CHRAJ challenges order prohibiting it from investigating Finance Minister

BY: Caroline Boateng
Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta
Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has filed an appeal challenging a prohibition order against it in any future investigation of the Minister of Finance (MoF), Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, and his assets.

An Accra High Court, on July 25, 2018, quashed CHRAJ’s decision of December 2017 on the Finance Minister in his issuance of the five-, seven-, 10- and 15-year bonds early that same year.

In its decision, based on a petition filed by a Ghanaian, Mr Brogya Gyenfi, on April 25, 2017, who alleged conflict of interest and corruption by Mr Ken Ofori-Atta in his issuance of the bonds, the commission exonerated the minister because Mr Gyenfi could not substantiate his claims.

However, the commission found that in the issuance of the bonds, Section 56 of the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) 2016  was breached, while it also found the minister’s non-disclosure of his interest in some business concerns a breach of Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution.

Prohibition

However, on April 25, 2018, an Accra High Court quashed the decision of CHRAJ on purported findings that the minister did not disclose his assets.

The court went further to prohibit the commission from any future investigations of the MoF or his assets on the basis that CHRAJ would be prejudiced against him and be biased.

The Attorney General also filed an application for a judicial review on findings that portions of the PFMA 2016 were breached and the court held in favour of the minister.

In that ruling, CHRAJ was also prohibited from any investigations in relation to the PFMA 2016 and the issuance of bonds generally.

The court said in any future investigations, CHRAJ had to limit itself to conflict of interest issues only.

Beyond legal power

However, the Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr Joseph Whittal, in an interview with the Daily Graphic last Friday, said the prohibitions were far beyond what the 1992 Constitution permitted, hence the appeal.

He said the prohibitions by the court impinged on provisions on the mandate of the commission, guaranteed by the Constitution.

“The challenge unduly limits us in our mandate given by the 1992 Constitution,” Mr Whittal said.

Context

On April  25, 2017, Mr Gyenfi had petitioned CHRAJ to look into how the bonds were issued, alleging conflict of interest by Mr Ofori-Atta.

After nine months of investigations, CHRAJ, on December 22, 2017, came out with its report exonerating the minister because Mr Gyenfi could not substantiate his claims.

The report, however, said in the course of investigations, the minister was found to have had  interests in some business concerns that were not disclosed, thereby breaching Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution.

CHRAJ also found some procedural lapses in the issuance of the bonds that breached Section 56 of the PFMA 2016 by failing to seek parliamentary approval before the issuance of the bonds.

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