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General News of Friday, 12 January 2018


Muntaka, Ablakwa at ‘cash-for-seat’ probe

Two National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs), Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa yesterday appeared before the ‘Cash for Seat’ Committee set up by the Speaker of Parliament to probe allegation of extortion of money from expatriate businessmen by the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, who is the Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, was very liberal in his submission at the committee sitting – calling on members of the committee to do a very diligent work to be able to establish the truth in the allegation.

However, Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu, was very emphatic that some people at the presidency connived with some officials at the ministry to extort monies from expatriate businessmen during the recent Ghana Expatriate Business Award.

When Mr Mubarak Muntaka was asked by the chairman of the committee whether he had any evidence that the presidency was connected with the collection of the money, he said that he could not say so and that it was up to the committee to establish that truth.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa was also asked whether he had any evidence of the involvement of the presidency, and he replied that from all the correspondences emanating from the presidency and the Ministry of Trade and Industry before the Awards night, it was very clear that the presidency was aware of the money imposed on the expatriate businessmen, who were to sit at the presidential circle, red circle, yellow circle, green and black circles, ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.

He said the Millennium Excellence Foundation, which organised the event under the auspices of the ministry, had officially communicated to the presidency about the intention to impose those charges and that presidential acknowledgement was given.

He said cheques from those ‘improper charges’ were asked to be sent to the Foundation, a private organisation operated from Room 308 of the ministry.

“How is it possible that this account, which the cheque was lodged into, was operated by the financial controller and chief director of the trade ministry?” he questioned.

According to the North Tongu MP, one Prince Boakye Boateng, a chief director at the ministry, confirmed the collection of money by the ministry during an interview on Starr FM – an Accra-based radio station.

Mr Ablakwa also said that he has hard evidence that the Chairman of Interplast Group of Companies was one of the expatriate businessmen who paid $100,000 to sit with President Akufo-Addo on the special high table during the awards night.

“I find it curious that government is saying it knows nothing about such a directive and it is blaming mischievous minds for piecing such information together,” Ablakwa charged.

He pointed to paragraph six of a letter dated December 21, 2017, emanating from the ministry, which he said presents another contradiction as, according to him, speaks about auditing of the funds realized from the event.

“Mr Chairman, the Deputy Minister of Trade, Carlos Ahenkorah, had told Joy FM they only served as a conduit and all monies received were sent to the Millennium Excellence Foundation,” he said.

At a point in his presentation, he said that civil society groups and anti-corruption agencies had found cause to worry about such ‘cash for seat’ saga which he believes is an act of corruption.

He mentioned CDD-Ghana and Ghana Integrity Initiative as some of the civil society groups also calling for probe into this alleged corruption scandal.

He wanted to rope in a member of the committee and New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Adentan, Yaw Buaben Asamoa, in his submission as someone who would have also spoken against such corrupt act as a former official of Integrity Initiative, but the chairman of the committee quickly intervened and asked him not to move on that tangent because the MP is a member of the committee and could compromise on his independence.