Ford Gift Saga: Mahama Breached Gift Policy - CHRAJ
The Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has said the president breached the country's gift policy in accepting the controversial Ford gift given by a Burkinabe contractor Djibril Kanazoe.
However, the Commission in its preliminary investigations concluded the president's action did not breach the bribery, corruption or conflict of interest laws of the country.
The findings were contained in a 78-paged report released by CHRAJ, Thursday.
The Commission received three petitions, two from political parties, the Progressive People's Party and the Convention People's Party Youth League and one from a private citizen, Nana Addo Ofori.
The petitions followed a Joy News investigative piece by Manasseh Azure Awuni which revealed how the Burkinabe contractor struck a friendly cord with the presidency, gave a Ford gift to then Vice president John Mahama, now president and how the contractor was given three separate contracts by the government.
The president admitted receiving the gift but said he handed it over to the state to be added to the pool of vehicles at the presidency. He however vehemently rejected any allegation of bribery, corruption or a breach of the Procurement laws in the award of the three contracts to the Burkinabe contractor.
Not happy with the admission by the president, the petitioners proceeded to CHRAJ, demanding, among other things, a thorough investigation into the matter, ascertain whether or not the president breached the conflict of interest provisions in the constitution and whether or not the president's conduct amounted to bribery.
Forinstance Article 284 provides that:
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 petitioners have cause to believe that by receiving the Ford gift the president put himself in a conflict of interest position especially after it emerged that the same contractor who donated the Ford vehicle subsequently received contracts, some of which the Auditor General found problematic.
In accordance with provisions of Article 287 of the 1992 Constitution, the Commission wrote to the president requesting him to comment on the allegations made against him.
The president, through his lawyer, Tony Lithur, responded to the allegations in a letter dated July 18 2016 and denied claims of bribery, corruption and conflict of interest.
The Commission therefore begun an independent preliminary investigation into the matter to ascertain whether the claims made by all parties had basis.
The investigation saw the Commission speaking to key players in the scandal, including ministers of state, Manasseh Azure Awuni, as well as evaluating essential documents including A declaration that Quedrago Cheik Mohammed, the alleged importer of the said Ford Expedition 2010 model with engine No. E173A1905101 and Chassis No. IFMJUIJ58AEB748 was an instrument of fraud in the hands of the sitting President of the Republic of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama.
CHRAJ concluded its investigations and found as follows;
On whether the president breached the guidelines spelt out in the gift policy, the Commission on the evidence of the document and admissions, found the president guilty.
On the issue of whether the acceptance of the gift placed the president in a conflict of interest situation, the commission observed that the acceptance of prohibited gift, did not in itself constitute conflict of interest. However, it is the failure to declare the gift to the appropriate institutions; and failing to take oneself away from any transaction involving the giver of the gift is what constitutes conflict of interest. The Commission said because the president declared the gift, surrendered it to the state's vehicle pool and did not use his public office for private benefit he could not have been found to have breached the conflict of interest procedures.