Parliamentary Investigation Into Alleged Bribery Scandal

Sun, 5 Feb 2017 Source: Osei, Nana Yaw

In recent times, public trust for Ghana’s legislature is increasingly becoming elusive. We Ghanaians remain enigmatic and paradoxical in our dealings. When we are wrongly accused, we ask our accusers to provide evidence of their claims. When the allegation involves politicians, then heads must roll. Suffice it to say politicians’ lives matter and stereotypes against them must stop now!

Since parliament constituted a committee to probe the attempted bribery allegation of the minority caucus to influence the approval of Mr. Boakye Agyarko Kyeremanteng as energy minister, many individuals and organizations had rather called for an independent body to investigate the alleged scandal. For example, “The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) has called for an independent probe into the alleged attempted bribery of the minority caucus of the Appointments committee of parliament (Source: Ghana News Agency, Wednesday, February 1, 2017, http://www.ghananewsagency.org/politics/gii-calls-for-independent-probe-into-parliament-bribery-scandal-112864 ). I have no intention therefore, to be indifferent spectator. I am joining the bandwagon of independent inquiry because of the famous Latin dictum “Nemo judex in causa sua” meaning “no one should be a judge in his own cause.”

Allegations of corruption throughout history are not without political spectacles. For example, in 1621, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was impeached as the Lord Chancellor of England essentially to deal with corruption (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-229X.1996.tb01692.x/abstractBesides ). Lord Melville (1742-1811) was also impeached in 1805/6 on the charges of corruption (https://archive.org/details/trialbyimpeachm01commgoog). Definitely impeachment is normally a trial by legislature. History of impeachments and corruption scandals had reduced the pursuit of justice to a court (parliament) that is insufferably and inherently political. Corruption allegations in parliament subject members of the honorable house into public ridicule. Thus, stringent measures must be put in place to curtail unsubstantiated allegations against our noble legislators.

Corruption allegations against high profile individuals humiliate families, friends, mentees and their followers. In Brazil for instance, President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office in August 2016. The allegation of corruption which claimed her political life plummeted her approval rate from 79% in march 2013 to about 10% in march 2016 (Source: BBC, August 31, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36028117 ). This means that allegations have implications on political fortunes. The source went further to explain that “Ms. Rousseff was accused of breaking fiscal laws. She was found guilty of moving funds between government budgets, which is illegal under Brazilian law. Her critics said she was trying to plug deficit holes in popular social programs to boost her chances of being re-elected for a second term in October 2014. Ms. Rousseff denied having done anything illegal and said that moving money between budgets was common practice among her predecessors in office.”

Brazilian legislature is bicameral. The Federal Legislative Power structure is spelt out by articles 44-75 of the constitution of that country. The Upper House is known as the Senate and the Lower House known as Chamber of Deputies. The Senators are 81 members consisting of three elected members of the 26 States plus three members from the Federal District. The senators represent each of the Brazilian States, irrespective of the area, population and resources. Each State elects three Senators for eight year tenure of office. Every four years, either 2/3 or 1/3 of The Senate is revamped. The simple majority system is applied during elections of Senators.

On the other hand, the Chamber of Deputies represents the people. The number of Deputies is proportional to the population of each State with minimum and maximum limits regulated by law. Deputies are elected for four year terms. The 513 Deputies are elected through proportional representation. The principle of proportional election of each political party means that if party “A” for example, has 20% of the votes in a given State, then this party will elect 20% of the Deputies of that State. It follows ipso facto that a Deputy can be voted even if there are other candidates with more votes. Deputies are not forbidden to cross carpet (Join other political parties) after election. Discerning readers can follow this link for more tutorials on Brazilian legislature http://www.v-brazil.com/government/legislative-branch/

On August 31, 2016, Senators in Brazil voted 61 against 20 in favor of Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment. Anti Rousseff supporters predominantly domiciled at Sao Paulo, frustrated about corrupt practices with irresponsible glee in Brazilian politics welcomed the impeachment news with alacrity. Ms. Rousseff and her support based mostly at Rio De Janairo, did not only welcome the impeachment with discontent but equally described it as a politically motivated coup de tat.

Now the question is, if a complex and a well-balanced legislative structure in Brazil is still not without partisan biases how can we trust the highly divisive and rubber-stump parliament of Ghana to be its own judge. This means that it would have been more appropriate to settle the matter under discussion at the judiciary. This will strengthen checks and balances. I am a layman without legal training or laurels, even so, I concede that Abraham Lincoln never attended Law School but was one of the World’s finest legal brains. Believe you me, any reasonable court will throw out the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Honorable Mahama Ayariga’s allegation on the basis of lacking merit. His evidence is in Limbo as the principal witness, MP for Asawase, honorable, Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka vehemently refuted the allegation.

After receiving a backlash from sections of the public, honorable Ayariga resorted to a petition. The idea of petition was nurtured to augment what psychologists called reaction formation. Reaction formation is a sort of psychological defense mechanism in which an individual considers his/her true feelings or desires to be socially or in some instances legally unacceptable and therefore, make frantic effort to convince himself/herself and others that the opposite is true, often in a very exaggerated action.

This is similar to the figure of speech “the lady doth protest too much” originally coming from Shakespeare’s Hamlet implying individuals who appear to be dramatically and emphatically opposed to something in an effort to hide their true feelings. Honorable Ayariga and many National Democratic Congress (NDC) apparatchiks are still recovering from the shocks of electoral defeat from December 2016. That is the hidden true feelings. Apparently, vetting of ministerial nominees through parliament had been used to compensate electoral defeats over the years.

However, to be fair to him as one of my favorites NDC stalwarts. Is Mr. Agyarko the only ministerial nominee? If Mr.Agyarko is not the only person who was vetted, why then must the allegation settled on him? There is no smoke without fire. Therefore, probing into the allegation is a step in the right direction. I think judicial inquiry into the matter or independent commission of inquiry would have been more appropriate because parliament is not mandated to interpret laws and prescribe punishment for those who violate both criminal and civil laws of Ghana. That is the mandate of the court. Parliament cannot be its own judge on such issues of national importance. Corruption is an offence punishable by the law, thus, either independent commission of inquiry or judicial investigation is appropriate. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. And Make Us Cherish Fearless Honesty.

By: Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo), USA

Email: N_yawosei@hotmail.com

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw