Ayariga bribery hearing begins; Only 4 witnesses may testify

The Chairman of an Ad-hoc Committee of Parliament set up to investigate the bribery scandal that rocked the Appointments Committee of Parliament has debunked assertions of conflict of interest made by critics.

On the first public hearing to ascertain the truth in the allegations that minority members were bribed by the then Energy Minister designate Boakye Agyarko to approve him, Joe Ghartey said the conflict of interest claims have no basis.

He quoted Article 284 of the constitution which said for a conflict of interest situation to arise, a public officer must put himself in a position to be compromised and nothing like that has happened.

He said claims that he was a ministerial nominee and was to appear before the same committee he is expected to investigate is without basis, adding, that he will not recuse himself as chair of the ad-hoc committee.

The five member Committee members including, Ben Abdella, Magnus Kofi Amoateng, BT Baba and Ama Pomaa took turns to justify the legitimacy of the committee.

Joe Ghartey provided the terms of reference of the committee, part of which is to unravel whether monies changed hands in the approval of the Energy Minister.

He said the committee may only call four witnesses to testify in the scandal that has challenged the integrity of the Legislature.

Joe Ghartey said in deciding which witnesses to invite, the ad-hoc committee looked at the terms of reference and the key players involved in the matter.

The witnesses to be invited are Chairman of Appointments Committee Joe Osei Owusu, Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak, Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko and Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga.

On the first day of sitting to begin investigations into the matter Joe Ghartey said the committee will however invite any other person who has any information on the scandal but that person must first send a memorandum to the committee and they will be given a hearing.

The Parliament public hearing has become necessary following allegations by the  Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga that the Energy Minister designate at the time, Boakye Agyarko paid an amount of 3,000 cedis to members of the Minority to facilitate his approval.

He explained that they took the money from the Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak thinking it was their sitting allowance only for Muntaka to tell them later that the money was coming from Joe Osei Owusu as a bribe to facilitate the approval of the Energy Minister.

Boakye Agyarko’s approval had been delayed because of controversial comments he made during his vetting.

Mahama Ayariga said once they were told that the money was bribe they returned it. Two other MPs on the Minority side, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Alhassan Suhuyini have both confirmed the claims by Ayariga but all the persons named in the scandal have denied it.

The Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joe Osei Owusu, the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, and the Energy Minister designate at the time Boakye Agyarko have all denied the allegations with some of them threatening to sue Ayariga.

The matter became a huge scandal with civil society demanding a probe into the allegations.

The Speaker Prof Mike Ocquaye on the advice of the leadership set up the ad-hoc committee to investigate the varacity of the allegations made by Mahama Ayariga.

At the first public hearing, the chairman of the Appointments Committee Joe Osei Owusu appeared denying ever recieving money from the Energy Minister and giving same to Muntaka Ayariga.

 

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