General News of Wednesday, 22 June 2016
OccupyGhana has been following the story broken by award-winning journalist, Manasseh Awuni Azure, and JoyFM, of the alleged donation of a Ford Expedition vehicle to the President by one Djibril Kanazoe, a Burkinabe private contractor.
OccupyGhana has also studied closely, the reactions, rebuttals, and explanations offered and given, and has concluded that there is a lot to be concerned about.
These are matters that should not be treated lightly. It is not for nothing that ours is probably the only Constitution to mention "Corruption" by name and in Article 35(8), impose a mandatory and imperative duty on the state to "take steps to eradicate corrupt practices.”
Article 69(1)(b)(i) which provides “The President shall be removed from office if he is found, in accordance with the provisions of this article…to have conducted himself in a manner…which brings or is likely to bring the high office of President into disrepute, ridicule or contempt…” gives us clear cause to be worried about any conduct in violation of same.
It is on the basis of the foregoing that OcccupyGhana wishes to make three key points:
First, we unreservedly congratulate Manasseh Awuni Azure for a great job done. This is still an unfolding story with a few still moving parts.
However, we are impressed with the work and effort that Manasseh has put into this project and the courage it has taken to publish this story. We believe that Ghana owes Manasseh and JoyFM a great debt of gratitude for this work.
Second, the facts that we have studied strongly suggest possible breaches of our criminal laws on corruption. Those facts show that a public official (the President) has received a gift.
That alone does not constitute a criminal offence. However, if it is also established that there was an agreement or offer to which the conduct of the President, in respect of his duties as a public officer, would be or was influenced by this gift, then the offence of corruption would have been committed, both by him and by Djibril Kanazoe.
As at now, we do not have sufficient grounds to state emphatically that the offence of corruption has been committed. But the known facts are disturbing. The unknown facts may be frightening or benign.
It is in the light of these we demand a full-scale police investigation into this matter.
If the investigations establish that there are sufficient grounds to initiate prosecution (within the rules laid down by our Constitution and criminal laws), then the law ought to be allowed to take its course to the fullest extent possible.
Third, we are convinced that at the very least, a clear case of Conflict of Interest and by it, a breach of Article 284 of the Constitution, has been established. Article 284 expressly forbids public officers from putting themselves in a position where their personal interests either conflict or are "likely to conflict" with the performance of their official functions.
Thus, what is prohibited is even the mere likelihood of a conflict. That would mean that the Article is breached even if there is no direct conflict, but just a probability, chance, prospect, possibility or risk of a Conflict of Interest. We observe also that the code of conduct for ministers and appointees in section 1.4.1 (b) rightly requires ministers and appointees to avoid such "appearances" which it says "are as important as an actual conflict of interest situations."
While we believe that there is no real ambiguity or uncertainty on the issue of Conflict of Interest, we nevertheless believe that it is important for all the facts to come out.
That is why we are convinced that the breach of Article 284 should trigger a formal investigation into this matter by the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice under Article 287 of the Constitution.
We, however, recognise, sadly, that CHRAJ currently has no substantive head and therefore suffers from a leadership vacuum that can act effectively and decisively on this matter. The failure to appoint a substantive head of that institution is unpardonable. We, therefore, demand a multi-party investigation instituted by Parliament to inquire into this matter.
We conclude by putting to sleep, the laughable claim that there have been no breaches of our laws because the vehicle was allegedly put in the President's pool of official cars. A wrong is not made right by the use to which the wrongly acquired asset it put. The Office of the President of this dear country is one of trust.
Any and every occupant of it owes a fiduciary duty to the people of Ghana. As a fiduciary, that person is under a duty, created by his election to that high office and by law, to act primarily for the benefit of Ghanaians who have reposed trust and confidence in him, and are entitled to demand of and from him, the exercise of a corresponding degree of fairness and good faith.
The saying that "Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach" is apposite here. It is ironic that the Supreme Court quoted this axiom in its recent judgment relating to the judicial bribery scandal.
We note that in the wake of that scandal President Mahama was outstanding in ensuring that the law was followed to the letter and that judges were dismissed only after they were found culpable after being investigated and given a hearing.
The circumstances and treatment of the inappropriate conduct of those judges cannot be different from what we face now with respect to the President.
Yours in the service of occupying hearts and minds for God and Country