Joseph Osei-Owusu, Chairman of the Appointments Committee of Parliament
The chairman of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, Joseph Osei-Owusu, yesterday appealed to the Speaker of the House to strip the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, of his parliamentary immunity so that he could take him to court over allegation of bribery made against him by Ayariga.
But the leadership of parliament has pleaded with him to allow for an internal inquiry into the matter to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegation.
The chairman of the committee, who is also the First Deputy Speaker and New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Bekwai, has therefore implored whatever committee of inquiry that would be set up to look first of all at the allegation made by Mahama Ayariga that he (Osei-Owusu) had taken GH¢100,000 from the then Minister-designate for Energy, Boakye Agyarko and given to the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka, to be given to the members on the committee in order to ‘pass’ Mr Agyarko.
In a passionate statement on the floor to clear his name and prove his innocence, Mr Osei-Owusu described as a ‘colossal untruth’ the allegation put in the public domain by Mr Mahama Ayariga, stressing, “Let me repeat here for the avoidance of doubt that I Joseph Osei-Owusu, MP for Bekwai, First Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Appointments Committee, have never discussed, requested, demanded nor received money of whatever quantum for myself or the committee members from Boakye Agyarko, or any other person for that matter.”
He said the allegation by Mr Ayariga was a colossal untruth which had done grievous damage to his integrity and hard-won reputation as a lawyer of 27 years standing, public servant and respected Member of Parliament.
Upon the request made by the chairman coupled with the eagerness and commitment of the leadership of parliament to establish the truth of the matter, the legislature, under the directive of the speaker, has therefore put in place a five-member ad-hoc committee comprising Joe Ghartey, NPP MP for Essikado/Ketan; Ben Abdallah Banda, NPP MP for Offinso South; Ama Pomaah Andoh, NPP MP for Juaben; Magnus Kofi Amoatey, NDC MP for Yilo Krobo and Benson Tongo Baba, NDC MP for Talensi.
Mr Ghartey, who was the second deputy speaker in the last parliament, will chair the committee.
It has been tasked to unravel the truth in the allegation and to establish whether indeed money exchanged hands as alleged to influence the minority members to endorse the then Minister-designate for Energy.
Lamenting how the allegation has affected him as Chairman of the Appointments Committee and his hard-won reputation on the floor of parliament yesterday, Mr Osei-Owusu explained that the committee has been taking decisions on nominees who appear before it as soon as the day’s proceedings are over.
He said decisions on Boakye Agyarko and Yaw Osafo-Maafo (then Senior Minister-designate) were taken the same night after they had appeared before the committee and that the decision of the minority members on the committee was that they would not support the two because of certain statements they made at the hearing, resulting in the recommendation by the committee to approve the two nominees by majority decision at the plenary.
“The charge of bribery for the minority members to pass the nominee therefore does not fit into the equation as the nominees had already been recommended to be passed by majority decision in the same night the nominee was vetted,” Mr Osei-Owusu stressed.
He indicated that by any reasonable convention, the nominee does not need to pay his way to be approved by parliament because the NPP has overwhelming majority to easily approve the nominee at the plenary.
He said the majority decided to give the minority sometime to change their stand on the two nominees for the sake of consensus building in the House and so for some members of the minority to turn round to accuse the majority of bribing the them (minority) before the approval of those nominees was only tantamount to ill-motive and bad faith.
“The minority’s bribery allegation is completely illogical and ill-motivated,” the chairman fumed.
Damage Of Reputation
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the allegation against the Chairman of the Appointments Committee and by extension parliament, is ‘earth moving,’ stressing that it has given ‘mortal wound’ to the reputation of the Chairman and that of parliament.
“Mr Speaker, this is dirge lamentation of the Chairman of the Appointments Committee and by his demeanor on the floor, one could see that he is really hurt by this whole allegation,” he noted, adding that the ad-hoc committee set up by parliament ought to get to the bottom of the matter to help redeem the image of the legislature.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said the allegation made by the member for Bawku Central is a serious one which has brought the image of parliament into great disrepute.
He said currently, members of the public are very angry with MPs because of the allegation and that it was important for the ad-hoc committee charged to investigate the matter to establish the real truth by doing its work diligently.
He said after the work of the committee, sanctions must be applied to whoever is found guilty in order to protect the image of parliament which plays critical role in the democracy the country is enjoying.
The ad-hoc committee has been given 30 days to complete its work.
From Thomas Fosu Jnr, Parliament