General News of Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Members of the ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee appointed to investigate the bribery allegations leveled against some Members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament have justified their jurisdiction.
There have been public concerns of conflict of interest and a call for Parliament to allow a different body outside of Parliament to investigate the allegations but starting its public hearings which was telecast live on Wednesday morning, the members of the committee unanimously agreed that they have the mandate and jurisdiction to investigate the matter.
The chairman of the committee, Mr Joe Ghartey explained that he was not going to recuse himself from the investigations explaining that he does not see any conflict of interest.
He explained the committee was established under Order 191 of the Standing Orders of Parliament which gives the House the power to appoint a special or ad-hoc committee to investigate any matter of public importance.
“We derive our power from Article 103 (3) of the Constitution, which states that committees of Parliament shall be charged with such functions including the investigation or enquiry into activities of the administration of ministries and departments of Parliament as they may determine etc.,” Mr Ghartey said.
Explaining, he said members of the committee were unanimous on the view that they have jurisdiction on the matter and that “the only way we can stop our work is when Parliament itself stops us.”
On the issue of conflict of interest of the members of the committee as Members of Parliament investigating their own members and the chairman [Joe Ghatey] who appeared before the Appointments Committee, Mr Ghartey said: “I don’t see any conflict of interest”.
Quoting Article 284 of the Constitution which states that a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office, Mr Ghartey said, “I’m a public officer as a Member of Parliament, unfortunately I don’t agree with those who think that my sitting as chairman poses a conflict of interest. I will therefore not recuse myself.”
Mr Ghartey stated: “Let me also remind you that in exercising our power, we have all the powers of a High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial but only in respect of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath… and compelling the production of documents or request to examine a witness abroad. We are not a court, this does not make us a court, we are committee of Parliament and we shall be guided by the Standing Orders of Parliament.” He made references to Order 196, 197 and 200.
Parliament formed the committee following allegations by the MP for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga that the Energy Minister, Mr Boakye Agyarko attempted bribing Minority members on the Appointments Committee with Gh¢3,000 each with the aim to influence his approval as Minister.
Mr Ayariga further claimed that the money was handed to the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka by the Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Mr Joseph Osei Owusu for onward disbursement, a claim both have denied.
Mr Ayariga together with two of his colleagues, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Mr Alhassan Suhuyini subsequently petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to investigate the claims.
The ad-hoc committee is chaired by the MP for Essikado-Ketan, Mr Joe Ghartey who is also a Minister in charge of Railways Development.
The four other members are Mr Ben Abdallah, Mrs Abena Durowaa Mensah, Mr Magnus Kofi Amoateng and Mr Benson Tongo Baba.
The terms of reference of the committee is to establish whether the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei Owusu took money from the Energy Minister, Mr Boakye Agyarko and gave it to the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka to the distributed to Members of the Appointments Committee.
It is also to establish whether there was an attempt to bribe Members of the Appointments Committee and to look into the merits of the complaints and assertions made by the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei Owusu about the matter.