General News of Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, has revealed he only corroborated bribery allegation claim made by Accra-based Radio Gold.
According to him, he had assumed the GH¢3,000 given to him by Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, was his allowance only to hear it was bribe from Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko.
Mahama Ayariga made the comment when he appeared before the Joe Ghartey Committee to answer questions on the bribery allegations that has rocked the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Monday.
When asked by the Committee whether he had evidence apart from the rumour that Boakye Agyarko had paid bribes, Mr Ayariga said “my interview and comments on bribery were based on what Muntaka told us.”
“There are facts that Minority Chief Whip asked that we should come for money. We took the money and later returned it upon hearing the rumour that it was a bribe. It is a fact that we asked Muntaka to investigate the matter.”
When asked whether he had spoken to Energy Minister, he said, “I have never in my life spoken with him, never. The first time I was seeing him physically as a politician and as somebody who goes on air and also on television and on radio was when he appeared before the committee. [That] was the first time I was physically engaging him”.
Mr Ayariga asked the committee investigating the alleged bribery scandal to evaluate his evidence in the matter and take the necessary decision.
Although he was unable to give the Committee what they deemed as substantial evidence to support his bribery claims, he stated that his allegations were the facts available to him.
He therefore asked the committee to weigh his evidence and make a decision.
This is what transpired
Joe Ghartey: Do you have any evidence that Hon First Deputy Speaker, Joe Osei-Owusu took money from the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko and gave it to the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka to be given to you?
Mahama Ayariga: It is your job to evaluate my evidence whether you consider it hearsay for which you will not give in to it, but I will stick to what I know. I am not here to evaluate evidence. I think that is your job.
Joe Ghartey: You have not given us any direct evidence. You have told us you never spoke to Joe Osei-Owusu. You never took money from Joe Osei-Owusu directly. Am I correct?
Mahama Ayariga: Yes.
The Joe-Ghartey-chaired ad-hoc committee investigating the bribery allegation cautioned Mahama Ayariga from making further comments on the issue on social media.
Mr. Ayariga, who has been vociferous and insistent on the fact that there was an attempt to bribe some minority MPs to be soft on the approval of Boakye Agyarko, Energy Minister during his vetting, has made a number of social media comments.
Mr Ghartey said the committee did not intend to gag him [Ayariga], but prefers he does not grant media interviews or make public comments about his testimony before the committee.
“We will be grateful if you don’t discuss what you said here or give commentary on either radio, television interviews or on social media. We are not gagging you; but we believe that we must all help to bring the work of the committee to a successful end, when we bring out our report, of course, you can comment, do you have any objections to that.”
Ayariga subsequently agreed to abstain from any such commentaries.
The Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joe Osei-Owusu, appeared before the Committee on Thursday and claimed that Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Okudzeto Ablakwa had admitted that the scandal was cooked up to equalize corruption allegations leveled against President Mahama.
Mahama Ayariga, and two other minority MPs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Alhassan Suhuyini, petitioned Parliament to investigate the matter for which the committee was set up.
After Mr. Ayariga’s appearance before the committee on Monday, the Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Muntaka Mubarak took his turn and insisted that he never took money from Joe Osei-Owusu to be given to his colleagues as bribe.
Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, stated categorically under oath that he never bribed members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament ostensibly to get his nomination approved.
“I will state categorically without the fear of contradiction that I have never contrived, discussed or given any money to the First Deputy Speaker, Hon. Joe Osei- Owusu for said purposes namely to influence members of the committee to weigh a decision in my favour,” Mr. Ayarko told the special committee investigating the alleged bribery scandal.
Giving reasons to support his claim that he never bribed members of the Appointments Committee, Mr. Agyarko said that his party had the numbers to confirm his nomination even if the Minority had decided not to approve him.
“I do not think I performed poorly…I was convinced that with the 16/10 majority, my party had the numbers to pass me …so I had no motive whatsoever to influence or attempt to influence anybody with regards to my confirmation.”
Asked whether he took any action after hearing these allegations from the media, he said: “It was on leaving the Speaker’s lobby; on my way back, my phone kept ringing but I did not pick until I got to the Flagstaff House where there was a hoard of newsmen trying to thrust microphones in my face, asking about my attempt to bribe somebody. I felt incredulous about the matter and I said was without the fear of contradiction, I had done no such thing, and I will not do such thing.”
The Minister further explained that he never considered it an option to issue a rejoinder on the allegation because he believed “the matter was outlandish and will therefore fall on its face.”
The members of the committee are the MP for Offinso South, Ben Abdallah; MP for Juaben, Ama Pomaah Boateng; MP for Talensi and MP for Yilo Krobo Magnus Kofi Amoateng.
It has Joe Ghartey, the MP for Essikado-Kentan, who’s also the Minister for Railways Development as Chairman.