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Opinions of Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Columnist: Ghanaians For A Better Government

Mahama government must come clean

...on conflict of interest dealings with Ibrahim Mahama

Ghanaians for a Better Government is a new pressure group set up to expose bad governance, push for transparency, accountability and value for money on how taxpayers’ money is spent and for a government that is competent and shows compassion and care for the concerns of the suffering masses.



We wish to use our maiden statement to express our worry and reservations about the dodgy, dark and clandestine nature of a supposed visit to Iran by a Ghanaian government delegation, led by Ibrahim Mahama, brother of President John Dramani Mahama. We wish to ask, is Ibrahim Mahama the de facto prime minister of this our Republic?



Our immediate concern is to do with the blatant conflict of interest in the fact that our President will allow government to hire for official functions a private jet acquired by his brother.



We are calling on government to come clean and clarify the obvious contradiction between an official statement issued by the Iranian government Friday that the plane carried Ghana government officials to Tehran for official meetings with the government of Iran and a statement subsequently issued by the company of President Mahama’s brother that the plane only carried a group of business people from Ghana.



The attention of the world, this weekend, was drawn to a corporate jet, owned by Ibrahim Mahama’s mining firm, Engeneers & Planners, and held in trust by a small US community bank, the Bank of Utah, The plane came to the attention of the CIA because a US-registered airline had no business being in Iran, which is facing sanctions.



According to the New York Times, Iran’s Foreign Ministry, bombarded with questions over why an American plane was parked at the airport, said on Friday that the plane had been used to transport top Ghanaian officials as part of a broader push to expand cooperation between the two countries.



These high powered meetings have led to international news agencies such as Reuters reporting on these “suspicious” meetings between Ibrahim Mahama and the Iranians.



Indeed, according to Iranian news agencies, the Spokeswoman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Marzieh Afkhan, stated emphatically that “This plane was carrying a high-ranking delegation from Ghana and according to an announcement by the country’s government, the jet was in possession of the US and chartered by Ghana’s presidency."



She added that “The passengers of the plane comprised a delegation of Ghanaian officials headed by the brother of the country’s president, and none of its crew were Americans," maintaining that the Ghanaian delegation, “headed by Ibrahim Mahama”, held talks with Iranian officials before leaving the country last Thursday.



This is clearly a case of conflict of interest and a glorified form of sole-sourcing. This jet is currently being rented by the government of Ghana, with the proceeds going into the pockets of the President’s brother, a win-win situation for the President and his brother.



Below is what HK Prempeh, who is with the Centre for Democratic Development and a respected law Professor in the United States, had to say about this development:



“Are we supposed to find nothing wrong with the fact that a President's brother, on or around the eve of his brother becoming President announces his purchase of a private jet, which jet, we now learn, is being rented by the Government of Ghana presided over by his brother for use by the Government of Ghana on official trips abroad. ‘Hey big bro le Presidente, how about this? You are the President, right? So, why don't I buy or lease a jet, and you get your government to rent it from me for use by the government on official trips. Win-win, me and you! High fives!’



“Nice, guaranteed, captive market. All-in-the-family sole sourcing. No questions asked.



“Please, if you are the CEO at your workplace, don't try this sort of monkey business. You will be promptly fired. That is, unless your place of work is Ghana--or, more precisely, the government of Ghana.



“In my world, this is a textbook case of prohibited conflict of interests. (Yes, I have been teaching this sort of thing in my corporate law/corporate governance and legal ethics classes for years.) How is this called in your world?”



Secondly, the continuous meddling in the affairs of government by the brother of the President is very worrying. Why would Ibrahim Mahama lead a Ghanaian delegation to hold consultative meetings with the Iranians? Which Ministers were on that trip?



If, indeed, the President’s brother has an official position in government, we have no problem with that, but that fact must be official.



Unsurprisingly, Engineers and Planners, the company owned by Ibrahim Mahama have come out to dispute the claims by the New York Times Newspaper stating that the delegation led by Ibrahim Mahama was purely a private business delegation.



Another official at the Presidency has also told the media that Ibrahim Mahama was not part of that trip! What is there to hide?



All the reports from the New York Times and the Iranian Foreign Ministry never mentioned a private business delegation, but an official government of Ghana delegation who met Iranian counterparts “as part of a broader push to expand cooperation between the two countries.”



In view of these contradictory statements being bandied about by Engineers & Planners and the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ghanaians for a Better Government are calling on the John Mahama government to come clean on which Ghanaian delegation was in Iran and what the nature of the consultative talks were about.



If the version of events as reiterated by the Iranian Foreign Ministry is not true and a bunch of lies, we are urging the Ghanaian government to call on the Iranians to retract their story as this is damaging to the image of Ghana.



Ghanaians for a Better Government have also picked up information that the American government suspects Ghana of secretly supplying gold to Iran in exchange for oil, which the government of Ghana sells on the high seas.



To maintain Ghana’s high flying reputation, these are not allegations the Ghanaian government must treat lightly. Ghana deserves better than the leadership that is currently on offer.


……signed……

David Asante (Spokesperson)

John Hall (Member)

Charles Nii Teiko Tagoe (Member)