PRESIDENT JOHN Agyekum Kufuor a little over a week ago remitted the sentences of Mr. Kwame Peprah and Mr Victor Selormey in the exercise of his prerogative of mercy on the eve of Ghana's 48th Independence anniversary celebration.
Mr Peprah, finance minister under the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), had been convicted and jailed four years by the courts during Mr Kufuor's first term of office in connection with the Aveyemi rice scandal for disbursing a loan not approved by Parliament to an Afro-American woman, the promoter of the project. He had about a year to serve.
Mr Selormey, who was his deputy, had been jailed eight years for unauthorised transfers under the court computerisation project in a case that looked more like a deliberate theft of the nation's resource. Both men had been convicted for causing financial loss to the state.
It its response, the NDC welcomed the move but wondered loudly why the duo was only granted remission of sentence and not a pardon. It therefore ascribed political motives for the non-granting of pardon.
Differentiating the words “pardon” and “remission”, GYE NYAME CONCORD's lawyer said that a pardon has the effect of wiping the slate clean, as if the offence pardoned had never been committed. However, a remission of sentence is just that; it reduces the sentence that a convict has to serve but does nothing about the crime itself.
Therefore if Messrs Peprah and Selormey had been granted pardon, they could have served as ministers of state in a future NDC government but with a mere remission of their sentences, they cannot.
Now, was the NPP government playing politics in refusing to grant the two convicts a pardon? In its considered opinion, the GYE NYAME CONCORD does not think so.
Causing financial loss to the state is a crime more or less guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution. We, Ghanaians, as a people seeing that any financial loss to the state translates into lack of portable water, healthcare, schools and other aspects of development generally, resolved to make it a crime so that our developmental efforts may be smoother and well-resourced.
Looked at from this perspective it does not make sense that people found guilty of having committed financial loss to the state should be given the further opportunity, through the grant of a pardon, to cause further financial losses to the state.
If anything at all, the President should be commended for showing this level of magnanimity towards convicts like Victor Selormey, who in truth, deserves to serve every second of his prison term without the possibility of coming out early had it not been for his ill health.
Here is someone who transferred millions of taxpayers' dollars to his own friend, Dr Frederick Buadu, in the USA for no work done, except to possibly share it with him, and for Dr Buadu to take care of his (Selormey's) children who were living with the friend. His case amounts to theft without a conscience and without an attempt to even conceal it. Indeed, GYE NYAME CONCORD would have called for President Kufuor's head had he granted him pardon, especially when Selormey is facing other serious criminal charges over funds amounting to thousands of dollars in the courts.
However, as we have pointed out before in a previous editorial, “aba wodze bo Takyi, wodze bo Baah” or as the Gas say, “tso ni ake tswa Oko eh, ake tswa Ate” (the NPP should beware that the measure with which it measures former functionaries of the NDC would be used to measure its own functionaries). It is quite obvious that they are aware and they deserve commendation for staying the course of probity and accountability in public life so far.
In fact the GYE NYAME CONCORD will at the appropriate time call on the government that succeeds the NPP, if it happens not to be the NDC, to put the current men in power to the causing-financial-loss-to-the-state litmus test. Of course if it is the NDC no such call would be necessary! It has already given notice that it would.
The fight to prevent avoidable financial loss to the state is an important one and should be seen as such, without attaching sentiments to it. The perception and practice that public office is a shortcut to wealth should be erased once and for all. Public office is for service to God and country in appreciation for what one had received in life and not for impoverishing the generality of the people. Imagine a sister country where millions of barrels of crude oil worth millions of dollars are sold daily and yet the level of poverty of its people is worse than our own.
It is no doubt painful to the PNDC/NDC that some of its men have been caught in the net of causing financial loss to the state. But looked at soberly, the former NDC government should take pride in the fact that God saw it as a worthy channel to use to ensure that the resources of Ghana are not wantonly dissipated by people who pretend to be what they are not. Maybe no other government, looking at its motivations, would have found the courage to do so. It is a plus that they should not allow anyone to dismiss lightly.