Presidential Gift: Apology will quell furore – Lecturer

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A Political Science lecturer wants President John Mahama to demonstrate that he is a human being capable of making a mistake and apologise for accepting a gift from a Burkinabe contractor.
Eric Asare Bossman says an apology from the President a few months to the crucial November 7 elections would seem like a bad idea but it is not.

“I think that the President should apologise to the Ghanaian people and I think it is not going to inure to the disadvantage of the President. People will see that you are also a human being,” Dr Bossman Joy News’ Favor Nunoo, Thursday.

Following revelations that a Burkinabe Contractor, Gibril Kanazoe, presented a Ford Expedition as a gift to the President in 2012, many Ghanaians have sought to suggest that the President may have acted in breach of the law.

Mr Kanazoe’s gift is valued at $100,000 and he presented it the same year he won a controversial contract to erect a fence wall around the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso.

A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe into the cost of wall, some $650,000, revealed procurement procedures were breached in the award of the contract. PAC described the contract sum as “outrageous”.

Mr Kanazoe is also the contractor who won part of the contract on the Eastern Corridor Road Project, one of the biggest road projects to be undertaken in Ghana.

Opinions are divided on whether the President acted in breach of the law that regulates public office holders in accepting gifts. Some have sought to link receipt of the gift to conflict of interest.

The Presidency, through the Minister of Communication, Edward Omane-Boamah, has confirmed that the President received the gift in the name of the State and it had nothing to do with the fence wall or road contracts.

However, Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution states, “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.”

This constitutional provision has informed a new bill, Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2013, presented by Cabinet to Parliament.

According to Section 21 (b), a public officer may not “accept a gift, favour or an advantage that has the potential to influence the proper discharge of the public officer’s functions or judgment, from a person with whom the public officer comes into contact in relation to the public officer’s functions”.

However, the Political Science lecturer at University of Ghana thinks an apology should have accompanied the response from the President.

“Ideally in a well-functioning society where democratic structures are firmly built, you would expect the leader to come out openly and tell Ghanaians that ‘I did not act in an appropriate way’; ideally to say sorry to the Ghanaians, but Ghana is an ideal situation,” he said.

He said just like South Africa’s Jacob Zuma came out to apologise publicly following revelations he spent huge sums of Rand in renovating his private home, Mr Mahama should do same.

“In a well functioning society, even the people around you [President] are going to tell you that this thing we didn’t do it well. But if you are a leader and you are thinking of being a great leader, these are some the things you must admit,” Dr Bossman counseled.

He also threw out suggestions that receipt of the gift by President Mahama provides firm grounds for impeachment proceedings to be kick-started against him.

He notes that although constitutional provisions clearly define which actions can cause the President to be impeached, Ghana’s political system will not make the process successful.

“Impeachment usually falls within the domain of the legislature. But let’s look at the composition of our parliament. I don’t think Ghana will get to a point where a President who has majority in Parliament will say they will vote to impeach him,” he said.

He has recommended that the luxury vehicle that started the whole saga be donated to a charity.

Meanwhile the Burkinabe contractor has since pulled out of another ¢82million bid to construct a 28-kilometre road.