CHRAJ Boss Rent — A ‘Criminal’ Waste Of Scarce Funds?

The Daily Graphic’s investigations published on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 casts a terribly bad image on the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ms Lauretta Lamptey, and the concerned state actors. How did the state come to spend $203,500 in 37 months for her rent? Why should she live in a $456.25 per night hotel accommodation after the US$5,500 monthly rent for her apartment at the exquisite AU Village expired? Why has Ms Lamptey’s official residence renovation at the cost of GH¢182,000 taken so long yet remains uncompleted?

A parliamentary subcommittee is said to be probing this but facing frustrations because she has allegedly refused to honour their invitations. Please exact justification for the ‘humongously’ sinful rental allowance from the state actors responsible for the renovation of her residence, those who authorised the payment and those who made the payment. But she should have rejected that sinful rental allowance.

Worse if she is the one who demanded it. A major role for her is to champion administrative justice. One can suggest that at present she fails the basic entry qualification criteria of: “A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Justice of the Court of Appeal unless he is of high moral character and proven integrity …” in article 136(3) of the Constitution of Ghana.

She grants interviews same morning and states that she is paid $4,500.00 per month as rent allowance.

This revelation prompted by the Daily Graphic report is almost criminal, to say the least. It angers me as I ask; who is responsible for dolling out $4,500.00 as monthly rental in lieu of official accommodation for the CHRAJ boss, and on what basis this was determined? Whoever it is, and we certainly are not in the slightest doubt who authorises and who pays state officials.

So let the appointing authority or the Works and Housing and Finance ministries as well as the Controller and Accountant General immediately supply answers to these questions to the tax payer. I mean answers that would justify this apparent sinful squandering of funds of a state that cannot feed its school children who need only just about GHc 3.30 a day to stay in school, but can afford $35 a day to feed football fans it pays to visit Brazil. A state that is begging the IMF and donors to assist it honour its financial obligations to statutory bodies who are its agents of development.

I can’t understand this. The CHRAJ boss, like other heads of Independent Constitutional Bodies such as the Electoral Commission (EC) et al are on the same level as Justices of the Court of Appeal. That’s what the constitution dictates with fluorescent clarity in the relevant provisions including, in this case, Articles 221 and 223 which set the qualification for appointment and terms and conditions of service of a Commissioner of CHRAJ to those of Justices of the Court of Appeal; “A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, unless he is – in the case of Commissioner, qualified for appointment as a Justice of the Court of Appeal;…The Commissioner and deputy Commissioners shall enjoy the terms and conditions of service of a Justice of the Court of Appeal and High Court respectively.”

I heard the CHRAJ boss, on Joy Fm’s Super Morning Show, say she gets $4,500 as rent in lieu of official accommodation. Wow! I am aware Justices of the Court of Appeal get an amount which when converted into dollars translates to only about $330 for same rent in lieu of official accommodation. I suspect they get this fixed amount without any variations whatsoever regardless of the location of the rented accommodation, the distance to the court, etc.

I am further saddened that her said monthly rental alone translates to about three times the salary of Justices of the Court of Appeal. These are salaries that have almost always been paid in arrears. We as a nation exact such “high moral character and proven integrity” as basic entry qualification for our judges who must always boldly act without fear or favour, ill-will or affection as they preside over cases worth millions of dollars. They deserve our special celebration and encouragement as they keep to the tenets of their calling and their oath even in the face of such needless temptations.

Now, I think also that we are entitled to be told how much the CHRAJ boss earns each month. The tax payer needs to know if what she earns is consistent with the mandatory stipulations of law. Let all found culpable of wrongdoing in this suffer the attendant consequences and let them suffer the ultimate sanction if they are not minded to jump.

To make matters worse, no one can convince me that the CHRAJ as presently constituted has, in recent times, remained relevant in the public space as a vanguard of human rights and administrative justice. I cannot have any problems with Ms. Lauretta Lamptey as a qualified barrister and professional in the corporate world of banking where she has distinguished herself. But isn’t the job of the CHRAJ boss supposed to be for people with known Human Rights and Anti-Corruption record? I look no further to appreciate why CHRAJ isn’t what it was known under Justice Emile Short and Anna Bossman.

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