Bribery allegations: Ayariga in contempt of Parliament

Bawku Central Member of Parliament Mahama Ayariga has been found guilty of contempt of Parliament in the case of bribery allegations against Members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

Joe Ghartey, Chair of the committee constituted to investigate the allegations stated on the floor of Parliament Thursday Ayariga failed to adduce any evidence to substantiate his claim of allegations against the members.

He said everything Ayariga said was nothing more than rumours, adding a “multiplicity of rumours does not constitute a fact.”

He said by publishing rumours about bribery allegations against members Ayariga has in no small way injured the reputation of Parliament and soiled the dignity of the first deputy Speaker of Parliament Joe Osei Owusu who he alleged paid bribes to Minority Members on the Appointment Committee of Parliament on behalf of the then Minister of Energy nominee Boakye Agyarko.

Having established a case of contempt, the committee is recommending that the Bawku Central MP be reprimanded in accordance to the Parliamentary regulations and the Constitution of the country.

 He said Ayariga can begin by apologising to Parliament for the humiliation caused the House.

The Joe Ghartey committee was constituted after allegations by the Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga that the Chairman of the Appointment Committee Joe Osei Owusu had given Ȼ3,000 each to minority members of the committee to approve the Minister of Energy nominee at the time.

Ayariga told an Accra based radio Station Radio Gold that the money was given to the Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak for onward distribution to the members of the Minority.

He explained that the Minority MPs on the committee initially accepted the monies thinking it was payment of their sitting allowance but when they got to know it was monies from the Minister designate to bribe them, they returned the money.

Boakye Agyarko was at the time battling to be approved by consensus following a rather combative vetting process.

Approval for both Agyarko and the Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo had both been shelved by the committee following controversial comments they made during the vetting process.

But the bribery allegation by Ayariga, as dramatic as it was, was met with vehement denials by Joe Osei Owusu, Muntaka Mubarak and the Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko.

This necessitated the House to constitute a committee to investigate the matter. The five member committee chaired by Joe Ghartey has other members including Ben Abdallah Banda  Offinso South MP,  Ama Pomaa Boateng, Juaben MP, Benson Tongo Baba Talensi MP, Magnus Kofi Amoatey, Yilo Krobo MP.

The terms of reference given the Special Committee were to;

(a) To establish if First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei Owusu took money from Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko and gave it to Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka.

(b) To do an internal inquiry to find out whether there were attempts to bribe members of Appointments Committee

(d) To look into the remit of complaints and assertions made by First Deputy Speaker about the matter.

After two months of investigations, part of which was held in public and witnesses cross examined, the Committee submitted its report ,Thursday amidst some delay.

The findings of the committee were unanimous;

It found that there was no evidence to suggest that Joe Osei Owusu took money from Boakye Agyarko. Neither was there any evidence that Agyarko gave same.

Joe Ghartey maintained that whilst Muntaka Mubarak swore by Allah that he never gave any money to anybody, Mahama Ayariga also swore by the same Allah that he received the money.

He said the most crucial element in any allegations is evidence but there was none in Ayariga’s testimony even though there has been a forest of rumours on the matter.

He said no amount of rumours can turn an issue into a fact and chided Mahama Ayariga for proceeding to press to publish rumours.

The committee he reiterated found Ayariga guilty of contempt of Parliament and read possible sanctions which may include an impeachment from Parliament.

He however hoped Ayariga would apologise to Parliament purge himself of the sanctions.

The Speaker of Parliament Prof Mike Ocquaye therefore asked the member to apologise but Mahama Ayariga had concerns.

He said under Order 191 which formed the basis upon which the Joe Ghartey Committee was formed, he did not think that the committee had the powers to make findings of contempt against him.

“Mr Speaker if you say I should apologise, I apologise,” he said half-heartedly.