General News of Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Parliament: Committee to probe bribery allegation begins work amid criticism

A five-member committee set up on Tuesday to spearhead an internal inquiry into bribery allegations against Parliament’s Appointments Committee begins Wednesday amid criticism it will not do a thorough job.

Joy News sources say Joe Ghartey-chaired Committee will take evidence from the three principal witnesses who first made the damning allegation – Mahama Ayariga, Alhassan Suhuyini, and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.

Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga alleged members of the Appointments Committee were offered GHC3,000 to approve Mr Boakye Agyarko ‘s bid for the Energy Minister.

He claimed all ten National Democratic Congress (NDC) members on the Committee returned the money to the minority Chief Whip after they were told it was given to them by Mr Agyarko to bribe them.

Tamale Central MP, Alhassan Suhuyini and North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa are the only one who have backed Mr Ayariga’s claim.

However, the two people implicated in the scandal - Mr Osei Owusu and Alhaji Muntaka - have each dismissed the claim describing it as a fabrication.

Even before the Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Ocquaye, announced the composition of the Committee yesterday, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), Dr. Eric Oduro Osae, and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Democratic Development (CDD), Regina Tetteh, both moved against an internal probe into the matter.

Pressure group, OccupyGhana has also called for a police-led investigation into the allegation.

Executive Director of African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Rasheed Draman, has also criticised the internal enquiry on grounds that it cannot effectively probe itself on the matter.

“I think that it is within the powers of Parliament to do what it did, but given the level of public interest in this matter and given the calls from across different groups for this matter not to be handled by a body from within Parliament, I thought that the leadership of Parliament would have perhaps considered those concerns,” he said.

All the members of the committee are Legislators, and the Chairman of the Committee is set to appear before the same Appointments Committee that has been embroiled in the allegation to be vetted for his Railways Development Ministry portfolio.

Dr Draman said by neglecting the calls for an independent inquiry Parliament has set the stage for its findings to be contested.

“Are these [Committee] members independent-minded enough?” he asked.

Upholding Standing Orders 191 which advises the formation of a special committee to investigate any matter of public importance, the Speaker announced the high-powered parliamentary special committee to investigate the matter.

The committee members as suggested by the Majority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu agreed to by the Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu and approved by the

Speaker are:

(a) Essikadu/Ketan MP, Joe Ghartey as Chairman

(b) Offinso South MP Ben Abdallah Banda

(c) Juaben MP, Ama Pomaa Boateng

(d) Talensi MP, Benson Tongo Baba

(e) Yilo Krobo MP, Magnus Kofi Amoatey

The terms of reference given the Special Committee are;

(a) To establish if First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu took money from Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko and gave it to Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka.

(b) To do an internal inquiry to find out whether there were attempts to bribe members of Appointments Committee

(d) To look into the remit of complaints and assertions made by First Deputy Speaker about the matter.