Congratulatory statements, streaming from far and wide, are trailing the recent acquittal of celebrated former Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams, after an 18-month-long probe into allegations of corruption and abuse of office against him.
The Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health is the latest to add a voice to such remarks, saying Dr. Awoonor-Williams, who was honoured in 2006 by the World Medical Association (WMA) as one of 65 most “Caring Physicians of the World”, would never compromise his integrity.
“The Coalition of NGOs in Health, Upper East Region Chapter, wishes to congratulate Dr. Awoonor-Williams, former Regional Director of Ghana Health Service, Upper East Region, on his exoneration by an investigation conducted by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in a matter of contention between him and BONABOTO.
“The CHRAJ, upon receipt of a formal complaint from the executives of BONABOTO, proceeded to investigate the matter. The investigation report by the CHRAJ has, however, duly cleared Dr. Awoonor-Williams of any wrong doing. Whilst congratulating Dr. Awoonor-Williams on his exoneration, we particularly commend him for exhibiting collectedness during the period of the feud and the investigation which culminated in his exoneration,” said the coalition in a statement signed by its Upper East Regional Chairman, Noble Asakeya Alagskomah.
Also commending the CHRAJ, the coalition added: “We the members of the Coalition wish to commend the CHRAJ for painstakingly and professionally carrying out the investigation which we believe will eventually lay to rest the longstanding feud.”
The Feud, the Fallout and the Finality
Dr. Awoonor-Williams’s integrity came under a serious public review after his successor, Dr. Kofi Issah, announced in 2016, and reiterated same announcement many times, that five of the official vehicles his predecessor was expected to have handed over on his transfer in 2015 were missing at the directorate’s transport pool.
He was not alone in a public shaming move many also felt was aimed at his reputation. BONABOTO, an ethnic group who joined Dr. Issah in spreading the claims in the media against him, also accused the Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) at the time, Dr. Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, of trying to “cover up for this illegality.”
The allegations, according to Dr. Appiah-Denkyira, dented his image and that of Dr. Awoonor-Williams “not only in Ghana, but all over the world”. Despite receiving a firm word over and over again from the GHS headquarters that the vehicles were not missing and in spite of their new locations being shown and the reasons for their relocation explained, both Dr. Issah and the group would welcome none of the explanations. They continued to hawk their claims everywhere, calling for the return of the vehicles, until the CHRAJ received a petition to bring “finality to this matter” by launching investigations into the allegations.
“The Commission, at the end of the investigation, has not made any adverse findings against the respondents for abuse of office/power as well as corruption. The allegations in the media to that effect, which prompted the Commission to commence the investigations, have not been borne out or cannot be substantiated,” concluded CHRAJ, after compiling into a 71-page report findings that took 72 weeks to dig up.
Coalition regrets “isolated action of BONABOTO”
The coalition is aware with worry that the reputational damage caused Dr. Awoonor-Williams globally by the “false accusations” is huge and is bound to bring about some adverse consequences upon the entire region in return.
Brooding over the potential after-effects of the actions taken by Dr. Issah and BONABOTO on the region, the coalition concluded its statement with a clarion call on citizens to be circumspect when involved in public institution matters.
“We wish to state that, though we encourage citizens’ participation in the general governance of public institutions, we think it should be conducted with circumspection in order not to cause disaffection for the region.
“We regret the unfortunate but isolated action of BONABOTO and, therefore, wish to assure the general public, especially persons wanting to serve in the region, that its people are very hospitable and warmly welcoming and would, therefore, continue to maintain open doors to enable all and sundry to contribute to the development of the Upper East region,” stressed the coalition.
Coalition highlights Awoonor’s achievements in Upper East
“Much of the improvement witnessed today in the health sector in the Upper East region”, in the exact words of the coalition, “is the product of several innovative policies and brainchildren of Dr. Awoonor-Williams”.
Listing a number of the such initiatives, the coalition mentioned: “A human resource management policy which resulted in the boosting and retention of professional health staffs in the Upper East region, particularly midwives, community health nurses and general nurses; massive improvement in existing but dilapidated physical infrastructure, especially office and staff accommodation and an improvement in maternal and child health through the interventions of the Ghana Essential Health Intervention Project (GEHIP).”
It added: “Currently, the GHS in the region is enjoying a 9-million-US-dollar GEHIP scale-up project, known as CHPS Plus, funded by the Korean Government. The project, which is expected to improve the efficiency and benefits of Community-based Health Planning Services (CHPS) and maternal and child health in particular, was initiated and piloted effectively and efficiently by and under the tutelage of Dr. Awoonor-Williams and now in the upscale stage.”