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General News Sat, 1 Oct 2016

CHRAJ should have been courageous to find Mahama guilty - Attafuah

A former chief investigator at the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) says once the Commission found president John Mahama guilty of breaching the gift policy, it ought to have been "braver and courageous" in finding him guilty of breaching the conflict of interest law.

Prof Ken Attafuah cannot comprehend how the Commission was able to conclude that the president collected a gift he was not supposed to and yet concluded that he did not breach Article 284 of the constitution.

The lawyer and investigator made the remarks on Joy FM's Newsfile program Saturday, while contributing to the Ford gift saga involving president John Mahama.

An investigative piece by Joy FM's Manasseh Azure Awuni uncovered that a Burkinabe contractor Djibril Kanazoe who was doing business with government gave a Ford vehicle estimated at $100,000 as a gift to the president in 2012.

The president admitted receiving the gift but said he did not put it to his personal use but rather put it at the disposal of the state to be used at the presidency.

However that singular conduct, critics say is in breach of the president's own Code of Conduct for Ministers and appointees as well as Article 284 which says: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.”

Two political parties, the Progressive People's Party and Convention People's Party Youth wing and an individual sent a petition to CHRAJ demanding an investigation into the matter and asking the Constitutional body to determine if the president was in breach of the gift policy, conflict of interest and other violations it may find.

CHRAJ after receiving the three petitions conducted a preliminary investigation and concluded that indeed the president breached the gift policy but stated that, to the extent that the president took steps to cure the possible conflict of interest situation by declaring the vehicle and handing it over to the state pool, the president cannot be said to have violated Article 284 of the constitution.

The Commission also stated there was no evidence to conclude that the president had been bribed or corrupted by his receipt of the gift.

The findings of the Commission released Thursday have received mixed reactions. The lawyer to the president Tony Lithur, hailed the report describing it as a vindication of the president.

However, a former Commissioner at CHRAJ Justice Emile Short said the findings by the independent state institution was "problematic."

On Newsfile, Prof Ken Attafuah, who was the chief investigator at CHRAJ during the tenure of Emile Short said the investigative processes the Commission adopted were not thorough and the findings problematic.

Attafuah said the moment the president collected the gift, he activated the conflict of interest situation and any attempt thereafter is only to solve the conflict

"Ultimately the complaint is that the president in this case violated Article 284 of the Constitution that as a public officer he placed himself in a situation where his personal interest was likely to conflict with his public duty.

"If you go and perform post gift investigations into how the gift was handled you get into the realm of dealing with the conflict of interest situation.

"Conflict of interest occurs when that person places himself in a position where the conduct is likely to conflict or actually conflicts.

Attafuah will not accept the logic that because the president handed the Ford vehicle to the state pool he is not in a conflict of interest situation.

"The cure does not erase the blemish," he said and gave an analogy that if someone were to steal money and went ahead to donate the money, that person would not be said to innocent of stealing.

He was emphatic that CHRAJ's conclusions were a bundle of contradictions.

"That whole gift policy is derived from Article 284 of the Constitution. The internment is to constrain public officers from accepting gifts or placing themselves in a position where their conduct as public officers might be influenced by the personal relations that develops out of the gift giving and gift taking.

"In this case if CHRAJ was able to find as a fact that his Excellency the president was in breach of the policy internment, it ought to have been braver, courageous to go to the next step and find that the conduct so found in the infringement of the policy also constitutes an infringement of Article 284 of the constitution.

"I have difficulty in seeing that contradiction not being palpably registered on the minds of the decision maker.

But Editor of the New Crusading Guide newspaper Kweku Baako Jnr mounted a strong defence for CHRAJ and the president saying, given the allegations made, evidence adduced, CHRAJ could not have drawn any conclusions different from what it has done.

He was not surprised at the criticisms hurled against CHRAJ and cited many examples in the past where the findings of CHRAJ had been basterdized.

Source: Myjoyonline.com
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