THE AD-HOC parliamentary committee dealing with the censure motion brought against Ken Ofori-Atta has agreed not to carry out a probe into the conflict of interest charge against the Finance Minister.
This was after it upheld an objection raised by the counsel of the respondent, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, that the issue bordering on conflict of interest was the preserve for the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), per the imperatives of the 1992 Constitution.
The committee, co-chaired by NPP MP for Adansi-Asokwa, K.T. Hammond, and NDC MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine, said upon hearing objection and taken cognisance of the law, it has decided to shelve the move to investigate Mr. Ofori-Atta for conflict of interest.
Gabby had argued that though the Finance Minister has no problem submitting himself to answer questions regarding the conflict of interest, the parliamentary forum was not appropriate for such matters, adding that Mr. Ofori-Atta had done so in the past before the CHRAJ, and came out as a victor.
According to him, the Legislature lacked the jurisdiction to investigate any case of conflict of interest, and reminded the committee of a pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the matter in the Brogya Genfi/Okudzeto Ablakwa vrs Attorney General and Obetsebi-Lamptey’s case.
Prior to the commencement of the committee’s sitting, veteran journalist, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, had raised the issue and warned Parliament that the move would be an assault on the constitution.
He called on Parliament to back off or risk running into “constitutional minefield”, intimating that Parliament lacked the jurisdiction to investigate any case of conflict of interest.
The conflict of interest is among the seven grounds for the censure motion which is sponsored by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority MPs to get the minister’s instrument of office revoked.
The NDC MPs have accused Ken Ofori-Atta of directly benefiting from Ghana’s economic woes as his companies allegedly received commissions and other unethical contractual advantages, particularly from Ghana’s debt overhang.
The Finance Minister is expected to appear before the eight-member committee to respond to the other six grounds (charges) contained in the motion to get him out of office.
He stands accused by the NDC MPs for engaging in unconstitutional withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund in contravention of Article 178 of the 1992 Constitution, for the construction of the National Cathedral, the illegal payment of oil revenues into offshore accounts in flagrant violation of Article 176 of the 1992 Constitution, and the deliberate and dishonest misreporting of economic data to Parliament.
The proponents of the motion also accused Mr. Ofori-Atta of fiscal recklessness “leading to the crash of the Ghana Cedi which is currently the worst performing currency in the world,” and the “alarming incompetence and frightening ineptitude resulting in the collapse of the Ghanaian economy and an excruciating cost of living crisis.”
BY Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House