Two Members of Parliament (MP) on the Minority side, have expressed total surprise about claims by the Joe Ghartey Committee that, it has met with some witnesses to take evidence in relation to the Agyarko Bribery scandal, The Herald, has gathered.
According to highly placed sources in the August House, the two, MP for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini and his colleague for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzato Ablakwa, say contrary to claims by the Committee that it has taken evidence from some three unknown witnesses, they have not been invited, let alone give evidence.
The young legislators, are expressing surprise because according to them, they requested to voluntarily appear before the Committee and per their knowledge of the scandal, they are yet to hear from the Essikadu-Katan MP’s Committee.
Sources say, they have not met with the Committee, but are only learning in the media that, some three witnesses have given evidence.
The MPs contend that, a statement signed by the acting Director, Public Affairs of Parliament, Kate Addo that three witnesses have been invited, hence the report is going to be released soon, is most shocking.
According to the two paragraph statement issued on Wednesday March 22, 2017, the Committee was considering its draft report, which will be forwarded to the House on Wednesday March 29, 2017, after the Business Committee approves it.
It is expected to be approved before Parliament goes on recess March ending.
“The Committee on allegation of bribery against the Chairman and some members of the Appointments Committee today met and took evidence from new witnesses.
In all, three witnesses were admitted; the Committee is now considering its draft report and would present the final to the House on 29th March, 2017 subject to approval by the Business Committee’, the statement said.
Last Monday, The Herald reported how the Committee was finding difficult to invite the two MPs after weeks of submitting memoranda to appear before it.
Below is the unedited copy of the story
The five-member ad-hoc-committee setup by Parliament to investigate the bribery scandal involving members of the Appointments Committee, is having difficulties to invite key witnesses who have willingly expressed their desire to give evidence to help unravel the truth behind the bribery scandal.
This comes weeks after two Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Minority side, wrote separate requests to the Committee to appear before it, to buttress the claim of the MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, that the bribery happened.
The time allotted the committee to probe the matter and submit its report has long elapsed, and there is no sign that the two key witnesses, will be invited to testify. Indeed, Parliament is expected to go on recess sometime next week.
Mahama Ayariga, had insisted that some members of the Appointments Committee on the Minority side, were offered GH¢3, 000 to approve Boakye Agyarko‘s appointment as Energy Minister; an allegation which has been refuted by Mr. Agyarko.
The chairman of the Appointment Committee, Joseph Osei Owusu, who is said to have handed the bribe money to the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, has also denied doing so.
But the Tamale Central MP, Alhassan Suhuyini and North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, want to be giving the opportunity to confirm that the bribe money was indeed, returned to the Minority Chief Whip, upon confirmation from the chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joe Osei Owusu, that the cash had come from Boakye Agyarko.
They insisted that, the claim by their colleague; Mahama Ayariga is true and that they are eager to appear before the Committee and give account on how they had to return their share of the bribe money to the Minority Chief Whip.
But The Herald is informed that, there has been no sign of the two being called by Committee chaired by MP for Essikado–Ketan in the Western Region, Joe Ghartey, who is the Railways Development Minister.
But, while the Committee delays in inviting the two, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a former deputy education minister, has gone ahead to provide further and better particulars to the Committee.
In his memorandum submitted to the Committee, the North Tongu MP, asked that a video tape from a CCTV footage dated Friday, January 27, 2017, be sought from Parliament to confirm how some two MPs separately returned two white envelopes to the Minority Chief Whip, Mubarack Muntaka, containing GH¢3, 000 bribe.
It will be recall the committee was given 30 days to finish it work and submit it findings to the Speaker, Prof. Mike Aaron Ocquaye. 30 days after its first sitting, but 30-day period has long elapsed.
The fact finding Committee, made it first sitting on Wednesday February 15, 2017 and has since taken evidences from the Bekwai MP, Joseph Osei Owusu, Mubarack Muntaka, who is the MP for Asawase, Boakye Agyarko, and Mahama Ayariga.
The last to appear before the committee was Mr. Okudzato Ablakwa, who wasn’t part of the principal witnesses, but was later allowed following his request to the committee to clarify and deny allegation leveled against him by the chairman of the Appointment Committee, Mr. Osei Owusu.
Before Mr. Ablakwa appeared, a journalist turned politician, Alhassan Suhuyini, also wrote to the Committee to be permitted to appear before it with his evidence.
The North Tongu MP, who appeared on Monday, February 20, 2017 with his lawyer, Dominic Ayine, had after debunking claims by chair of the Appointment Committee, wanted to speak to other matters concerning the issue, but he was stopped from giving additional oral evidence, and asked to put it in writing to the Committee.
According to the Chairman, Joe Ghartey, per the rules of the House, Mr. Okudzeto, who was not originally part of the witnesses to be heard orally, was only given the chance to appear before the Committee because he requested to be a witness.
He said, the proper thing for Mr. Okudzeto to do per their procedure, was to submit any further evidence aside what he read before the committee by memoranda.
He reminded him to submit the memoranda to the Committee on time, since they will soon be presenting their report to Parliament.
But a month after the chairman, indicated it would look into the two requests and invite Mr. Ablakwa and Alhassan Suhuyini, nothing has been heard from the five-member Committee, even though their time to submit their findings to the Speaker, has also elapsed.
Before the Speaker announced the composition of the Committee, 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, had both moved against an internal probe into the matter, they feared the Committee, may want to do a face saving investigation.
Many kicked against Parliament investigating itself, but the legislators, led by Mr. Ghartey, who was then yet to appear before the Appointments Committee as a minister designate, said they would deliver a thorough and clean report.
Pressure group, OccupyGhana, also called for a police-led investigation to the allegation.
Executive Director of African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Rasheed Draman, also criticized 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.
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.
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 were:
(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.