Citi News can confirm that ten members of the expatriate community in Ghana have been interrogated in-camera by the 5 member ad-hoc bi-partisan committee probing the âCash-For-Seatâ allegations.
According to Citi Newsâ Parliamentary Correspondent, Duke Mensah Opoku, the expatriates appeared before the Committee today, [Tuesday], and were grilled for close to three hours.
Duke says for now, the content of the interrogation is unknown, and may only be available when the Committee finally presents its report.
He added that, about ten more of the expatriates are also expected to appear before the Committee this week.
At the Committeeâs last sitting on January 16, 2018, the Committee suspended sitting because none of the expatriates invited to testify showed up.
According to Chairman of the Committee, Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, although they had written official letters to the expatriates to appear before them, none showed up. As a result, the sitting was adjourned indefinitely.
It may thus come as a surprise that whilst many were expecting the expatriates to turn up for the public hearing; the Committee chose to have that session in-camera.
There had been initial reports that the expatriates were unwilling to appear publicly to be interrogated, in their quest to protect their businesses in a highly political matter such as this.
This perhaps explains why the Committee did not announce its intention to have an in-camera hearing to the media.
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, in an interview with Citi News, stated that the expatriates had pleaded with the Committee to allow them an in-camera hearing, a request that has been granted.
âThe Chief Whip for the Majority who’s the chairman of the Committee, informed myself and the Minority Leader that they had run into a bit of a roadblock, in the sense that, some of the businesses that they invited, had indicated that they wouldn’t want to sit in public, and they would want some in-camera meeting. Itâs for the Committee to determine, and the Committee I think has agreed they will meet them in-camera and hear from them, which is why when we met this [Tuesday] morning at the business committee level, I informed the Minority Leader of the Committee’s application, and we all agreed that we should grant them an extension in order for them to be able to report by latest Wednesday, 31st of January”.
Committeeâs timeline extended to January 31
Meanwhile, the Committee has been given a one-week extension after they requested for additional time. They are now to present their report on January 31, 2018, instead of the original date of January 24.
This was confirmed to Citi News by the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu.
âCash-for-seatâ Câttee charged to meet deadline
Early on today [Tuesday], the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joe Osei-Owusu, asked the Committee set up to probe the alleged extortion of monies from expatriates during the 2017 Ghana Expatriates Business Awards, to ensure that they meet the deadline given to them by the House, and submit their report accordingly.
âAs you know, our mandate of scrutinizing government business and holding public officials to account gained a lot of public interest till the ad-hoc committee was setup to investigate the alleged collection of various sums of monies from expatriates business during the Expatriates Business Awards in Accra. I suppose that substantial work has been done by the Committee to meet the deadline given by Mr. Speaker to enable the House consider the report during this week,â he added.
The First Deputy Speaker made the call on Tuesday when he welcomed Members of Parliament to the House from their Christmas break.
Background of âcash for seatâ 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 Ministryâs 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.
So far, the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak-Muntaka, North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremateng as well as officials from the Millennium Excellence Foundation, organizers of the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards, have all appeared before the committee.
Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie/citifmonline.com/Ghana
cash-for-seat committee Expatriates Ghana News Ebenezer Afanyi-Dadzie