Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Controversy Over President Mahama's Gift Car

President Mahama has come under severe criticisms from a section of the public for accepting a gift of car from a Burkinabe contractor. Listening to the arguments so far, it is clear that, this is a frantic effort to accuse the President of corruption. It is therefore not surprising that the minority and some so called anti-corruption crusaders have jumped into the fray, calling the President all sorts of names. But there is the need for a proper evaluation of all the facts. It is stated that the said contractor, Djibril Kanazoe, undertook the $650,000 Ghana Embassy Wall in Ouagadougou as well as the 64.4 kilometre Dodo Pepesu -Nkwanta section of the Eastern Corridor road. The argument is that, the President by accepting this gift from the contractor has put himself in conflict of interest. Really? It is baffling how a conflict of interest arises in this situation.

First of all, the point must be made that the President has no role to play in the award of any contracts in the country, let alone the two contracts in question. Again, the award of the contracts was initiated at the time John Mahama was not the President of Ghana. It is insightful to note that, in the case of the Embassy wall, out of the three contractors, Mr Kanozoe presented the cheapest and most cost effective bid. The road project was also funded by the European Union. It is notorious facts that EU funded projects go through international competitive bidding. From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that the man was not awarded the contract on silver platter. This makes nonsense of talks of a breach of the Public Officers Code of Conduct passed in 2013. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 21 (b) of the Code states that "a public officer many not accept a gift, favour or an advantage that has the potential to influence the proper discharge of his or her functions or judgment, from a person with whom the public officer comes into contact in relation to the public officer’s functions.” Some Minority Members in Parliament have argued that the gift was a bribe to influence the President to give out juicy deals to the said contractor. They go further to state that the President also breached Article 284 of the Constitution, which provides that a public officer, including the President 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.” What is more ridiculous is that they are threatening to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President if he does not resign. Are we joking in Ghana? Since when has the acceptance of gifts become a crime and for that matter grounds for removal of a President from office? Under this fourth republican dispensation, which President has not received a gift? Former Presidents Jerry Rawlings, John Kufour, John Mills were all given different kinds of gifts, which they gladly accepted.

This is not the first time a President of Ghana has accepted a car from a foreign national. Former President Kufuor received a Mercedes-Benz from former Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Indeed, many analysts held the opinion, that if it were not that car that President Kufour was using at the time he had an accident at the Opeibia crossing in Accra, probably a different story would have been told. What is remarkable about President Mahama's gifted car is that, unlike former President Kufuor, President Mahama has never used this car. Available information indicates that, as soon as the car got to the President's attention, he directed that it be added to the pool of vehicles at the Presidency for the use by the state. In other words, though it was supposed to be a gift to the President, he did not accept it for his personal use.

So far, no evidence has been led to establish any wrongdoing in the award of the contract to Mr Kanazoe, there is no evidence that the contracts were inflated or more competent contractors were turned down in his favour. There is also no evidence that President Mahama played any role in the award of the contracts. It is therefore difficult to decipher where all these arguments are leading to. If this is a mischievous, malicious, and wicked exercise to drag the President's name in the mud and punch holes in his assertion that he has never received a bribe, then it is all much ado about nothing. Truth will always triumph over evil.

BY GEORGE DARLINGTON, A STUDENT OF POLITICS AND HISTORY.

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