A number of contracts signed in the last days of the Mahama administration are being reviewed to ensure that the country gets value for money, the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, has revealed.
He explained that the review had become necessary because the government did not want the country to be saddled with judgement debts.
“We are taking these agreements now, one by one, under the able leadership of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo.
The Senior Minister, who was speaking at an Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) programme on the implementation of the Presidential Transition Act, said it was not only at the central government level that contracts were awarded in the dying days of the Mahama administration; it was also done at the level of institutions such as the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
“If you don’t take care, you could run this country into all kinds of judgement debts because these agreements have been signed and may be legally binding and certain provisions are there to be met. You can’t just come and say you are abrogating them. Some of the conditions are such that you can’t also implement them,” he explained.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the situation was “a complete waste of effort, time and man hours. We shouldn’t have signed them in the first instance”.
“We have quite a lot we are looking at. We have a very powerful Transition Act with dos and don’ts. There should be transparency about the law as we move from one administration to the other. After all, many countries go through transitions and they do so quietly and diligently. I don’t see why we should bother ourselves with all kinds of problems,” he said.
He made a strong case for the amendment of the Presidential Transition Act to make it more useful.
“This Transition Act needs serious amendments. If we want it to be useful, then we should all apply our minds to it,” Mr Osafo-Maafo said.
He said it was not for nothing that during transitions in the US, there was a term called ‘Lame duck President’.
“You are an outgoing President, but your functions are literally taken away from you in respect of many important issues. You are waiting for an incoming administration. The day-to-day running of the country can go ahead, but you don’t do anything that is of significance.
“We need to have it clear in the law — what can be done and what cannot be done, such as employment and contracts,” Mr Osafo-Maafo suggested.
Mr Osafo-Maafo also suggested that the Administrator-General should be among Article 70 office holders to make resources available to his office to track state assets.
The Transition Act was an initiative of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Ghana Political Parties Programme. It was passed in 2013 and first used after the 2012 elections but an amendment to the law passed by the last Parliament was not assented to by former President John Dramani Mahama.
A Senior Research Fellow of the IEA, Dr Michael Ofori Mensah, observed that some progress had been made where the laws were applied, but there were also instances when the law was not applied.
“The challenges which emerged during the handing over need to be addressed to ensure that an effective transition remains integral to the governance system in the country,” he said.
The roundtable was meant to make a detailed assessment of the 2017 transition, evaluating what worked well and what did not to identify the areas that needed a fine-tuning of the law in order to improve its practical implementation.
The MP for Offinso South and Chairman of Parliament’s Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Mr Ben Abdalah Bandah, agreed to an IEA suggestion that the Administrator-General’s role needed to be strengthened and the office made to report to Parliament annually or every six months on the state’s assets.
According to media reports, by December 23, 2016 when the NDC had lost the December 7 elections, COCOBOD’s sole-sourced contracts alone amounted to GH¢120,253,117.04, equivalent to $27,606,317.04.
Another contract worth $159,396,000 was sole-sourced, along with another for 1.5 million pounds sterling ($1.957,070.71).
On January 6, the COCOBOD management awarded a restricted tendering contract of GH¢1,138,272,377.42 ($261,311,381.41) and another restricted tendering contract for $62,654,604.10.
Apart from the contracts, then President Mahama also made some key appointments which incurred the displeasure of the incoming administration led by then President-elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
The new appointees were Mr Joseph Whittal, Ms Josephine Nkrumah and Mr Daniel Domelovo, who were to head the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the National Commission for Civic Education and the Auditor-General’s Office, respectively.