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Opinions of Saturday, 20 September 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is Lauretta Lamptey Qualified to be CHRAJ Commissioner?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

The revelations by the Graphic on the extravagance of the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ms Lauretta Vivian Lamptey regarding her accommodation have generated public discourse and many, including me, have called for her resignation. In addition to her indiscretion in occupying very expensive property at the expense of the state and being paid whilst not attending work for months, she is also accused of being incompetent and disrespectful to her staff. In this article, I intend to discuss the suitability or otherwise of Ms Lamptey as CHRAJ Commissioner in view of the Graphic publication.

According to Article 221(a) of the 1992 Constitution, “a person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, unless s/he is - in the case of Commissioner, qualified for appointment as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.” Article 136(3) also states, “a person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Justice of the Court of Appeal unless s/he is of high moral character and proven integrity and is of not less than twelve years' standing as a lawyer.”

The words “of high moral character, proven integrity and years’ standing as a lawyer are not defined. Though they could be subjective and interpreted differently, I believe most rational people would agree that from what is now public knowledge Ms Lamptey’s behaviour cannot be described as “of high moral character and proven integrity” and therefore not qualified for the position she currently occupies.

The mandate of CHRAJ among others is “to investigate abuse of power and all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public monies by officials.” Ms Lamptey’s action or omission of not attending work from April to September 2014 (though she claimed she has been attending meetings and conferences as well as on one month holiday) but received her salary amounts to corruption. Again, the decision to pay $4,500 monthly rent for two years from the public purse and live in opulence at the AU Village in addition to Ghc 182,000 renovation cost of her ten year old official residence constitutes misappropriation of public funds by a public official. She has therefore breached her institution’s mandate and not of high moral character and proven integrity to qualify for the office of CHRAJ Commissioner.

Regarding the second part of the qualification of “not less than twelve year’s standing as a lawyer”, we all know what is “not less than twelve” means. However, I am sure that what the framers of the constitution meant by the words “years’ standing as a lawyer”, is not just merely by qualifying as a lawyer for a period of twelve or more years but in addition the appointee must have had successfully practised as either Defence or Prosecuting Attorney in any area of law, including Corporate Law. To be appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal, it is expected that one should have had good experience of law practice though not necessary in the court room. For example, it could be in academia or in the voluntary sector as an advocate.

According to Ms Lauretta Vivian Lamptey’s CV, she is an investment banker and specialist in African capital markets and corporate finance. She was the Head of Corporate Finance at Cal Merchant Bank. Prior to that, she was the Head of the Capital Markets Group at Ecobank Ghana Ltd. She was also formerly Legal & Corporate Finance Advisor at Loita Capital Partners International, a pan-African investment banking group based in Johannesburg, South Africa. As a consultant, she has provided legal, financial and investment advice for the government of Ghana on transactions in the mining, natural resources and energy sectors. Ms Lamptey has served on the boards of the Securities Discount Company (SDC) and Gliksten W. A., in addition to serving as a founder member of the board of the Ghana Stock Exchange. She holds LL.B and BL degrees from the University of Ghana and the Ghana Law School, respectively, and an LL.M in International Business Law from the London School of Economics & Political Science of the University of London.

From the above, her legal experience is limited to the financial matters with no defence, prosecution or teaching experience. Whilst she could be a very good financial lawyer, I doubt that the experience makes her qualified and suitable to be appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal in Ghana, and therefore not qualified to be appointed Commissioner of CHRAJ. With my knowledge of the Judiciary in the UK which is very similar to Ghana if not the same, prior to being appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal, one must have excelled as prosecutor, defence attorney or in academia and of the Queen’s Counsel (QC) quality or an experienced High Court Judge with good reputation on judicial decisions. I am sure with the exception of the QC, the requirement in Ghana would be very similar. I am therefore of the view that Ms Lamptey was not qualified to be appointed CHRAJ Commissioner at the time of her appointment but she was appointed probably because of her connection with some powerful individuals within NDC.

The late Preisdent Mills in appointing Ms Lamptey as CHRAJ Commissioner failed to do due diligence. It is therefore no surprise that there is allegation of incompetence against her from her own staff. Not only that but the Ghanaian public has lost confidence in CHRAJ as an institution constitutionally mandated to check abuses of human rights and administrative justice. This was prior to the revelations by the Graphic but especially, since Ms Lamptey became the Commissioner. Now with the Graphic revelations, the public has also lost confidence in her as Commissioner.

I am not suggesting that she should have been a judge, human rights lawyer or advocate to be qualified as CHRAJ Commissioner. In fact, here in the UK, the first Chairman of Equality and Human Rights Commission was not even a lawyer. The role in addition to understanding issues of human rights and administrative justice, advocacy and others is also demands good leadership skills, which I doubt if Ms Lamptey has, if she disrespects her staff.

Her defence of lack of resources as the cause/s of CHRAJ’s inability to investigate corruption by government officials such as GYEEDA, SUBA and many others is just an excuse to cover up her incompetence. If CHRAJ receives Ghc 1.5 million from government and Ghc 7.5 million from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) for its operations and the fact that twenty vehicles for work in the regional and district offices lie idle at CHRAJ headquarters in Accra because government has not approved the appointment of drivers, then I do not know how much CHRAJ needs for its work. Now we can add LAURETTA to GYEEDA, SUBA and others.

Some readers, especially, feminists may misinterpret my two articles on the CHRAJ Commissioner as a personal attack on her because she is a woman. That is far from it. In fact, I was excited by her appointment because we both went London School of Economics and in fact, was proud to be a Ghanaian when London School of Economics featured her appointment in the quarterly Alumni Newsletter. My objective is purely on principle and as someone who is in the field of human rights.

I agree with the call for an end to the “winner takes all kind of appointment in Ghana.” If the late Mills could not find an NDC member, supporter or sympathetic lawyer who was qualified for the role what stopped him from appointing another Ghanaian with the requisite qualifications, experience and abilities, even if the person was the recruiting sergeant of the NPP, so far as s/he will not wear his or her party colours but be impartial in the discharge of her or his duties? It’s high time that when it comes to appointment of heads of public bodies in Ghana, not only party members/sympathisers are offered such positions simple because of their party affiliations but also qualified, experienced and competent Ghanaians whatever their political allegiance must be called to duty. It is also time that appointment of heads of public organizations is taken away from the President/Executive and given to an Independent Public Appointment Commission so that appointments are made on merit and not on party colours. We are tired of the jobs for the boys and for the girls.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK