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The Ranking member on the Finance Committee of Parliament and the immediate past Chairman of the Committee, Mr James Klutse Avedzi, has confirmed receiving money from the National Lottery Authority (NLA) as part of the process to amend the National Lottery Act, 2006 (Act 722).
According to him, management of the NLA gave the Committee an amount of Ghc50,000 but it was not sufficient to cover the work that was demanded of the Committee and so they demanded an extra Ghc50,000 which was also paid.
Legal Advisor to the NLA, David Lamptey, in separate e-mails to the former Director-General of the NLA, Brigadier General Martin Ahiaglo (Retired) in August 2016, requested the approval of a total sum of GHC150,000 for the purposes of fast-tracking the bill parliament. The document has been intercepted by Joynews.
Mr. Lamptey explained that the money was for accommodation and other resources that would enable the NLA organize a workshop to tackle proposed amendments to the new lottery bill at the Royal Senchi Hotel ahead of the passage of the law.
“We had to pay for the members of parliament to be accommodated,” Mr. Lamptey told host of the Super Morning Show on Joy FM in an interview.
He said “Any payment made was to provide the committee the necessary resources they needed to be able to travel to the venue”.
He, however, denied the move was an attempt on the part of the NLA to bribe members of the Committee to hurry the bill through the legislature.
But Chairman of the Finance Committee at the time, James Klutse Avedzi confessed to taking the money from the NLA but said they received only a GHC100,000 from the NLA.
He said the money was given to the committee members as per diem/sitting allowance, contradicting the claim by the NLA that it was used to pay for accommodation for the MPs.
Position of Parliament
The decision to receive the cash has also raised questions about the propriety of Parliament receiving money for work, for which the MPs already draw salaries from the state.
Head of Public Affairs at Parliament, Kate Addo said, parliamentarians are not supposed to take money from any institution to facilitate the passage of a law.
The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), has urged parliament to investigate the new bribery scandal in which members of the legislature accepted monies to deliberate on the Lottery Bill before it was passed into law in 2016.
The Legal Policy Officer of the Center, Kojo Pumpuni Asante, who is also a governance expert, stated in an interview yesterday that the scandal justifies earlier calls for defining and wide investigations into parliament’s conduct and shaky ethics.
He said investigations into the Ayariga bribery saga last January was “very narrow” and failed to address “bigger” concerns about the integrity of Parliament.
Parliament was hit by allegations that members of its Appointments Committee received GHC3,000 prior to the approval of the Energy minister-designate, Boakye Agyarko.
Parliament rejected calls for an external body to look into the brouhaha and opted to set up a committee of some MPs to investigate the claims made public by Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga.
He finally had to apologise and retract the allegation after the Committee found no proof of bribery.
But barely six months after the Appointments committee bribery saga, is the Finance committee of parliament now next in the line of controversy.
Former Chairman of the Finance Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, has admitted his committee received money from officials of the National Lottery Authority before a law was passed.
He said the Authority first presented GHC50,000 to the Committee “but when we looked at the provisions, we realised that the amount was not sufficient so they promised to bring another 50,000 cedis.”
Emails intercepted by Joy FM’s Kojo Yankson explains the NLA needed to part with the monies to ‘push’ the law through.
Dismayed by the latest scandal, Kojo Pumpuni Asante condemned the payment, noting that a “whole lot is wrong with it”
He said the 100,000 cedis is “basically payment to influence parliamentarian to perform tasks they are already established under law to do”.
He expressed disappointment in the NLA for showing scant regard for corporate governance.
“The fact that a board can approve this kind of payment is worrying for public financial management. It seems like there is no respect for corporate governance” he said.
Nonetheless this second bribery saga, he said is “another opportunity” for Parliament to do work it shunned the previous time of asking.
“This time we should have a committee that looks at a much broader issue” like the rules around the payment of allowances, Dr Asante said.
The Governance and Legal Policy Officer believes Parliament’s integrity is in tatters and urged its leaders not to disregard a second chance to salvage “what is left of the integrity of parliament”.
Source: ghananewsonline.com.gh, with additional information from myjoyonline.com