General News of Friday, 16 January 2015
The suspended Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative (CHRAJ), Lauretta Lamptey, has said she is still the head of the Government agency despite being asked by the President to step aside following the establishment of a prima facie case against her in connection with investigations into alleged impropriety on her part concerning her official accommodation.
President John Mahama on the advice of the Judicial Council and pursuant to Article 146 (10) (b) of the 1992 Constitution, suspended Ms. Lamptey on January 13, 2015.
Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani, said in a statement on Tuesday that: “The suspension follows the establishment of a prima facie case against Ms. Lamptey by the Chief Justice, and the setting up of a five (5)-member committee to investigate complaints made against her.”
In August last year, Lauretta Lamptey moved into a hotel after her US$4,200 monthly rent for the apartment, including utility bills at the AU Village expired.
Her official residence, which was previously occupied by her predecessor Justice Francis Emile Short, was at the time being redesigned with several variations at her instance, all at a cost of Ghc182,000.
Lamptey, as of late last year, was paying $456 a day for her hotel accommodation. In total, about Ghc161,302.5 was spent on Lamptey’s stay in the hotel between August and November 2014.
The controversy led to the removal of CHRAJ from a list of Human Rights Commissions for an International study.
Anti-graft body, Ghana Integrity Initiative, had earlier asked Ms. Lamptey to step aside voluntarily for investigations to be made into the saga.
Former CHRAJ Boss Emile Short also expressed qualms about his successor’s action, which he said erased the Commission’s credibility in fighting corruption.
Lamptey’s suspension, Mr. Bani noted, is to protect the integrity of the enquiry.
Ms. Lamptey has been asked to hand over her duties to a Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr. Richard Quayson, not later than Friday January 16, 2015.
She, however, told Joy FM’s Super Morning show host Kojo Yankson on Friday January 16, 2015 that her suspension is not the same as a dismissal.
“The suspension is a suspension for the period of investigations, it is not a removal from office. It is not. It can’t compare to resignation.”
Pressed by Yankson about why she did not opt to resign in the maelstrom of criticism against her after the story broke to avert the President’s suspension of her from office, Lamptey said she thought it was very important to remain in office to have investigations conducted to clear the air, rather than to leave the state agency in the lurch.
Her response was: “No I thought that [resigning] would have been completely out of order. If you are the head of an institution and there’s an accusation, and particularly since both myself and my deputy and pretty much anyway involved in the housing whose got an interest, first of all understood it to be CHRAJ’s transaction; so first of all, there was a little confusion about why it was being looked at as the Commissioner, and therefore for me, it’s my institution to think I was confident that in an audit or any kind of investigation, it would be clear that these are not personal decisions, and therefore if there was something wrong with the rental and if there was something improper with it, it will be the Commission.
It will not be proper for me to step aside and leave the Commission with that attack, with that criticism. I thought it was very important first of all to have an audit because that possibly will be the only way to clear the name of both an institution and an individual and that to step aside and have it not being investigated, I mean I never even contemplated, that’s like saying that there’s a mess and you are supposed to be in the centre of it and you don’t want to stay and make sure that that mess is cleaned up or seen to no be a mess, I thought it would be highly irresponsible to basically say: ‘I cannot stand the criticism so I’ll step aside. It would not have protected CHRAJ because any audit would have shown that it was the Commission and therefore if something was wrong…it would be very unfair if we didn’t make sure there was an investigation so that the Commission’s name was cleared and that’s why I didn’t resign…”