Former Energy Minister, Dr. Joe Oteng-Adjei, has justified the use of a luxury vehicle he allegedly kept – even after his exit from government – for several months.
He has therefore dared members of ‘OccupyGhana’ who have suied him for keeping a Lexus vehicle with registration number GC 5958-11 leaving office as a minister.
The pressure group, led by Sydney Casely-Hayford, wants the court to order Dr. Oteng-Adjei to pay to the state a whopping GH¢355,812 for keeping the vehicle unlawfully for a period of 222 days (16 July, 2014 to 23 February, 2015).
The former minister after exiting government, allegedly kept the project car – Lexus LX 570 – purchased under rural electrification project.
An Auditor General’s report on the energy ministry regarding special rural electrification, had revealed that between 2010 and 2012 the ministry expended close to $2 million on 38 luxury vehicles and other office equipment which were to be used to monitor and inspect a rural electrification project.
OccupyGhana filed the suit on March 12 against Dr. Oteng-Adjei and joined the Attorney General in the suit.
The AG filed her defence on April 27, 2015, denying most of the claims but admitting that the said vehicle was one of the fleet of vehicles purchased under a project for the electrification of some communities in the Western, Central and Brong-Ahafo Regions, known as the Weldy Lamont Project.
In an attempt to shrug off the plaintiff’s claim of negligence, the AG appears to have exposed Dr. Oteng-Adjei when she averred that ‘Following a circular from the Chief of Staff, former ministers were allowed to use their official vehicles for a period of three months after leaving office.’
In his defence filed on April 28, Dr. Oteng-Adjei said he would contend that ‘in so far as his letter of appointment contained express provision on the cessation of his appointment, he did not cease to hold public office after the reshuffle.’
According to him, after the reshuffle, he continued to render public service including attending meetings particularly in the energy sector, meetings at the seat of government with relevant high level state officials in the Integrated Aluminuim project as part of preparations towards the recent visit to Qatar by the President of Ghana.
Dr Oteng-Adjei continued in his defence, ‘Defendant states that other ministers who were initially reshuffled and ceased to hold any ministerial positions were later reassigned to ministries and therefore 1st defendant, just like the said persons, had no doubt that he would be reassigned. This is moreso when his appointment contained express and clear terms on the rights of both contracting parties.’
Dr. Oteng-Adjei further argued that it was only after his appointment as Chairman of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) on March 4, 2015 that by implication, he ceased to act as public servant adding, ‘even though he had not been expressly terminated as Minister of State as required by his letter of appointment.’
The former energy minister’s defence posits, ‘1st defendant would contend that the action is a pretext by his political enemies to punish him for what they perceived to be his action which led to the state saving $46 million which otherwise would have benefited some interested parties.’
He said he had never refused to return the vehicle and at all material times, had no intention to unlawfully keep it saying, ‘The present action is without any basis and is not justifiable.’
By William Yaw Owusu
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