Francisca Oteng Mensah
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).
A complainant, Ismail Mohammed, on January, 28th, 2021 petitioned the Commission against the Deputy Minister alleging that Ms. Oteng Mensah had, on March 30, 2020, as the Board Chairperson of the NYA, presided over a board meeting which set aside GH¢3 million for the procurement of PPE for the fight against COVID-19.
The complainant alleged that per her directive at the board meeting, hand sanitizer/alcohol was procured at an amount exceeding GH¢700,000 from Adonko Bitters Limited, a subsidiary of the Angel Group of Companies, a limited liability company owned by Ms. Mensah personally and her biological father, Kweku Oteng.
The complainant averred that the move amounted to a conflict of interest situation.
The act of the board chairperson, the complainant indicated, did not only contravene Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution, which says: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his 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.
However, in a 111-page report signed by the Commissioner, Joseph Whittal, and released on February 2, 2023, CHRAJ dismissed the allegations on grounds that they lacked merit.
The Commission said investigations conducted by its outfit and the evidence provided did not support the case of conflict of interest against Ms. Mensah.
According to the commission, evidence showed that on March 31, 2020, at a board meeting chaired by Ms. Mensah, the board of the NYA had approved GH¢3 million to fund the ‘Youth in COVID-19 Campaign’ and related activities.
The NYA, it said, used part of the GH¢3 million to procure PPE for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and that the PPE consisted of alcohol-based hand sanitizer amounting to GH¢68,980.58 from Adonko Bitters Ltd, of which Ms. Mensah and her father were directors and shareholders.
“There was no evidence that Ms. Mensah gave directives for the procurement of hand sanitizer from Adonko Bitters, and “that the allegation that the board chairperson was not only present at the March 31 board meeting but also participated, deliberated, and presided over the purchase of hand sanitizer 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 has also been 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 Ms. Mensah to intervene and have Adonko Bitters Ltd supply 290 boxes when it had difficulty in obtaining supply for alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The report said the action of the Deputy Gender Minister to have Adonko Bitters Ltd supply hand sanitizer to the NYA did not amount to a conflict of interest.
It added that at the time of concluding the investigations on this case, Adonko Bitters Ltd had not picked a cheque for GH¢68,980.58 from the NYA in respect of supplies of hand sanitizer made to the NYA.
“On the totality of the evidence, the respondent did not put herself in a position where her 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 complaining and the deputy minister for her cooperation.
-BY Daniel Bampoe