CHRAJ must investigate bribery scandal – Vitus Azeem

Vitus Azeem

Mr Vitus Azeem, a former Executive Director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, has said the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) should investigate the bribery allegations made against the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

He said the Commission did not require any individual or body to petition it before it could take an action in a matter that concerned a public institution.

CHRAJ should, consequently, act take up the matter in the national interest and that of the stakeholders for the truth to be ascertained, he said.

The anti-corruption campaigner said CHRAJ, being an independent body over which the Executive Arm of Government did not have any control, should investigate the matter, instead of the Privileges Committee of Committee.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview, in Accra, on Tuesday, Mr. Azeem noted that the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature over the years had been very close.

He said: “For instance, the Majority Leader in Parliament has been nominated to head the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and should he be approved, he would be doing the Government’s business.”

The Anti-corruption Campaigner stated that CHRAJ should not limit the investigations to this particular bribery scandal, but extend its work to any other allegations made by anybody against the legislature in order to establish the truth or otherwise.

 He said the outcome of the investigations would help in restoring public confidence in the legislature as well as the image of the Committee and its members mentioned in the matter.

He said the leadership of Parliament should handle the issue painstakingly because the failure to do the right thing would forever dent its reputation.

In the past when such allegations were made the leadership of Parliament left it hanging and that was not good for the reputation of the legislature, he said, explaining that Parliament was a respectable institution, therefore, it should be proactive.

Asked whether the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr. Joseph Osei-Owusu, should recluse himself from the vetting process or not, Mr. Azeem disagreed with those making that call, saying he would not be personally involved in the investigation.

Besides, he noted that, the Standing Orders of Parliament required that the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament chaired the Committee, asking, 

“So if he steps aside who should chair the Committee’s meetings?” 

With regard to concerns for the President to withdraw the nomination of Boakye Agyarko until investigations had been carried out, Mr. Azeem agreed with the proponents of the suggestion,  saying, “ I was thinking the President probably should have stayed his swearing in or withdrawn his nominee until the investigation were completed. It’s unfortunate that the President has already sworn him in.”

The President could have appointed a Caretaker or a Chief Director at the Ministry of Energy to hold the fort since President Akufo-Addo assured the nation during his inauguration that he would not tolerate corruption in his government, he pointed out.

Mr. Mahama Ayariga, the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, has accused the Energy Minister, Mr. Agyarko of attempting to bribe the Minority Members on the Committee to influence his approval.

According to Mr. Ayariga, the bribe was made through the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr. Osei-Owusu, which was later given to the Minority Caucus’ Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka and distributed among members on the Minority side.

He said upon receiving a tip-off that the GH¢3000 he received from the Chief Whip was not his sitting allowance but a bribe from Mr. Agyarko, he and the other Minority members on the Committee returned the money.

The allegation has since generated a lot of public debate with some Ghanaians calling for a halt to the vetting process until the investigations had been completed.

Mr. Osei-Owusu, on Monday, January 30, threw his weight behind calls for full-scale investigation into the bribery scandal so as to purge and restore the integrity of members of the Committee.

The call was supported by Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader in Parliament, and a Ranking Member of the Committee, who said the allegation had undermined the work of the Committee.

Source: GNA

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