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General News Thu, 1 Dec 2005

Bamba admits abuse of office

... Says he did it for NPP

Alhaji Moctar Bamba, former Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs, has confirmed allegations of abuse of impropriety and abuse of office leveled against him, while he was in charge of the auction of state properties.

Nearly twelve hours after denying to The Chronicle that he was involved in a discriminatory award of auction that led to several complaints being leveled against him, Alhaji Bamba in a radio interview, disclosed that he was discriminatory in the award of auctions, targeting members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to be beneficiaries.

"It is the NPP who voted for us as Ministers of State; so whatever we do, we have to think about the 53% of the NPP people who voted for the party," he stated, in response to Radio Gold's James Agyenim-Boateng's question last Tuesday.

According to Mr. Bamba, most of the NPP people were auctioneers, but were not being given jobs by the executive of the Ghana Auctioneers Associaion (GAA), led by Alhaji A. Showumi Williams.

"So, you gave those jobs to your party men," asked the interviewer.

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"I am telling you; I won't hide it from you. Because, listen, for the past 18 years when the NDC was in power, even contractors belonging to the UP tradition were set aside.

Most of the NPP people were set aside," he responded, asking," "So, when finally, the NPP is in power, with due respect, what do you want us to do, do we set our people aside?"

But Alhaji Showumi Williams, who was also interviewed on the programme, denied the accusations of Bamba.

According to him, what is happening in the party today is because some of the people feel they are not getting anything from the party they voted for.

But Bamba's position is in sharp conflict with the decision of Mr. Justice Ofoe, in his ruling of November 8, 2005 in a case in which the former had been dragged to court by Alhaji Williams and another, as 3rd Defendant alongside others.

According to Justice Ofoe, "It appears to me that I can grant plaintiffs the order that auction sale of government properties be done only through auctioneers recognized by law. Since all government properties, I can say, are collectively owned as distinct from private ownership, it behoves government officials who have the duty of assigning properties for auction to do their jobs transparently, fairly without bias, prejudice or dislike. It is within the province of an elected government and public officials entrusted with auction sale of government properties to so distribute these properties fairly and equally amongst the registered auctioneers. It is only then that justice will be seen operating in all sectors of government machinery."

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The court

The GAA had, in a letter to President John Agyekum Kufuor, dated February 5 2003, and copied the chairman of the Council of State, disclosed that even though the auction sale of vehicles was being handled by the Ministry of Finance since time immemorial, under the PNDC/NDC era, 'that responsibility was forcefully hijacked by the Chief of Staff for corrupt and fraudulent administration to benefit certain individuals instead of the state'.

The GAA letter, signed by its chairman, Alhaji Williams, said, 'The corruption and fraudulence were worse under Alhaji Bamba and his associates,' and therefore pleaded with the President to have, 'the administration and control of auction sale of Government assets, revert to the Ministry of Finance for honest and efficient control and accountability'.

GAA had also pleaded with the president to set up an enquiry into the various cases of fraudulent practices in the auction sales of government properties.

According to the association, ex-President Rawlings had in the year 2000, reacted to a copy of the Association's complaint to Nana Ato Dadzie, then the Chief of Staff, about some top NDC executives looting some of the vehicles and equipment assembled at Yakwei, near Konongo in the Ashanti region, for auction sales, and ordered the immediate return of every item taken away.

The association led by Mr. Williams, continued that after it had obtained a court injunction restraining Alhaji Bamba from carrying out an advertised auction, the current Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpiani, advised for the withdrawal of the case for an out-of-court settlement.

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To the Association's surprise however, neither the Chief of staff nor the Attorney General was heard from, regarding the matter, as they even failed to appear in court on the next adjourned date.

This, among others, provoked the plaintiffs to go back to court. The court, in its ruling granted a restraining order against the 4th to 8th defendants in the case 'from acting or putting themselves up as Interim Management Committee (IMC) or elected officers of the Association.'

The court again ordered the renewal of the licenses of plaintiffs and all who were auctioneers before the coming into force of the Auction Sales, 1989 P.N.D.C. Law 230, by the Auctioneers Registration Board. The board had been set up in April 2004 after plaintiffs had gone to court.

The judge said it was unfortunate that for the past 14 years, the Board was not established, creating room for unqualified persons to have acted as auctioneers, adding that "The circumstances of this case discloses gross negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of the governments for this period."

Justice Ofoe described as lame, explanations by an officer of the Attorney General's department that the delay in setting up the board was 'because of rapid changes in ministerial headship of the Ministry of Interior'. He said "Public servants will now learn to avoid embarrassing themselves defending what they know is indefensible."

He declared that there was no justification whatsoever for the 14-year long delay by government, specifically, the Ministry of Interior.

With regard to another relief sought by the plaintiffs in the case, Mr. Justice Ofoe had ruled that he could not order that government properties be auctioned through the Association, since it (the association) was a voluntary organisation and registered members were not bound to be members. "Such an order will have no legal justification and the evidence before me cannot support any such order," Justice Ofoe affirmed.

The trial judge, in conclusion of his ruling, declared all auctioneers' licenses issued by the Ghana Police after the coming into force of Law 230 to be null and void and also all who hold any such auctioneers' licenses as disqualified from putting themselves up or practicing as auctioneers.

Source: Chronicle
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