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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Court throws out Mills` order

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An Accra Fast Track High Court (FTC) has quashed the directives of the President, His Excellency Prof John Evans Atta Mills, ordering the interdiction of the Principal Accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, following a National Security investigation report on alleged financial impropriety by Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, then Minister of Youth and Sports.

The court, presided over by Justice (Mrs.) Novisi Aryene, yesterday held that the directive that sought to sanction Mr. Adim Odoom on the basis of failing to adhere to laid down financial and accounting regulations was unlawful, as it violates the Civil Service act.

According to the court, even though the President has executive powers, he is bound by law to do so in accordance with the Civil Service Act, since he is dealing with civil servants.

The court therefore ordered that Mr. Odoom be reinstated, and resume duties at the ministries as Principal Accountant, with all salary arrears restored to him. Additionally, the court ordered that the National Security investigation report on the complaint made against the former Youth and Sports Minister, be referred to the Civil Service Council for appropriate action to be taken.

A cost of GH¢1,000 was then awarded against the Attorney General.

The Head of the Civil Service complied with a directive from President John Evans Atta Mills dated June 25, 2009, asking for the interdiction of Mr. Adim Odoom, for failing to comply with laid down financial and accounting regulations, together with Mr. Albert Anthony Ampong, Chief Director, both personnel of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Mr. Odoom was therefore ordered to proceed on leave on July 7, 2009.

The President's directive came subsequent to a National Security investigation report on Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, former Youth and Sports Minister, that indicted the two personnel of the ministry.

It was the view of the court that there were no doubts about Mr. Odoom's allegations of impropriety against the former minister, adding that there was evidence that Mr. Odoom had lodged a complaint to the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), in accordance with the law.

The court further noted that Mr. Odoom could not be absorbed under the whistleblowers act, when his disclosures are found to be true, emphasising that protection is granted to whistleblowers whose hands are clean.

The court also found the National Security Committee, instituted by the President, as a fact finding committee, which is not fatal to the cause of Mr. Odoom, stressing that being a civil servant, the outcome of the report was the basis upon which charges could be preferred.

Mr. Odoom had applied for a Judicial Review against the Attorney-General and the Head of the Civil Service, on grounds that he had been treated unfairly, after exposing Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, then Minister of Youth and Sports, for financial impropriety.

However, the State Attorney successfully had the court's authority, for the name of the Head of Civil Service to be detached from a suit instituted by the interdicted Principal Accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, on the grounds that it was an offense against the constitution.

According to the court, the Attorney-General is to be sued for the wrongs of state officials in the course of their official duties.

Mr. Odoom, who describes himself as a whistleblower, sought a declaration of the court that the sanction taken against him by the President, and implemented by the Head of Civil Service, was unlawful.

Additionally, the applicant is requesting the court to quash the decision to interdict him, on the grounds that due process was not followed, and, therefore, it was a violation of the relevant laws and disciplinary regulations of the Civil Service of Ghana.

He is further seeking, among others, an order prohibiting the respondents from imposing any disciplinary sanctions against him, on the basis of the National Security report on investigations into allegations made against Alhaji Mubarak, and also requesting the court to grant an order of mandamus, to compel the Head of the Civil Service to allow him to resume his normal duties, as the Principal Accountant of the ministry.

Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame, counsel for Mr. Adim Odoom, the interdicted Principal Accountant at the Youth and Sports Ministry, had argued that the President and the Head of the Civil Service acted arbitrarily, and shoved away the rules of natural justice in applying sanctions on his client for blowing the cover of the former Minister, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, over financial impropriety.

According to the counsel, his client was made to appear as a witness before the National Security investigation panel set up by the President, noting that the applicant was denied a lawyer, on the basis that the exercise was harmless, and the applicant not a subject of the investigation.

Counsel further indicated that his client was not given the opportunity to hear the testimony of the then Minister of Youth and Sports, adding that the President accepted the findings of the National Security panel, and ordered his interdiction for failing to adhere to laid down financial and accounting regulations, without giving the applicant a hearing.

The counsel pointed out that it was the duty of the Civil Service Council to determine sanctions against an official, when he or she is culpable of any offence, stressing that the President was enjoined to follow the Civil Service Act, if he is to punish an official in the service for wrongdoing, noting, “the President is not the repository of the disciplinary committee, and therefore could not have instituted punishment against the applicant.”

Mr. Elikplim Agbemava, a State Attorney, rebutted the assertion of the counsel for the applicant, and stated that the presidential committee was a fact-finding committee that heard all persons mentioned in the allegation made by the applicant, noting that the applicant distributed his statement of impropriety against the former Youth and Sports Minister outside those mentioned by the whistleblower act.

According to Mr. Agbemava, the action of the applicant was borne out of malice, stressing that having failed to comply with the provisions of the whistleblower's act Mr. Odoom could not be protected under the law.

The State Attorney also noted that the applicant had not filed his statement of impropriety before the court, for it to make assessments as to whether or not the complaint was made in accordance with the whistleblower's act.

Mr. Agbemava further indicated that the applicant, as an accountant, could not account for substantial amounts of tax payers' money given the then minister, emphasising that the applicant did not make the disclosures on reasonable cost under the whistleblower's act.

Mr. Agbemava further observed that the President wields executive power, makes all appointments, and therefore directs for appropriate sanctions to be applied where needed, asserting that the Head of the Civil Service and the President had not acted arbitrarily.
Source: Ivy Benson - Ghanaian Chronicle

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