Ghana’s under-fire Parliament has made an open appeal to people with pieces of evidence on bribery and corruption against its members to submit them to the clerk for onward submission to the Leadership of the House.
The Ghanaian Legislature is facing a major credibility crisis after a former Leader of the House made bribery claims against “some MPs”.
Nadowli Kaleo MP, Alban Bagbin, made the damaging bribery allegations at Koforidua last Saturday, provoking a new wave of public anger against lawmakers.
At Friday’s Parliamentary sitting, Majority Leader, Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor, said leadership of the House will do whatever is appropriate to investigate Mr. Bagbin’s claims.
“Leadership assures that whatever is appropriate would be done to elicit the truth in this matter and no effort would be spared in this regard,” he said.
It was the first time the Ghanaian legislature was officially commenting on the widely circulated bribery allegation against MPs.
While citing Mr. Bagbin’s absence from Ghana as reason for the seeming delay in digging into the former Health Minister’s bribery claims against MPs, Dr Kunbuor added, “notwithstanding, Leadership appeals to any person who may have any evidence to present such information to the Clerk to Parliament for onward transmission to Leadership.”
At a workshop of Civil Society Organizations last Saturday, Mr. Bagbin said: “You know; the reality is that MPs are Ghanaians. Yes, and so, there is some evidence, there is some evidence that some MPs take bribe and they come to the floor and try to articulate the views of their sponsors…”
The Nadowli Kaleo MP, who has been in Ghana’s Parliament since the country’s return to constitutional rule in 1993, was responding to a question that required him to provide a “frank” answer after claims that some MPs take “bribe before a bill is even passed”.
He went on saying, “because, in Ghana we have not developed what we call lobbying. There are rules, there are ethics surrounding lobbying and so we think that lobbying is taking money to go and give to some MPs and writing your piece for them to articulate on the floor. That is bribery.
“Lobbying is a profession which is done all over the world. Like the civil society organizations, if you want to lobby Parliament, there is a way of doing it without it being seen as bribery. STAR Ghana has done a lot of lobbying Parliament but they haven’t bribed us”.
At Friday’s sitting of Parliament, Majority Leader, Ben Kumbour, responded to his comments.
He said: “The Leadership of the House is not unaware of the fine line of distinction between lobbying and bribery, especially in our case where there are no specified rules to govern such practice…”
Leadership, he said, has “over the years cautioned Members on their dealings with stakeholders”.
He added that “it may be recalled that the Rt. Hon Speaker in his opening address at the 1st Post Budget Workshop for Committee Chairpersons, Ranking Members and some Backbenchers of this Parliament organized from the 6th to 8th of March, 2013 at Koforidua advised against the dependence of Parliamentary Committees on MDAs as well as the interface between such Committees and other Stakeholders in the consideration and facilitation of Parliamentary Business.
“Pursuant to this admonition, the House, on the 4th of July, 2013 constituted a Committee chaired by the Hon Member for Nadoli Kaleo [Alban Bagbin] to draft a code of conduct for Members of Parliament. The House is aware that this Committee has held series of meetings and is in the process of finalizing a report which is to be laid before the House”.
Earlier, MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu Ankomah, revealed on the floor that the programs of the Committee developing the proposed Code of Conduct Manual for MPs have been stalled by chronic lack of funds — a problem thought to have badly hit many Committees of Ghana’s Parliament.
“Mr. Speaker, I just want the Leadership of the House to assure the Committee that the resources will be made available from the Leadership’s portion of the STAR Ghana support,” Mr. Owusu Ankomah said on Friday.
In response, Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho said: “…I have just discussed with the Clerk; I have directed him that there are some resources for Committee work and they should make those resources immediately available to the Ad-hoc Committee on Code of Ethics so that they can complete their work and submit [their] report to the House as soon as possible.”
In his statement on the floor on Friday, Dr. Kunbour also echoed the need for reliable funding for the Ghanaian legislature: “It is in the interest of this country to help strengthen Parliament to perform its functions effectively”.
On his feet, Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, called on colleague MPs to be “circumspect” when making further comments on Mr. Bagbin’s allegations until investigations are concluded.
“It is important that we set our House in order, but we must be armed with the facts first. So, Mr. Speaker, restraint and circumspection are the words that I will proffer to my colleagues but certainly we are all determined to get to the bottom of this matter,” the Suame MP said.
Speaker Adjaho deferred “further comments” on the matter to allow Leadership of the House to advice Parliament “on the way forward”
The Speaker concluded, “I believe and I have full confidence in the Leadership of the House that they will pursue this matter and give us the necessary advice that will help this House redeem its dignity”.