A comment by Communications Minister, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah that President John Mahama is ‘incorruptible’ has incensed some people who believe the president cannot be elevated to that status through propaganda.
There has been a stunning revelation that President Mahama received a brand new 2010 model Ford Expedition vehicle as a gift from a Burkinabe contractor, Djibril Kanazoe who had since been awarded juicy government contracts.
As a result, many people see the minister’s ‘incorruptible’ comment as an attempt to whitewash the president in the face of obvious inducement by his contractor friend.
The Burkinabe contractor, Djibril Kanazoe, sent the vehicle, worth $100,000, to his friend, Mr Mahama, through the Ghana Embassy in Ouagadougou.
Mr Kanazoe was behind the construction of the controversial $650,000 Ghana Embassy fence wall in Burkina Faso and also had other multi-million dollar contracts.
The Communications Minister, on Joy FM’s ‘Newsfile’ programme last Saturday, said that President Mahama is not a man who takes gifts meant to bribe him.
He claimed that the president had exhibited his abhorrence for any form of corruption on several occasions in the country and insisted that the Ford Expedition given to Mr. Mahama in 2012 was merely a gift, adding that “car as a gift has no way to influence” the contracts awarded the Burkinabe by the NDC government.
“I am here this morning not to attack the work of Manasseh, the journalist who broke the news but I am here this morning to indicate that my president, your president, our president, is incorruptible and not corrupt and this mud will not stick on President John Mahama.”
Law Professor, H. Kwasi Prempeh, who was on the show, was not enthused about the minister’s adulation of the president and seemed to have harsh words for the government spokesman.
He posted on social media platform – Facebook – that “A little education is dangerous, especially mixed in with pompous, undeserved power,” adding “that upstart of a trained physician-turned-petty-propagandist should stick with the issue. Making me the issue won’t change the issue.
“’My president is incorruptible!, such nonsense! Wasted education!”
The law lecturer was incensed by the fact that Dr. Omane Boamah, in his submission on the explosive issue, appeared to have targeted him (Prof. Prempeh) for insisting that President Mahama might have ‘walked’ himself into a conflict of interest situation when he accepted the car gift and subsequently lined up government contracts for the Burkinabe businessman.
Prof. Prempeh had said that putting the vehicle into the presidential pool of cars as claimed by the minister is not enough to absolve the president of a potential conflict of interest and insisted that what the proceeds of a gift were used for had nothing to do with conflict of interest.
“We do not want to countenance a Robin Hood situation where you could say, ‘well I took the gift but I gave it to the needy or to the poor or I donated it to Korle-Bu Hospital; we really don’t want to enter into those kinds of after-the-fact rationalizations or excuses,” he said.
“Conflict of interest rules are really rules of avoidance; you do not get yourself in that situation; the moment you walk yourself into it, it has occurred already.”
Gift Or Bribe
Prof. Prempeh said, “Conflict of interest happens when you place yourself in that position where your duty to your principal is likely to be compromised; so it has already occurred, what happens after the fact – after you have received whether you call it a gift or bribe, what you choose to do with it after the fact is really a secondary matter completely and it does not cleanse the conflict of interest.”
He said it was also immaterial whether or not the giver of the car intended to influence decisions of the president, saying “Conflict of interest does not arise on the basis of intention; we do not want to end up in mind reading games, we look at the situation.”
The law lecturer said a person in the president’s position has a duty flowing from being in that office not “to put yourself in a position where you are likely to serve the interest of somebody else above the interest of your master (Ghanaians).”
Receiving The ‘Gift’
“The fact that the president did not himself go to the border to receive the vehicle doesn’t mean anything. “Of course, the president is not going to go to the border and receive the car; he can only do this through his functionaries, his agents. So the fact that somebody else received it, the fact that it went through the Embassy, it went to through third parties or functionaries doesn’t change anything, of course, that is to be expected,” he continued.
The most important thing, the law professor argued, “is that this is a person who is a contractor, on a contract with the state. The state’s interest when it engages contractors is to get the best deal possible for the country; to get the best price possible; to get the best contractor possible. So when you are placed in a situation where you have dealings with that person with whom we are negotiating on price, on terms, on quality, then our interest is adverse to that contractor. That is where the conflict of interest arises.”
The president’s ‘gift’ saga has been captured by international media, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) where President Mahama told journalist Peter Okwoche at a recent anti-corruption summit in London that he had never taken a bribe whether as ‘President’ or ‘human being.’
BBC Africa featured the explosive issue prominently last week when it sought to relate its interview on corruption with the president and the fact that it had been confirmed that Mr. Mahama accepted a gift which many believed amounted to conflict of interest since contracts were given to the donor.
Many anti-corruption campaigners, as well as some civil society organizations, have slammed President Mahama for blatantly disregarding anti-corruption guidelines in the country.
Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom’s Progressive People’s Party (PPP) has taken on the president, asking him to step down over the $100,000 Ford Expedition gift he received from a Burkinabe contractor.
Also, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is mounting pressure on the president to come clean or face it in parliament.
By William Yaw Owusu