Parliament will today debate the report of the bipartisan “cash for seat” committee, barely a month after the committee was formed to investigate claims that the Trade Ministry extorted $100,000 from expatriates to allow them to sit close to the President during the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards in December 2017.
The report was laid on the floor of Parliament last week Friday, after a number of postponements because a Minority member on the Committee, Dr. Dominic Ayine, had wanted to include the Minority’s separate views in the report.
The committee has since been the subject of some controversy following the Minority side’s decision to prepare and leak a separate report that indicted some persons of interests in the probe, including the Ministry of Trade and the organisers of the awards scheme, the Millenium Excellence Foundation.
The Minority side of the committee concluded that the Ministry of Trade engaged in multiple infractions including breaches of the public financial management law and multiple ethical violations.
It also said the Millenium Excellence Foundation, among other things, presented forged evidence to the committee.
Dr. Ayine subsequently called for the withdrawal of the already laid report so that a composite report will be presented to Parliament.
According to Dr. Ayine, though Minority members including himself and Deputy Minority Leader, James Klutse Avedzi had detailed their perspectives on the saga, the Majority side had refused to integrate them before presenting the document to the house.
“I was expecting the committee chairman to integrate the report I had prepared with what he had prepared but he stated that he would not integrate my report since it was titled ‘Minority report’,” Dr. Ayine stated on Eyewitness News.
Background of “cash for seat” saga
The Ministry of Trade, which partnered the event organizers, Millennium Excellence Foundation, is alleged to have charged between $25,000 and $100,000, to enable expatriates to sit close to the President at the awards ceremony.
The allegation was first made by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak in Parliament in December 2017.
Mr. Mubarak said the fees charged at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards were not approved by Parliament, adding that the monies were also not accounted for in the Internally Generated Funds [IGF] of the Ministry’s accounts.
The allegation was further reinforced by Mr. Ablakwa, who suffered verbal assaults from Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah over the matter.
The Ministry of Trade said it played no role in determining prices for seats at the event, and clarified that it only facilitated the implementation of a new initiative by the Millennium Excellence Foundation.
But the Ministry after an order from the President to probe the matter clarified that an amount of GHc2, 667,215 was realized from the event. This was made known only after the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, had asked the Trade Minister, Alan Kyerematen, to investigate the matter and report to him.
The organizers of the Awards had also explained that no one paid to sit close to the President and that the amount was raised from sponsorship through a fundraising at the event.
Parliament subsequently formed a five-member bi-partisan committee to investigate the matter.
The Committee held several public hearings and a few in-camera sessions that featured all parties named in the allegation, and those who made the allegation.
The Trades Ministry and the Foundation maintained their innocence in the matter and insisted that due process was followed in the soliciting of funds for the awards scheme.