General News of 2014-01-30

We don’t take bribes – MPs cry

The leaders of both sides of Ghana’s Parliament took turns on Wednesday to frantically deny widely publicized allegations that lawmakers frequently receive bribes as a precondition to slap their stamps of approval on agreements selling off national assets.

The House has been struggling to repair its image years after a former New Patriotic Party lawmaker, Paul Collins Appiah-Ofori, went public in 2009 with damaging allegations that each NPP MP who supported the controversial sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone UK during the Kufuor era received 5,000 US dollars in unlawful payments.

Although Kwadwo Mpiani, who served under President John Kufuor as Chief of Staff, subsequently rubbished Appiah-Ofori’s allegation; the matter was never investigated by the Ghanaian Legislature though a previous Speaker, Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo, had asked the Privileges Committee to look into the claims and report to the House.

In a series of media interviews following Mr. Mpiani’s denial of the allegations, Appiah-Ofori echoed his earlier claims that the Kufuor government bribed his colleagues into approving the divisive GT deal.

“GT was running four different services and made more profit than MTN, so why couldn’t Ghana benefit more from the GT sale to Vodafone?” Mr Appiah-Ofori said in one interview.

“Every NPP MP who took part in the approval of the Vodafone deal knew in their hearts that they took 5,000 dollars from the former chief of staff," he alleged.

Early this year, similar allegations made the headlines after governing National Democratic Congress MPs openly backed the contentious sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz.

At a time a number of credible opinion polls continue to indicate waning public confidence in the nation’s lawmakers, Majority Leader, Benjamin Kunbuor, sought to repair the apparent dented image of the House at Wednesday’s sitting.

“Mr Speaker, I can register here openly that I have heard of 5,000 and 10,000 US Dollars being paid to members of the Majority. And what I am saying is that I have not taken any 5,000 or 10,000 US dollars, neither has anybody from the Minority, to the best of my knowledge, taken that type of amount,” he said.

The Majority Leader made the comments while backing a call by the Minority Leader that the Speaker of the House should not refer MP for Effiduase Asokore, Frank Boakye Agyen, to the Privileges Committee over contemptuous comments he allegedly made against the Speaker on radio.

Dr. Kunbuor’s commentary prompted the Chair to intervene in a bid to stop him from straying from the issue of whether the Effiduase Asokore MP should face the Privileges Committee for claiming on radio that external influences led Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho to throw out a Minority motion calling for Parliamentary investigations into the recent sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz.

In response, the Majority Leader insisted; “Mr. Speaker, I am putting this in the broader context of issues that will go to the Privileges Committee and why we should handle these matters in a holistic manner so that as we move to deal with this reconciliatory approach, people must also take responsibility” not to scandalize their colleagues outside Parliament.

On his feet, Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, also denied widely circulated bribery allegations against NPP MPs over the GT deal.

“Mr. Speaker, may I also state for the records, that in respect of the sale of Vodafone [Ghana Telecom] no member on the Minority side took 5,000 dollars,” the Suame MP said. Mr. Speaker, let it go on record that nobody did that. Nobody from the Minority side, then on the Majority side, did that”.

The Minority Leader’s denial caused Ningo-Prampram MP, Enoch Teye Mensah, to rise to remind him that the bribery allegation surrounding the sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone “was not made by” any NDC MP but by an NPP MP.