It is normal for presidents and world leaders like President John Mahama to accept gifts, presidential staffer Dr Clement Apaak has said, adding that Mr John Kufuor, while in office as president, also received several gifts, including a fleet of Mercedes Benz from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Dr Apaak’s hark-back reference to Mr Kufuor’s receipt of gifts is in defence of President Mahama’s receipt of a Ford Expedition from a Burkinabe contractor, Djibril Kanazoe, who, has been given a series of contracts by the Government of Ghana, including a $650,000 deal to fence a tract of land around Ghana’s mission in Burkina Faso.
Anti-graft body Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) has described the president’s acceptance of the gift as smacking of conflict of interest. Opposition MPs including Joe Osei-Wusu and Isaac Asiamah have also described the saga as “shameful”.
The government has issued a statement denying that the gift influenced the President in any way, as far as the award of the contract was concerned. The statement, signed by the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, noted: “The said vehicle, which was placed in the vehicle pool at the presidency as per established convention, had nothing to do with the award of the contracts.”
Further in the president’s defence, Dr Apaak said: “The world over, presidents accept gifts, it is not entirely unusual. Obama accepts gifts, David Cameron accepts gifts, President Kufuor accepted gifts several [times], he accepted a fleet of his Mercedez Benz cars from Gaddafi, President Mahama accepted a gift, he has put it to public use, he didn’t hide it, it was not brought into the country under the cover of darkness, undocumented, to give to him. It is not that suddenly Manasseh [Azure Awuni] and his team woke up and discovered that this gift was given under the cover of darkness, [or] it was brought and it was registered in the name of the president, or a member of his family. It came in through appropriate documentation and was handed over and put as part of the vehicles for the use of the state”.
Dr Apaak continued: “It is entirely normal for presidents to accept gifts… because that is it, even in the so-called advanced democracies, David Cameron accepts gifts, Obama accepts gifts, so, accepting a gift cannot be substituted for accepting a bribe. If we want to have a debate as a nation that our leaders should not accept a gift, that is a debate we can have, but the point I’m making is that the world over, leaders and presidents accept gifts and I gave you the example about the fact that President Kufuor accepted a fleet of Mercedes Benz cars from Gaddafi, they were given”.
According to him, the contract was supervised by the European Union, which applies strict standards and ethics in the selection process of bids, and, therefore, President Mahama could not have influence the process in anyway whatsoever.
“If you read the government’s statement very clearly, and you know the basis for which the man in question won the contract, certainly the president could never have had an influence. Do you know the modalities and the standards involved in winning a contract under the auspices of the European Union? I mean if there is the highest standard to prevent conflict of interest, and to ensure that the best person gets a contract based on merit, the European Union standard is one of the best and the president could never have had any influence on that person winning that contract and the records are there to show.
“The contract that the president’s accusers are trying to use as a basis to suggest what simply doesn’t exist that they are trying to fabricate, was one that was under the auspices of the European Union. It was not a GoG-related contract. It was not something that the president had a role to play or was even close to. We cannot say, based on the evidence available that the gift was accepted by President Mahama for personal gain, and, therefore, nobody can accuse the president of having engaged in an act of corruption by accepting a gift to which he has put to public use,” Dr Apaak said on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show hosted by Prince Minkah.