The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, has referred the findings of the 5-member bi partisan adhoc committee set up to investigate claims that the Trade Ministry extorted $100,000 from expatriates to allow them to sit close to the President during the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards in December 2017, to the privileges committee.
The Privileges Committee has been tasked in that regard to investigate the source of the allegations and other related matters.
This follows the adoption of the 146 page report of the committee chaired by Majority Chief Whip, Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, which exonerated the Trades and Industry Ministry and organizers of the awards of any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the Minority has said the adopted reported is far from the truth.
Addressing the media, Minority Member of the committee, Dr. Dominic Ayine described the Majority’s decision to ignore the Minority’s perspective on the probe as undemocratic.
“We would have loved the situation where the content of the report would have reflected in the official records of Parliament for posterity. What they have done today is to endanger the fledgling democracy that we have been experimenting with since 1992 and it saddens me that the views which have just been outlined were not taken into account.”
Minority stage walkout
The Minority had earlier staged a walkout from Parliament over the committee’s report.
They said the 148-page document was not made available to MPs for prior reading before it was put before the House for debate.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, held that under the circumstances, his side could not take part in the deliberations.
Background of “cash for seat” saga
The Ministry of Trade, which partnered the event organizers, Millennium Excellence Foundation, is alleged to have charged between $25,000 and $100,000, to enable expatriates to sit close to the President at the awards ceremony.
The allegation was first made by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak in Parliament in December 2017.
Mr. Mubarak said the fees charged at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards were not approved by Parliament, adding that the monies were also not accounted for in the Internally Generated Funds [IGF] of the Ministry’s accounts.
The allegation was further reinforced by Mr. Ablakwa, who suffered verbal assaults from Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah over the matter.
The Ministry of Trade said it played no role in determining prices for seats at the event, and clarified that it only facilitated the implementation of a new initiative by the Millennium Excellence Foundation.
But the Ministry after an order from the President to probe the matter clarified that an amount of GHc2, 667,215 was realized from the event.
This was made known only after the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, had asked the Trade Minister, Alan Kyerematen, to investigate the matter and report to him.
The organizers of the Awards had also explained that no one paid to sit close to the President and that the amount was raised from sponsorship through a fundraising at the event.
Parliament subsequently formed a five-member bi-partisan committee to investigate the matter.
The Committee held several public hearings and a few in-camera sessions that featured all parties named in the allegation, and those who made the allegation.
The Trades Ministry and the Foundation maintained their innocence in the matter and insisted that due process was followed in soliciting funds for the awards scheme.