Sir John did not declare his heritage
The Fourth Estate can report that the late Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, whose willingness shocked some Ghanaians and fueled calls for governance accountability, failed to declare his asset during his tenure. mandate.
Popularly known as Sir John, Mr Afriyie was a former general secretary of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). He died of complications related to Covid-19 on July 1, 2020, while still at the head of the Forestry Commission.
The enormous wealth he bequeathed to his family and loved ones has shocked many Ghanaians ever since. The fourth power revealed exclusively the contents of his will. The large plots of land he owned in the Achimota Forest and Ramsar Site, a protected area he had warned people against acquiring land while in office.
Some have also questioned when he acquired the properties.
Information The fourth power requested and received from the Audit Service reveals that Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie failed to declare his assets before taking office and failed to declare them throughout his tenure as CEO of the Forestry Commission.
In accordance with the laws governing asset declaration in Ghana – Section 286 of the Constitution 1992 and Public Office Holders (Asset Declaration and Disqualification) Act – Mr. Afriyie should have declared assets relating to the following:
(a) land, houses and buildings;
(d) a trust or family asset in which the officer has a beneficial interest;
e) vehicles, gear and machinery, fishing boats, trawlers, power stations;
(f) business interests;
(g) securities and bank balances;
(h) bonds and treasury bills;
(i) jewelry worth 5,000,000¢ [now ¢500] or above; works of art with a value equal to or greater than 5,000,000¢;
(j) life and other insurance policies;
(k) other properties specified on the declaration form.
Sir John had a long list of properties, including 13 houses in various locations in Accra and Kumasi and his hometown, Sakora Wonoo, in the Ashanti region. These houses are:
- House on plot number GA54480 located in Ogbojo, East Legon, dated 12th February 2018
- House on plot number GA 55329 located in Oyarifa n°2, dated May 11, 2018
- House on plot number GA 55475 located in Oyarifa n°1, dated September 27, 2017
- House on plot number GA 5881 located in Adjiringanor, Accra, (White House), dated August 7, 2019.
- A 6 bedroom house located in Patangbe, Ogbojo, near East Legon.
- A 4 bedroom house located in Mempeheusem, East Legon
- A 3 bedroom house on plot number TDA 4140 located in Mempehuesem, East Legon
- Another 3 bedroom house on plot number TDA 4140 located in Mempehuesem, East Legon
- A 4 bedroom house on land number GA56838 located in East Legon dated 25th October 2018
- A 5 bedroom house located in Sakora Wonoo
- A 4 storey building located in East Legon, with 10 apartments, each apartment consisting of 3 bedrooms; and five apartments, each consisting of two bedrooms
- A house in East Legon Hills
- A house in Kumasi, Ashanti region
Assets that Sir John dated during his tenure
Sir John was appointed CEO of the Forestry Commission in March 2017
His will does not indicate when most of the land holdings, money from bank accounts and investments were acquired or the businesses he owned were established.
However, he named the dates as well as the registration details of five of the houses in his will. Incidentally, the five dates were while he was CEO of the Forestry Commission.
When he was barely six months in office, his house acquired in Oyarifa n°1 is dated September 27, 2017 with the registration.
A second house at Ogbojo in Accra is dated February 12, 2018, with details in the will.
A third house in Sir John’s collection is dated May 11, 2018 in the will, and a fourth October 25, 2018.
In his 30th month in office, Sir John, barrister and general secretary of the NPP from 2010 to 2014, had five homes registered in his name. The fifth arrived on August 7, 2019.
Eight other houses contained in his will do not have dates of acquisition.
His listed fortune also included 12 plots of land.
Sir John’s will also contains 15 foreign and local bank and investment accounts (individual and corporate) with one of the local banks having GH₵2 million.
Its list of businesses includes a gas station located in Kentinkrono in the Ashanti region; 10 tank trucks (worth approximately $780,000, as verified by The Fourth Estate); a teak plantation located at Nkawie in the Ashanti region; a rubber plantation located in the East region; three stalls located at the new Kejetia Market in Kumasi, also in the Ashanti Region and Farms in Ejura in the Ashanti Region.
That’s not all.
He owned a fleet of 15 private vehicles, including a Lexus LX570, Lexus V6, Mercedes Benz E68 Sport AMG, Honda Pilot V6, Honda Accord Sport, Toyota Landcruiser V8, Ford 150 and Lexus Saloon Car, model 2019.
The Fourth Estate checks whether Sir John has declared his assets
The fourth power has, through a Right to Know request to the Audit Service, found that Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, who headed the country’s forestry sector regulator for almost four years, has not not report its assets and liabilities as required by law.
This is clearly in violation of Section 286(1) of the 1992 Constitution, which requires public office holders to declare the assets they hold directly or indirectly before taking office, at the end of all four years ; and at the end of their term.
The law requires that the President, Vice President, President, Vice Presidents of Parliament, Ministers and Deputy Ministers of State, Ambassadors, Chief Justice and heads of public institutions in which the State has interests submit to the Auditor General written statements of all property or assets they own or debts they owe, whether directly or indirectly.
Sir John did not.
Is the declaration of assets only a formality?
Critics of Ghana’s asset declaration laws say it is just a formality since there is no way to verify what public office holders disclose.
Indeed, the laws prohibit the public disclosure of the assets declared by the public officials concerned unless they are called in evidence by a court of competent jurisdiction, a commission of inquiry appointed under section 278 or before a designated investigator. by the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice.
But anti-corruption crusaders, including Vitus Azeem, former executive director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, had called the law opaque, with parliament unwilling to change it because it would not favor public office holders.
“That does not make the law an effective tool to fight corruption,” he said, and points to the possibilities of dodging because the ideal situation should be that the Auditor General can open the envelope and check whether the assets mentioned existed or “if it was only a blank sheet that was put in an envelope”.
The Case Against Asset Verification
Many complaints have been filed against verification of declared assets. Civil society organizations, including the Center for Democratic Development (CDD), have noted some of these arguments against asset declarations in their research and publications. An argument against closing declared properties to the public is the socio-cultural framework.
Some argue that in the context of Ghana’s extended family system, which relies heavily on relatives, disclosing the assets of public office holders would make them vulnerable to undue pressure from relatives in need.
Another rationale has been that publishing the assets of public officials might deter “good” people from entering public service.
However, CDD-Ghana shredded these arguments by portraying them as a red herring.
CDD noted that politicians and other elites are themselves given to unnecessary displays of ostentation and smugness, primarily as a means of establishing their “great man” credentials and reputation as “patron”. He argues that it is dishonest for these same elites to oppose the disclosure of their assets on the grounds that it would give undue publicity to the private wealth of public office holders.
Controversies during Sir John’s time as CEO of the Forestry Commission
During Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie’s tenure, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released a damning report into the illegal trade and logging of rosewood that had continued despite a ban in place since 2012.
“Since 2012, more than 540,000 tonnes of rosewood – the equivalent of 23,478 twenty-foot containers or around six million trees – have been illegally harvested and imported into China from Ghana amid harvest bans and of commerce are in place,” the report said.
The investigations revealed “a vast institutionalized system of timber trafficking, made possible by high-level corruption and collusion”.
When addressing a press conference on September 5, 2019, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie said that from 2012 to May 2019, a total of 300,368.94 cubic meters of rosewood equivalent to 257,230 trees were exported not six million trees as the EIA claims.
As an antidote to the illegal trade in rosewood, he said that the Commission had decided, among other things, to burn all seized rosewood in order to deter people from engaging in felling the tree since all other measures had failed.
This does not happen.
In the heat of a crackdown on illegal mining (galamsey) in 2018, some residents of Koboro in the central Amansie district of Ashanti Region, a notorious illegal mining hub, branded Sir John an illegal miner.
In his defence, he explained that he had hired a company to undertake a recovery exercise and not an illegal mining activity in the Apamprama forest located in the area.
His will, however, disclosed that he had interests in gold mining companies while in office.