General News of Wednesday, 1 February 2017
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has asked for the sittings of the ad hoc committee of Parliament constituted to investigate the allegation of bribery made against some Members of Parliament (MPs) to be televised.
The Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr Joseph Whittal, who made the call in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday after Parliament had constituted the committee during its deliberations on the matter, commended the House for choosing a former Attorney-General (A-G), Mr Joe Ghartey, to chair the committee.
“That means the strict proof of corruption will be brought to bear on the investigations, as is done in court,” he said.
He explained that CHRAJ had to defer to Parliament to do the investigations because the petitioners, Mr Mahama Ayariga and some of his colleague MPs, had petitioned the Speaker on the matter.
“It will be, therefore, unfair to ignore their effort,” he maintained.
Mr Whittal said the deference to Parliament did not mean that CHRAJ would take a back stage, as the commission would “closely monitor to know whether corruption takes centre stage in the investigations”.
“If the issue of corruption is not addressed properly in the report after the investigations, we will come out and investigate,” he added.
He said the ad hoc committee had to show due diligence in all its efforts at investigating the matter.
He explained that showing due diligence would include the bi-partisan representation of members on the committee, rigorous processes followed and transparency exhibited by the committee, which would include making the sittings public through the medium of television.
Mr Whittal was sure that the committee’s work would be independent because of the person chosen to chair it.
He asked Ghanaians to take cognisance of the Constitution, saying: “From articles 115 to 118, the people of Ghana insulated their Parliament from outside interference.”
“In the same vein, if the Constitution permits the Chief Justice to set up a committee to investigate the conduct of judges, why would Ghanaians doubt the independence of an investigative committee of Parliament?” he asked.
He urged all to trust the work of the committee and be assured of further action from CHRAJ if the issue was not investigated thoroughly.
In a separate interview,the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the local chapter of Transparency International (TI), called for an independent investigator to carry out the investigations.
Making a case for an independent committee, the Executive Director, Mrs Linda Ofori-Kwafo, noted the centrality of Parliament to the advancement of democracy in the country.
She said anti-corruption advocates in the country were keen to have an investigation into the scandal, including the several allegations of corruption in Parliament in the past that had merely received public condemnation and no investigation at all.
She was of the view that the impetus had been provided with a new government and a new Parliament for such an investigation to purge the institution.
“It is a golden opportunity, though the case is unfortunate. But this is an opportunity for Parliament to clear its name to actually redeem its sinking image as far as the people’s image of corruption in Parliament is concerned,” she said.
Mrs Ofori-Kwafo said without Parliament breeching its own standing orders, the institution needed to engage an external independent investigator to do the investigations.
That independent investigator, she said, needed to be one who did not report to Parliament, as most institutions were mandated by law, to prevent compromise of any sort in the investigations.
She wanted the investigator to independently work and submit a report to the leaders of Parliament for action.
She also said the outcome of the investigations should ensure that sanctions were brought to bear on the culprits.
“We are hoping and wishing that the outcome would be that Parliament is not corrupt, and if anything untoward is found, we are hoping that Parliament will apply the sanctions, so that no one goes scot-free,” Mrs Ofori-Kwafo said.
Last week, in a radio interview, Mr Mahama Ayariga alleged that the Minority Chief Whip and Deputy Ranking Member on the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP), Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka-Mubarak, had given each Minority MP on the committee GH¢3,000 from the then Minister designate for Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko.
He said following rumours that the money was given by Mr Agyarko, he confronted Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak about the source and Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak told him that it was Mr Osei-Owusu, the Chair of the ACP, who had given the money to him, with the explanation that it was from Mr Agyarko, based on which all Minority members on the ACP returned the money.
Mr Osei-Owusu had denied taking any money from Mr Agyarko, while Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak had also denied giving any money to Mr Ayariga.
Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak challenged Mr Ayariga to provide evidence that he (Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak) had given such money to him.
Three MPs — Mr Ayariga (Bawku Central), who first made the allegation; Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (North Tongu) and Mr Alhassan Sayibu Suhuyini (Tamale North) subsequently petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to investigate the matter..