General News of Monday, 30 January 2017
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) says it is ready to investigate the alleged bribery allegation in Parliament if its leadership fails in that regard.
CHRAJ boss Joseph Akanjoluer Whittal said the Commission wants the Speaker to independently probe the matter, adding they would step in if nothing is done to unravel the the truth about the matter.
“The Commission know the Members of Parliament (MPs) are public officers [and] allegations of corruption and dishonesty are matters that we can investigate, but as an arm of government the Commission would also prefer to defer to Parliament to rise up to the task,” he said.
Mr Akanjoluer Whittal disclosed this in an interview with Gifty Andoh Appiah, host of The Pulse programme on the JOYNEWS channel on MultiTV Monday.
Parliament has again been hit with a bribery allegation since its integrity was questioned in 2008 when former Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa MP, Paul Collins Appiah-Ofori alleged $5,000 was doled out to some MPs by erstwhile President John Kufuor’s government during the final vote for the sale of Ghana Telecom to United Kingdom (UK)’s Vodafone Plc.
Nine years down the line, Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga claimed on Accra-based Radio Gold Friday that GHC3,000 was offered to minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) members on the Appointments Committee to approve Boakye Agyarko as Energy Minister.
He said when they were told the money was given to the Committee by Mr Agyarko, they returned it.
Two members of leadership of the House – Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka, and Committee Chairman Joseph Osei Owusu were cited in the allegation, but they have refuted it.
Mr Osei Owusu disclosed on Joy FM/MultiTV’s Newsfile programme Saturday that he had not dealt with Mr Ayariga in the course of the vetting process. Alhaji Muntaka has also sworn by Allah that he never gave any money to the legislator.
Sections of Ghanaians have been enraged by the development resulting in calls for a full scale investigation to be undertaken.
Mr Ayariga and two of his colleagues – Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Alhassan Suhuyini have petitioned Speaker of Parliament Professor Mike Aaron Ocquaye to investigate the matter.
CHRAJ Act 1993 (ACT 456) stipulates that the Commission also has the power to;
Investigate complaints of violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, injustice, corruption, abuse of power, and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of his official duties.
To investigate complaints concerning the functioning of the Public Service, the administrative organs of state, the Armed Forces, the Police Service, and the Prisons Service in so far as the complaints relate to the failure to achieve a balanced structure of those services, or equal access by all to the recruitment of those services or fair administration in relation to those services.
With this backdrop, Mr Akanjoluer Whittal said CHRAJ has the power to investigate the issue because MPs concerned are public officers.
He said because Parliament is the second arm of government, it is important it carries out its investigation in a transparent manner failing which he said the Commission would rise up to its constitutional duties.
“We will be dealing with the speaker; we know three MPs have petitioned [and] we will see to what extent they are positioned to see whether what they are putting in place will not work,” he said.
“These are honourable men and women and we expect them to do the right thing. The speaker will ensure that the rules and the laws of the country are met,” he said, adding any committee set up has to act transparently.
“This is not an issue of having an in-camera meeting, the matter affects the integrity of Ghana [and] I will call upon the Speaker to ensure that the people he appoints [and] the nature of the Committee should be transparent,” he said.