Of Presidential Commissions Of Enquiry And The Law Courts.

Sun, 15 Aug 2010 Source: Quaye, Stephen A.

From: Stephen A. Quaye, Toronto-Canada.

Quite recently, the president John Evans Atta Mills, incurred the displeasure of many Ghanaians who expressed their concern over the increasing number of setting up presidential commissions of enquiry.

Some even said that he was leaving the real job of leading the government to solve problems such as high rating poverty, unemployment and day to day activities of armed robbery in the country which he promised during his campaign that he will curb when elected as president.

The media carried all sort of complains, petitions and condemnations which lead to formation of some anti government groups which hit the streets to demonstrate against by which certain people called on the president to limit the number of setting up presidential commissions of enquiry.

In some of the petitions as well as complains, certain persons tried to describe the commissions of enquiry as political agenda adopted by the NDC government under president J.E.A.Mills to witch hunt former ministers under the NPP government which was headed by former president J.A.Kufuor.

In the first place does the constitution frowns on setting up presidential commissions on enquiry? Let us look at what the 1992 constitution says on it.

Article 278-283 of the 1992 constitution says apart from the courts, its sometimes becomes necessary to set up a commission of enquiry to investigate certain matters of public interest just as the law courts do make its findings known.

The explanation is that the president can set up commission of enquiry on his own or upon advice of the council of state or at the request of parliament.

Such a commission may consist of a sole commissioner or two or more persons, one of whom shall be the chairman and in the performance of its duties shall have the same powers and the rights as the high court.

The functions clearly made here says [I] it shall make a full, faithful and impartial enquiry into any matter specified in the instrument of appointment, [ii] report in writing the results of the enquiry and [iii] furnish in a report the reasons leading to the conclusion stated in the report which shall have the full effect of a high court judgment where an appeal against it shall lie at the court of appeal.

It further states that the president shall publish the report of the commission, together with the white paper which explains the government’s position to the public within six months of submission of such a report.

So when the constitutional provision in Article 278-283 seriously digested there should be no more doubt in people’s minds that setting up a presidential commission to go into matters of interest to the state was unconstitutional and for that matter president Atta Mills invented the commission of enquiry.

Therefore there is no need for certain people to insult the president for setting up presidential commissions on enquiry since he is not side stepping from what the constitution says.

Under the 1992 constitution, we have had two different political parties exchanging power all trying to follow the provisions in the constitution especially what Article 278-283 says.

Former president Jerry John Rawlings used white paper to clear his alleged corrupt ministers which CHRAJ found them guilty and wanted them to be tried in the law court.

It was different under former president J.A.Kufuor, where he decided to use the competent law courts to try his ministers where Malam Issah and Dr. Richard Anane were tried when charged with various allegations.

President John Evans Atta Mills, decided to use commissions of enquiry system and the BNI to deal with matters of public interest like the one where the former sports minister Mohamed Mubarack, was alleged to have misappropriated states funds and the Ghana@50 alleged malfeasance.

When we go back to Article 278-283 again it says apart from the courts, it sometimes becomes necessary to set up a commission of enquiry to investigate certain matters of public interest just as the courts do and make its findings known.

“The report shall have the full effect of a high court judgment and appeal against it shall lie at the court of appeal” is where probably many Ghanaians think is time wasting because the report shall still go to the high court for judgment and if there is an appeal it will move forward to appeals court.

If that is the case then why don’t we empower the law courts straight away to do its official work by way of conducting investigations into matters of public interest and make judgments without the president coming into the picture?

Although the constitution allows the president to set up commissions of enquiry into matters of public interest it would be advisable for him to leave matters where there are suspicion of corruption or crime to the competent court of jurisdiction to investigate, prosecute and pass judgment on them.

Then he can go ahead and set commissions on other issues like fuel shortage, electricity crisis to advice him about how to solve those cankers ones and for all. By so doing, his hands will be free to tackle other serious problems facing the country which demands immediate action.

Former president Kufuor used law courts to deal with suspicious criminal cases and he was free to tackle other problems that were confronting the country at the same time.

President Atta Mills can also do same by empowering the law courts to investigate suspected cases of corruption of office holders whiles he turns his attention to building of classroom blocks for the deprived areas, construct good roads, solve the intermittent electricity outage as well as build clinics for those in the deprived areas to receive medical attention.


Columnist: Quaye, Stephen A.