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‘Cash for seat’ claim bogus – Committee

The special parliamentary ad hoc committee tasked to investigate allegation of extortion during last year’s Expatriate Awards has exonerated those who were accused.

Officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Millennium Excellence Foundation – organizers of the function -were accused by the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in parliament of collecting monies from expatriate business people to facilitate their sitting with President Akufo-Addo during the ceremony.

The allegation by two members of the minority in parliament, Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka, the minority chief whip and MP for Asawase and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu, triggered a recall of parliament on January 5, 2018 based on an urgent motion filed by the two MPs.

Parliament, with the directive of the speaker, has also referred the findings to the Privileges Committee of the house to look into the accusation and recommend appropriate sanctions against all those MPs who made those allegations without any proof – that had tended to denigrate the presidency and parliament as an institution.

Meanwhile, counsel for the President of the Millennium Excellence Foundation, Charles Zwennes, has indicated that his client, Ashim Morton, is seriously considering suing all those MPs who made the wild allegation against him (Mr. Morton) without any shred of evidence, having caused irreparable damage to his reputation.

The minority members, obviously unhappy with the outcome of the special committee’s finding, boycotted debate on the report yesterday amid shouts of ‘Shame! Shame!’ from the majority members.

The minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu, argued that the report was ‘one-sided’ and did not contain the recommendations of the minority members on the committee.

Chairman of the special committee, Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, said that all those who were invited as witnesses at the committee hearing cooperated well, ensuring that the committee came up with a satisfactory report.

He said at the committee hearing, Messrs Muntaka and Okudzeto Ablakwa failed to prove their allegation of collection of monies from expatriate businessmen by officials of the ministry and even by extension, the presidency.

He said the two MPs also could not provide any authentic documentary proof of any collection of money for the benefit of officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“None of the other expatriate business leaders who attended the committee’s hearing said anything to the effect that they made contributions or attended the event with the view to having access to the president. From the forgoing, it is very untrue that people made payments or sponsored the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards event to have access to the president or to have a seat at the Presidential High Table. There is incontrovertible evidence to the effect that a number of the expatriate business owners who sat at the Presidential High Table did not contribute $100,000 or $75,000 or anything at all,” the chairman said

A member of the committee, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, said that the two witnesses from the minority side were all running away from the allegation they made on radio because they were unable to prove the allegation.

He said that when Mr. Muntaka was asked about the nature of levy imposed on expatriate business owners, he (Muntaka) admitted that it would be improper for the Ministry of Trade and Industry to, in the first place, impose any such levy, saying further that it was only parliament that could impose such levies.

He said there was nothing incriminating found in the Financial Administration Regulations (FAR) as alleged by members of the minority.

Another member of the special committee, Yaw Buaben Asamoa, said there was nothing for parliament to investigate because the minority members were only trying to score ‘political points’ by jumping to the media to make allegation of non-existent scandal.

He, therefore, asked parliament to look again at Article 112 (3), where a group of parliamentarians making up to 15% of MPs, can force a recall of parliament for any frivolous reason or agendum.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, said the truth had been unveiled, which shows that nothing untoward was done by officials of the ministry in the organization of the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards ceremony.

He said that from the findings of the committee, it had come to be established that the two Members of Parliament – Muntaka and Okudzeto Abakwa – were peddling untruths about the ministry and the presidency.

He said for instance that Muntaka ought to be investigated for providing a fraudulent sponsorship package letter at the committee hearing, purported to have been written by officials of the ministry.

He said the nation ought to look at bringing charges of causing financial loss to the state against the two MPs for making parliament to be recalled for an emergency sitting at a cost, and also for establishing a special committee to look into the matter at a cost to the state.

The majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, castigated the minority members for wasting everyone’s time with this ‘baseless allegation,’ saying that for the minority members to occasion the recall of parliament for this ‘pedestrian allegation’ was an abuse of the rules of parliament.

He said that the minority members might be suffering from hallucination of their gargantuan electoral defeat in the 2016 general elections, and that is the reason why they decided to waste everybody’s time with a ‘frivolous allegation.’

The speaker of parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, said that it was unfortunate for the minority to boycott the debate on the report of the special committee, stressing that it was the same minority which called for parliamentary probe into the allegation of the collection of money.

He, therefore, appealed to the members to be partners in the deepening of democracy in the country.

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