Laws Needed On Gifts To Government Officials
‘Naadu Mills Gave Obama $48,000 Gift... All the presents go to the National Archives as US law bars any US government official from receiving a present from a foreign government. Obama and others accepted the gifts because "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and US government," according to the register.’ *[Ghanaweb; General News of Thursday, 20 January 2011; GHP] *My interest in the story from which the bits above were culled does not arise from the size of this gift allegedly given by Ghana’s First Lady to Mrs Obama; nor does it arise because I want to know who the “real original owner” of the watch was. Instead, my interest in the story arises from what happened to the gift after it was given... which was that: Mrs Obama handed it over to the US National Archives, because she was barred by law from “receiving” it. Do Ghanaian laws bar our government officials from receiving gifts from foreigners or other givers? Ghanaian politicians will not make such laws, will they? And even if there were such laws, would Ghanaian government officials pay heed to them? Assuming that our government officials have to accept gifts from foreigners..... foreign governments or companies because they do not want to embarrass the givers...... [the same reason why Obama and others accepted the gifts, as stated above]...... would Ghanaian government officials hand them over to our National Archives, or some charitable organisations, to prove that their physical acceptance of the gifts was for “diplomatic reasons”, and not because they wanted them? Well, we all remember the case that involved twelve Ghanaian government officials who were sent to South Korea in connection with the Government’s Housing Project deal that was being negotiated with a Korean company. These government officials were given “cash gifts” of $2000 each which they received, accepted and kept. The total of $24,000 given by the Korean company was only half of the cash value of Mrs Mills’ alleged $48,000 worth of watch gift given to Mrs Obama. Nonetheless, its half value does not diminish its significance in helping to make a contrast between the Ghanaian government officials and their American counterpart. The Ghanaian government officials kept the gifts they were given, and defended their having accepted them. The American government official sent her gift to the US National Archives and, in effect, refused to accept it. The contrast between the conducts of the two sets of government officials is as clear as the difference between “black” and “White”, or between the “moon” and the “Sun”, or between “poverty” and “Affluence”. In discussing gifts given to government officials, two issues arise, namely: (1) the position of the law, as to what beneficiaries should do in such circumstances; and (2) the moral and ethical duty that government officials in such circumstances find themselves faced with, apart from any legal duty placed on them. From the quote above, we know the position of the law relating to gifts given to American government officials. In the United Kingdom, the general position on gifts given to MPs is that they, the MPs and for that matter government officials, can accept some gifts; but they have to officially declare all such accepted gifts. Failure to declare them constitutes an offence. There are certainly no laws in Ghana that deal with gifts given to government officials. If there were such laws, all Ghanaian government officials from Presidents to MPs would have breached them. *This raises an immediate need for laws to be passed to deal with gifts given to Ghanaian government officials and all other Ghanaian political office holders. Our laws could follow either the American ones that bar government officials from “receiving” such gifts; or the British laws that allow acceptance of some gifts but place a duty on politicians to officially declare such gifts. The idea of proscribing acceptance of such gifts in America is to make it difficult for foreigners to use gifts to influence US government officials, [I guess]. In the case of Britain, a declaration of gifts offered to, and accepted by serving politicians, [I guess], makes it possible for cases of conflict of interest to be looked into and established, for example, where the giver and the receiving politician share some common interests. In view of the fact that in Ghana, there are no laws that bar government officials from accepting gifts from foreigners or any other givers, the twelve “mentally deluded” government officials who accepted the total of $24,000 cash from the Korean company with whom they were negotiating a contractual agreement had the “infantile audacity” to argue that the cash given to them was “a gift”, and not “a bribe”. And to date, both the Government and the Opposition have left the twelve Ghanaian officials to go Scot-free, because of the absence of a law specifically proscribing the acceptance of gifts by government officials. And who would want to go to court, or even to CHRAJ, to prove to them that those “two thousand dollars each” gifts were “neatly wrapped” bribes? Ghana has copied a lot of foreign political ideas and practices from America and Britain, but we have always failed to copy and put in place their “control mechanisms” that allow those ideas and practices to work efficiently. *We must make and put in place laws to bar Ghanaian government officials from secretly or openly accepting any gifts from anybody while they are serving in any official capacity. We need these laws to stop our morally and ethically bankrupt and greedy politicians from exploiting their official positions to “make any makeable money” they can make, irrespective of any possible negative consequences their actions may have on the nation.
Source: Otchere Darko
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