General News of Saturday, 18 February 2017
Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, seems to have opened the floodgates for more witnesses to be called to the committee investigating allegation of bribery in parliament.
Following a Facebook comment and a letter from his lawyers, the parliamentary Ad-hoc Committee has agreed to allow more witnesses to testify in the bribery allegation made by National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP Mahama Ayariga.
Chairman of the committee, Joe Ghartey, MP for Essikado Ketan and Minister for Railways Development, said yesterday that the five-member committee would now go beyond the limited four-witness plan and bring in every MP or a member of the public who wants to give testimony in the matter.
The committee’s sitting yesterday was suspended.
The Special/Ad-hoc Committee was set up by the Speaker of Parliament to investigate Mahama Ayariga’s allegation that Boakye Kyeremateng Agyarko- who was vetted by the Appointments Committee – through some people, paid GH¢3,000 to the minority MPs on the committee to influence his (Agyarko’s) approval as Minister of Energy.
The committee is specifically looking into the allegation against the Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu aka Joe Wise, who Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central, had cited as the conduit for bribing the MPs; and Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, who Mahama Ayariga claimed had brought the money.
Joe Wise’s Testimony
At its first public sitting which was telecast live on Wednesday, the first witness, Mr. Osei-Owusu who is also the 1st Deputy Speaker, testified and flatly denied the allegation of bribery leveled against him by Mahama Ayariga.
He had said that it was the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who said in the presence of colleague MP, Kobina Tahir Hammond of Adansi Asokwa that because Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko had said ex-President John Mahama was corrupt, they (NDC) were going to spread the allegation of bribery.
He said Okudzeto Ablakwa had said specifically that “we wanted you to face the same heat as John Mahama,” in the presence of K.T. Hammond.
In the ensuing heat, Okudzeto Ablakwa hit back, describing the Appointment Committee Chairman’s allegation as ‘malicious’ and caused his lawyers to write to the committee to allow him to also testify.
Initially, the committee had said it was taking oral testimonies from Mr. Osei-Owusu, Alhaji Muntaka, Mahama Ayariga and Boakye Agyarko, but Okudzeto Ablakwa’s request appeared to have opened the floodgates for more witnesses to appear before the committee.
When the committee commenced sitting yesterday, Mr. Ghartey asked Magnus Kofi Amoatey, NDC MP for Yilo Krobo, who is also a member, to read the decision they took on Okudzeto Ablakwa’s letter.
The committee was not happy that Okudzeto Ablakwa chose to use public space, including the media, to get his concerns addressed instead of coming directly to the committee to ask to be a witness.
“The committee is of the view that this letter might not be necessary if Okudzeto Ablakwa had drawn closer to us,” the Yilo Krobo MP said, and added, “We are going to give him the opportunity to testify.”
Mr. Ghartey then said that the committee had decided to allow testimony from everyone who knows something about the matter, saying, “If you want to testify, get in touch with the Clerk of Parliament.”
The committee then directed that the clerk should serve every prospective witness with the transcript of the proceedings of last Wednesday when Joe Osei-Wusu testified and also attach the Hansard of the day the bribery allegation was made.
It then asked the next batch of witnesses to ‘stand by’ on Monday, February 20.
The other committee members are Ben Abdallah Banda, MP for Offinso South; Benson Tongo Baba, MP for Talensi and Ama Pomaa, MP for Juaben who was not present on its first public sitting when Abena Durowaa Mensah, MP for Assin North stood in for her.
Meanwhile, Mahama Ayariga, who triggered the scandal, told Joy Fm yesterday that he was ready to testify.
He will not speak to the substantive issue except to say that he’s ready to appear before the committee without a lawyer.
With a petition pending before the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) over the same matter, Mahama Ayariga said he’s ready to appear before any committee set up to tell the truth.
He would, however, wish that parliament be allowed to conclude its investigation before any other statutory institution begins any investigation into the matter.