The Ghartey Committee probing the bribery allegation made by Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga against the leadership of the Appointments Committee has granted a request by North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa to appear as a witness.
This followed a threat by Mr Okudzeto to sue if he were not given the opportunity to respond to an allegation made against him by the committee’s first witness Joe Osei-Owusu on Thursday. According to Mr Osei-Owusu, Mr Ablakwa confessed that the Minority made the bribery allegation against Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko for equalisation purposes and that they meant it as a joke.
He told the committee: “In the conclave, after they had shown that they [Minority] were satisfied and were willing to withdraw their objection and agree for their report to be amended that Hon Osafo Maafo and Boakye Agyarko be passed by consensus, we were going to leave and I said: ‘No. There was this allegation already in the public domain, and Honourable Ayariga is the one alleged to have made that allegation, so, we should discuss that matter after meeting.’ All the Minority members said was [that]: ‘Mr Speaker, cool down, cool down’. And I said: ‘How can I cool down? This allegation is already in the public domain’. It was at that point that Okudzeto Ablakwa said, ‘Because Agyarko said our president (Mahama) was corrupt, we were spreading the corruption allegation’. The mood in the room changed afterwards.”
Mr Ayariga, on Friday 27 January, claimed a quantum of money was given to Mr Osei-Owusu by Energy Minister-designate at the time, Mr Boakye Agyarko, to be distributed to Minority MPs on the Appointments Committee with the intention of influencing them to give him the nod so he could be sworn in as Minister.
Mr Ayariga, who is a member of the Appointments Committee, told Radio Gold in an interview that the Minority MPs rejected the GHS3000 each which was enveloped for them when they later found out that the money was coming from Mr Agyarko as a bribe.
According to Mr Ayariga, the Minority MPs first accepted the money because they were under the impression that the money was their sitting allowance but got alarmed and decided to return the money after they heard rumours that the money was coming from Mr Agyarko.
“We were expecting our committee allowances from the chairman, so, when we were called by our leader to come and take our money, we took it knowing that that is our allowance, so, as for the quantum we cannot tell how much money he [Mr Agyarko] might have given to the chairman, so, there are all sort of speculations about what sort of quantum he is alleged to have given, but what we know is what came to us as individuals, that is what we can bear testimony to: whether it’s GHS1 or GHS2, no matter how small it is, what we know is what was given to us and we found out later that it was coming from him, so, as for the quantum, it’s not important. For me the most important thing is that we were expecting to be given our committee sitting allowances, and we were promised by our chairman that it will come very soon, and we were called to pick up money from our Whip, we picked it up and assumed that it was our allowances and then later we heard rumours in the house and we called our leader and asked him: where is the money coming from? He said it came from the Chairman but chairman said it was coming from Boakye Agyarko, so, that is where we realised that we can’t take money from Boakye Agyarko, so, we asked him to take his money back, we are not interested. The quantum is insignificant, even if he had brought GHS1million, we will still return it to him,” Mr Ayariga alleged.
The bribery allegation followed the reluctance by the Minority side of the Appointments Committee to recommend Mr Agyarko for passage over certain comments he made against former President John Mahama during his vetting.
All the actors named by Mr Ayariga in the bribery scandal have denied anything of the sort ever happened. Mr Ayariga and two other colleague MPs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Alhassan Suhuyini, subsequently petitioned the Speaker to probe the matter since they insist there was an attempted bribery.