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MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Common sense analysis of Ayariga’s bribery claim

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 Source: manassehazure.com

Before night fell yesterday, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) member of parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, set the nation on a fire of controversy. He alleged that the Minister-designate for Energy, Boakye Agyarko, had bribed members of the appointment committee to have him approved. Mr. Agyarko’s approval was being withheld following his allegation that the World Bank had put pressure on former President John Mahama to take a decision on the gasification policy. This is what Mahama Ayariga said:

“On Tuesday you know we had Appointments Committee sitting to consider a number of nominees and at the end of the sitting, normally we have our own closed-door meeting to evaluate the various nominees who appear before us and I think some members raised the issue of our allowance for sitting beyond the normal hours and working during the weekend and the Chairman of the committee (Joseph Osei-Owusu, MP for Bekwai) assured us that he had prepared a memo and was going to access funds to pay the sitting allowances of the members. So we were expecting that – no I think either yesterday or the day before yesterday, our chief whip, Hon. Muntaka called us and said that the chairman had brought some money and so we should pass by and pick our money.

“So we passed by and individually we were given three thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢3000.00) which we assumed was the allowance due us as committee members but somehow yesterday we started hearing rumours that it wasn’t the allowances that should be given to us from Parliament, it was some other source. So this morning we had a meeting and during the meeting we raised the issue with our Chief Whip and asked what was the source of the money, in fact we raised the issue with him yesterday, some of us raised the issue with him yesterday and he said he was going to check with the chairman, because he had also assumed that it was the sitting allowance that he had given him to give to us.

“So we raised the issue this morning again and he said he had met with the chairman and the chairman had said that it was from Boakye Agyarko who is a nominee, whereupon we as a minority said no, no, we were not interested in his money, he should take the money and return it to the chairman to give it back to Agyarko so we gave the money back to our Chief Whip and asked him to send it back to the Chairman to give it to Mr. Agyarko. So those are the facts that I know. I don’t know much beyond that. I wasn’t there when the money was handed over, all I know is that we were told that that was coming from him and we said we were not interested and we returned the money back to our whip to send it back to the chairman of the committee.”

When Mr. Ayariga was asked why he had to conclude that it was a bribe from Agyarko, this was his response:

“Well, I mean the logical conclusion of course Agyarko doesn’t normally give us money… so Agyarko, [we did] no business transaction with Agyarko for which dividends had come and he is supposed to share with us and so the only logical conclusion one could arrive at, you know, is that this is money intended to influence us especially since we had withheld his approval based on certain grounds. So we took a decision that we are not taking anything from anybody, we will take our normal sitting allowances as a committee and so our leader should be mindful anytime that the chairman brings any money.”

Later that evening the Chairman of the Appointment Committee and Member of Parliament for Bekwai, Joseph Osei-Owusu, said on the floor of parliament that Mr. Ayariga had told the committee in a closed-door session that he made those allegations up in order to equalize Mr. Agyarko’s claim against former President Mahama. Joe Osei-Owusu reportedly apologised on Ayariga’s behalf and they proceeded to approve Mr. Boakye Agyarko and the senior minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo.

Joy News’ parliamentary correspondent, Joseph Opoku Gakpo, said Mahama Ayariga was on the floor of parliament but he did not raise any objection to what Mr. Osei-Owusu had said. He did not make any intervention. Gakpo said after the session, he tried to speak to Mahama Ayariga on what Mr. Osei-Owusu had said about his claim. There again, Mahama Ayariga said he would not speak on the matter.

When Joe Osei-Owusu’s statement about Ayariga’s claim on the floor of parliament was reported, he went on Facebook to deny ever withdrawing the allegation and apologizing.

“Let me state categorically that I have not withdrawn any allegation against the nominee. The basis for such a withdrawal and apology does not exist because the Minority Members actually received some sums of money from the leadership which came from the nominee.

“I wish to also add that I was not making up any facts to equalise for the bribery allegation against President John Mahama. My colleagues and I actually returned the money to be given back to Mr. Agyarko, who we are were told gave the money.

“The myjoyonline story is inaccurate. I hope they do the right thing and retract and apologise.”

It is often said that he who alleges must prove. Mr. Ayariga has not provided evidence. It is his word against the words of the majority and Mr. Agyarko. For the third party, one must subject the claims to two main common sense approaches.

The first question that should be asked is whether the MPs on the committee were paid any money on the said date. If they were paid, where did the money come from? If MPs are to be paid for doing their official duties, is that money paid by the parliament’s accounting staff, who take records of the payment and receipts or the money is given to the MPs to share to their colleagues as it is being alleged here? So if money was, indeed, paid we should know where this money came from. The parliamentary service should be able to tell us where this money came from. This will be very important in determining whether there is some element of truth in Ayariga’s words or not.

The second approach is what investigative journalists call inherent improbability, the unlikelihood of something happening.

What would be the motivation for Boakye Agyarko wanting to bribe the MPs? His party has a clear majority in parliament and on the appointments committee. If they wanted to approve him at all costs, which we knew they would do, they would not face any hindrance. So why would he want to bribe anyone in the first place, especially when the reasons for holding on to his approval was not very scandalous?

And why was Mahama Ayariga quiet when his colleague said on the floor of parliament that he had withdrawn the allegation of bribery? Why were he and his colleagues quiet if, indeed, they still stood by the allegation? Why were they mute, on the floor of parliament when it mattered most?

Common sense appraisal of what happened yesterday makes it difficult to believe what Mahama Ayariga is alleging, but it will be fatal to dismiss it and move on. It should not be left uninvestigated. If there was payment to the committee, it should be investigated. How much were the MPs supposed to receive each day of the vetting? If each person was given 3000 cedis, how many days had they sat to deserve this payment? And why is the leadership of the minority quiet on this controversy?

It will be unfortunate to brand Mahama Ayariga as a liar and leave the matter to rest. We should get to the bottom of this case and if Mahama Ayariga, indeed, lied then parliament should punish him accordingly. At least, we should get to the bottom of this.

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is azureachebe2@yahoo.com. The views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and do not reflect, in any form or shape, those of The Multimedia Group, where he works.

Columnist: manassehazure.com