Joe Ghartey Committee Acted Beyond Its Mandate – Okudzeto Ablakwa

The North Tongu Member of Parliament (MP) has accused the Joe Ghartey Committee of acting beyond its mandate when it found Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga guilty of contempt.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa said the contents of the report shocked him when Joe Ghartey who chaired the Committee presented it to Parliament Thursday.

“My initial reaction when I heard the report was that of a surprise because I thought that the Committee had gone beyond its terms of reference,” he told Samson Lardy Anyenini on Joy FM/MultiTV’s news analysis programme Newsfile Saturday.

The Committee set up to investigate the bribery claim made by Mr Ayariga told legislators it found no evidence to support the MP’s claim that GHC3,000 was given to minority MPs on Parliament’s Appointments Committee.

The Bawku Central MP had said he received the money and returned same after he was told the money was a gift from Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko whose nomination was under consideration.

According to him, the said amount was given to him by Minority Chief Whip Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak who told him it was coming from First Deputy Speaker Joe Osei Owusu. The three men whose names were mentioned vehemently denied the allegation.

The claim gained prominence and Ghanaians called for an independent probe to establish its veracity. Acting on the public outcry and a motion filed by Mr Osei Owusu, Speaker of Parliament Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye set up a five-member Committee to go into it.

After close to two months of investigation, the Committee said, “there was no evidence that money was given to MPs [with intention bribing them].”

It also said Mr Ayariga’s claim that the money was given to him by Mr Muntaka was not true, adding the Bawku Central MP acted on a rumour.

“There is no evidence that this committee can rely on that First Deputy Speaker Joe Osei Owusu gave money to Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka,” Mr Ghartey said when he laid the report.

As a result of his failure to prove the allegations, the Committee found Mr Ayariga guilty of contempt as spelt out in Article 112 of the 1992 Constitution as well as Order eight of Parliament’s Standing Orders.

It recommended to Speaker of Parliament Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye to “reprimand” the MP and demand an apology for the “deadly injury” he has caused the image of the House.

Mr Ayariga has registered his dissatisfaction with the work done by the Committee especially the contempt finding against him.

The Committee was given three terms of reference within which to conduct its activities.

They included,

(a) Establishing whether money was taken by First Deputy Speaker Joe Osei Owusu from Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko and given to Minority Chief Whip Mohammed Muntaka.

(b) Establish whether there were attempts to bribe members of Parliament’s Appointments Committee and

(c) Look into the remits and complaints and assertions made by the deputy Speaker Joe Osei Owusu on the matter.

Mr Okudzeto said the Committee outstepped its boundaries when it proceeded to slap “sanctions and to recommend” Mr Ayariga be held in contempt of Parliament. “I was clear in my mind.”

But Effutu MP Alexander Afenyo Markin rebutted the argument, insisting that the Joe Ghartey Committee did what was expected of every committee set up to investigate an issue.

“The committee acted within its mandate. They were asked to make findings and by coming out with findings certainly you will make recommendations,” he said.

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