General News of Wednesday, 20 December 2017
A Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, a first-time Member of Parliament for the Tema West Constituency, on Tuesday, barged into a media interview, and hurled insults on NDC MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, in the full glare of journalists at Parliament House.
A visibly incensed Mr. Ahenkorah interrupted the interview that Mr. Ablakwa was granting journalists as the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, on the recent Ghana Expatriate Business Awards event, where the government was accused of charging expatriates between $25,000 and $100,000 to allow them to sit close to the President at the event.
The Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, alleged last week that the Ministry of Trade and Industry charged the expatriates between $25,000 and $100,000 each, to offer them seats close to the President at an awards ceremony. The Asawase legislator argued that the fees charged at the event were not the kind of fees approved by Parliament, and that the monies were also not accounted for in the Internally Generated Funds [IGF] of the Ministry’s accounts.
The Ministry however in a statement challenging the claims, said it played no role in determining prices for seats at the event.
It added that, it only facilitated the implementation of the new initiative [GEBA], by the Millennium Excellence Foundation, an entity noted for organizing world class events.
“As a Government that believes in the private sector as the engine of growth, the Government through the Ministry of Trade and Industry welcomed the initiative to collaborate with the Foundation to see to the birthing of the initiative. The Ministry consequently signed an MoU with the Foundation that spelt out the roles of both parties. Resource mobilization to ensure that the event was organized at no cost to the taxpayer was the sole responsibility of the Foundation”.
“The Ministry only wrote letters to introduce the Millennium Excellence Foundation to sponsors and solicited support whilst the Foundation prepared the sponsorship package kits and presented it to potential sponsors at a later date. It is very worrying for people who are expected to know better (especially if some happen to be leading members of the august House of Parliament) to conveniently join the streets wagon in pursuit of petty partisan parochial interests to churn out deliberate falsehood to perpetuate the fallacy that access to the President has to be secured with financial inducements,” excerpts of the statement said.
But Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa in a statement reacting to the Ministry’s response, called on them to apologize to President Akufo-Addo for embarrassing him, insisting that the incident indeed happened and that the government is culpable.
“The least the Ministry of Trade and Industry should be doing at this point instead of seeking to justify their shameful conduct, is to apologize to President Akufo-Addo, that is, if he did not grant his blessings for this desecration of the high office he occupies, apologize to Ghanaians and refund the extorted sums to the expats,” he said.
However, the Deputy Trade Minister who interjected Ablakwa’s interview on the matter claimed that he was churning out baseless information to denigrate his Ministry and the Minister.
In that interview, Mr. Ablakwa said, “Clearly this is corruption, and that is why we demand answers. Access to the President was for the highest bidder, and there was no mention that the money was going to the Agyekum Kufuor Foundation in the 23 October letter that I have”.
Whiles Mr. Ablakwa was speaking further on the matter, the Deputy Minister interjected and shouted on top of his voice, calling him a “liar” and a “thief” at a point.
The Tema West NPP MP said “if we talk about corruption, then we should point directly at Okudzeto Ablakwa”.
He mentioned a 2012 incident in which an amount of 25,000 cedis went missing after Okudzeto, then a Deputy Education Minister, sent his car to a washing bay.
He wondered how he Okudzeto at the time came by that much money in his car, saying he did not have the moral right to accuse them of corruption.
“You lied all your life through politics…You are a big liar. Where are your facts? Show me the documents you have. You don’t have anything because all that you are saying is just coming from your mind… Don’t touch me… Let him know that he is a thief. You have stolen through your life. You have even lied through your education,” Carlos Ahenkorah remarked during the altercation.
His utterances subsequently forced Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa to walk out of the interview, noting that the Deputy Minister was reacting harshly because he was uncomfortable with the revelation.
“You can tell from the Minister’s attitude that he is clearly uncomfortable with this matter and he stands exposed… I think as a public officer he has to behave himself,” he said.
Ablakwa could have been hit
According to eyewitnesses, if Mr. Ablakwa had not been advised to leave the scene, the Deputy Minister who was throwing tantrums, would have assaulted him physically.
Despite the Ministry’s claim it only introduced the event to expatriates to sponsor and attend, a 23rd October letter shows that they went beyond introducing the event to actually collecting monies from the expatriates.
The letter directed that interested expatriates were to direct their cheques to the accounts office of the Trade Ministry.
The Deputy Minister has reportedly explained that this was done to boost the credibility of the event for expatriates who may be uncomfortable parting with cash to fund a program whose organizers are not well known.
The Tema West MP said just as there are different categories of sponsorship like platinum and gold sponsors, the dinner also had a price to sit within the presidential circle and ministerial circle.
Angry MP chases TMA demolition task-force
In September 2017, Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah lost his cool and nearly assaulted the Tema Metropolitan Assembly Works Engineer who was supervising the demolition of unauthorized structures erected on the edges of a road in Tema.
The unauthorized structures, according to the Engineer, Maxwell Adu Boateng were creating a nuisance along the stretch hence the exercise.
TMA suspends Carlos Ahenkorah over demolition exercise
Following that incident, the MP was suspended for six months by the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA).
The ban was however short-lived, following reports that a higher hand forced the MCE to reverse it.