Two of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s nominees, are struggling to get the nod to become ministers of state as a result of roles they played in the past, which have became subjects for commissions of enquiry which indicted them.
The 1992 Constitution, frowns on people becoming ministers, despite adverse findings against them, and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Adansi Asokwa, Kobina Tahir Hammond, nominated to the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the MP for Abetifi, Bryan Acheampong, nominated as the Minister for Food and Agriculture, are in a tight situation.
While, KT Hammond has the work of the Judgement Debt Commission chaired by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Yaw Apau hanging around his neck, Bryan Acheampong, has the Emil Short Commission which investigated the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence to extricate himself from.
Article 94 (1)d of the 1992 Constitution states that “Subject to the provisions of this article, a person shall not be qualified to be a minister if he “…has been found by the report of a commission or a committee of inquiry to be incompetent to hold public office or is a person in respect of whom a commission or committee of inquiry has found that while being a public officer he acquired assets unlawfully or defrauded the State or mis-used or abused his office, or willfully acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the State, and the findings have not been set aside on appeal or judicial review…”
Article 280 (2) of the Constitution also made clear that “Where a commission of inquiry makes an adverse finding against any person, the report of the commission of inquiry shall, for the purposes of this Constitution, be deemed to be the judgment of the High Court; and accordingly, an appeal shall lie as of right from the finding of the commission to the Court of Appeal”.
Both Bryan Achempong and KT Hammond, are yet to clear themselves of the findings of the two commissions of enquiry against them.
One Monday when he appeared for the Appointments Committee, KT Hammond, tried desperately to suggest that he acted diligently in the sale of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) drill ship in 2001, and asked the country must rather be thankful to him for beating down the demand of Corporation’s debtees from $47 million to $19.5 million.
Mr Hammond, has long been fingered by elements of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) of complicity in the sale of the ship to defray a judgement debt awarded against Ghana by a London court.
He also sought to lie that he did not appear before the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) over the matter. He initially denied the report, but later admitted, then was forced to confess he had appeared by the EOCO.
He was also reminded that he had once taken the matter to court with Egbert Faibille Jnr, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Petroleum Commission, acting then as his lawyer.
A Judgement Debt Commission, chaired by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Yaw Apau, had found that “the payment of the $19.5 million instead of the $14 million earlier on agreed (with French Bank, Societe Generale) constituted financial loss to the Corporation and Ghana”.
But confronted with questions on the findings at his vetting in Accra yesterday, Mr Hammond, who was the deputy Minister of Energy at the time of the sale, said he did nothing untoward in the matter.
He failed to mention how the then Attorney-General, Nana Akufo-Addo, refused to defend Ghana’s interest when he refused to allow a UK-based law firm Bindman and Partners who were engaged by GNPC to continue defending the corporation against Societe Generale. The Kufour government was more interested in selling the drillship than mounting any defense.
The UK High Court, gave a default judgement and closed the case. While the court case was hanging, KT Hammond was looking for a buyer for the drillship and had engaged the services of another law firm Constant and Constant as transaction advisor.
“I put it to everybody here: when is it in recorded history that a deputy minister of three months at post sells a state asset like a ship?
“I was in office for just three months and you can imagine that no decision can be taken at my level. Every twist and turn I was given executive instrument some which were signed by the AG.
“Of the $47 million, following my arrangement and going around, they decided that instead of the $47 million, they would collect $19.5 million,” Mr Hammond told the Committee.
His claim was in response to questions by members of the minority on the committee who sought to know his role in the sale of the ship and portions of the government White Paper on the report of the Committee which indicted him and urged the Economic and Organised Crime Office to launch criminal investigations into the matter.
Giving explanation to what led to the sale of the ship, Mr Hammond, said upon coming into office by the John Agyekum Kufuor government in 2001, it was realised that the GNPC had been ran aground and a decision had been made by the corporation at the time to go into hedging, a transaction he said was a gamble.
As a result of its unfruitful investment into oil and gas discoveries, the corporation was saddled with a $47 million debt.
“In June 2001, the Ministry of Energy was informed that from the activities of the GNPC, there was a debt of $47 million that GNPC had created.
“They had entered into an agreement with a company called Societe Generale in France and in the process, the drill ship had been collateralised between 1994 and 1998 before we came to power.
Owing to the indebtedness, he said the ship was impounded in Aman, India by the French bank, prompting a decision by Cabinet.
“At Cabinet, my minister brought up this issue and the Attorney General at the time considered the issue and was very clear in his mind that the position of Ghana was hopeless. So there was no way pleading the case, but to settle.
“I was informed that since I was a practising barrister at the Bar of England and Wales, and this matter was pending in the court of England, it was suggested that I should go and find out what we could do,” he narrated.
Bryan Acheampong at his vetting on Monday, described the report by the commission of enquiry that investigated the Ayawso West Wuogon by-election violence, as unfair to him.
The Abetifi MP’s credentials as a soldier in the US military was also questioned to which he said to have stated that it was top secret. But The Herald is getting information that he did six weeks training and was posted out for a year or two.
Back to the inquiry, the former Minister of State in Charge of National Security cried that the Emil Short Commission was not fair to him when it ultimately blamed him for the violence and recommended that he be reprimanded.
Answering questions posed to him during his vetting at parliament’s Appointment Committee sitting, the nominee, said he did not authorise the operation by some National Security SWAT officers that led to some injuries on politicians during the January 31, 2019, incident.
“In the 500-plus page report [of the Commission of Inquiry], there wasn’t any part that mentioned that I authorised it. So everybody, including myself was surprised and afraid that my name found expression in the conclusion that I should be reprimanded. That is why the White Paper rejected that recommendation, because it failed to establish the factual basis that I authorised that operation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Majority caucus in Parliament has been appealing to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as well as the Minority caucus to rescind the decision not to approve the new ministers appointed by President Akufo-Addo.
Prior to the vetting of the newly nominated ministers on Monday, February 20, 2023, the NDC directed the Minority group not to approve them, describing their appointments as an insensitive move that would increase government’s expenditure in the midst of an economic mess.
Addressing the media, the Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, appealed to the NDC and its members in Parliament to support the approval of the ministerial nominees.
“I just want our colleagues to understand that for the sake of unity, and the desire for us to forge a working relationship, this is their major decision. In terms of the fact that they are coming into leadership, this is the first time more or less they are going to make such a significant decision”.
“On the floor of the house, I made an appeal that they [Minority] should tamper justice with mercy. They should just let go and support the nominees, let’s pass them. The nominees are all our colleagues, I’m just appealing to them for them to remember that today will be a very significant day in our body politics. I’m only appealing I hope they listen,” he appealed.
Meanwhile, the Minority is urging the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin to apologise to the group over his comments on their decision not to approve the nominees.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, who spoke to journalists said, “We will not descend in the gutters with Afenyo-Markin, we have a reputation to protect, I will ask Afenyo-Markin to look at the minority leadership. These are the people who have gone through vetting and served as ministers and deputy ministers. I pray he can go through that process. The statement he made is becoming unparliamentary of a leader, we urge him to apologise”.
Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah, Minister of State-Designate, Ministry of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development, who has also been vetted, says the creation of six additional regions in 2018, was to fast-track development.
Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, MP for Karaga now Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, had appeared before the Committee. He is leaving the Energy Ministry as Deputy Minister.
The MP for Nhyiaeso, Dr Stephen Amoah, has also been nominated as Deputy Ministers for Trade and Industry.
Stephen Asamoah Boateng, was appointed as the Minister for Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs among others.