The largest opposition party, New Patriotic Party (NPP), insists that the Ford vehicle gift President John Mahama received from a Burkinabe contractor constitutes a bribe or kickback by every description.
According to the party, a report by the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) which cleared the president of bribery and conflict of interest but found him guilty of breaching 'Gift Policy’ is one desperate and blatant attempt at a white wash which will go down as a most shoddy job by a constitutional body in the Fourth Republic of Ghana.
A statement signed by Nana Akomea, Director of Communications for NPP, said the NPP, like many Ghanaians, received this CHRAJ report on President Mahama’s Ford gift saga with great disbelief and shock.
“The NPP is in no doubt that by accepting the Ford vehicle from a government contractor, who got these contracts only after his meeting with the President, President Mahama had received a bribe/kickback”, the statement added.
The party noted that President Mahama, the topmost public servant in Ghana, received an expensive present from a contractor who was in a contractual engagement with the government of President Mahama.
NPP said its position is supported by the plain facts of the matter explaining that after unsuccessful efforts to secure a contract from the Government of Ghana, the contractor met and sought assistance from the then Vice-President Mahama.
It noted that after this meeting and striking of friendship, the contractor secures three contracts from the Government of Ghana in the two-year period after meeting the then Vice President Mahama.
“The appropriateness as to priority and cost of the first contract (a fence wall) raised adverse concern at the office of the Auditor General of Ghana and in the Parliament of Ghana.
“By receiving this expensive gift, President Mahama violated the Constitution of Ghana and every other provision/code/regulation guiding the conduct of public officials so they avoid real or the perception of kickbacks/bribery/ abuse of office.
“Perhaps, the most instructive of these violated codes is that of President Mahama himself: PresidentMahama's Code Of Ethics issued to his ministers and appointees forbids them from accepting gifts of more than $50, from accepting gifts from a commercial enterprise or any other organization and putting themselves in a conflict of interest situation where their personal friends derive some financial benefit from a decision by the government,” the party added.
The statement said similar prohibitions are provided in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana - Article 284 as well as the CHRAJ's own Guidelines on Conflict Of Interest and the Conduct Of Public Officers Bill.
According to the NPP, an objective review of PresidentMahama's conduct in the light of these provisions show clear wrongdoing as he took a high-value present/gift from a contractor who met him to solicit for government contracts and was subsequently awarded contracts describing it as open and shut case of wrong-doing, bribery and corruption.
The party, therefore, expressed surprise that CHRAJ, even though admits to all this, concludes the President was in no conflict of interest situation asthere is no evidence that President Mahama took part in decisions to award contracts to his contractor friend and that when it came to his attention handed over the vehicle gift to the state of Ghana.
The NPP argues that these two bases of the CHRAJ are clearly flawed.
“How do we decide the President was not complicit in decision by his appointees to award contracts to his friend?
“The guidelines mentioned above say it is sufficient to show that gifts were taken from a contractor (who after meeting Vice-President Mahama,) got substantial contracts from the Government.
“The gifts, per these circumstances and the guidelines, qualify as a bribe or a kickback.
“The second basis for CHRAJ's conclusion, that when it came to the President's attention, he immediately turned the gift to the state, is also contestable, just by looking at the simple facts of this case.
“The President was supposed to have turned the vehicle to the state on November 2nd 2012.
“But records presented to CHRAJ show the vehicle was declared at Tema Port and Customs Duty paid on February 13 2013, three clear months after.
“So how come an armored state vehicle, turned over to the state on November 2nd, was taken out more than three months later, to the Tema port, declared before Customs, and import duties paid amounting to Ghc23,646.
“It is trite knowledge that customs duties are not paid on State vehicles. The President of Ghana also does not pay taxes.
“So on whose behalf was the duty paid? “What was the purpose of paying the duty?” it probed.
In view of the NPP, these issues were not addressed by CHRAJ arguing that it is the very issue that throws overboard the CHRAJ’S conclusion that the President turned over the vehicle to the state on 2nd November 2012.
“CHRAJ's conclusion is rendered untenable. It renders their report as an attempt to white wash the president and hoodwink Ghanaians.
“President Mahama’s behaviour in accepting an expensive vehicle from a government contractor who had met him to solicit for government contracts and subsequently obtained government contracts, breaches the national constitution (Article 284), breaches CHRAJ's own Guidelines on that article (on gift taking, conflict of interest etc) and clearly amounts to a bribe” NPP said.