On 1st February, 2016, OccupyGhana® wrote to the Attorney-General and Minister for Transport, copied to the Minister of Finance and Chief of Staff, among others, asking for all the information surrounding the Smartty’s Bus branding contract that has been impugned by the Attorney-General herself.
This Impugned Transaction and matters arising from it, led to the resignation of the immediate past Minister for Transport, Madam Dzifa Attivor, the instruction of the Chief of Staff to the Attorney-General to recover approximately GH¢1.9 million from Smarttys, and the subsequent agreement between the Attorney-General and Smarttys that the amount to be recovered would be only some GH¢1.5 million.
In our letter we stated that our request for information was based on article 21(1)(f) of the Constitution that guarantees all persons the right to information, subject only to restrictions and laws essential to democracy, none of which exist or is applicable in this case. We further asserted that there was no conceivable public interest privilege that applied to deny us access to that information.
This was because we had cause to believe that most of the as yet undisclosed circumstances surrounding the Impugned Transaction amounted to corruption, and the misuse and waste of public funds, and that there was an attempt within the government to prevent that information from coming into the hands of the citizens of Ghana. We made these assertions also because we were aware that a report from the Attorney-General to the Chief of Staff had revealed serious infractions and malfeasance, and had recommended the prosecution of the principal actors in the Impugned Transaction.
On 4th February, 2016, we received a letter dated 3rd February, 2016 with reference number D.2/V.2 and signed by one Ebenezer Owusu-Ansah, P.R.O., stating that the Attorney-General would not supply us with the information we have requested, because of the pendency of a case that has been filed in court with respect to the same Impugned Transaction.
We are utterly shocked at this perfunctory response that seeks to assert that once a matter is in court (and the court proceedings are not being held in camera), all documents and information that may become relevant to those proceedings, somehow become secret documents that cannot be disclosed to the citizens of this country.
The vacuous and trifling nature of this excuse fortifies our belief that the government has something to hide, and that all efforts are being made to ensure that the information surrounding this Impugned Transaction, particularly the Attorney-General’s own far-reaching report on the matter, are suppressed to protect certain persons who acted in that transaction, from exposure and possible prosecution.
This response from the Attorney-General is even more worrying considering the arguments of this same Attorney-General in support of the constitutional right of the citizens to information, in the very recent Supreme Court case of Dery v. Tiger Eye & 2 Others. Indeed, the Court rightly upheld this right to information, stating that not even constitutionally-provided ‘in camera’ proceedings could deprive the citizens of the right to that information, although in the final analysis.
The court rightly reminded all persons that true justice and power flow from the people, who have a right to know. “Judges, like Caesar’s wife, must live above suspicion,” the court poignantly asserted. Sadly, the Attorney-General’s response to us goes against the weight, grain and tenor of her own arguments in court, and the decision of the court, and ignores the fact that all people who hold public office are fiduciaries who “like Caesar’s wife, must [also] live above suspicion.”
We are saddened by this blatant attempt by none other than the Attorney-General of this country to deny citizens the right to know what happened to their money. We are amazed that the Attorney-General is hiding behind an unknown principle to deny access to information that might reveal that the bus branding job was actually concluded and the figure of roughly GH¢3.6 million communicated to the Ministry of Finance for payment to Smarttys, even before the same Ministry of Transport wrote to Smartty’s for a quotation for the job; and that even before the same Ministry of Transport applied for approval for single-source procurement from the Public Procurement Authority (“PPA”), proffering what is at best described as dubious, shameful and pathetic grounds for that single-source procurement.
We are surprised that the Attorney-General is trying to hide from Ghanaians the fact that it took the PPA barely 24 hours to grant the single-source procurement approval.
We are saddened that the Attorney-General wants to hide from Ghanaians the fact that the contract document covering a transaction of this magnitude was on just two (2) pages of paper with absolutely no warranties, defects liability period, or events of default clauses to protect the interest of the people of Ghana, and that that dubious contract was never submitted to the Attorney-General before it was signed, not by the then Minister of Transport, but a director in that Ministry (raising legitimate questions as to whether that director was duly and properly authorised to execute a contract that would be binding on Ghana.)
We are amazed that an Attorney-General who has discovered and written on all of these grave infractions of our law in her report to the Chief of Staff, would turn around to deny the citizens of this country access to such critical information about our national purse and its use.
We have therefore considered these grave matters and have decided that if the Attorney-General is unprepared, unwilling and unable to respect the right of the citizen to information, then we have no other recourse but to resort to court action, unfortunately.
OccupyGhana® has therefore instructed its lawyers to forthwith commence legal action to right this grave wrong. Ghanaians are entitled to know everything about the Impugned Transaction and the Attorney-General cannot engage in illegal and unconstitutional stonewalling, to prevent us from knowing the full truth, and consequently prevent us from demanding that erring persons be punished in accordance with the law.
OccupyGhana® is a socio-political non-partisan pressure group with the vision of engaging Ghanaians in development process and ensuring good and responsible governance. We are passionately committed to ensuring that Ghana develops to its full economic potential and remains a strong democracy.