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Does Ms. Lauretta Lamptey of CHRAJ still have a conscience?

Fri, 26 Sep 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Folks, I am perturbed by the stubbornness of Ms. Lauretta Lamptey, head of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). She is doggedly resisting urgent appeals to her conscience to act honourably by resigning and seems to be overflowing with arrogance too!!

Her attempt at dousing the fire that she has herself lit to burn her out of office and public confidence has failed. She is no more credible to remain in office and should have advised herself by now to step down; but as of now, she hasn’t listened to the urgings of her own silent voice, which is conscience. From her own assessment of issues, she thinks that she has done nothing wrong and won’t heed any call to resign.

She has now chosen silence to be golden for her and isn’t responding anymore to anything about her malfeasance (misappropriating public funds for her personal comfort or, simply put, for abusing her office). Not even the petitioning of President Mahama to remove her from office can soften her stance. She has dug in, daring everybody to act against her if anybody can. A daredevil of a public servant she must be!!

Ms. Lamptey has no firm ground to stand on and she be told so. The offence for which she is being pushed to the corner is unpardonable. By spending so much money on her hotel accommodation, she has grossly abused public trust and invalidated her status. As someone vested with the power to investigate and punish wrongdoing verging on bribery and corruption, abuse of office, the administration of justice and human rights, how does she think that she can retain public trust and confidence when she is herself guilty of malfeasance regarding public funds? Where is her sense of morality?

Indeed, nothing hurts the public interest more than misuse of public funds for personal comfort. The sweat, blood, and toil of the public generate revenue to feed the national coffers and it is that revenue which is allocated to state institutions for their running of affairs. Thus, if public officials willfully misuse public funds, they hurt the public gravely. They commit an implacable offence and must be punished as such.

Clearly, a democracy is what it is because it survives more on the economic resources of the country than on the political element that materializes as the right to vote on Election Day. The truth is that without funds, no democracy can survive. Forget about all that trash-talk about enfranchisement. Voting or participation in the political process is a merely deceptive mechanism, considering the manipulations that go on as the jostling for power intensifies. Those who have the material means to corrupt the electorate do so with impunity and reap the windfall. Put aside the raw political element and concentrate on the value of “money” to democracy.

In that sense, then, nothing hurts a democracy more than the wanton theft or misuse of public funds. Apparently, democracy is an expensive venture, which calls for strict financial discipline so that public funds can be used for purposes that will advance the democracy. And advancing the democracy means doing everything possible so that public funds can be used to solve problems that will help improve living standards to reassure the citizens that their sacrifices are not in vain. Anything short of that is dangerous; and that is exactly what Ms. Lamptey’s malfeasance has wrought and for which she stands condemned! And once condemned, she is no longer fit to be in office.

But she remains adamant, apparently because she must be stepping on something that is protecting her. That something is nothing but this very democracy itself. The loopholes in it are too many. In this case, Ms. Lamptey is being cushioned by nothing by the constitutional provision regarding the CHRAJ and its head. How was she appointed and why can’t the same process be used to remove her from office if she has no conscience left to guide her on how to save her own image by taking the first step to resign?

Calls are being made from all quarters and petitions said to be sent to President Mahama to remove Ms. Lamptey from office; but nothing has happened so far. If the President has the prerogative to remove her from office, why isn’t he doing so? If he has to act on the recommendation of the Council of State before doing so, why isn’t that Council of State taking prompt steps to make the recommendation to him? Who exactly is afraid of belling the cat? What a farce of a democracy in Ghana!!

On a higher level, we can say that our democracy isn’t designed to solve problems but to compound them. That is why this CHRAJ issue is dragging on and annoying us for nothing. In civilized democracies where morality undergirds public office holding, no one needs to force an errant public official out of office when he/she crosses the line, especially in matters involving public funds. Such an official will speedily resign from office at his/her own volition if, for nothing at all, to save the integrity of the particular office that he/she holds or to save face, even while bracing up for the consequences of the unconscionable act. Oftentimes, the law acts to punish such characters.

Not so in Ghana, where public office holding thrives on the basis of ethnic attachments, cronyism, “pillow talk” of First Ladies, greasing of palms for appointments, and many more. Morality doesn’t guide anything, which explains why some appointees quickly grow horns and misbehave but fear nothing because their “Godfathers” in politics will jump to their defence if need be. This kind of situation is demoralizing, if not outrightly nonsensical.

If the practice of democracy cannot help us smooth the rough edges of conduct in public office, what will be the justification to continue upholding it? To my way of thinking, democracy must help “civilize” people so they can do things morally and ethically for the good of the country and its citizens. If we claim to be practising democracy but aren’t willing to throw away our negative attitudes, we will be deceiving ourselves, dissipating energy, wasting the country’s resources, and sowing dangerous seeds that will blossom into hemlock for us to drink and perish. Is that what we are “killing” ourselves, making sacrifices to “grow” our democracy for? Too bad!

In this particular case of Ms. Lamptey, I am yet to know why she thinks that she can remain in office despite the mud that she has slung on herself. What does she take Ghanaians for? And what do those faceless power brokers backing her also take Ghanaians for?

I am now more than convinced that with happenings of this sort characterizing public office holding, any talk of efforts being made by the government to fight bribery and corruption should be met with open public disdain or physical actions to punish those making such utterances. If what Ms. Lamptey has done doesn’t negate the fight against corruption, what else does? And such a person can still preside over an institution charged with handling instances of corruption, abuse of office, improper administration of justice, and infringement of the citizens’ fundamental human rights? Tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaa!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.