Parliament sets up a 5-man committee to probe ‘cash-for-seat’ saga

Ghana Parliament

Parliament Friday set up a five-member special adhoc committee to investigate the cash-for-seat saga involving the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The committee is to investigate whether any levy had been imposed on the expatriates and the collection of same.

It is also to investigate how payments were disbursed and whether the disbursements offended any laws.

The committee is to also investigate when the matter arose, whether it could be perceived to be something new that has arisen, whether the matter could have been raised during the regular sitting and also whether the matter had been raised during the last session.

The committee, which is to present its report to Parliament on January 24, 2018, has the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, as the Chairman with Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, Chairman of the Finance Committee, the MP for Ademtan, Mr Yaw Buaben Asamoa, the Deputy Minority Leader, James Avedzi, and the MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr Dominic Ayine as members.

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye directed the formation of the committee after a debate on a motion on the subject matter moved by the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, at an emergency sitting of Parliament.

Alhaji Muntaka requested for an emergency sitting to consider a motion for a Parliamentary probe into the purported sale of seats at an event for participants to sit close to the President.
The allegation is that the Ministry of Trade and Industry was involved in the collection of between $15,000 and $100,000 from expatriate businesses to secure them a seat at the table of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at an awards ceremony on December 8, 2017.
Following the allegations of corruption against the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the presidency initiated an investigation into the matter by seeking explanations from the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen.
After the investigations, the presidency cleared the Ministry of Trade and Industry of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Moving the motion, Alhaji Muntaka said it was “very worrying” not for only him but for many Ghanaians that sitting close to the President would have to cost money.
He said if it was established that indeed money had exchanged hands, it would raise critical issues of ethics surrounding government transactions.

Alhaji Muntaka said the cash-for-seat saga flouted Article 175 of the Constitution, the Public Financial Management Act and the Financial Administration Regulations.

He said the money collected for the programme had become a public resource, and therefore the disbursement of the money had to be guided by the laws.

Alhaji Muntaka said there had been denials by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen who insists that the ministry was not involved in the collection of the money.

However, he said, in later press statements, the ministry admitted issuing official receipts for the collection.
He said it was important that the matter be investigated to establish how the money was collected and the use to which it was put.
Supporting the motion, the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said investigating the matter by Parliament was an obligation to the Constitution, the people and the country.

He said setting up a committee to investigate the matter satisfied 103 (1) and Article 103 (3) of the Constitution as well as Standing Order 91 which bordered on the setting up of committees.

The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the cash-for-seat saga was a matter of public importance that the highest office had engaged in transactions involving money for access to a sit close to the President.

He said the issue bordered on the values of accountability and transparency in governance.

Mr Iddrisu therefore, proposed the setting up of a special five-member adhoc committee to investigate the matter to enquire whether the Ministry of Trade violated any laws in the collection of the money, whether the ministry disbursed the money in accordance with procedures and other related matters.

‘Incompetent” motion
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu had earlier asked the Speaker to reject the motion because it was incompetent.

For instance, he said, Alhaji Muntaka had indicated he had not signed as one of the signatories to the memo.
Besides, he said, 28 of the MPs had not appended their signature, describing the motion as incompetent.

“Honourable Muntaka does not have his name on the list. That means technically there is nothing before you. This is a typical case of misrepresentation. I pray with you to dismiss it. If it comes properly. We will take it today,” he said.

Rebutting that claim, Alhaji Muntaka said 41 MPs constituted the 15 percent members needed to necessitate the recall of Parliament per Article 112(3) of the Constitution.

He said 77 MPs had signed the petition, which indicated that the memo had met the constitutional requirement.
Besides, he said, he had signed the memo submitted to the Speaker and it was not a binding requirement for him to also sign again in the list of the signatories.

Giving his ruling, the Speaker said there were irregularities with the memo which needed to be corrected, and consequently suspended sitting for 30 minutes for the Minority to effect the corrections.

The sitting however resumed two hours later, and the Speaker indicated that he had not still received the corrected version of the memo.

However, he said, in the interest of public good, he would go ahead and direct the formation of the committee.