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General News of Thursday, 11 January 2018

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Cash-for-seat saga: Morton’s ‘damage control’ attempt ‘biggest joke in town’ – Ablakwa

Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa play videoMember of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

Member of Parliament for North Tongu and witness before parliament’s cash-for-seat probe, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has described as the ‘biggest joke in town’, an attempt by President of Millenium Excellence Foundation, Ashim Morton, to justify events regarding the alleged collection of monies from some expatriates for seats close to the President at the recently held Ghana Expatriates Business Awards held in Accra.

A sponsorship package for expatriates who wished to seat close enough to the President at the awards included an exclusive private dinner for two with the President on a selected date.

Following news of extortion that flooded the media waves after the awards, Mr. Ashim Morton suggested in a press conference last December, the title president referred to in a sponsorship package was him and not President Akufo-Addo.

Reacting to his comments, Mr. Ablakwa, who was the second to face the committee, Thursday, January 11, said it was a failed damage control attempt.

According to him, Mr. Morton’s defense was utterly ridiculous considering that the influence he has in his position as the president of an organization is in no way compared to the enormity of President Akufo-Addo’s power and authority for which reason anyone would want to pay such a huge amount ($100,000) to sit by him.

“The day he said that, that became the biggest joke on social media. Everybody was asking if anybody would pay $100,000 to go and meet with President Ashim Morton…..I think that he was attempting damage control because of the brouhaha, and it was a poorly advised damage control so I don’t only take it as a joke, I also take it with a pinch of salt,” the legislator told the committee.



He pleaded that Ghanaians overlook his error as it was a frantic effort on his part to deal with the pressure that came with the issue.

“I think that we should pardon the poor Ashim Morton that he was under a lot of pressure and this was how he also thought that he could try to help salvage the situation,” he said.

Arguing out his point, Ablakwa said “Mr. Chairman, if you look at the 23rd October 2017 which has the attachment of the awards, everything here about President is clear. The second paragraph says the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the government and the people of Ghana who for the first time recognize and honour the titans of the industry...

The fourth paragraph says; your tremendous interest in President Akufo-Addo’s economic transformation agenda, especially the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s 10-point industrial transformational program, particularly the 1-District-1-Factory Initiative, SME development programs, export programs…..is deeply acknowledged. It is very very clear Mr. Chairman…”, he told Chairman of the 5-Member ad-hoc Committee.

Background

The Minority has accused the Trades Ministry of abusing the presidency to raise funds for the organization of the Expatriate Business Awards organized on December 8, 2017.

According to the Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak, expatriate businessmen paid between ¢15,000-¢100,000 to sit close to the president of Ghana at the Awards night with and other benefits attached to it.

He described the transaction as lacking transparency, highly unethical and needs to be investigated.

The revelations by the Minority caused a huge public uproar which forced the president to summon the Trades Minister to provide him details of the scandal.

After hearing from Alan Kyeremanten, the sector Minister, the president caused a statement to be issued by the Information Minister clearing the Minister of any wrongdoing.

But the Minority was unimpressed and demanded an urgent sitting in Parliament during which they demanded an investigation.

The Speaker agreed to the call and constituted a five-member committee to look into the matter.

On Thursday, the mover of the motion in Parliament, Muntaka Mubarak and the seconder of same Okudzeto Ablakwa have testified to the matter and to adduce evidence they believe cast doubts on what the Trade Ministry and the presidency have said about the cash-for-seat scandal.

Ablakwa provided documentary evidence he claims were a comedy of contradictions by the Trades Minister Alan Kyerematen.

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