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Seizure of “State Cars”, Who Is To Blame?
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In 2001, when the first regime changed through the ballot box under the fourth republican constitution, the transition was characterised by revenge, acrimony and huge administrative lapses.

That acrimony between the government and members of the previous administration heightened the already bitter rivalry between their respective political parties, namely: National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Foot soldiers of the NPP took the law into their own hands and seized income generation entities like public toilets, lorry parks and market toll booths all over the country.

Some members of the security agencies in collaboration with officials of the party in power, backed by tacit government support went after officers of the previous administration on a vehicle seizure spree. Former Vice President, Professor John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, who would later become President, was subjected to public humiliation over vehicles alleged to be state vehicles.

That unfortunate occurrence triggered the need for a law that would guide transitions with the sole purpose of avoiding what all stakeholders in our governance system agreed, was unacceptable. The consensus, led to the conception of the Presidential Transition Bill, facilitated by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

By 2009, when the tables had turned and Prof. Mills was alive and in office as President, some members of the NPP including current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo were chased around, all over the country to return state assets they were alleged to have stolen. In 2010 in particular, Nana Addo’s vehicles were confiscated by national security for investigations and later returned with an apology.

And by March 2012, Parliament had passed the multi-partisan framework which set the ground rules and regulations that would govern all transitions. At long last, the framework for the political transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another, which would transcend all regime changes, had arrived.

Stakeholders were happy and upbeat about how the law would become the cornerstone of accountability and when implemented would produce a new era of institutional clarity in many aspect of public administration.

To deal with that vexed matters of state assets, framers of the law provided for a Presidential Estates Unit (PEU), charged with maintaining and keeping an inventory of executive assets. It is headed by an independent Administrator-General (AG) who has duly been appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State. The AG, who also has the responsibility as facilitator of the transition process, seems to have filled a long-standing vacuum.

Fast forward to January 2017 transition, following regime change in December 2016 from NDC to NPP, we are witnessing all the problems and mischiefs that the Transition Act should have cured. What happened to us?

NPP foot soldiers are of a seizure spree, seizing toll booths, government offices and vehicles they suspect to have been stolen. In response to public outcry, the Chief of Staff set up an official asset recovery taskforce made up of officials from the Police Service, the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority(DVLA), the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), and the office of the President.

The Chief of Staff, insists that various state assets including “landed properties and vehicles are yet to be handed over to the new government, hence the setting up of the taskforce to retrieve all these assets in the interest of the state.”

What happened to the operation of the law? The immediate past regime led by the NDC, piloted the bill through Parliament and had it passed into law. They had the privilege of appointing the first AG, responsible for keeping true and faithful inventory of executive assets. The AG has been in office for at least three years. What was he doing?

Of course he has come out publicly to say that his office had been starved of the tools and men and motivation to do the job. Failure to do his job has created a gap in inventory – real or perceived. Who is to blame for NDC officials who feel harassed by NPP over state assets? Did we really need this Act? Or it is the usual political reflex of making laws or creating ministries for problems we could solve with existing laws and ministries? I am thinking far!

Source: Today

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