Parliament has given the Committee set up to probe the alleged extortion of monies from expatriates during the 2017 Ghana Expatriates Business Awards a one week extension to present its report to the House.
The Committee is now expected to submit its findings on January 31, 2018, instead of the initial date of January 24.
Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, who made this known, said this had become necessary following a request by the Committee for Parliament to give them ample time to complete their work.
According to Mr. Mensah-Bonsu, the expatriates who were asked to appear before the Committee requested for in-camera meetings, thus prompting an extension of the deadline.
““The Chief Whip for the Majority who’s the chairman of the Committee, informed myself and the Minority Leader that they had run into a bit of a roadblock, in the sense that, some of the businesses that they invited, had indicated that they wouldn’t want to sit in public, and they would want some in-camera meeting. It’s for the Committee to determine, and the Committee I think has agreed they will meet them in-camera and hear from them, which is why when we met this [Tuesday] morning at the business committee level, I informed the Minority Leader of the Committee’s application, and we all agreed that we should grant them an extension in order for them to be able to report by latest Wednesday, 31st of January”.
‘Cash-For-Seat’ C’ttee ‘secretly’ interrogates expatriates
Meanwhile, Citi News can confirm that ten of the expatriates have been interrogated in-camera by the 5 member ad-hoc bi-partisan committee probing the ‘Cash-For-Seat’ allegations.
According to Citi News’ Parliamentary Correspondent, Duke Mensah Opoku, the expatriates appeared before the Committee today, [Tuesday], and were grilled for close to three hours.
Duke says for now, the content of the interrogation is unknown, and may only be available when the Committee finally presents its report. He added that, about ten more of the expatriates are also expected to appear before the Committee this week.
At the Committee’s last sitting on January 16, 2018, the Committee suspended sitting because none of the expatriates invited to testify showed up.
According to Chairman of the Committee, Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, although they had written official letters to the expatriates to appear before them, none showed up. As a result, the sitting was adjourned indefinitely.
It may thus come as a surprise that whilst many were expecting the expatriates to turn up for the public hearing; the Committee chose to have that session in-camera.
There had been initial reports that the expatriates were unwilling to appear publicly to be interrogated, in their quest to protect their businesses in a highly political matter such as this.
This perhaps explains why the Committee did not announce its intention to have an in-camera hearing to the media.
‘No wrongdoing so far’
Mr. Kyei Mensah further indicated that, revelations at the Committee’s sittings had so far not shown any wrongdoing by officials implicated in the alleged extortion.
“Thus far, what is coming out does not show that anything untoward has been done,” said Mr. Kyei Mensah.
‘Sponsoring seats at events happened in the past’
He also wondered why so much emphasis had been placed on the incident under the current administration, when similar things had occurred under previous governments.
“Nobody has raised the issue of cash for seats even though it had happened at the time of President Mills, President John Mahama, at the time of Kufuor and now at the time of Nana Addo, so why will anybody not liken what happened in times past as cash for seats but just now? Is it the case of mischief? Or just the case of giving the dog a bad name to hang it?I think we should be charitable to each other. If you make an allegation you should be able to prove it.”
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.
So far, the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak-Muntaka, North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremateng as well as officials from the Millennium Excellence Foundation, organizers of the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards, have all appeared before the committee.
By: Marian Ansah/citifmonline.com/Ghana