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Opinions of Sunday, 19 June 2016

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur

Mahama and the ford gift

I have refrained from addressing this earlier because of the President's Bereavement. Even a President deserves some space to bury his mother. May Hajia Abiba Nnaba rest in peace. She raised good children.
Daniel Batidam, the President's advisor on ethics and governance, got it right when he condemned the above on principle before he knew who was involved.
He should double down on his condemnation.
Since the above story broke, I have been saddened by many of the comments that have been made.
Kweku Baako defended the President.
In a rare agreement with his one-time ideological soul-mate, Kwesi Pratt opined, " In fact, I see nothing wrong with the gift to the President because he is entitled and allowed to accept gifts". Ebei Kwesi!!
Is this what is left of the unbending revolutionary?
Ivor Greenstreet of the CPP saw nothing wrong till his party rightly and swiftly rebuked him. Good for the great party.
Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI thought the President was careless in accepting the gift. Franklin, careless? What about reckless? He was reckless in accepting the gift!!!
The NPP, which does not have the numbers, threatened comically to impeach him. Really? With which votes?
Then Omane Boamah, as expected, capped it all, like the chief propagandist of Animal Farm, by declaring, "The inference of a conflict of interest is therefore absolutely false and untenable"
Honourable, the failure to see a conflict of interest here suggests the existence of a blind spot in this government that should trouble every Ghanaian. Chai!!
Of course, there are a few who stood by Ghana, including Professor Adei and CHRAJ.
While verification of the claim that the gift was turned over to the state, is mitigation, every Ghanaian should be troubled by this.
Whether it was a bribe or a gift, accepting something of this nature from a person who does business with our country was wrong. Indeed, even if the giver had known he was donating to Ghana instead of the President, his subsequent contracts would create the impression that others seeking business from the state must offer gifts.
It may have broken our procurement law and negated the President's own guidelines to his Ministers.
I fear that the loud chorus of respectable voices seeking to justify what happened will encourage the President and the government to learn the wrong lessons from this.
Here is what we must do;
First, Mr. Batidam must issue a letter of rebuke to the President for the lapse in judgment in accepting the gift.
Second, the Presidency must work with Parliament to develop and codify guidelines that will guide the acceptance of gifts by public officials. This crisis must not go to waste.
Third, the National Media Commission, with the support of GJA, must commend and support Manasseh Azure Awuni and his team for their work in reporting this. The attacks on him are disgraceful and must be condemned.
Fourth, the media and civic authorities must use this opportunity to heighten public education. If the President did not recall this when he was asked about corruption during his interview, we have issues, big issues.
Finally, in these discussion, we must resist the temptation to pretend that this is the first time a President or the Presidency has been caught in corruption or the appearance of corruption. That would be false.
God bless Ghana.
Arthur K