Lawyer and Criminologist, Prof Ken Attafuah, says the president cannot be extricated from a scandal in which he has been accused of receiving a Ford Expedition from a private contractor. He said the president’s conduct was a “palpable violation” of the code of conduct governing public officers.
A Burkinabe contractor, Mr. Djibril Kanazoe who has won three contracts awarded by the Ghana government, confessed to giving the president a Ford Expedition vehicle valued at $100,000. Joy FM’s Manasseh Azure Awuni who investigated the matter said the gift was given in October 2012.
The contractor initially denied giving the gift to the president but when Manasseh showed him a letter written by the Ghana Mission in Burkina Faso confirming the gift, he admitted, adding, the president called to thank him for it. Government, in a statement, did not deny receiving the gift but said the Ford expedition was put into a pool of vehicle at the presidency.
Communications Minister Dr Omane Boamah said the gift in no way influenced the decision taken by government to award subsequent contracts to Mr Kanazoe. Reacting to the story on Joy News, Prof Ken Attafuah said while it cannot, on the basis of this story, be said that President Mahama has been corrupt, it is incontrovertible that the president breached the law and code of conduct in accepting the vehicle.
Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana states, “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.”
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) Guidelines on Conflict of Interest, also states “A conflict of interest occurs when the promotion of the private interest of the public official results or is intended to result or appears to be or has the potential to result in the following: (a) an interference with the objective exercise of the person’s duties; and (b) an improper benefit or an advantage by virtue of his/her position.
President John Mahama’s “Code of Ethics for Ministers and Political Appointees” also states among other things that a conflict of interest “may arise if a Minister’s family or personal friends might derive, or be perceived as deriving some personal, financial or other benefits from a decision or action by the Minister or the Government.”
Prof Attafuah said if at all the code of conduct was observed, it was observed in breach. Some government spokespersons have sought to defend the conduct of the president by saying the vehicle was put into a pool.
They also cite a Mercedes Benz gift given in public by the late Libyan president Muamar Ghadaffi to president John Kufuor in 2007 as a defence for Mahama’s conduct. But Prof Attafuah said it was not enough for the government to say the gift was collected and was put in a pool after the fact has been investigated.
He said there ought to have been transparency in handling the gift and it should have been declared and made public at the time it was taken. Asked what punitive measures can be taken against the president, Prof Attafuah said the matter can be taken up at the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice.