9 January 2013

Ghana: Outcry Over Barton - Odro

Even before President John Dramani Mahama names his Cabinet, the Government has come under sharp criticism for two appointments sponsored by the administration of the National Democratic Congress in Parliament House.

A number of people who talked to The Chronicle are disappointed in the appointment of Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor, the immediate past Attorney-General, who heads Government Business in the House as Majority Leader, and particularly, the elevation of Mr. Ebo Barton-Odro from Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to First Deputy Speaker, who automatically becomes Chairman of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee.

In Accra, Mr. Vitus Azeem, Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, the local chapter of Transparency International, expressed shock at Mr. Barton-Odro, whose pronouncement that "the State has no case" dominated discussions on the infamous GH¢51 million dole-out to Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome, touted in political circles as financier of the ruling party.

"The appointment raises eye-b rows," Mr. Azeem stated. "Many people thought after the drama of the Woyome scandal, Mr. Barton-Odro would not have been considered for any appointment in the Mahama regime. Now, not only has he been given an appointment, he has even been given a higher responsibility, "Mr. Azeem complained.

"Snag is Parliament has already given approval to his appointment. But I suppose that cannot stop people from wondering," the anti-corruption campaigner added.

At Cape Coast, where Mr. Barton Odro narrowly beat Dr. Mrs. Henrietta Abane by 21,189 to 19,558 to claim the Cape Coast North Constituency seat, a lawyer who pleaded anonymity expressed shock at the elevation of the former Deputy Attorney-General.

"I thought Mahama would make a clean departure from the events that begat the infamous Woyome scandal by dumping all those whose actions and inactions caused the Ghanaian tax-payer to lose the huge GHc51 million which was wrongly paid to Woyome.

"By the appointment of Barton-Odro, the only message out there is that nothing has changed. It is welcome to the free for all corrupt practices of the main players in the John Evans Atta Mills' regime. I am slowly getting the impression that in the NDC, corruption is rather rewarded," he said.

At the beach just behind the Castle, Atta Panyin, a fisherman, exclaimed that "I have been going on fishing expedition for the past 40 years and I am still struggling to feed the family.

Somone comes and claims to b e owed money by the state. Without any scrutiny, the person is doled out GH¢51 million of state money. The comedy in the whole show, he lamented, was that those who aided the massive loss to the state were never punished, rather they were given higher posts.

"Meanwhile, those of us at the bottom rungs of the ladder are unable to come by pre-mix fuel for fishing. Ghana is not worth dying for," Atta Panyin lamented.

At the time the story on the GH¢51 million became public knowledge, then Attorney-General, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu had filed a writ at an Accra Fast Track High Court, seeking to set aside the default judgment obtained by Mr. Woyome. The AG's Department did not pursue it.

When questions were asked as to why the case was not pursued, Mr. Barton-Odro told Joy FM that in his capacity as the Deputy Attorney-General, the "state has no case" and that pursuing it would have created a huge financial burden on the state, in the form of interests resulting from delayed payment of the money to Woyome.

In his expose on the Woyome saga, after he had been shown the exit door as Attorney-General, Mr. Martin Amidu wrote among many other allegations of collusion at the AG's Department as follows:

"And the same Government still expects the public to trust the fairness of the Deputy Attorney-General, who saw nothing wrong with the payment in the first place. We, the people of Ghana, have a political right to be informed of Government intentions."

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