NDC MPs defend Woyome …as Kan-Dapaah steps down
Members of Parliament (MP) from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), who are on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, yesterday put up a spirited ‘fight’ in defense against the PAC’s probe into the controversial GH¢51 million awarded to businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome as judgment debt against the government in 2010.
The NDC MPs, despite the presence of the legal team for Mr. Woyome, vehemently defended the witness (Woyome), who is believed to be a financier of the party.
Leading the revolt was the NDC MP for Talensi, John Tia Akologu, who after carefully listening to the protest put forth by the witness, decided to support his claim by suggesting to the PAC to suspend its sitting and do further deliberations on the matter, before going ahead with its probe.
“Mr. Chairman, I recall that in one previous deliberation of this committee, a similar demand was made by a witness, and the way we went about it brought one to the table to say that the committee needed to take the point, and if possibly, withdraw and consider them, and see whether we will admit what the witness has demanded or not. That time, we would have known the reasons that we will come and state them. That notwithstanding, the issue that has been raised, and the response by my colleague, raises the issue of interpretation. I am aware that you cannot force a witness, in any case,” noted Mr. Akologu.
The PAC met yesterday to consider the report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) for the year ending December 31, 2010. In the said report, Mr. Woyome was cited as having received GH¢51 million as judgment debt against the government.
Mr. Woyome, appearing for the first time before the PAC, having initially declined two invitations and was being threatened with a court warrant, argued through his counsel that since the matter was before the High and Supreme courts of the land, he was not going to speak on the issue.
The Counsel for Mr. Woyome also cited the Chairman of the PAC, Mr. Albert Kan-Dapaah, and his Vice, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, NPP MP for Dormaa West, for conflict of interest.
According to the counsel, as two gentlemen who were part of the erstwhile Kufuor administration that allegedly terminated his contract in the construction of stadia for the hosting of the CAN 2006 tournament, their fair judgment of the matter before them could be compromised.
Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, a friend of the committee, was also cited as being part of Cabinet that allegedly wrongfully terminated his contract.
To him, the presence of the Chairman and his right hand man on the committee was not the best, since they would be biased when interrogating the matter.
His argument was strongly supported by Mr. Akolugu and his colleague NDC MPs – Alhaji Ibrahim Dey Abubakari, MP for Salaga, Charles Hodogbey, MP for North Tongu, and Alhaji Seidu Amadu, MP for Yapei/Kusawgu.
However, their stance was strongly opposed by the NPP MP for Atwima-Mponua, Isaac Kwame Asiamah. Not happy with the turn of events, Mr. Asiamah criticised his colleague MPs from the ruling NDC for doing a great disservice to the nation by defending Mr. Woyome, who allegedly defrauded the state to the tune of GH¢51m.
“Mr. Chairman, our key interest is to protect the public purse. And so, why are members defending the witness when his lawyers are there to do so? This is most unfortunate,” he fumed.
Earlier, a deputy Attorney-General, Mr. Gyambibi, commenting on the position of the Attorney-General (A-G), told the committee that since the matter was in court, the A-G was not to going to speak on it.
He buttressed his case with Article 137 (2) of the Constitution, which states:
“Neither the president nor parliament nor anyone acting under their authorities nor any other person whatsoever shall interfere with judges, judicial officers, or other persons exercising judicial power in the exercise of their judicial functions, and all organs and agencies of the state shall accord to the courts such assistance, as the courts may reasonably require to protect the independence, dignity, and effectiveness of the courts.”
“Mr. Chairman, this provision makes it clear that when a matter is before a court, that same matter should not be sent or discussed anywhere else, or it will be in contempt of the court.
The Attorney General has instructed me to say that it will not be appropriate for us to discuss these matters other than in the courts, so we will not say anything about the Woyome case, lest we risk being in contempt of the courts,” he argued.
Mr. Gyambibi’s argument was strongly contested by the NPP MP for Bosomtwi, Simon Osei-Mensah, with Articles 103(6) (a) and (b), 187(5) and 121(4).
Mr. Kan-Dapaah, having listened to arguments from both sides of the committee, ruled that since the work of the committee does not interfere that of the court, it was prudent for Mr. Woyome to tell his story.
“The Attorney General can advise the committee, but not direct it. We hear that no one should interfere with judges, judicial officers, or anyone exercising judicial power, but I fail to see how our investigation interferes with the work of any judge. I am unable to accept the advice that we stop on that account. I will accordingly, rule that Mr. Woyome tell us his story with a good conscience, and the help of his lawyers,” he noted.
But, on the issue of him being biased since he was a Cabinet Minister in the Kufuor-led administration, Mr. Kan-Dapaah did not contest it, and honourably recused himself from chairing the committee.
He ruled for his right hand man, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, to follow suit, and appointed Mr. Isaac Asiamah to step into his shoes when the committee sits on the matter at a date yet to be determined by the PAC.
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