Francisca Oteng Mensah, deputy minister of gender, children, and social protection, was accused of having a conflict of interest in the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the National Youth Authority, but the allegations were rejected by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) (NYA). A citizen named Ismail Mohammed filed a complaint with the commission on January 28, 2021, alleging that Ms. Mensah had presided over the NYA board meeting that allocated GH3 million for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the fight against COVID-19 on March 30, 2020 while serving as board chairperson.
Adonko Bitters Limited, a division of the Angel Group of Companies, a limited liability company owned by Ms Mensah personally and by her biological father, Kweku Oteng, was allegedly ordered to purchase hand sanitizer/alcohol on her behalf during the board meeting. The complaint alleged a conflict of interest with the action. The board chair’s actions, according to the complainant, violated Section 7 of the law that established the NYA as well as Article 284 of the Constitution of 1992, which states that “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.”
In a 111-page report signed by the Commissioner, Joseph Whittal, and released on February 2, 2023, CHRAJ dismissed the allegations on grounds that they lacked merit, as investigations conducted by the commission and evidence provided did not support the case of conflict of interest against Ms Mensah. The commission, presenting its findings, indicated that evidence showed that on March 31, 2020, at a board meeting chaired by Ms Mensah, the board of the NYA had approved GH¢3 million to fund the ‘Youth in COVID-19 Campaign’ and related activities. The NYA, it said, used part of the GH¢3 million to procure PPE for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and that the PPE consisted of alcohol-based hand sanitiser amounting to GH¢68,980.58 from Adonko Bitters Ltd, of which Ms Mensah and her father were directors and shareholders.
The allegation that the board chairperson participated in, deliberated over, and presided over the purchase of hand sanitizer from Adonko Bitters Limited and failed to disclose her interest in the matter is not supported by the evidence, despite the fact that there was no evidence that Ms. Mensah gave instructions for its acquisition from Adonko Bitters. The commission further stated that the respondent was not required to disclose her private capacity stake in Adonko Bitters Ltd. at any of the board meetings held in March and June 2020.
It was determined that there were inconsistencies in the procedures used by the administration of the NYA to purchase the PPE, which led Ms. Mensah to formally step in and have Adonko Bitters Ltd. supply 290 boxes when it struggled to find supplies of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It stated that the Deputy Gender Minister’s decision to order Adonko Bitters Ltd to provide hand sanitizer to the NYA did not constitute a conflict of interest and that, as of the time the investigation into this case was concluded, Adonko Bitters Ltd had not picked up its check for GH68,980.58 from the NYA in respect of supplies of hand sanitizer made to the NYA.
According to the totality of the evidence, the respondent did not place herself in a situation where the fulfillment of her official duties as the chair of the NYA Board of Directors would be in conflict with her personal interests. The commission did, however, commend both the complainant and the deputy minister for their cooperation and public-spiritedness in filing the complaint.