Parliament on Friday set up a five-member Committee to investigate the allegation of the levy and collection of various sums of money in US dollars, from expatriate businesses by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The Ministry is alleged to have collected the cedi equivalent of the US dollars at the Business Awards recently held in Accra for which the Committee is to investigate in addition to any other related matters.
The Committee, chaired by Mr Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, Majority Chief Whip in Parliament and Member of Parliament (MP) for Sunyani East, has up to January 24, 2018, to submit its report.
Other members are Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, Chairman of the Finance Committee and Member of Parliament (MP) for New Juaben South; Mr Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, MP for Adenta; from the Majority Side and Dr James Klutse Avedzi, Deputy Minority Leader and MP for Ketu North, Dr Dominic Ayeni, MP for Bolgatanga; from the Minority side.
The House, currently on recess, was called for an emergency sitting following a motion filed by the Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, who had raised the matter.
Giving his ruling, the Speaker, Professor Mike Aaron Oquaye directed the Committee to determine when the matter under consideration arose, if the matter could have been raised during the regular sitting session with prudent vigilance during the session and why it was raised when the House was on recess, among other issues.
Professor Oquaye called for the setting up of the Committee, following a heated debate leading to the suspension of deliberations on arguments by both Sides of the House over procedural mishaps, for which the Majority sought to apply for the motion to be thrown out.
After the suspension, the Speaker okayed the motion when the House resumed sitting, despite the said irregularities, explaining that the allegation could plunge country into what he called “a political football pitch’’.
Admitting the motion despite the irregularity concerns raised by the Majority, Prof. Oquaye cautioned for the need for care for the rights provided to the legislators and people’s representatives so that such an admission “does not become a tool for promoting that which is frivolous, vexatious or otherwise and abuse of the process of Parliament.”
He added: “Our good nation cannot be allowed to sink into insecurity and confusion and that is why I have allowed this to come on notwithstanding the incompetence and irregularities.”
Moving the motion, which was seconded by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu and Ramking Member on Foreign, Aljhaji Muntaka prayed the House to set up an adhoc committee to investigate the matter, adding that “It is important that these matters are investigated properly…I believe that as a House we will do what we think is right.”
The Minority Chief Whip had earlier alluded to the allegation, before the House went on recess last December, when he was speaking in Parliament during the debate on the 2018 budget estimate for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and tendered in a document signed by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Carlos Ahenkora dated 23rd October 23, 2017, demanding Business executives who would want to sit in a round table with the president and have exclusive access to pay US$ 100,000.
The Office of the President had declared no wrongdoing and later tasked Trade and Industry Minister, Alan Kyeremanten, who was present in the House during the emergency, to offer explanations.
During the sitting on Friday, Majority Leader Osei-Kyei-Mensa Bonsu and MP for Suame raised issues with the memo accompanying the motion.
He said the Chief Whip of the Minority was not a signee in the list of petitioners in the memorandum, adding that 28 of the MPs who were said to have appended their signatures did not do so, but only had their names captured on the letter.
He called it a ‘case of misrepresentation” because the letter said the “under listed have appended their signatures.”
Alhaji Muntaka however, insisted that the motion was competent, and alleged that “it is most shocking and very disingenuous for the Majority Leader to even imagine that what was done was wrong.”
The Minority Leader and MP for Tamale South Haruna Iddrisu said the motion in his possession had enough signatures to fulfil the requirement for such motions.
The House had earlier suspended the motion on “procedural irregularities” for 30 minutes in order to have the “irregularities” corrected.