Parliament has set up a five-member ad hoc committee to investigate the allegation that each member of the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) was given GH¢3,000 bribe by the then Minister designate for Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko, to facilitate his approval.
The committee is chaired by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Esikadu/Ketan (NPP) and former Second Deputy Speaker, Mr Joe Ghartey, with Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, the MP for Offinso South (NPP); Ms Ama Pomaa Boateng, the MP for Juaben (NPP); Mr Magnus Kofi Amoatey, the MP for Yilo Krobo (NDC), and Mr Benson Tongo Baba, the MP for Talensi (NDC) as the other members.
One of the terms of reference of the committee is to investigate the allegation that the Chairman of the ACP, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, had taken money from Mr Boakye Agyarko and given same to the Minority Chief Whip and Deputy Ranking Member on the ACP, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka-Mubarak, to be given to Minority members on the committee.
The committee is to enquire whether attempts had been made to bribe members of the ACP and also look into any related matters.
It has been given one month to submit its report to Parliament.
The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, gave his blessing for the setting up of the committee after an earlier proposal by the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, which was supported by the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.
The Majority and the Minority leaders indicated that the Privileges Committee of Parliament was supposed to handle the matter, but considering the fact that Mr Osei-Owusu, who is the First Deputy Speaker, is the Chairman of the Privileges Committee, it might raise issues about the impartiality of the committee.
Besides, it would attract unnecessary partisanship.
Although, they said, Mr Osei-Owusu could recuse himself for his vice to chair the committee, it would still leave some lingering doubts in the minds of Ghanaians.
Messrs Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and Iddrisu, therefore, resorted to Order 191 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, which allows for the setting up of an ad hoc committee to investigate any matter of public interest.
Mr Iddrisu said Ghanaians were very angry about the allegation of bribery, which was eroding the trust the people had in the House.
“Ghanaians want nothing but to get to the truth of the matter,” he said.
He said the investigation would redeem personal integrity and restore the dignity of the House, saying, “We want to get to the bottom of the matter as to who did what.”
He said if the House did not find the work of the ad hoc committee satisfactory, it could resort to other legal options.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the allegation had gained a lot of currency and that the issue must be handled well.
He said he agreed with the Minority Leader that members should be concerned about establishing the truthfulness in the matter.
He said given the circumstances, it would be proper to establish a special committee, as required by Order 191, to look into the matter.
Speaker on allegation
Prof. Oquaye said it was fit and proper to set up the ad hoc committee to look into the matter, which was of public interest.
He advised MPs against any public statements on the matter, as it would amount to contempt of the committee.
He said the decision to set up the committee would have a general application and might involve any person or authority, including ministers.
Mr Osei-Owusu set the tone by reading a statement recounting how the news of the alleged bribery started and the responses thereafter.
He said he never “discussed, requested, demanded nor received money of whatever quantum for myself or committee members from Mr Agyarko or any other person, for that matter”.
Besides, he said, he had not discussed, offered or given any money to Alhaji Muntaka-Mubarak for himself or for the members of the Minority on the ACP.
Therefore, he said, the allegation by Mr Ayariga “is a colossal untruth which has done grievous damage to my reputation and hard-earned integrity as a lawyer of 27 years’ standing, a public servant of high repute, a respected MP for the Bekwai Constituency and Ashanti in general”.
Mr Osei-Owusu said his fervent heart’s desire was to go to the civil court to reclaim his integrity.
However, he said, he was aware of the challenges one had to battle with any litigation involving a sitting MP, but indicated that the Speaker had the power to permit service of court processes on a sitting MP through his office.
“I crave your indulgence to assist me to ventilate my grievance in court. If I am successful, it may help redeem the image of this Parliament which is often battered by its own members,” he said.
The MP for Effiduase/Asokore, Nana Ayew Afriyie, indicated that the allegation had affected the image of Parliament and was crippling the commitment of members to work, hence the need to investigate it and establish the truth or otherwise.
Genesis of the allegation
In a radio interview, Mr Ayariga had alleged that Alhaji Muntaka-Mubarak had given each Minority MP on the ACP GH¢3,000.
He said following rumours that the money was given by Mr Agyarko, he confronted Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak about the source and Alhaji Muntaka-Mubarak told him that it was Mr Osei-Owusu who had given the money to him, with the explanation that the money was from Mr Agyarko.
Mr Ayariga said following that revelation, he, together with his colleagues in the Minority, returned the money because initially they had thought it was a sitting allowance.
But Mr Osei-Owusu had denied taking any money from Mr Agyarko, while Alhaji Muntaka-Mubarak had also denied giving any money to Mr Ayariga.
Alhaji Muntaka-Mubarak challenged Mr Ayariga to provide evidence that he (Alhaji Muntaka-Mubarak) had given such money to him.
Mr Agyarko, on the other hand, had refuted the allegation that he had given money to members of the ACP and threatened legal action against Mr Ayariga.
But Mr Ayariga said he stood by his claim of alleged bribery.
Three Minority MPs on the ACP have written to the Speaker of Parliament, requesting thorough investigations into the allegation.
The MPs are Mr Ayariga (Bawku Central), who first made the allegation; Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (North Tongu) and Mr Alhassan Sayibu Suhuyini ( Tamale North).