Cash for Seat saga: Was the Speaker’s Admission of the Motion right?

Was Speaker Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye right in admitting a motion for Parliament to investigate the “cash for seat saga” despite the procedural infractions and the tag of incompetence that was cited by the Majority side of the House?

Haven covered Parliament as a reporter and as a Research Analyst for several years, I was not expecting anything to come out of the request for a Parliamentary probe into the alleged extortion of money from expatriate business men by the Presidency in a motion filed by the Minority side in Parliament, which led to an emergency recall from recess of the Legislative arm of government for that purpose.

Precedence has shown that similar motions brought under similar requests over the years never saw the light of day. They almost always get thrown out on grounds of technicalities and procedural inappropriateness.

A case in point is the request to probe the then President John Mahama in office for allegedly collecting a bribe of a Ford vehicle from a Burkinabe business man in exchange for contracts. It was thrown out by then Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho because the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) was already investigating the matter.

Another case involving a request for an investigation into the dealings of the Fortiz Group in the purchase of majority shares in a Bank which is now known as the Universal Merchant Bank was thrown out because a Court of competent jurisdiction was seized with the matter and therefore Parliament could not interfere.

Another poignant example was the attempt to call for a probe into an alleged payment of money to Former President Rawlings by the Former Nigerian President Sani Abacha. That one too never saw the light of day because the then Speaker, Justice Annan, did not favour the request since it was deemed not to have been properly served on the House.

However, Speaker Mike Oquaye, by his decision last week, broke the jinx surrounding the request for a Parliamentary probe into sensitive matters of this nature without resorting to technical dribbles to deny the citizenry the opportunity to look at the substantive matter. This notwithstanding, the fact that some attempts were made to shoot down the motion in similar fashion.

But will justice be served when clear procedures of arriving at a solution or a conclusion are breached?

According to Mr. Speaker’s directive, the Minority’s motion for the probe was incompetent in agreement with the application of the Majority Leader Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu against the motion filed on behalf of the Minority by Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak.

Even though the Speaker opened a window of opportunity for the Minority to amend the motion to cure the purported mischief, they refused to do so because they held the view that they had done the right thing. Yet, the speaker went ahead to admit the motion and acceded to the request thereof to set up a five man Committee for the probe.

Nonetheless, political watchers as well as the Minority group have had their reservations against the terms of reference for the Committee. According to them, the terms of reference has very little to do with the crust of the alleged payment of various amounts of United States Dollars by an expatriate business community to sit in close proximity to the President of Ghana in a recently organized program to raise funds.

A situation that has been variously denied by government officials both at the presidential level and at the Ministerial level at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, under whose close watch the event was held.

The question still remains as to whether the Speaker was right in admitting the motion application put out by the Minority group despite its incompetence or was the Rt. Honourable Speaker wrong in citing the Minority’s motion as incompetent?

If he was right with his judgement of incompetence of the motion, on what basis did he admit the motion? It would be a fundamental flaw of capriciousness in our Parliamentary democracy practice which has just clocked the quarter of a century mile and still going.

What it would then mean in essence is that the Speaker admitted the motion as a matter of his singular discretion and not based on any law or principle. It also means that any misguided person occupying that high seat in the future could be equally capricious with his/her decision while relying on same precedence set by the Speaker to waiver or sustain competent or incompetent motions.

Now however, if on the other hand the Speaker was wrong with his pronouncement of incompetence of the motion, it is of the considered view that he must make a retraction, make it reflect in the records of Parliament and make it public for the sake of posterity and for precedence.

Ghana’s democracy is still growing!

Source: Clement Akoloh

The writer is a Senior Correspondent at ghananewsonline.com.gh and a leading member of the Parliamentary Press Corps (PPC)

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