18 February 2017

Public hearing into bribery allegation in Parliament adjourned to Monday


The much-awaited second public hearing of the bribery allegation against some members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) scheduled to take place yesterday did not come off.

That was because the ad hoc committee had directed that all the witnesses be served with copies of proceedings of the hearing of the Chairman of the ACP, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, and copies of the official report of January 27, 2017 in which Mr Osei-Owusu stated on the floor of the House that he was told by the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu and member of the ACP, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, that the allegation was for equalisation purpose.

It was an anti-climax for the journalists as they had erected their cameras, set their recorders and were ready with their pens and notepads to capture the proceedings, especially the accounts of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central and member of the ACP, Mr Mahama Ayariga, who made the allegation of bribery. He was already seated for the hearing.

The disappointment for the anxious journalists came when the Chairman of the five-member ad hoc committee, Mr Joe Ghartey, said hearing could not continue.

He said the decision to give out the verbatim reports to the witnesses was to adjudicate the proceedings for justice to be done.

Mr Ghartey directed the clerks of Parliament to submit the copies of the proceedings and official report to the witnesses by 4 p.m. yesterday.

They are Mr Ayariga; the Minority Chief Whip and Deputy Ranking on the ACP, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka-Mubarak; the Minister of Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko, and the MP for North Tongu and Mr Ablakwa, whose request to appear as a witness had been admitted by the committee.

Mr Ghartey said if any member of the ACP had any issue, he should not hesitate to get in touch with the clerk of the ad hoc committee.

Ablakwa as a witness

Earlier, the MP for Yilo Krobo and member of the ad hoc committee, Mr Magnus Kofi Amoatey, indicated that Mr Ablakwa had written a letter dated February 16, 2017, to the committee through his lawyers that he wanted to be invited to be a witness.

He said in the letter, Mr Ablakwa had indicated he had earlier received a letter from the clerk of the committee asking him to be on a standby.

He stated that Mr Ablakwa said his name had been mentioned by Mr Osei-Owusu and he ought to be given the opportunity to respond.

Mr Amoatey said although the committee at the last sitting had indicated that only four witnesses had been slated to appear before the committee, the committee had decided to invite Mr Ablakwa to be a witness.

Mr Amoatey said Mr Ablakwa had made a verbal request for a copy of the proceedings of the hearing of Mr Osei-Owusu, and indicated that the committee had agreed to provide him with a transcript.

Ayariga okay with decision

Speaking with journalists later, Mr Ayariga said although he was ready for the hearing, he was all right with the decision of the committee to postpone the hearing.

He said the decision to provide all the witnesses with copies of the proceedings of the first hearing and the official report was in order.

Mr Ayariga said he would not employ the services of any counsel, and that he would appear alone as he would be guided by his understanding as a lawyer.

Genesis of the allegation

In a radio interview, Mr Mahama Ayariga alleged that Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak gave each member of the Minority on the ACP GH¢3,000.

He said following rumours that the money was brought by the then Minister designate for Energy, Mr Agyarko, he confronted Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak about the source and Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak told him that it was Mr Osei-Owusu, who gave the money to him with the explanation that the money was from Mr Agyarko.

Ad hoc committee

Following the developments, Parliament set up the five-member ad hoc committee to investigate the allegation.

The committee has one month to submit its report to Parliament.

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