“Ad hoc committee” upholds conflict of interest objection tabled by Ofori-Atta’s lawyer

The first of seven grounds grouped together by the Minority in Parliament for their censure motion was conflict of interest

Parliament’s eight-member ad hoc committee tasked with probing the Minority’s censure motion, moved on the floor of Parliament against the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has upheld constitutional arguments made by his lawyer, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, on claims of conflict of interest.

The first of seven grounds aggregated by the Minority for their motion on censure states as follows: “Despicable conflict of interest ensuring that he [Ken Ofori-Atta], directly benefits from Ghana’s economic woes as his companies receive commissions and other unethical contractual advantages, particularly from Ghana’s debt overhang”.

Conflict of interest

Throughout the first hearing, it became patently clear that the proponents had no new evidence to support their motion and were on a fishing expedition, seeking documents and evidence as they went along to build their house of straw.

Members of the ad hoc committee, including members on the side of the proponents, were baffled by the information being submitted in support of the allegations against the Finance Minister, and sought clarification over and over again.

Questions from the likes of Patrick Boamah and Andrew Egyapa Mercer exposed the lack of evidence supporting the allegations levelled against the Finance Minister, causing the co-chair Dominic Ayine (the MP for Bolgatanga East) to dig deep to rely on the evidentiary principle of “probative value”, which in layman’s terms means “for what it is worth”.

Counsel for the Minister for Finance also objected fiercely to the allegation of conflict of interest. He argued that the Finance Minister had no problem submitting himself to answer questions regarding conflict of interest, and that he had done so in the past before the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, a case that ended up in the Supreme Court.

Otchere-Darko contended that the ad hoc committee lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the Finance Minister had put himself in a conflict-of-interest position, contrary to Articles 284 (“Conflict of Interest”) and 287 (“Complaints of Contravention”) of the constitution.

He also quoted Justice Brobbey’s judgment in the Supreme Court case Okudzeto Ablakwa v Attorney General and Obetsebi-Lamptey, prompting aggressive nodding by the plaintiff, who is also a member of the ad hoc committee.

The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, the MP for Tamale South, who is also a proponent of the motion, agreed with Otchere-Darko’s argument, describing it as lucid.

However, he sought to expand the scope of ground 1, which the committee declined. The committee members accepted the objection and noted that they were bound by the constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court and will give their ruling on the matter.

The committee has since upheld the objection raised by Otchere-Darko and, therefore, ground 1 on conflict of interest has been shot down.

Natural justice

Undwer the rules of natural justice, everyone is entitled to know the case being made against them to provide a complete and comprehensive response to allegations against them.

It is not enough to state an allegation and keep the facts and evidence in your pocket and then expect the person against whom you have stated an allegation to assume the facts and evidence underlying your allegation. That is what the proponents of the motion appeared to want to do.

However, the Finance Minister, through his counsel, insisted on this timeless principle of natural justice and fairness.

Bound by these principles, the ad hoc committee agreed to allow the Minister for Finance to hear the facts and receive the evidence that the proponents of the motion sought to rely on.

48-hour request

The proponents closed their case, albeit weakly, and Otchere-Darko requested 48 hours to enable the Finance Minister to study the allegations and respond adequately.

The committee agreed and requested the Finance Minister to attend the sitting to take place on Friday (18 November) at 10am.

Wilberforce Asare

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