The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has shot down a report by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) seeking to clear President John Mahama of any wrongdoing in the infamous Ford vehicle gift scandal which rocked the presidency a couple of months ago.
The NPP said the CHRAJ report was only an attempt to whitewash the president in view of the obvious flaws the report contains.
President Mahama received a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle worth $100,000 from a Burkinabe contractor, Djibril Kanazoe, thought to have influenced the latter’s sudden winning of juicy contracts in Ghana after initial attempts had failed.
CHRAJ waded into the scandal to investigate it after much hullaballoo which provoked a national debate over the propriety of the president’s decision in accepting the vehicle. Petitions were sent to the commission to prove the matter.
Last Thursday, CHRAJ finally released its report which sought to exonerate President Mahama, admitting that it was inappropriate for him (Mahama) to receive the Ford as a gift because it breaches the gift policy.
That notwithstanding, the constitutional body concluded, “The president was not guilty of having put himself in the position of receiving a bribe or put himself in a conflict of interest, abuse of office and corruption situation.”
That, it observed, was because “There is no evidence that President Mahama took part in decisions to award contracts to his contractor friend. President Mahama, when it came to his attention, handed over the vehicle to the state of Ghana.”
But the NPP in a statement signed by Communications Director, Nana Akomea, said the basis on which CHRAJ arrived at that decision was flawed.
“By receiving this expensive gift, President Mahama violated the Constitution of Ghana and every other provision, code and regulation guiding the conduct of public officials so they avoid real or the perception of kickbacks, bribery and abuse of office,” he noted.
For him, the most instructive of the codes violated was President Mahama’s Code of Ethics issued to his ministers and appointees which forbids them from accepting gifts of more than $50.00, 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.
Nana Akomea also made reference to Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution, CHRAJ’s own Guidelines on Conflict of Interest and the Conduct of Public Officers Bill.
For the NPP, “An objective review of President Mahama’s conduct in the light of these provisions shows clear wrongdoing.”
It said that was evident in the fact that “The president took a high value gift from a contractor who met him to solicit for government contracts and was subsequently awarded contracts,” describing it as “an open and shut case of wrongdoing, bribery and corruption.”
The party also contested CHRAJ’s claim that when the issue about the car gift came to the president’s attention, he immediately turned the gift to the state.
According to Nana Akomea, that was because “The president was supposed to have turned the vehicle to the state on November 2, 2012. But records presented to CHRAJ showed the vehicle was declared at Tema port and Customs Duty paid on February 13, 2013, three clear months after.”
Nana Akomea therefore, could not but ask rhetorically, “So how come an armoured state vehicle, turned over to the state on November 2, was taken out more than three months later to the Tema port, declared before Customs and import duties paid amounting to GH¢23,646 since it is trite knowledge that customs duties are not paid on state vehicles while 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?”
NPP claimed that these were the very basic issues that CHRAJ failed to address in its investigation (and report) which renders its conclusion untenable. Nana Akomea said, “It renders the report as an attempt to whitewash the president and hoodwink Ghanaians.”
He insisted, “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.”