WHO:  Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ); Convention Peoples Party (CPP) Youth League; Secretary of CPP Youth League-Hardi Yakubu; Tony Lithur-Lawyer for President John Dramani Mahama; Burkinabe contractor, Mr. Djibril Kanazoe; the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP); Vitus Azeem, former Executive Director of policy think-tank, Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII).

WHAT:  Whoever thought the popular "Ford Expedition Saga"- involving President Mahama and Burkinabe contractor, Kanazoe, was over, should think again. 

Comfort Akosua Edu, Head of Public Relations and Communications for CHRAJ, told Citi FM in an interview early this week that CHRAJ is conducting a probe stemming from the three petitions brought before it alleging wrongdoing. The youth wing of the CPP, the PPP and a private citizen all petitioned CHRAJ to probe Mahama's receipt of a 2010 Ford Expedition vehicle (valued at US$100,000) as gift from Kanazoe.

This revelation was made public following the emergence of an investigation by award-winning journalist, Manasseh Azure. The gift was made in 2012, prior to the award of two contracts to the contractor (but in the same year): firstly, for the construction of a wall around a parcel of land at Ghana's Embassy in Ouagadougou, at a cost of US$650,000 and secondly, the construction of the 46.4km Dodo-Pepesu road in the Volta Region, which was funded by the European Union at a cost of about US$36 million.

In a statement released by the Information Ministry, the president admitted receipt of the car but added the car to the fleet of state vehicles at the Flagstaff House and issued a letter through his lawyer, Tony Lithur, asking the commission to dismiss the conflict of interest allegations.

WHEN:  On Monday, 8th August, 2016, Edu confirmed on Citi FM that the commission has started a preliminary investigation into the issue. After this initial investigation, CHRAJ will decide on the next course of action to take.

WHY:  By the power vested in CHRAJ under the 1992 Constitution, the body is mandated to "investigate complaints of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, injustice and corruption...by public officers in the exercise of their duties", as stated in the CHRAJ Act (Act 456). Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal has expressed a readiness for CHRAJ to exercise the full extent of its powers.

OUTLOOK:  The response from CHRAJ to begin an investigation into the petition points to the independence of the anti-corruption institution. If the preliminary investigation ascertains that the president erred, a court action might be brought against him. Again, parliament can take up the findings if he is found guilty and commence an impeachment exercise. But the fact that the CHRAJ boss, Richard Quayson, is only in an acting capacity, may undermine his ability to conduct a full investigation. The oft-cited challenge of a lack of resources for CHRAJ could well hamper the work of the commission. In a discussion with Songhai Analyst Emmanuel Amoah-Dankwah, Azeem-former Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), said that there are "no clear sanctions for conflict of interest" in this case. "If [the President] is found culpable, he might be asked [by CHRAJ] to return the car [to the contractor]". 

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