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Bribery saga: We will not grant interviews – Parliamentary Committee

The Ad Hoc Committee set up to investigate the bribery allegation that has hit the Appointments Committee of Parliament has said it will not grant any media interviews once it has begun public hearing into the matter.

According to the Committee, given that the hearing is being broadcast and televised live, it is important that members remain quiet lest they are accused of being bias by witnesses who’ll appear before the committee.

At the commencement of its sitting on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Hon Joe Ghartey announced that the Committee has by consensus agreed to invite only four (4) witnesses to assist it to discharge its mandate given to it by Parliament.

The witnesses include the 1st deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, Minority Chief Whip, Hon Mohammed Mubarak-Muntaka, MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga and the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko.

The Committee, according to the Chairman, has the responsibility among other things establish whether the 1st deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu took money (GHC100,000) from the Minister of Energy, Boakye Agyarko and gave or to the Minority Chief Whip for it to be distributed to Members.

The Ad Hoc Committee is to also establish whether there were attempts to bribe the Appointments Committee Members.

But Hon. Joe Ghartey has made it clear that no member of the Committee will be part of any public post hearing discussion.

“We’re not discussing this matter, we have given you the opportunity to listen to us…we’re not going to hold post hearing discussions. Don’t call us…we’ll not answer the questions, when we leave here don’t thrust a mic into my face, I’ll not speak to you, not because I don’t want to speak or I don’t want the public to hear.

But it’s because we’re holding the hearing in public, what else cab we do you and at the end of the day the report that we’ll bring forward will be chamber and it will be discussed in public. So please allow us to do our work, if we speak the persons who will appear before the committee will say we’re bias. So please we’re not communicating with the media…that doesn’t mean there’s a media blackout, a word to the wise is enough.”

Western region is blessed but cursed – Regional minister-designate laments

President Akufo-Addo’s nominee for Western regional minister Dr. Kwaku Afriyie has lamented the state of development in the region despite its unparalleled natural resource potential.

The Western region is blessed and cursed he said during his vetting before the Appointments Committee of Parliament Tuesday.

Profiling the resource base of the region, Dr. Afriyie who is also a former minister for Lands and Natural Resources and incumbent MP for Sefwi Wiawso said 60 percent of Ghana’s chief foreign exchange earner cocoa farming goes on in the region.

“Virtually 100 percent of rubber estates and 40 percent of palm oil plantations are also in the region along with the only bauxite mines at Ayaso,” he said.

The Western region holds a significant forest reserve in addition to deposits of manganese and has also overtaken the Ashanti region as the leading gold producing region in Ghana.

The country latest natural resource discovery, oil was also found in the Western region. Ghana, per the region’s Jubilee partners struck oil in commercial quantities in 2007 in the Western Region.

But three years after this discovery, the chiefs in the region decried marginalisation in the development of the country and complained that the region has nothing to show for despite its resource contribution.

In a move which the regional House of Chiefs described as “act of desperation”, the chiefs petitioned parliament for 10 percent of oil revenue to be dedicated to the region.

Although the demand was later withdrawn, it re-surfaced barely six years later with a call for 20 percent allocation.

Taking this account into consideration, the nominee said there is a general feeling in the region that it is among the neglected in the country.

While he won’t back the call of an allocation of oil revenue, he said there can be other ways of ensuring the region gets its fair share of the national cake.

Photo: President Akufo-Addo introduces his pick for Western regional minister Dr. Kwaku Afriyie

“Our roads are the worse in this country”, he said explaining that because the region has the highest rainfall in the country, roads deteriorate much faster than in others.

He said governments have often used the heavy rains the region experiences as an “excuse” to explain away the poor state of roads.

He said at the peak of the spread of HIV/AIDS, the prevalence rate recorded in the mining areas was one of the worst in the country.

Touching on the disruptive effect of illegal mining in the region, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie said he would need “24 hours to give you a whole lecture on environment degradation”.

The Western regional minister-designate said the call for development to match the region’s resource contributions is not a “jingoistic” demand.

“If government does not invest in Western Region, Ghana will forever remain poor” he warned. Dr. Kwaku Afriyie who is also a cocoa farmer said although Western region uses 1.6 hectares of land for cocoa farming, Ivory Coast which uses the same land size, exported more than 1.7 million tonnes of cocoa. Ghana did about 700,000 tonnes.

He found this disparity regrettable noting that Ghana has all that it takes to do two or three times more than it currently exports for cocoa if the right investments are made in the Western region.

With the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government plan to establish a factory in each of Ghana, 216 district’s, the regional minister-designate wants to suggest a cocoa waste processing factory in Sefwi area.

He said as a regional minister he will work to influence policies that affect his region.

“I will not be a static minister” he vowed to get involved in tackling the region’s problems.

Bribery scandal: Parliament makes changes in committee membership

The five-member Ad Hoc committee set up by Parliament to inquire into the alleged bribery scandal that has hit the Appointments Committee has been reconstituted.

MP for Juaben, Hon. Ama Pomaa Boateng, who was shortlisted among the likes of Hon. Joe Ghartey (Chairman), Hon. Ben Abdallah Banda (Member), Hon. B.T. Baba (Member), and Hon. Magnus Kofi Amoatey (Member), has been substituted with the honourable Member for Assin North, Abena Durowaa Mensah, taking over here role.

Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who moved the motion for the reconstitution of the five-member committee on the floor of the House, Friday, told Members that the amendment has become necessary following the recall of the ECOWAS Parliament of which the honourable Member for Juaben is a member.

Other Members of the ECOWAS Parliament are; Kwasi Ameyaw-Kyeremeh, Osei Bonsu Amoah, Alexander Afenyo-Markins, Kwabena Appiah-Pinkrah, Clement Kofi Humado, Mahama Ayariga and Sampson.

The Members will be away for two weeks.

The five-member Ad Hoc Committee has within 30 days to submit its report.

Minister designate begs Mahama for forgiveness after insulting him

Ministers-designate for the President’s Special Development Initiatives, Mavis Hawa Koomson, has extended a hand of friendship to H. E. John Dramani Mahama, begging the former President to let it go of her sins against him.

The Awutu Senya East MP is on record to have insulted Mr Mahama during the 2016 electioneering campaign, likening him to a mad man in an interview she granted to Pink FM, a local radio station during the sod cutting ceremony of the Kasoa Western by-pass road network.

She is also reported by peacefmonline.com that Mr. Mahama was competing “with the devil for the crown emperor of lies and deceit” and the former Ghanaian leader was a serial liar.

However, on Tuesday when Hon. Hawa Koomson was being vetted by the Appointments Committee she told Members that she regrets using those unprintable words against the former President.

“Yes, I do regret using those words because it a political talk and I am sorry for that,” she humbly pleaded.

She added “I retract and apologize for using those words.”

She further told the Committee that when offered another opportunity she will not repeat those unprintable words again.

Isaac Asiamah, et al to face vetting c’tee today

Some three more Ministerial nominees of the President will later today, February 7 face the Appointments Committee.

They are Isaac Asiamah, Minister-designate for Youth and Sports, Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister-designate for Special Development Initiatives and Awal Mohammed for Business Development.

On Monday February 6, the committee vetted Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Professor George Gyan-Baffour and Catherine Afeku, Ministers-designate of Parliamentary Affairs, Planning, and Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts, respectively, pending their approval and subsequent swearing in.

The vetting process is scheduled to continue  till Thursday February 9.

Afeku, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu and Gyan Baffour to be vetted today

The Appointments Committee of Parliament will, Monday, continue sittings to publicly hear nominees who have been designated to various ministerial positions by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Three nominees are expected to appear before the Joseph Osei Owusu-chaired committee.

They are Hon. Catherine Abelema Afeku, Ministers designate for Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, and Hon. Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Ministers designate for Planning.

Surprisingly, all the nominees are Members of Parliament.

Therefore, they are expected to spend some few hours during their public hearing unlike those without MP status.

Minority leader blasts N/R Police for attacks on state agencies

Minority leader and Member of Parliament for Tamale South Mr. Haruna Iddrisu has slammed the Northern Regional Police Command for failing to protect public service professionals caught in the midst of growing number of violent attacks on government agencies by vindictive political rivals.

He was responding to a violent attack on three state institutions in Tamale on Friday where four national service personnel were severally injured.

The NPP Kandahar Boys rampaged at the Tamale Metropolitan offices of National Health Insurance Authority and Youth Employment Agency and violently subjected workers and clients to a lockout.

Onlookers and fleeing workers who attempted to film the vandalism were attacked and their gadgets crushed.

A spokesman for the Health Insurance Scheme, Abdul Nasir was slapped while answering a query by the armed group.

They replicated same mayhem on the Youth Employment Agency offices in the Sagnarigu district changing locks and writing cold threats with charcoal on walls of the buildings.

It is the third successful attack on the agencies and public servants in the regional capital since the NPP came to power and police are still struggling to arrest the attackers despite several testimonies of victims about knowing them.

Hon. Haruna Iddrisu castigating the police inactions and lackadaisical approach to the rising insecurity fired a warning to the ruling party to have a second guess that they had monopoly over violence, and wants leadership to call their “masquerading youth to order”

“Essentially one is alarmed at the breakdown of law and order and the inability of the police in particular to protect lives and property, that certainly is very disappointing and we don’t take kindly to this development; while the NPP may have the right to rule, they have no right to disrespect the right of the people and they have no right to infringe upon workers right”

The Minority leader also implored the police to ensure the facilities were opened and operational by Monday and providing enough security to protect lives and properties of state workers and clients.

“My first call is onto the police service that they have a deputy to protect every Ghanaian citizen and every Ghanaian worker, the second call is on the New Patriotic Party leadership, President Akuffo Addo that we want to see end to the continued intimidation, molestation and harassment of our party following, that they are not taking power through a military coup d tat, this is a process that have been democratically determined we recognized their right to rule but we will not recognize their right to continue to harass and intimidate our party following”

Scores including emergency patients may be denied access to health service early tomorrow because significant number of clients turned away by the Friday’s attack came to reactivate the insurance service and would be forced to patronize the awakening ‘cash and carry’ service, metro manager of the scheme, Abdul Mohammed Salam told Kasapa News.

Otiko to be approved by Majority decision

The nomination of Ms. Otiko Afisa Djaba as Minister designated to the Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry is expected to face stiff opposition from the Minority NDC Caucus as the House resumes sittings on Friday.

Six nominees, according to the Third Report of the Appointments Committee, have by consensus from both Majority and Minority Members on the committee, been recommended for approval as Ministers to the various ministries they have been designated to by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The report has however, recommended to the House to approve the nomination of Ms. Otiko Djaba by majority decision following dissenting views by the Minority members on the Commiittee.

“At the Public Hearing to consider their nominations, all the nominations demonstrated that they have the intellectual capacity, skill, experience and requisite training to occupy the offices to which they had been nominated.”

“This notwithstanding, the Minority Members of the Committee have indicated that they will not support the nomination of Ms. Otiko Afisah Djaba, Minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection. Hence, the Committee’s recommendation that her nomination be approved by a majority decision,” the Committee’s report in part reads.

Ms Djaba’s fate is therefore, expected to be determined by majority decision of members at the plenary when the House resumes sitting today.

NDC lied to IMF over 900m dollars bailout facility – Majority

The Majority NPP Caucus has described as dangerous attempts by the Minority NDC to discredit the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia’s claim of a missing GH₵7million from the government’s treasury.

In their view, if they are to go by the explanations churned out by the Minority to refute Dr. Bawumia’s claim, they can only conclude that the immediate past NDC government lied to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in securing the US$900million Economic Credit Facility.

On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, the Ghanaian Times carried out a publication claiming the Vice President’s assertion that the past government failed to disclose the existence of a certain liability worth GH₵7billion.

The Minority at a press conference on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, dismissed such claim, noting that the issue raised by Dr. Bawumia was as a result of a major initiative or reform on government contracts and expenditures which is part of the new GIFMIS project that the new administration is expected to continue implementing.

Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassel Ato Forson who addressed the press conference explained that the framework of the GIFMIS project is covered in the new Public Financial Management (PFM) Act.

But the Majority in a rebuttal at a press conference on Thursday, February 2, 2017, said should the explanation of the Minority stands; it means that they presented false data to the IMF in order to convince them to bailout Ghana from its economic mess.

“In his revelation, the Vice President made known that an amount of over GH₵7billion as arrears has been uncovered in the process of interrogating data that was made available to the government. What is deeply worrying in the revelation is that the arrears covered the period 2014 – 2016, and span the period during which negotiations of the current Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Program with the IMF begun.”

“On the face of the reality that the arrears date back to 2014, then it would suggest that when the previous administration entered into negotiations with the IMF, full disclosure of data was not made available to the Fund. Again on account that arrears for 2015 and 2016 were also not fully disclosed, then it raises further questions on the integrity of data we have been churning out over the past eight year,” Chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah, who addressed the NPP Majority Caucus noted.

He cautioned that the new uncovered arrears could put the overall budget deficit at 10 – 11 percent of GDP.

“Let us put this in perspective – for an economy with a size of US$41.5billion, the current deficit numbers show that in 2016 alone, our expenditures far exceeded revenues by as much as US$4billion. Who financed these expenditures? Is it the Bank of Ghana through the Banks? Is it from the US$250million that was provided UBA Bank?” Dr. Assibey-Yeboah quizzed.

He described the reaction from the Minority led by Ato Forson, a former deputy finance minister as sad and deeply worrying, noting that the position of the NDC depicts a team that is grossly unaware of the extent to which the nation’s books may have been cooked to provide false sense of good economic management and to deceive investors.

“More worrying is the fact that former deputy Minister attributed the arrears accumulation to reforms underway and the way in which data is captured. What the former deputy Minister describes as creative accounting management is unethical and dangerous,” he noted.

I’m a changed person – Ursula

Minister designate for Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful says she’s turned on a new leaf in relation to her utterances, assuring that she’ll be more measured in her choice of words in her public engagements.

According to her, she’s come to the realization that she needs to pipe down, adding that she’s been a restrained person for more than a year now.

The lawyer cum politician is known to be ascerbic in her public discussion especially on radio and televison, vehemently defending her party (New Patriotic Party) and also launching scathing attacks on her political opponents.

She’s a strong woman who stands by her conviction.

At her vetting Wednesday morning in Parliament House, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu asked the nominee to give an assurance that she’s a changed person saying “are we assured of an emergence of a new Ursula…a diplomatic Ursula who’ll be guided by the tongue.”

In her response, Hon. Ursula Owusu Ekuful promised to show the public the “born again” person that she is as she goes to occupy public office as a minister.

“I think that Ursula is very much in evidence and has been for a while, at least I have had comments in that direction in the last couple of years. I think that depending on where you find yourself you should be able to adapt to changing circustances. An illustration is that you dont always have to drive in 5th gear. You need to crank up and crank down depending on the circumstances.

But I must thank the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre for opening my eyes to some of the dangers we unwittingly lead ourselves to with our actions and utterances, and tells me to step back and tone down a bit…pause a bit more before jumping into the fray. Mr Chairman I think you have to commend me on that. I think you’re seeing the improved Ursula and there will be a lot more of that in evidence, thank you.”