General News of Wednesday, 15 February 2017
The first witness in the MP bribery investigations Joe Osei-Owusu says claims that MPs were paid monies to approve a ministerial nominee appeared to him initially as 'a joke'.
At a special hearing into the bribery claim, the Bekwai MP said when he attempted to tackle the issue of the bribery allegation, North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa made a comment that got a room full of MPs to break into laughter suggesting the bribery claim was just politics.
Joe Osei-Owusu who is chairman of the Appointments Committee of Parliament said this while testifying at the Special committee of parliament investigating bribery claims made by Bawku MP Mahama Ayariga.
The Bawku MP said on Accra-based Radio Gold that some NDC MPs returned 3,000 cedis to the Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak after they realised it was to buy their approval for an embattled minister-designate Boakye Agyarko.
The claim made public Friday 27 January has taken parliament by storm. At a special hearing chaired by Joe Ghartey, the Chairman of the Committee that vets nominees told his side of the story.
He said on Friday 27, January 2017, just before he was to table a report requesting parliamentary approval for five ministerial nominees, the Minority leader called for a closed door meeting among Appointments Committee of parliament.
He described this meeting as a conclave meeting. It was to discuss the possibility of approving two embattled nominees without having to take a vote on them. In the meeting, Boakye Agyarko was offered an opportunity to re-phrase comments he made at his vetting which had irked the Minority MPs now bent on resisting his approval.
After the matter was discussed, Joe Osei-Owusu says he raised concerns about media publications suggesting that he was given monies which he gave to Minority Chief Whip to share among some MPs.
"We were going to leave and I said no there is this allegation in the public domian", he recalled.
"All the minority members said Mr. Speaker take your time, cool down, cool down" he reported efforts to appeal for calm after it was evident that he was angry with the allegations made.
It was at that moment that North Tongu MP Okudzeto Ablakwa intervened and explained that the allegation was made up because the NPP had characterised their former leader John Mahama as corrupt.
"We were spreading the corruption allegations", Joe Osei Owusu reported Okudzeto as saying.
This explanation had an effect on the meeting. "...the mood in the office changed...we were all laughing", he revealed his relief at what appeared to be typical political equalisation. This was a game he could live with, he thought to himself.
"I thought the matter was over because of what Okudzeto has said". But by Friday 6pm, Mahama Ayariga was on air stressing the allegation of bribery is true. Media focus on the matter went into overdrive as political discussions over the weekend was stuck on the bribery saga.
He said he had since taken the matter seriously and would wish the committee will take every step possible to clear his name because he never took money or distribute same to anybody to have a nominee approved.
The issue remains whether Okudzeto's comment at that private meeting was a joke to calm tempers or a serious statement.