The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has overruled a preliminary objection raised against its jurisdiction to investigate issues concerning procurement breaches over the building of the National Cathedral of Ghana.
Following its decision, CHRAJ has resumed investigations into a petition brought by the Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, over the said breaches.
In the petition, Mr Ablakwa had requested the commission to investigate three matters that had to do with alleged procurement breaches in the appointment of contractors, payment of the sum of GHS2,600,000.00 to JNS Talent Centre Limited from states resources and the conflict of interest involving Rev. Victor Kusi-Boateng.
The respondents, including the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, Apostle Prof Opoku Onyinah, Rev. Victor Kusi Boateng, had raised objection against CHRAJ’s jurisdiction to investigate the matter.
The minister of finance had argued that the allegation that the government breached the promise that it was going to construct and maintain the cathedral with funds raised from private entities and non-governmental organisations was a political issue which the commission had no jurisdiction over.
Again, the National Cathedral Board chaired by Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah had challenged CHRAJ’s jurisdiction to investigate the alleged procurement breaches, arguing that such mandate laid with the Attorney-General and not CHRAJ.
The Board further argued that the National Cathedral being a company limited by guarantee did not constitute a ‘state owned enterprise’ stipulated under section 102 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) and therefore not covered under section 14 (2) € of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) warranting the application of the said Act.
Other respondents, including Rev Kusi Boateng, also argued that the commission could only exercise its investigative jurisdiction over ‘persons’ and or authorities and that “a Board’ of an artificial entity was not clothed with legal capacity to sue or be sued and by extension to be subjected to legal proceedings.
However, counsel for the complainant disagreed with this view and contended that the commission’s constitutional and statutory mandate related to areas and or subject matter and not entities and that the concept of legal personae was relevant only for purposes of court proceedings.
In its ruling signed by the commissioner, Joseph Whittal, CHRAJ indicated that it had the mandate to investigate all instances of alleged or suspected acts of corruption and the misappropriation of public moneys by officials pursuant to Article 218 (a) and (e) of the 1992 constitution and section 7(1) (a) and (f) of the Act 456.
The commission said although it was mindful of its limited jurisdiction, the objections on procurement breaches were erroneous as the commission had the mandate to investigate all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public moneys by officials under the constitution.
The commission indicated that the assertion by the respondents that “a Board’ of an artificial entity is not clothed with legal capacity to sue or be sued and by extension to be subjected to legal proceedings” could not be true and accurate representation of the law.
In the case of the National Cathedral Company of Ghana, CHRAJ indicated that although the complainant did not mention that he was lodging his complaint against the directors per se, the allegations of selection of contractors in breach of procurement processes which could only have been committed by the Directors albeit on behalf of the National Cathedral Company.
On January 16, 2023, the complainant, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, lodged a petition titled “Petition for an investigation into state funds paid to JNS Talent Centre Limited by the Controller and Accountant General’s department and the National Cathedral of Ghana pursuant to article 218 of the 1992 constitution”.
The plaints alleged deceit, abuse of power, conflict of interest, corruption and breach of public procurement procedures for the building of the National Cathedral.