General News of 2014-03-10

MPs take bribes - Alban Bagbin

Member of Parliament (MP) for Nadowli/Kaleo, Alban S.K. Bagbin, has confirmed that some Members of Parliament (MPs) take bribes to articulate the views of some individuals and organisations on the floor of Parliament.

He said evidence to that effect existed and added that the practice had persisted because of the lack of laid-down rules and ethics on lobbying in the country.

Mr Bagbin was speaking at a two-day seminar in Koforidua to representatives of 40 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which had sought to influence policy by having laws passed or changing the laws thought to be inimical to national development.

The workshop was organised by the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, a donor-funded organisation which seeks to promote an enabling environment for the development and growth of the private sector through advocacy, and STAR Ghana, another such organisation.

All the participants have, at one time or another, been beneficiaries of the assistance of both organisations.

Prior to their arrival at the conference, some participants who had dealt with some of the country’s legislators had alleged that they had paid bribes to MPs to carry out their law-making functions.

The participants added that they had been compelled to pay the bribes when it became clear that the MPs were not willing to move in the direction they (the participants) expected them to unless some “brown envelopes” changed hands.

Bagbin’s confessions

A frank and candid Mr Bagbin said: “The reality is that MPs are Ghanaians and there is evidence that some MPs take bribes and come to the floor and try to articulate the views of their sponsors.

“This is because in Ghana we have not developed what we call lobbying. There are rules; there are ethics regarding lobbying and we in Ghana think that lobbying is taking money, giving it to MPs and writing pieces for them to go articulate on the floor. That is bribery,” he said.

Mr Bagbin said there was a way MPs could be lobbied without paying bribes, adding that such lobbying could take the form of capacity building for MPs on particular or relevant subjects.

He said organisations and individuals who wanted to influence bills could bring MPs together at a forum and build their capacity on the issues they sought to influence, so that the MPs could make meaningful contributions on the issues on the floor of the House.

That, he said, was more acceptable than offering bribes.

Governments bribe too

Mr Bagbin said it was not only individuals and organisations which were guilty of offering bribes, adding that governments (on both sides of the political divide) were equally guilty of greasing the palms of MPs to ensure that “controversial” policies were accepted by members.

Citing the sale of Ghana Telecom (GT) to Vodafone, he said there had been instances when governments had used that tactic to push through unpopular policies.

He said in the case of the sale of GT, as alleged by a former MP for Asikuma/Odoben/Brakwa, Mr P.C. Appiah-Ofori, moneys changed hands, but he was quick to add that nothing of that sort did happen in the Merchant Bank and Fortiz deal.

In the Merchant Bank and Fortiz deal, he said, a team, including himself, were invited and given full details of the agreement by the government.

“We were fed and given T&T. But we were not given one dollar. And that team came back to the House and led the caucus to try and debate the issue,” he said. He said those accusing the Majority side of taking bribes were only seeking “equalisation”.

Denials in the past

In 2003, the Ghanaian Times published a story under the headline: “Confirmed: MPs take bribe”.

In that publication, a former National Convention Party (NCP) MP for the then Mpohor Wassa East Constituency, Madam Mary Ankomah, had stated that, indeed, MPs took bribes and that the bribery occurred at the committee level.

The then Editor of the Ghanaian Times, Mr Tom Dorkenoo; his deputy, Robert Bentil, and the reporter who had filed the story, Winston Tamakloe, were hauled before the Privileges Committee of Parliament, then headed by the then First Deputy Speaker, Mr Freddie Blay.

After threats, they were made to retract the story and apologise to the House. In 2008, Mr Appiah-Ofori had alleged that members on the then Majority side (NPP) had been paid $5,000 each by the government to push forward the Vodafone deal.

That statement was, however, vehemently denied by the Majority side, which said no such moneys had been paid.

Mr Appiah-Ofori was subsequently ostracised by his party.