07.07.2006 Politics

Haruna Iddrisu wins crucial vote

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Members of Parliament have voted by majority decision to include the office of the President in the list of institutions and individuals that a whistleblower can report to.

The house was sharply divided over the issue, when the MP for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu proposed it.

But it sailed through in the end when the Speaker put the question.

The proposal was made when Parliament begun making amendments to the Whistleblowers Bill, which entered the consideration stage on Thursday.

Haruna Iddrisu initially proposed the office of accountability, and later changed to the office of the President.

But his colleagues on the majority side vehemently opposed this.

In making the amendment, Mr. Iddrisu said since many Ghanaians already have access to the presidency it won't be out of place to include the office of the President.

“I still want to urge honorable members to support this amendment because Mr Speaker in the office of the President, you have the Chief of Staff who may not be a minister of state, you have chief directors there, you have the secretary to cabinet, all of them under the office of the President. Mr Speaker, if you are committed to President Kufuor's declared zero tolerance for corruption and want to arm him with mechanisms to fight corruption, do not fight the inclusion of the office of the President in the list of offices that can deal with disclosures on impropriety”, he said

For close to an hour the House was sharply divided on the issue with MPs on the majority side, mostly ministers opposing it.

They argued that the bill already makes provision for the Attorney-General, who is the chief legal advisor to government to hear such reports.

“The purpose of this provision is to enable persons who have information to individual and institutions who by virtue of their office or their occupation can undertake or ensure investigations is undertaken. Mr Speaker, if you commit a crime or you suspect that someone has committed a crime, if you don't go to the office of the President to report, you will go to the police station. You have a police station at almost every community, you have a chief, an MP etc. why should we bother the office of the President so that every day someone will go there and say 'oh I have certain information, I believe that offices enumerated in this clause are more than enough. Mr Speaker if we are not careful, the very essence of this Bill will be lost”, minister of education, Papa Owusu Ankomah said.

But those who supported Mr. Iddrisu, mostly minority MPs and some majority MPs argued that it would be difficult for a whistleblower to report a minister of state to his fellow minister.

“Mr Speaker, there is nothing wrong bringing in the office of the President because if a minister's conduct is brought to question, Mr Speaker, after exhausting all the various institutions under the Bill, where will the person go? It's so exhausting. The person can go to the office of the President if he is not getting the hearing”, former minister of the Western region said in support of Haruna Iddrisu.

When Speaker Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes put the question, the AYIS had it making the office of the President part of the list.

Other institutions included in the law are the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, The Serious Fraud Office, Ministers of State Members of Parliament, Religious Leaders, Family Heads, assembly members, among others.

The House rejected a proposal to include the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition on the grounds that it is not an establishment of law. In other amendments carried by the House, the MPs limited the crimes to be reported under the law to economic crimes.

They also approved a proposal by the MP for Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, P.C. Appiah Ofori for heftier finds to be imposed on persons who exposes the identity of whistleblowers.

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