There was a fracas in Ghana’s Parliament on Thursday during discussions over the report of the committee tasked to investigate allegations of bribery levelled against some members of the House’s Appointments Committee by Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga.
Mr Ayariga, a member of the Appointments Committee on Friday, January 27, alleged Minister of Energy, Boakye Agyarko whose ministerial nomination had been withheld at the time had attempted to bribe the minority members of the appointments committee with GHC3,000 each to influence them to confirm his nomination.
Speaking in an interview on Accra-based Radio Gold, he alleged that Mr Agyarko had given the bribe money to Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu to be given to minority members through their Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka.
Though Honourables Osei-Owusu and Muntaka later denied the allegations, some minority MPs including Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (North Tongu) and Alhassan Suhuyini (Tamale South) corroborated Mr Ayariga’s claim leading Parliament to form a five-member committee to investigate the matter.
The ad-hoc committee after its investigation presented a 44-page report to the House on Wednesday, the debate for which was deferred to today [Thursday], March 30.
Speaking on the floor of Parliament before the debate began, Chairman of the Committee, Mr Joe Ghartey explained that having heard the witnesses and conducted their own investigations they had concluded that “Mr Ayariga failed to prove indeed that Hon. Boakye Agyarko gave money to Hon. Joseph Osei-Owusu to be distributed to members of the Appointments Committee with a view to bribe them”.
The Committee thus “came to the firm conclusion that Mr Mahama Ayariga is in Contempt of Parliament on the strength of Article 122 of the 1992 Constitution, Section 32 of the Parliament Act 1965 (Act 300) and Orders 28 and 30 (2) of the Standing Orders of Parliament”.
It, therefore, recommended among others “that Mr Mahama Ayariga renders an unqualified apology to the House, purging himself of contempt”.
After Mr Ghartey’s presentation, the Speaker gave the floor to the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu and Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu who both commended the Ghartey Committee for its work.
The Speaker then asked Mr Ayariga to go to the back of the chamber and render an unqualified apology to the House but before Mr Ayariga would stand up, the Minority Leader took the floor to plead with the Speaker not to let Mr Ayariga go to the back of the chamber to render his apology.
The Speaker then sought the opinion of his second deputy, Alban Bagbin who is the longest-serving member of the House on the matter and he supported Mr Iddrisu’s plea.
But when Mr Ayariga took the floor after the Speaker had heeded the pleas of the Minority Leader and the Second Deputy Speaker, he decided not apologise straight away but make comment concerning the report committee’s report.
Questioning why the committee would use criminal methods to make conclusions after using civil methods in their investigations, he stated that the Ghartey Committee had no legal mandate to find make find him in contempt of Parliament.
Though the Speaker advised him to be mindful of the fact a person rendering an unqualified apology would usually sound remorseful, Mr Ayariga ignored and went ahead to make his point before he rendered what was clearly an unwilling apology.
“Mr Speaker, if you say I should apologise, I apologise”, he said before sitting down with some members of the minority including Ningo-Prampram MP, Sam George shaking his hands.
His apology brought a bit of chaos as the members of the murmured.
Both the leaders of the stood up to catch the eye of the Speaker but the asked them to sit down and announced that he would be making a ruling on the matter tomorrow.
He subsequently adjourned sitting and left the chamber after both sides of the House got engaged in heated exchanges.
The exchanges were so fierce that Sam George had to be escorted away from the middle of the chamber and could have turned violent if not for that.