The five Member Parliamentary Committee set up to investigate the “Cash for Seat” issue has begun sitting.
The Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, who was the first to appear before the committee pointed out that there are several inconsistencies in the statement from the Ministry of Trade and Industry with regards to events leading to the organisation of the Expatriate Business Awards held in December last year.
It is alleged that the Trade Ministry took money from businessmen who wanted a seat close to the President.
Alhaji Mubarak doubted the total amount of money claimed to have been received by the Trade Ministry from the expatriate businessmen.
Alhaji Muntaka, who is also the Member of Parliament for Asawase in the Ashanti Region, told the Committee at the Parliament House in Accra that it was his onerous duty as MP to bring the matter to the attention of the House, because the levies and monies collected lacked parliamentary approval and was wrongly done.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has been accused of taking monies ranging from 25,000-100,000 dollars from some expatriate businessmen who attended the GEBA.
He said nowhere in his communication to the Speaker did he allege extortion; but however, complained that there were unauthorised and unethical levies and collection of monies for the awards ceremony, for which he was unhappy.
However, Alhajji Muntaka , appearing before the panel said the 1992 Constitution did not give the Presidency any such investigative powers without referring the matter to the appropriate bodies for investigations.
The Chief Whip, who is also the prime witness, said he was pushed to demand more answers because of the denial of knowledge of resource mobilisation by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah and the Ministry’s Chief Director.
Another witness, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs and MP for North Tongu, who seconded the Minority Chief Whip’s motion last Friday at the plenary, said there was no justification in charging expatriate businessmen to sit by President Akufo-Addo, adding; “everything was wrong with that unacceptable arrangement.”
He said the fundamental issue had to do with whether it was appropriate, moral, ethical, or legal to allow the highest bidder to have access to the President.
“It is my contention that you cannot sell the prestige of the Office of the President, you cannot say that you are organising an award and that if you pay $100,000 or $75,000 you will be guaranteed access to the President first by sitting by him and secondly by having an exclusive private dinner with him.
“It is my considered view that there is everything wrong with this arrangement, it is not appropriate, it cannot be justified in anyway.”
When the motion was moved last Friday at the emergency meeting, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, told the House that the mover of the motion himself did not sign the affidavit attached to his motion.
He told the House that based on the procedural irregularities, which he considered to be gross abuse of the processes of Parliament, it was important for the Speaker to dismiss “what we have before us as incompetence”.
However, the Speaker after listening to the debate on the issue ruled that even though there were procedural irregularities in the motion filed by the Minority, the matter before the House was of grave importance.
He, therefore, directed the House to be suspended for thirty minutes to enable the mover of the motion to correct the procedural irregularities.
Twenty eight MPs whose names were captured in the list of 77 as having signed the affidavit had no signatures against their names.
They include the Second Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin, MP for Asunafo South, Eric Opoku, MP for Asutifi South, Collins Dauda, MP for Damongo, Adam Mutawakilu, MP for Korle Klottey, Zenator Rawlings, MP for Ablekuma South, Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije and Felicia Adjei, MP for Kintampo South.
The rest are MP for Agona East, Queenstar Pokua Sawyerr, MP for Tamale Central, Inusah Fuseini, and MP for Sekyere Afram Plains, Alex Adomako Mensah.
The Ministry of Trade is alleged to have taken the monies with the promise of making the highest payers sit close to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
President Nana Akufo-Addo, therefore, queried the sector Minister, Alan Kwadzo Kyerematen, to explain what had really transpired.
The President, after perusing the Minister’s submission, directed him to give the facts of the matter to the Ghanaian public as what he had received so far did not indicate any wrongdoing.
This was announced in a statement issued by the Minister of Information, Mr Mustapha Hamid.
The Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to institute a probe into the matter, warranting an emergency sitting of the House on Friday, January 5, 2018, at which the Speaker okayed the five-member bi partisan committee, chaired by Ameyaw Cheremeh, the Majority Chief Whip and MP for Sunyani East.
The members are Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, MP for Adenta, Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah, MP for New Juabeng South, James Klutse Avedzi, MP for Ketu North and Dominic Ayeni, MP for Bolgatanga.
The Committee is to submit its report on January 24, 2018.