The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has dismissed allegations of conflict of interest against the deputy minister of gender, children and social protection, Francisca Oteng Mensah, over the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the National Youth Authority (NYA).
The commission, on 28 January, 2021, received a complaint from one Ismail Mohammed, a citizen, alleging that Mensah had, on 30 March, 2020, as the board chairperson of the NYA, presided over a board meeting which set aside GHC3 million for the procurement of PPE for the fight against COVID-19.
The complainant alleged that per her directive at the board meeting, hand sanitiser/alcohol was procured at an amount exceeding GHC 700,000 from Adonko Bitters Limited, a subsidiary of the Angel Group of Companies, a limited liability company owned by Mensah personally and her biological father, Kweku Oteng.
The complainant averred that the move amounted to conflict of interest.
The act of the board chairperson, the complainant indicated, did not only contravene Article 284 of the Constitution, 1992, which says: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office,” but also contravened the act that set up the NYA in Section 7.
In a 111-page report signed by the Commissioner, Joseph Whittal, and released on 2 February 2023, CHRAJ dismissed the allegations on grounds that they lacked merit, as investigations conducted by the commission and evidence provided did not support the case of conflict of interest against Mensah.
The commission, presenting its findings, indicated that evidence showed that on 31 March 2020, at a board meeting chaired by Mensah, the board of the NYA had approved GHC 3 million to fund the ‘Youth in COVID-19 Campaign’ and related activities.
The NYA, it said, used part of the GHC 3 million to procure PPE for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and that the PPE consisted of alcohol-based hand sanitiser amounting to GHC 68,980.58 from Adonko Bitters Ltd, of which Mensah and her father were directors and shareholders.
However, there was no evidence that Mensah gave directives for the procurement of hand sanitiser from Adonko Bitters, and “that the allegation that the board chairperson was not only present at the 31 March board meeting but also participated, deliberated and presided over the purchase of hand sanitiser from Adonko Bitters Limited and failed to disclose her interest in the matter is not supported by the evidence”.
“That the respondent was not under a duty to disclose her private capacity interest in Adonko Bitters Ltd at any of the March and June 2020 board meetings,” the commission added.
It established that there were discrepancies in the processes of the procurement of the PPE by the management of the NYA, which made it informally fall on Mensah to intervene and have Adonko Bitters Ltd supply 290 boxes when it had difficulty in obtaining supply for alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
It said the action of the deputy gender minister to have Adonko Bitters Ltd supply hand sanitiser to the NYA did not amount to conflict of interest, and that at the time of concluding the investigations on this case, Adonko Bitters Ltd had not picked its cheque for GHC 68,980.58 from the NYA in respect of supplies of hand sanitiser made to the NYA.
“On the totality of the evidence, the respondent did not put herself in a position where her personal interest conflicted or was likely to conflict with the performance of her official duties as chairperson of the NYA board of directors,” CHRAJ said.
The commission, however, commended the complainant for showing public spiritedness in lodging the complaint and the deputy minister for her cooperation.