By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
Oct. 11, 2014
I have not been studiously following the vehement calls by both leaders of civil society groups and politicians for the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), to stand down or be forced to do so - largely because of the hypocritical cynicism undergirding the same - and so all I have to go by, herein, are charges that Ms. Lauretta Lamptey has been inordinately and flagrantly profligate in her official conduct (See "Mahama Directs Chief Justice to Investigate CHRAJ Boss" MyJoyOnline.com 10/11/14).
In the main, nobody in authority, or high position of public trust, is accusing Ms. Lamptey of gross professional incompetence or literally sleeping on the job. And so it well appears that the CHRAJ boss has been performing creditably. Rather, what Ms. Lamptey stands accused of is that she spent the relatively quite considerable sum of $148,000 on a 33-month rental property, while she awaited the renovation of her official residence at an additional cost of $180,000.
What the preceding tells us is that whatever department or government ministry is in charge of the upkeep of public residential properties has not been up-to-par with its salaried responsibilities. And this crucial aspect of the quality-of-life obligations of those entrusted with the same ought to be what well-meaning and civically minded Ghanaians ought to be debating. For it was the apparently chronic failure of the government ministry charged with the upkeep of official residential facilities for public and civil servants that patently caused the CHRAJ commissioner to resort to renting a residential property that cost the afore-referenced admittedly exorbitant and controversial rental expenditure.
We must also quickly point out the fact that Ms. Lamptey is not the first CHRAJ head, or commissioner, to have had questions publicly raised about the prohibitive cost of her residential rental property. I vividly remember then-CHRAJ Commissioner Francis Emile Short being pointedly and relentlessly maligned by the media while he rented a real estate property in the plush East Legon suburb of Accra. Back then, too, the flap had primarily to do with the cost of Justice Short's publicly underwritten rental residential property. I vividly remember this because the residential property in question belonged to my brother-in-law, Dr. Kwame Nyanor Amoh, an American-trained clinical pharmacist and longtime resident of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
It is also strikingly significant to observe that like Ms. Lamptey, presently, back then no figure in a high position of trust and/or authority accused Justice Short of having been remiss in the performance of his duties as CHRAJ commissioner. What I am clearly suggesting here is that the tidal wave of criticism with which Ms. Lamptey is being mercilessly strafed may well be laced with the personal animosity, or vendetta, of one or two higher-ups in government who appear to have succeeded in harnessing "righteous" public indignation against their target of vengeance, for whatever reasons and ends.
Whatever the real issues at stake may be, it is quite obvious that wasteful spending is not one of them, for the simple reason that Ms. Lamptey does not appear to have also been entrusted with the finances of CHRAJ. In other words, the CHRAJ commissioner's job description clearly does not appear to have included that of Chief Accountant, Bursar, Treasurer or Financial Officer of CHRAJ. If so, then common sense well appears to clearly point to the imperative need to investigate the personnel charged with CHRAJ's finances.
The latter allusion also implies the unmistakable assumption of clearly defined regulations guiding the disbursement of taxpayers' money in ways that privilege and/or prioritize value, as in "value-for-money." If it turns out that no such foresighted spending safeguards had been put in place prior to Ms. Lamptey's appointment to her present job then, clearly, the real blame belongs elsewhere. We also hope that Chief Justice Georgina T. Wood would let protocol and the letter of the law guide her in whatever decisions she decides to take vis-a-vis the Lamptey "Scandal," and not mere public anger or gratuitous outcry.
And, oh, I also advise that for the sake of her own peace of mind and integrity, that Ms. Lamptey promptly resign only after she has been judicially cleared of any wrongdoing. And then, well, she may want to give serious thought to the possibility of trucking with the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).