Parliament, with unison, yesterday constituted an adhoc committee to establish the truth or otherwise of bribery allegations that has hit the Appointments Committee of the House.
The five-member committee, with effect from yesterday, has not got more than a month to present its report to the House.
Its terms of reference include establishing whether or not there was an attempt to bribe minority members on the committee and if monies were ever given to them in relation to the matter.
To be chaired by Mr. Joe Ghartey, Member of Parliament (MP) for Esikado/Ketan, the special purpose committee also has Mr. Ben Abdallah, Offinso South MP, Ms. Ama Pomaa Boateng, MP for Juaben, Magnus Kofi Amoatey, representative of Yilo Krobo and Benson Tongo Baba, lawmaker for Talensi as members.
Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga, stirred controversy last Friday when he alleged that then Energy Minister-designate, Mr. Boakye Agyarko, attempted bribing minority members on the committee, through the Chairman, after recommendations on his nomination was withheld.
The formation of the committee was triggered after a statement on the floor of the House by Dr. Nana Ayew Afriyie, the Affiduase/Asokore legislator, regarding the bribery allegations arguing that the matter was referred to the Previleges Committee for an enquiry.
However the House, led by the Speaker, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, in line with Standing Order 91 of the House, which allows for the composition of a special committee, settled on the formation of the adhoc committee after it emerged that the Chair of the Appointments Committee doubles as the Chair of the Privileges Committee.
Dr. Afriyie’s statement follows the lamentations of the Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who was accused of being the conduit between the Committee and the then Energy Minister-designate who was alleged to have intended bribing minority members on the vetting panel.
The Bekwai MP, who doubles as the First Deputy Speaker, was praying the Speaker of the House, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, to grant him the power of service of court processes against a sitting Member of Parliament so that he reclaimed his “integrity” at the civil court.
Reiterating his long held position on the matter, Mr. Osei-Owusu said the allegation was frivolous and malicious.
“I, Joseph Osei-Owusu,……..have never discussed, requested, demanded nor received money of whatever quantum for myself or committee members from Mr. Boakye Agyarko or any other person for that matter.”
Mr. Osei-Owusu said, the allegation by Mahama Ayariga was “a colossal untruth which has done grievous damage to my reputation, my hard earned reputation as a lawyer of 27 years standing, a public servant of high repute and a respected Member of Parliament for Bekwai”.
Moving the motion for the formation of the adhoc committee, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the allegation was “earth moving” with implications on the integrity of the Legislature and needed to be “handled with extreme care”.
He said the image of Parliament was on the line and urged the committee to thoroughly investigate the matter to ensure the truth was unearthed.
Supporting the motion, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu said the allegation affects the reputation, dignity and integrity of the MPs especially the ones on the Appointments Committee in particular and the Legislature in general, hence the need to probe the claim.
“The Ghanaian public, as I have observed, is very angry and will want nothing but the truth or otherwise of these allegations,” he stated.
He said the interest of the public, following the scandal, was for Parliament to share with them the findings of its investigations and that expectation must not be overlooked.
The Speaker in his admonishment urged the MPs to desist from publicly commenting on the matter, especially members of the committee and persons involved in the allegations, so as to avoid prejudging the matter even before the committee came out with its report.
By Julius Yao Petetsi