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Saturday, October 10, 2009

M&J Scandal: Akufo Addo draw sword

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Nana The 2008 presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has advised the Ministers and government officials who have been named in the Mabey and Johnson bribery scandal to step aside, until investigation into the case has been concluded.

Making his first comment on the allegation, during an interview with Citi FM, in Accra yesterday, Nana Addo said if after the investigation no evidence of guilt is found against the Ministers, then they should be reinstated, but if the opposite is the case, then they must be dealt with according to the law. Nana was also not happy with President Mills' decision to ask his Attorney General to investigate the case. He noted that investigative bodies such as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) or the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) should rather be given the responsibility to look into the case.

Meanwhile, The Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) has called for the immediate resignation of Ministers and other government appointees who have been implicated in the Mabey and Johnson bribery scandal. According to the pressure group, their continued stay in office was an affront to President Mills' much-avowed fight against corruption.

'AFAG wants to state here that if indeed M&J created and paid monies to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) through Ghana Development Fund (GDF), then the laws regarding funding of political parties in Ghana has been completely breached', it stated.

Addressing a news conference in Accra yesterday, the Spokesperson for the group, Mr. Anthony Karbo accused President Mills and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of attempting to cover up the shady deal in which the names of some of his Ministers have been mentioned as beneficiaries of the bribe money.

Mr. Karbo alleged among other things that though the President had fore knowledge that some of the Ministers had been mentioned as 'culprits' in the case, he chose to keep mute over the matter.

He described the directive from President Mills for the Attorney General to open investigations into a case which had already been competently looked into by a UK court as laughable, since according to him, it "overtly demonstrates that the President is not seriously committed to fighting corruption as he claims."

According to him, when news of the trial of M&J by the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) surfaced, the first step the President ought to have taken was to submit a Letter of Request to the British Home Secretary, who in turn would have forwarded it to the SFO for action. Mr. Karbo indicated that this would have enabled the British SFO to furnish the Ghana Government with all information in its domain, under the SFO's Mutual Legal Assistance programme.

He argued that if this had been done, there would have been no need to send the Attorney General to go and fish for information from the UK, which could have been easily accessed by Ghana's High Commissioner in the UK, at no added expense to the Ghanaian taxpayer.

AFAG believes that the Attorney-General cannot question any institutionalized body in the UK, since she has no jurisdiction in that country to conduct an investigation into corrupt practices there, stressing "she could only ask or request for, and be handed over by the UK court or SFO the same documents which are already available and in the hands of the Media in Ghana".

He further argued that since Article 88(3) of the 1992 Constitution prescribes the functions of the Attorney General as including the initiation and conduct of all criminal offences, he did not understand why the A-G has to travel to the UK.

Whilst admitting that Article 88(2) states that the Attorney-General "shall discharge such other duties of a legal nature, as may be referred or assigned to him by the President", AFAG noted that the constitution remains silent in granting investigative powers to the Attorney-General to act on. It thus questioned the purpose for which the President sent the A-G to the UK.

AFAG believes President Mills could have engaged the services of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate the corruption allegation, rather than the Attorney General, since it is mandated by Article 218 (a) of the 1992 Constitution to "investigate complaints of violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, injustice, corruption, abuse of power and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of his official duties"; and 218(e) to "investigate all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public moneys by officials and to take appropriate steps, including reports to the Attorney-General and the Auditor-General, resulting from such investigations."

Unlike the Attorney-General, AFAG noted that CHRAJ is vested with the powers "to issue subpoenas requiring the attendance of any person before the Commission to produce any document or record relevant to any investigation by the Commission, to cause any person contemptuous of any such subpoena to be prosecuted before a competent Court; to question any person in respect of any subject matter under investigation before the Commission; to require any person to disclose truthfully and frankly any information within his knowledge relevant to any investigation by the Commissioner".

By this constitutional authority, it believes that the role of CHRAJ becomes even more important and relevant than the Attorney General in investigating the M&J scandal, stressing that 'at least selected personnel from the SFO, CHRAJ, and both the Majority and Minority leaders in Parliament should have been asked by the President to accompany the Attorney-General to the UK.'

As a matter of urgency, AFAG said 'all persons who held executive offices in the NDC party during this material time must be prosecuted by the State for pursuing a course of conduct that infringed on PNDCL 281, and reiterated its call for those implicated Government Officials to immediately resign or be axed by the President.

Ghanaian Chronicle

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