Akufo-Addo's Presidency Made Profits From Cash-For-Seat--Muntaka
Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mohammed has vehemently defended his claim that the presidency was used to make profit for private individuals.
The Asawase MP built a case that it was unethical for the Trade ministry to partner a private organization that promised to give its sponsors a dinner opportunity with the president if they paid up to $100,000.
He showed inconsistencies in the Trade ministry's responses which first denied playing any role in designing the sponsorship packages but later admitted it collected monies from expatriates and Ghanaians on behalf of the private event body, Millenium Excellence Foundation (MEF).
The Trade ministry would also claim the presidency was not directly or indirectly or even remotely connected to the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards organised by the MEA.
But Muntaka claimed the event was actually brought to the Trade ministry from the Presidency.
During question time, NPP Adentan MP Yaw Buabeng Asamoah tried to debate the motion already passed by Parliament setting up the probe.
He asked Muntaka to produce a copy of the motion to which he submitted, the motion already passed by the plenary is irrelevant to the substance of the probe.
Yaw Buabeng Asamoah would go on to suggest Muntaka could have used three different parliamentary options instead of having parliament recalled to consider a motion.
The NPP MP said whilst the House was still in session last December, Muntaka could have gotten parliament to consider his motion for a probe instead of waiting for the House to go on break only to be recalled to consider his motion.
He said the recall is costly to the taxpayer because Parliament had to pay transportation for every MP to truncate his private engagement during the Christmas holidays to attend duty of the House.
Muntaka replied that the cash-for-seat controversy came at about the same time Parliament was busy debating the 2018 budget to pass the Appropriation Bill.
The Minority Chief Whip explained that Parliament was under great pressure to go through the Appropriation Bill before the House rose for the holidays.
In his experience as a leader of the House, there is little time to devote to other matter apart from the budget.
"During budget hearings, this House gets very, very tight...we kept struggling for even MPs on a motion to approve a ministry's budget to speak for more than two minutes"
Looking at the issues we had with time...we thought that that time was not conducive for us to do this without disrupting the Appropriation Bill"
Muntaka also said he did not move a motion for the probe because the President had taken steps to look into the matter and therefore his colleague NDC MPs waited for the president's take on the matter.
When the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, cleared his ministers at the Trade ministry of any wrongdoing, the NDC MP decided to get a parliamentary probe into the matter.
He said it was for a "good reason" that the constitution stipulated that 44 MPs can get parliament to be recalled to consider a matter.
If anyone feels this is an abuse of the process, Muntaka said he disagreed with that position.
"The constitution made it so", Muntaka replied.
Adentan MP Yaw Buabeng Asamoah also wanted to know if Muntaka got the explicit permission of the 77 MPs who signed calling for a recall of the House.
"Every single one of those signatures knew beforehand that the signatures were going to be used for a recall?"
Mr. Muntaka Mohammed pulled out a memo available to the committee which was titled "list of MPs with their signatures supporting a recall"
"So I think Mr. Chairman I have answered this question", he said.
Adentan MP wanted to know why they did not take the Speaker's opportunity to amend his motion. But Muntaka explained there was no request from the Speaker to amend the motion.
Rather he was asked to amend the memo recalling Parliament to include Muntaka's signature, the NDC MP said.
He explained, by Parliamentary practice, once a motion was moved and seconded, it is not possible to amend motions.
"I would be happy to be shown the happening of that day whether the speaker truly asked us ...to amend the motion', he said.
When Yaw Buabeng Asamoah finally came to the substance of the probe he wanted to know if the participants at the dinner were compelled to pay the money as a person would pay a levy.
Muntaka explained that for the sponsors to pay the money to the Ministry, it had to be either a levy or collections.
The Minority Chief Whip said an official receipt issued for paying the monies to the Ministry is only used for monies approved by parliament.
The sponsorship package asking for the monies was not approved by Parliament.
If the money was not a levy but a collection then by PFMA, the monies should have been lodged in the Consolidated Fund and not with the Ministry's own account.
The Adentan MP also wanted to know if the collections by the Trade ministry constituted public money.
Muntaka explained that according to the Public Financial Management Act 2016, public resources include "donations, borrowing, movable or fixed assets, receivables, deposits, and rights"
He also referred to the Financial Administration Regulations which defines non-tax revenue to include "all other revenue generated from the activity of the Department"
" I am not a lawyer. I am just a lawmaker and my reading of this document clearly tells me that these are public monies", he said.
Yaw Buabeng Asamoah wanted to know if it was not a prudent move for the ministry to collect the money from private citizens on behalf of the Millennium Excellence Award to ensure accountability.
Muntaka replied that any monies that a public institution has to collect need parliamentary approval.
Other members of the committee took turns to question Muntaka Mubarak after which he was dismissed by the committee.