You cannot set committee to investigate yourself – Lawyers chide Parliament

Some legal practitioners are against the setting up of a Committee by Parliament to investigate an allegation of bribery involving some members of the Appointments Committee.

This was after a member of the Appointment Committee, Mahama Ayariga leveled allegations of bribery against Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko.

According to Mr Ayariga, the Energy Minister bribed the 10-member Minority on the Committee with GHS3,000 to get his nomination approved.

Mr Ayariga asserted that he received the said amount from Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, whom he claimed also obtained the money from the Chairman of the Committee, Joseph Osei Wusu.

Related: Ayariga’s bribery allegation ‘colossal untruth’ – Osei Owusu

He together with two other minority members of the Committee, Alhassan Suyuhini and Okudzeto Ablakwa then proceeded with a letter to the Speaker of Parliament requesting for a thorough investigation of the bribery allegations against Mr Agyarko.

Mr Muntaka has denied giving any money to any of the minority members. So has Mr Osei Wusu, who described the allegation as a fabrication and sought permission from the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Ocquaye to sue Mr Ayariga.

However, the Speaker after hearing submissions from both the Majority and Minority constituted a five-member committee to investigate the matter.

NF July Yaw oppong

Contributing to a discussion on the issue on Joy FM’s news analysis programme, Newfile, law lecturer at the Central University, Yaw Oppong said the Speaker should not have set up the Committee.

He said there are instances where Parliament is allowed to investigate itself, not in this case, and that an outer body should have undertaken the investigation.

“In my view, it is not within those matters that the Article 116 and 117 stated that Parliament is entitled to set up a committee or even engage in an internal investigation.

Related‘I have not offered money to anyone’ – Boakye Agyarko considers legal action

“This is a matter purely for the Attorney general and the police to investigate and establish whether or not the allegation is proven,” Mr Oppong said.

In his view, Mr Osei Wusu may have misconstrued article 115 or 116 which states that “there shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceedings in parliament and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of court and that subject to the constitution, civil or criminal proceedings shall not be instituted against a member of parliament in any court in respect of a petition, bill or otherwise.”

He said Mr Osei Wusu could have commenced civil proceedings if he so wished without taking a fiat from the Speaker because the matter at hand was not a petition in respect of a bill or motion in Parliament.

“It is only in respect of matters that are deemed to be defamatory made on the floor of Parliament that someone will seek permission from the Speaker,” he stressed.

Mr Oppong said the Attorney General should have directed the police or other institutions like CHRAJ should have taken up the matter.

He believes that the issue is a purely criminal matter and not defamation, therefore Parliament had no business investigating it.

Clara Kaseer-Tee

Another legal practitioner and law lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Clara Kaseer-Tee who also contributed to the discussion said Parliament does not have the jurisdiction with respect to corruption to investigate itself.

“I don’t think that Parliament is in the position to investigate whether or not corruption has occurred or it has carried out corruption.

“…there is a statement in law that justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be manifestly done, so how do you decide yourself to investigate yourself to see whether or not I am guilty of corruption,” she queried.

Mrs Kaseer-Tee said the issue falls within the ambits of the police or CHRAJ, as stated by Article 218e, and they should have been called in to do so.

Isaac Adongo

However, Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga Central Isaac Adongo disagrees with the two lawyers.

He said Parliament did no wrong in setting up the Committee and that it has the power to have it set.

“We have to understand that Parliament has the power to set up the committee and indeed apart from the standing and select committees, our standing orders allows the Speaker to set up an adhoc or special committee to deal with matters that are not covered by the standing and select committees.

“And so it is completely right to have the Committee, it is completely legitimate,” he said.

Nana Akomea

Communications Director of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akomea, who was also on the panel, said proceedings of the Committee should be done in the open.

He believes that because the issues involve parliament and senior members of parliament, the public interest will be served if it is done in the open.

“To improve credibility and public accountability, they should have these proceedings televised. Sometimes proceedings by the privileges committee, which is against individuals are broadcast so parliament should rake a cue from it.”

He, however described the issue as bizarre and that “so many aspects of it that defies understanding.”

Me Akomea said a situation where the minority making a categorical allegation against heir leader is extraordinary and has never happened.