…. Report To Further Delay
The release of the Joe Ghartey committee report on the bribery allegations that hit Parliament recently, may further delay, as a Member of the House, has applied to provide fresh evidence on the matter to the Committee.
This comes at a time when the committee was just about to wrap up on its investigations.
The 5-member committee is said to have recently relocated to a cozy hotel at Aburi in the Eastern Region to finalize its report, but was confronted with accusations of bias over refusal to hear the Tamale Central MP, Alhassan Suhuyini and North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa. The two had on the advice of the committee submitted a memorandum to provide some evidence to the committee.
Strangely, they had not been written to by the committee and given dates to appear and give the evidence which include a video tape from a CCTV footage dated Friday, January 27, 2017.
The 5-member Committee was set up, following allegations that the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, bribed some members of the Appointments Committee of parliament to facilitate his approval after appearing before it for vetting.
The second Deputy Majority Whip, Matthew Nyindam, who confirmed the development to Citi News, said although the deadline for the submission of the report was due, the Committee would still have to take the evidence of the interested party to prevent suspicion of bias.
“We met last week on a business issue and I raised that issue with the majority leader, and I asked him when this Joe Ghartey thing will be ready, because the public is interested, we are also interested as a house because it is an alleged issue and we all have to clear it. According to the leader, a member said he has some kind of evidence to tender in so they have to hold on for him to bring it so that it doesn’t look like somebody is fighting against the other.”
Matthew Nyindam, who remained tight-lipped on which MP had made the fresh application, said the report would be ready soon.
“It is true that the period given has expired, and I don’t recollect vividly that the speaker extended it, but the report is not ready. It is not illegal; there is no illegality in this. The only thing is that they would have gone to see the speaker for an extension of time and the speaker would have granted that,” he said.
Various civil society groups and individuals are mounting pressure on the committee to release the report on the matter which many say, has dented the image of the legislative body.
Dr. Rashid Raman, the Executive Director of the Africa Center for Parliamentary Affairs, has said that the longer the delay in the release of the report, the more likely Ghanaians will doubt the accuracy of the findings when eventually published.
But speaking to Class 91.3FM’s parliamentary correspondent Ekow Annan on Monday 20 March, Mr. Nyindam said: “The Joe Ghartey report will be brought to you very soon. We met last week on a business issue and I raised that issue with the Majority Leader and I asked him about the report because the public is interested and we Members of Parliament are also interested as a house, because it is an alleged issue and we all have to clear it.
“According to the leader, they were almost ready with the report, but a member came saying he had some kind of fresh evidence to tender and so they had to wait and let him bring it.
“What I was told was that a member said he had some kind of evidence to tender in, so they had to hold on for him to bring it so that it doesn’t look like somebody is fighting against the other person. It is true that the period given has expired but you will also recollect vividly that the Speaker extended it.”
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.