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Opinions of Thursday, 18 September 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is CHRAJ Boss Lauretta Lamptey A Disgrace?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK September 16, 2014

According to media reports in Ghana the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ms Lauretta Lamptey has spent $203,500 in the last three years on rent alone at the African Union (AU) Village and currently lives in a hotel at a daily rate of $456.25 all at the expense of the poor Ghanaian tax payer, whilst the country is facing dire economic difficulties. She has also been absent from her office since April 2014 though she continues to draw her monthly salary. In addition to her official vehicle, she has been keeping two additional vehicles at the hotel. These are due to the fact that her official residence is being renovated to suit her taste and class at a cost of Ghc 182,000 (see “CHRAJ Boss Blows $203,500 on 3-year Rent”, Graphic/Ghanaweb, September 16, 2014. The purpose of this article is to analyse whether in view of these revelations, Lauretta Lamptey could continue in office as CHRAJ Commissioner.

The Mission Statement of CHRAJ states it “exists to enhance the scale of good governance, democracy, integrity, peace and social development by promoting, protecting and enforcing fundamental human rights and freedoms and administrative justice for all persons in Ghana” Among its mandate is to investigate abuse of power and “all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public monies by officials”.

It is therefore unbelievable that the head of CHRAJ, Ms Lauretta Lamptey has been caught red handed for actions that can only be described as bad governance, dishonesty, corruption, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds, the very acts that CHRAJ was established to prevent. I heard part of her interview with Citi FM attempting to justify her actions. In fact, she sounded ludicrous explaining that she had not been in the office because she had been packing her personal belongings alone to relocate from the AU Village to the hotel. According to her, she lived at her mother’s place prior to her appointment. Ms Lamptey came across as someone who is completely out of touch with what is happening in Ghana. In fact, she sounded surprised over the Graphic revelations and created the impression that it was the obligation of the state to accommodate her and her two kids.

Let’s even give the benefit of the doubt to her that since she was appointed by the late President Mills as Commissioner, her accommodation became the responsibility of the state. Considering the role of the institution she heads (including enhancing the scale of good governance, integrity and investigating all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public monies), did it not occur to her that spending $203,500 on rent and living in a hotel at a daily cost of $456.25 were, to say the least, misappropriation of public funds, particularly, given the current state of the nation’s economy?

According to her, the renovation had been delayed because there were no funds to pay the contractor. Again, would it not have been prudent on the part Ms Lamptey to have sacrificed some comfort and lived at her mum’s place for even a year so that the money paid as rent at the AU Village could have been used to pay the contractor to complete the renovation of her official residence? What sort of renovation is being made that it has taken three years yet it’s not completed? Even a new house could have been built within a year had all the money wasted on expensive accommodation and the renovation had been spent on building a brand new official residence.

This is what her predecessor, Justice Emile Short said on this matter. “I think also her decision to move to a hotel is a serious error of judgment given the function that CHRAJ has. I do agree that the amount is huge and I do honestly feel that for a head of an institution, after several years, to move into a hotel is rather unusual and it doesn’t augur well for the image of the institution" (see, “CHRAJ boss’ hotel imbroglio “shocking error of judgment – Emile Short”, Starrfmonline.com/Ghanaweb, September 16, 2014).

In fact, Justice Emile Short had been very magnanimous in his comment. The fact is Ms Lamptey has no integrity and credibility left to head the institution that has a mission for enhancing the scale of good governance, integrity and the responsibility for investigating all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public monies. What moral authority has she now to investigate other public official who misappropriate public funds or are involved in corruption? Sitting at home packing your personal belongings for months and claiming monthly salary is not only corruption but also causing financial loss to the state. She has no integrity left, a disgrace to her office and must resign without further delay.

This wanton dissipation of public funds by the CHRAJ Commissioner brings into focus the need for Ghana to review the colonial legacy of providing vehicles and free accommodation to senior public officials. What has happened at CHRAJ is just the tip of the iceberg because there could be hundreds, if not, thousands of similar waste on accommodation by other public institutions. These generous benefits were made for colonial administrators who had left their home country to serve in the Gold Coast. Should Ghana continue to provide free accommodation to all senior public servants?

Looking at the background of Ms Lamptey, one is not surprised she tried to justify her actions and appearing as if she lives in a country on planet Mars. Her father was a diplomat and she schooled and lived most of her life outside Ghana, probably in opulence, so she sees nothing wrong spending that much on her accommodation in a country where school children attend lessons under trees, government is unable to pay statutory recurrent expenditure when due and donor partners support the annual budget. Indeed, CHRAJ itself received Ghc 7.5 million from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) as support to run most of its activities against central government’s allocation of Ghc1.5 million. Does she expect DANIDA to continue funding her waste and extravagant life style in the future?

What these revelations in Ghana (CHRAJ, GYEEDA, SADA, SUBA, the Judgement Debt and Wold Cup Commissions) and other waste yet unknown is that, Ghana is not poor. Ghana is enormously rich but her leaders (both politicians and civil servants) have been stealing and wasting the nation’s wealth and resources on themselves, families and cronies, leaving the rest in want, disease and abject poverty.

Ms Lauretta Lamptey has been damaged by these revelations and should resign to save her some dignity because with these revelations her credentials and reputation as head of the anti-corruption anti waste organization is shredded into pieces. Failure to do so should urge society to demand her resignation or dismissal. Because her position is protected under the constitution and not easy for President Mahama to dismiss her, I suggest that Ghanaians led by civil society organizations should do what the people of Rotherham in the UK have done to the South Yorkshire’s elected Police and Crime Commissioner, who against public opinion refused to resign after serious failures in stopping sex abuse of young girls by the police force he heads and the local authority that he once had responsibility for children services. Prior to his election as Police and Crime Commissioner, he was the head of children services and therefore some of the abuses occurred under his watch.

Under the legislation that police and crime commissioners were elected, they could not be sacked by the Home Secretary (Interior Minister) or even the Prime Minister. Despite calls by the Home Secretary and politicians from all the three main parties to resign, the man simply refused to resign until after a public meeting with the people of Rotherham, when he was told in no uncertain terms by the people to resign because they have lost total confidence in him. Yesterday, after three weeks of recalcitrant behaviour, he resigned with no pay out. That is what should happen (compel Ms Lamptey to resign if she fails to resign willingly).

It appears Ghana in currently being ruled and led by greedy and selfish politicians and civil servants such as Ms Lamptey, Kojo Adu Asare, Horace Ankrah and others. In fact, it would not be an understatement to say that Ghana has gone to the dogs but the question is, who would rescue her since the next batch of politicians gearing up for political power in 2016 cannot even put their house in order. Cry my beloved motherland, my heart bleeds for you.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge