Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Friday, May 15, 2015
Former Energy Minister, Dr. Joe Oteng-Adjei, has justified the use of a luxurious vehicle he allegedly kept even after his exit from government for several months.
He is therefore daring OccupyGhana who are suing him for keeping a Lexus Vehicle with registration GC 5958-11 after being reshuffled from office as Minister.
The pressure group together with one of its leaders Sydney Casely-Hayford, want the court to order Dr. Oteng-Adjei to pay to the state a whopping GH¢355,812 for keeping the car unlawfully for a period of 222 days (16th July 2014 to 23rd February 2015).
The former minister after exiting from government, allegedly kept the project car, Lexus LX 570 purchased under rural electrification project.
An Auditor General's report on the Energy Ministry on the special rural electrification had between 2010 and 2012 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 action.
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.”
Dr. Oteng-Adjei in his defence filed on April 28, 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.”
“The defendant states that after the reshuffle, he continued to render public service including attending meetings particularly in the energy sector, including 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.”
“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,” he averred.
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.”
He accused OccupyGhana of having political agenda to embarrass him and the NDC and said he had not caused any financial loss to the country.
“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 claimed.
He said he had never refused to return the vehicle and at all material times had no intention to unlawfully keep same saying, “the present action is without any basis and is not justiciable.”
OccupyGhana want a declaration that 1st Defendant’s (Dr. Oteng-Adjei) keeping and use of Lexus Vehicle from 16th July 2014 to 23rd February 2015 “amounts to conversion and detinue”; and a further declaration that the government was negligent in not ensuring that Dr. Oteng-Adjei returned the vehicle upon leaving office as Minister on 16th July 2014.
The plaintiffs said they want the court to declare that the state and people of Ghana are entitled to surcharge or otherwise be paid or compensated by Dr. Oteng-Adjei “for his wrongful and illegal use” of the vehicle.
They further want the court to order the AG (2nd defendant) to recover from Dr. Oteng-Adjei “GH¢355,812 at the rate of 25% per annum, calculated on calendar month basis from 16th July 2014 to 23rd February 2015,” as well as “general damages against 1st Defendant in conversion and detinue,” and costs.