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General News of Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

PAC arrest: Avedzi fires back at 'absentee committee member' Afenyo-Markin

Chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), James Avedzi has remarked the Member of Parliament for Effutu, Alexander Afenyo-Markin is “an absentee committee member” hence has no right to condemn the committee’s decision to order the arrest of some finance officers who appeared before it.

Mr. Avedzi, on Monday, asked parliament's police to arrest Isaac Akowuah and James Essilfie who are current and former finance officers from the Sefwi Akontombra District Assembly respectively, after they were cited for irregularities at the assembly in the Western region.

Avedzi was convinced the behavior put up by these officers was a deliberate attempt to hide some payment vouchers from the committee.

“You want to hold the committee to ransom; that the two of you [connived] to try and deceive this committee…we are going to lock you up. The police will take a statement from you and that statement will be used against you in the law court. We [the Public Accounts Committee] will not prosecute you. [Instead] The government will take over [this case],” he told the two men who were subsequently whisked away by the police.

MP for North Dayi, George Loh, in an interview with Accra-based Citi FM argued the arrests were in the right direction. He applauded Avedzi for exhibiting courage.

“This is what possibly would have been needed long ago but maybe the chairmen at that time did not point out to that direction, but I am happy that something has happened," he said. "If there was anything that the PAC needed to give Ghanaians confidence in its work, it is the ability to bite.”

Afenyo-Markin however argued that the committee is setting a bad precedent with the arrest of the two public officials. 

Explaining his stance on the same platform, he said the arrests, considering were done without "proper investigative evaluation" could amount to "overzealously acting in a manner that will abuse people’s rights”. 

“We shouldn’t set a bad precedent. Under criminal jurisprudence, due process is essential, therefore to me, as a matter of law, if there were issues regarding the testimonies, Avedzi should have filed a complaint or go to the police to file a complaint,” he said.

“Are we documentation examiners? Are we fraud examiners? On what basis did we say the document is compromised,” he added.

Continuing his argument, Afenyo-Markin in an interview on Kasapa FM said, “I say this one with the law of emphasis- I’ll doubt if any serious Lawyer in this country, will ever dissent on this sacred legal position. 

“Off course anybody for social justice, you in the media you can disagree because obviously you may want to look at it differently. A doctor or an engineer or anybody with any other profession, any Civil Society Organization or any Civil Society person may dissent, but I doubt if any lawyer will ever say that this is not the position of the law. I may have to go back to the law school."

But Avedzi, without mincing words, says Afenyo-Markin who is a member of the committee mandated to “examine the audited accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure of the government as presented to the House by the Auditor-General of Ghana," cannot criticise the body because he is an absentee hence, lack understanding of why the decision was taken.

“I don’t think he is the only lawyer in Ghana. Unfortunately, he is a member of this committee. If he had been attending committee meetings, definitely he would have understood why we took that decision.

“I blame him for taking that position because he has been absent without any permission from attending the committee’s meetings. So let’s leave him alone. He is the only person against the bold decision we have taken,” the PAC Chairman said.

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