CHRAJ probes MPs over car loans
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, (CHRAJ) has begun investigation into the car loans provided for Members of Parliament (MPs) in 1993 and 1997.
Sources within Parliament confirmed that the office of the Clerk of Parliament has received a letter from CHRAJ inquiring into the financial arrangements on the loans, the Ghanaian Chronicle reports.
CHRAJ initiated the investigations into the car loans following a petition filed before it by a Ghanaian Professor at the University of Florida in the United States, Stephen Asare, on October 24 this year.
Professor Asare, who is based in Gainesville, Florida, has petitioned CHRAJ to look into the terms under which the car loans were contracted for the MPs, arguing that the alleged car loans were gifts disguised as loans.
According to him, the loans were nothing short of “a bipartisan raid on the Consolidated Fund.”
He argued that though he does not have access to the exact terms of the 1993 and ’97 contracts on the car loans, information within the public realm suggests that the reported loans cannot be loans.
According to him, interest rates in 1997 were over 50 per cent, and with the MPs taking a principal loan of $15, 000 each, they must be paying, at least $630 a month to repay the loan if indeed what they got were loans.
“…Assuming there was a concessionary interest rate of 40%, the payment terms must be the equivalent of $630 per month. If the payment terms fall short of this, then the MPs are not repaying the full amount of the loan,” he stressed.
He argued that Article 218 of the Constitution empowers CHRAJ to investigate “this instance of corruption and abuse of power” and to “take appropriate actions to remedy this abuse and corrupt practice.”
The Chronicle independently confirms that CHRAJ’s letter to Job 600 inquiring into the conditions, under which the loans were contracted, went out last week.
Sources say CHRAJ Commissioner, Justice Emile Short, who is believed to be handling the investigations, signed the letter.
The petitioner noted in his petition that his personal efforts to get the terms of the loans from Parliament have been thwarted by the Clerk of Parliament, who has always argued that the information is privileged.
He argued that the position of the Clerk of Parliament is unusual, since the contracts over the car loans were public contracts between the Republic of Ghana and the MPs. In this sense, it is important that the terms of the contract be made public to avoid appearances of impropriety and to allow the public to scrutinise the contract, especially, since it has to do with their elected representatives, he argued.
According to the US based Ghanaian Professor, zero tolerance for corruption will be meaningless unless CHRAJ’s investigative arsenal is brought to bear on key political leaders who abuse their power or engage in acts of corruption.
He is, therefore, seeking to have the contract on the car loans re-drawn to compel the MPs to repay the loans plus the appropriate interest based on the 1997 inter-bank lending rate and the four-year tenure of the loans.
“I also believe that penalties must be imposed on any non-payments on the contract as was written in 1997 and 1993, as well as the contract as should have been written in those years,” he added.
“Paying more than one borrows from the government is worse than tax evasion and should exact significant consequences, especially when those involved are the nation’s law-makers,” he concluded.
Only a few of the MPs who benefited from the car loans in 1993 and 1997 are in Parliament at the moment, and sources say the House does not even have the contact addresses of some of the former Honourable Members who benefited from the loans.