By Victor Emejuiwe
The Code of Conduct Bureau is saddle with the mandate to establish and maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability. It is one of the Anti-Corruption Agencies that is ordinarily meant to cleanse public service in Nigeria from the scourge of corruption. One of the core functions of the CCB is to receive the declaration of assets of public servants. They are also expected to examine the assets declared and ensure that they comply with the requirement of the constitution. The constitution mandates all public servants whether elected or appointed to declare their assets with the CCB. The category of public servants includes; The President, Vice President, members of the National Assembly, Ministers, Governors and Deputy Governor, members of the State Houses of Assembly and Commissioners, etc
So many countries including Ghana also have a body such as CCB who performs similar function like that of Nigeria. In Ghana, the Auditor General conducts the audit of assets declared by public servants. This is a core function that helps to prevent diversion of public resources for personal and individual benefits. Beyond the declaration of asset, the audit and verification of assets declared is necessary to prevent and as well as fight corruption that has characterized public service in Nigeria. It is a known fact that so many appointees of government lives beyond their legal remuneration and allowances.
The CCB has not been proactive to ensure that public servants declare their asset and update it after four years as required by law. Most times the assets declared are not the true reflection of the properties or liabilities of the declarants, thereby requiring further investigation by the CCB.
The lack of proper verification to ascertain the true value of assets and liabilities of government appointees before assuming office and after leaving office have created room for corrupt public servants to escape the sanctions of the code of conduct tribunal.
Recall, the Code of Conduct Tribunal S. 15 (2), (3) provides that any statement in declaration that is found to be false by any authority and person authorized in that behalf shall be deemed to have breach the CCT Act. It subsequently provided that any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required under the Constitution and which is not fairly attributable to income, gift, or loan approved by the CCT Act shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of the CCT unless the contrary is proved. The defaulters are by law required to return those assets back to the federal government. If the CCB had been conducting extensive verification of the assets declared, pre and post in the appointments of public officers, the job of the asset recovery and management unit supervised by the Attorney General of the Federation, would have been made much easy. This would also aid public finance management.
It is therefore recommended that CCB engages capable hands or equip its existing staff with the requisite expertise to verify information provided by government officials in their asset declaration forms. Discrepancies discovered in the asset declared should be duly reported and recovered by the asset recovery unit following due process.
In addition, for the sake of administrative efficiency, the CCB should consider the option of online declaration of asset to provide ease of compliance on asset declarations by the declarants. The CCB should consider producing a detailed report of verified asset of political office holders certified by the CCB. This should be made available in the website of the CCB
Program Officer (Good Governance)
Centre for Social Justice Abuja