The paradox of Ghana’s indemnity clause and Mahama’s corruption allegations

John Mahama About Poverty President John Dramani Mahama

Tue, 1 Nov 2016 Source: Badu, K

"When public money is stolen for private gain, it means fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities. When foreign aid is diverted into private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects come to a halt. Corruption enables fake or substandard medicines to be dumped on the market, and hazardous waste to be dumped in landfill sites and in oceans. The vulnerable suffer first and worst (Ban Ki-moon, 2009)."

The traditional exemption of heads of state from prosecution despite the evidence of a case to answer is wrong, so to speak. For if the bribery and corruption (do you remember the Ford expedition bribe by the Burkinabe Contractor?) ; dubious judgment debt payments; stashing of national funds by some greedy opportunists and misappropriation of resources and crude embezzlement by some politicians do not warrant criminal charges, then where are we heading as a nation?

All the same, the all-important question discerning Ghanaians should ask is: will the day come when “Ghana’s political criminals” find they have nowhere to hide?

For me, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution has to be reviewed and the irrational and inexpedient clauses such as the indemnity clause are expunged and tossed into the dust bin accordingly.

How on earth can individuals commit unpardonable crimes (gargantuan sleaze and corruptions) against the state and get away with their misdeeds?

And how serious are we as a nation when we can only descend heavily on goat, cassava and plantain thieves and let go hard criminals who persistently dip their hands into the national coffers?

In spite of the fact that corruption is a serious economic, social, political and moral impediment to the nation building, our corrupt officials are bent on siphoning our scarce resources without a second thought.

If we take a stroll down memory lane, somewhere in October 2010, the British media brought up sensational reports about how the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama, was lobbied by a British Cabinet Minister to get a reprieve for the ban imposed on Armajaro Holdings, one of the cocoa buying companies who were found guilty for smuggling the commodity out of Ghana.

It would be recalled that Armajaro Company was banned together with a few other companies, when the award winning investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas exposed the smuggling of uncountable bags of cocoa into neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.

Shockingly, however, the British media reported that subsequent to the meeting between the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama and the British Cabinet Minister, Armajaro Company was given a needless reprieve and then started its operations.

The fact of the matter is that Ghana’s transgressed and incompliant politicians often get away with murder. Take, for instance, the most recent investigative work carried out by the award winning investigative journalist, Joy FM’s Manasseh Azuri which exposed President Mahama’s furtive gift of a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle, worth over $100,000 by the Burkinabe Contractor, Djibril Kanazoe.

According to the report, the Burkinabe Contractor Kanazoe had undertaken a number of contracts which were secured through sole-sourcing and handpicking, amid allegations of president Mahama’s influence.

Manasseh reported that Djibril Kanazoe had over the years been bidding for contracts in the country; however he was not successful until a middleman led him to meet then Vice President Mahama.

Subsequent to meeting the then Vice President Mahama, Kanazoe was handpicked to build the $650,000 Ghana Embassy fence wall in Burkina Faso.

In September 2014, when officials of the Bank of Ghana met the Public Accounts Committee of Ghana Parliament (PAC), it came to light that an amount of $656, 246.48 had been spent on the construction of a fence wall over a parcel of land belonging to the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso.

Apparently, PAC requested the Bank of Ghana to look into what it referred to as: “the outrageous” cost of the project.

However, it came to light that the procurement process was violated to the advantage of President Mahama’s Burkinabe friend.

Amazingly, during an interview with Manasseh, Djibril Kanazoe admitted that he did not put in a bid for the contract, however, the Ghana Embassy in Ouagadougou wrote to his company to request price quotations for the project. He however forwarded the necessary quotes and was selected.

“Subsequently, the Burkinabe contractor delivered to President Mahama, the ‘gift’ of a brand new Ford Expedition vehicle in 2012, the same year his company was selected, again through sole-sourcing, to execute more projects” (See: ‘Burkinabe Contractor offers controversial gift to President Mahama’ ; myjoyonline.com, 15/06/2015).

Isn’t it also befuddling that the late President Mills was somehow suspicious about his then Vice President Mahama over his handling of national contracts?

If you may recall, in his State of the Nation Address on 19th February 2009, the late President Mills informed the Parliament that his government was looking into the decision to acquire two executive Presidential jets.

The late President Mills, however, expressed his incertitude over the acquisition of the aircrafts and thus maintained: "Ghana simply cannot afford the expenditure at this time and we certainly do not need two Presidential Jets" (thestatesmanonline.com, 16/06/2016).

Strangely, however, whilst the late Mills was busily delivering his crucial state of the nation address in the parliament, the Vice President John Mahama, who also happened to be the chairman of the Armed Forces Council, was blissfully entertaining delegations from Brazil and busily negotiating the acquisition of five jets, including the most expensive hangar without the knowledge of the late President Mills.

Unsurprisingly, however, the late President Mills became suspicious of the whole deal and decided to put a committee together to review the deal, according to Mr Martin Amidu, the former Attorney General in the late President Mills administration.

By inference, the late Mills was extremely unhappy about the deal, hence setting up a committee to investigate his then vice president Mahama.

Obviously, it is an indictment on President Mahama and therefore the honest thing for him to do now is to come out and refute all the corruption allegations, not just by words, but through actions.

Yes, President Mahama must do the honest thing by providing further and better particulars and give the green light to the committee set up by late President Mills to resume its work immediately without any interference.

It is also worth emphasising that the manner in which the then Vice President Mahama handled the STX Housing deal which was supposed to provide affordable housing to the security agencies leaves much to be desired.

Bizarrely, in spite of the fact that the deal did not materialise, the then Vice President Mahama, gave us a bill of an excess of $250 million. How strange?

Moreover, after the failed deal with STX to build 30,000 housing units for the nation's security agencies, the NDC government entered into another deal with the GUMA Group, for the construction of 500 housing units.

The deal which was spearheaded by President Mahama was widely criticised by various stakeholders, just as the STX deal following the decision to side-line local construction firms in favour of the foreign company. The unusually high cost of the project was also a source of concern to many.

What’s more, President Mahama’s handling of dubious judgment debt payments also leaves much to be desired.

To be quite honest, it is rather unfortunate that the people we have entrusted with the national coffers will somehow deem it as a matter of urgency to give gargantuan sums of money belonging to the nation to people who have no entitlement.

Of course, there is nothing wrong to pay genuine judgment debts. However, I strongly believe that if President Mahama’s government had handled the payments parsimoniously, the purported $850 million judgment and settlement payments would have been brought to the barest minimum.

The all-important question the discerning Ghanaians should ask President Mahama and his selfish and corrupt appointees then is: ‘If just under eight years, you have paid dubious judgment debts in an excess of GH850 million, how much would you pay in twelve years?

“Corruption strikes at the heart of democracy by corroding rule of law, democratic institutions and public trust in leaders. For the poor, women and minorities, corruption means even less access to jobs, justice or any fair and equal opportunity” (UNDP 2016).

K. Badu, UK.

Columnist: Badu, K