President John Mahama must resign for accepting a Ford Expedition as gift from a Burkinabe contractor who has been given several contracts by the Government of Ghana, opposition MP for Atwima Mponua constituency, Isaac Asiamah has said.
“Elsewhere, the president would have resigned, morally. For me, honestly speaking, if he were to be an honest president, a president who is serious about fighting corruption and a president who cares about this country, he should resign honourably to save this country from this shameful act,” Mr Asiamah told Class News in an interview.
The gift was given to Mr Mahama by Mr Djibril Kanazoe, according to investigations done by Joy FM’s Manasseh Azure Awuni. The Burkinabe was, in turn, 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, after he had parted with the SUV to the Ghanaian president.
In Mr Asiamah’s view, not only was the acceptance of the gift disgraceful, but also Mr Djibril Kanazoe also evaded tax and duty on the vehicle because he was given a letter by Ghana’s mission that facilitated the transportation of the car from Burkina Faso through the Paga border to Ghana “without let or hindrance”, since it was meant for the Ghanaian president.
“...Apart from receiving it as a gift, he was also evading tax, he didn’t want to even pay custom duty... elsewhere the president would not have that moral courage to be sitting at the Flagstaff House, it doesn’t happen,” Mr Asiamah said.
Meanwhile, Transparency International’s local chapter, Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), has said the acceptance of the vehicle by President Mahama smacks of conflict of interest.
The Executive Director of the anti-graft body, Mrs Ofori Kwafo, told Emefa Apawu on Class91.3fm’S 505 news programme on Wednesday June 15 that: “The whole thing is a conflict of interest”.
Apart from the GII, which has spoken against the acceptance of the gift by the Ghanaian president, a prominent member of policy think tank IMANI Ghana and pressure group OccupyGhana, Mr Kofi Bentil, has expressed shock at the revelation.
The government has issued a statement denying that the gift influenced the President in any way.
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.”
However, Mr Bentil, in a post on Facebook wondered: “Must THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT be accepting gifts from Contractors? I am so ashamed to hear people say the vehicle was put in the pool so it’s not a problem...,” adding: “This thinking is appalling to say the least and reveals the dearth of knowledge of the people in power about fighting corruption!”
“So don't they know that this is an absolute no no? And Mr. [Daniel] Batidam [The President’s Advisor on Governance and Corruption] goes to work every day? What does he do?” Mr Bentil asked.
He said: “If our presidency is this open to contractors, then our nation is for sale to the highest bidder because Ghana doesn't have a proper process for managing gifts to the President. So, anything goes! If we want to accept gifts at the presidency, let’s develop a proper procedure (like they have in the US) for that. So that it’s clear to everyone.”
Meanwhile, the Ranking Member of Parliament’s Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Joe Osei-Owusu, has described the president’s acceptance of the car gift as a “shameful” and “corrupt” act, which is impeachable.
According to the MP, "The man [contractor] is getting favours as a result of the kickbacks he has paid to the president. We should keep telling Ghanaians that the president is corrupt and taking bribes for petty things like this,” he told Class FM’s parliamentary correspondent, Ekow Annan, on Wednesday June 15.
He said the president has allowed himself to be bribed. “There is no such thing as a gift in this circumstance”. According to him, Mr Mahama “should not have even encouraged that kind of relationship such that the person will deliver a vehicle intended for you in Burkina Faso and then it will be driven through the borders with official letters requiring that the vehicle be allowed because it is a gift…I mean it is shameful. Was the gift intended for the state? And it was received by him, not the state. It is not registered in the name of the state, I guess,” the legislator said.
In the Bekwai MP’s estimation, the whole issue was swept under the carpet and the government would have been silent about it had it not been for the revelation by the media. He felt the press statement issued by the Communications Minister was an “afterthought trying to explain the serious graft that is going on in the government”.
“How many vehicles are in the presidential pool and how many vehicles can he [Mr Mahama] not have? Does he need this gift? Does the state need this gift from a contractor? Why did he not reduce the cost of the project [as well]?” the lawmaker questioned.
The whole issue, he said, “calls for a look at the contract figures again and the cost of the supervision of the work [by the contractor]. For me, this is only the tail end of the story. The whole process, procedure, tendering, following through a big man is a process of bribing the president for something that the connection has given to him.” “Some decisions are not personal whether to impeach the president or not. Whether it is right, legal or politically wise is another matter.”
Also, Lawyer and Criminologist, Prof Ken Attafuah, has said the president cannot be excused from the scandal, adding his acceptance of the gift was a “palpable violation” of the code of conduct governing public officers.