The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has said that President John Dramani Mahama has violated the gift policy for accepting a Ford Expedition gift from a Burkinabe contractor, but his action did not constitute bribery.
The Commission adds that the allegations of conflict of interest and fraud against the President were not substantiated by the complainants.
This was contained in a 78-page report issued by the CHRAJ yesterday, copied to the Ghanaian Times.
According to CHRAJ, although the gift constituted a prohibition under the Gift Policy Code of Conduct, the subject of contention (the vehicle) was kept in the Presidential vehicle pool and used in the interest of the state.
It explained that it was unable to determine a case of conflict of interest which the complainants sought to rely on, because of a non-existent and clear-cut constitutional provision on conflict of interest.
“The Constitution does not define in detail the situations which constitute conflict of interest, neither is there a document providing for the codes of conduct for the several public officers there are in Ghana which the Commission could fall on in determining complaints of conflicts of interest,” the report said.
In the absence of such a definition, the Commission held that it was difficult for it to determine conflict of interest.
The CHRAJ said the recommendation by Constitution Review Commission (CRC) on conflict of interest, should be implemented.
The CRC recommended that, “There is clearly the need for legislation to define in detail the situations that constitute conflict of interest and which serve as the legal framework within which CHRAJ can determine complaints made against public officers for breaches of the code”.
Such a law, according to the CRC should provide “for the manner in which public officers should treat gifts that are offered to them. The absence of enabling legislation setting out the parameters of conflict of interest makes Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution considerably vague in terms of definition, procedure and sanctions”.
It said the lack of clarity in matters of conflict of interest and the lack of an extensive code of conduct for public officers only helps to lower the trust that the people have in public officers,” it added.
CHRAJ hailed the recommendation by CRC and further recommended the early passage of the Conduct of Public Officers Bill, which seeks to codify the current guidelines on conflict of interest.
The report said the interest generated by this case among Ghanaians called for a speedy passage of the Bill to help improve public understanding of the issues involved.
The CHRAJ also urged the compulsory training of public officials who occupied high positions: the President, Vice President and all appointees of the Executive; the Speaker, Deputy Speakers, Members of Parliament and the Judiciary.
The Commission recommended that heads of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies should ensure staff receive compulsory training on the Code of Conduct for Public Officers and Conflict of Interest Guidelines upon assumption of office.
It is to be recalled that Manasseh Azure Awuni of JoyFM, a private radio station in Accra published the story of an alleged Ford Expedition gift given to President Mahama by Djibril Feres Kanazoe, a Burkinabe contractor.
The publication stated among other things that the action by the President amounted to bribery and conflict of interest.
On June 21, the Youth League of the Conventions Peoples Party (CPP) petitioned CHRAJ to probe President Mahama’s Ford gift.
They argued that the circumstances surrounding the gift were a contravention of the 1992 Constitution.
The story which was aired on JoyFM and other networks generated debate in the media as the New Patriotic Party (NPP) initiated moves to get Parliament to open investigation into the case.
The House was compelled to reconvene last month to look into the case which was then being investigated by CHRAJ.
However, the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho, dismissed the motion on grounds that the case was being investigated by the appropriate institution.
By Malik Sullemana