Parliament was sharply divided yesterday over a question posed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on whether the Ghana government had fully disbursed an amount of $500,000 in respect of compensation paid by the Gambian government towards the funerals and compensation of about 40 Ghanaians who were murdered in that country.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hannah Tetteh, told parliament that the money translated into GH¢700,500, with GH¢420,340 having been paid on funeral expenses and compensation to families of 27 victims who were identified. The Gambian government had paid for eight people, even though then minority spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, John Mahama (now president), had quoted 44 as the figure of the dead.
The minister explained that the remaining GH¢280,170 was paid into the Consolidated Fund; but the MP for Dormaa Central, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, raised serious alarm that the November, 2014 edition of the Public Accounts Report on the Consolidated Fund is showing ‘red,’ which means the consolidated account is negative so he wanted to find out from the minister where the money had vanished to.
The speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, quickly intervened and said that parliament was not privy to the document being referred to by the MP for Dormaa Central and ruled that it would not be fair for the minister to answer that question since her role was to give details about how the total amount paid as compensation was disbursed.
This ruling brought the two sides on a collision course, with the minority accusing the government of ‘chopping ghost money’ while the majority members said the question was unnecessary.
The MP for Dormaa Central told the DAILY GUIDE that he was not very happy that his question was disallowed because it was a very relevant question on monies meant for families of 40 Ghanaians murdered in the Gambia.
“There is a clear documentary evidence that there is nothing in the Consolidated Fund and the account is showing red so if the government is claiming it had paid the remainder of GH¢280,170 into the Consolidated Fund, then it means the government had chopped money belonging to the ghosts of some Ghanaians who were murdered in the Gambia,” he pointed out.
Emotions also ran high again when the ranking member on Foreign Affairs and MP for Subin, Isaac Osei, tried to ask what President John Mahama, who is now the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had done about the situation when he recently visited the Gambia to wine and dine with President Yayah Jameh during the celebration of that country’s 50th independence anniversary.
According to him, when the president was then the MP for Bole and the ranking member on Foreign Affairs, he had chastised the then NPP government that it did not place much value on the lives of 44 Ghanaians who were murdered in the Gambia. Mr Osei wanted to know whether as the president and chairman of ECOWAS, Mahama now places more value on diplomatic relations with the Gambia than the lives of Ghanaians who were murdered there.
The majority leader, Alban Bagbin, strongly objected to the question while the minority, led its leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, also supported the MP for Subin, arguing that his question was legitimate; but the speaker in his ruling, said that the supplementary question posed by the MP for Subin was not related to the main question and therefore his question would not be allowed to stand, prompting a soft protest from the minority side.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr
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