, a former Commissioner of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) support Mahama Ayariga, a law lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Clara Beeri Kasser-Tee, maintains that the law on conflict of interest is clearly defined

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