17 March 2014

Ghana: Where Is Civil Society As MPs Gag Themselves?

column

When Hon. Alban S. Bagbin's MPs-take-bribe allegation broke last Monday, the Minority Leader, Hon, Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu was the first to dare him to provide evidence to back his claim or retract.

After momentarily playing the ostrich in blaming the media for misquoting him, Bagbin finally raised his head again, proudly as a peacock stood by his claim, insisting he was ready to prove it.

Believing that the honourable Minority Leader was serious with his challenge to Bagbin, The Chronicle had, in our editorial of Wednesday, March 12th, 2014, urged him to lodge a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to give Hon Bagbin a credible platform to deliver his evidence to.

We had said on that occasion: "The Chronicle totally supports the calls for probing these incidents of alleged bribery against our MPs to do the work we pay them to do. But since it is always difficult to get someone to bell the cat willingly, we call on Minority Leader ... to petition CHRAJ to start investigations. Being the first to call for evidence, it is only fitting that he gives Bagbin a credible platform to do so".

Maybe we are being overly hasty, but the indications are that the Minority Leader may not be in the mood to accept our challenge. Last Friday, on the floor of the House, he urged colleague MPs to shy away from responding to questions on bribery of MPs.

Speaking shortly after Majority Leader, Dr. Kunbuor, had appealed to the public to send proof of bribery of MPs to the Clerk of Parliament, Hon Kyei-Mensah Bonsu said: "I will only plead with colleague Members of Parliament to exercise the greatest circumspection in further commenting on this matter".

The Chronicle notes the disappointment of Mr. Daniel Bartidam, the Executive Director of the African Parliamentary Network, who on Eyewitness News described Dr. Kunbuor's public appeal as "a very unfortunate approach in addressing recent allegations" against the House.

Obviously, Bartidam had expected the setting up of an internal bi-partisan committee to probe the allegation, which is the position which he and two other "governance experts" had canvassed in separate interviews with a national daily, published on March 11th, 2014, in order not to undermine the integrity of Parliament as an institution.

Inferable from the statements by the Majority and Minority leaders is the possibility that the emergency session of Parliament on the MPs-take-bribe issue, may have decided to sit out the scandal and let it go away with time.

Bur in the considered opinion of The Chronicle, sweeping the allegation of MPs corruption under the carpet plays into the hands of Africa Watch, whose description of Ghana as the Republic of Corruption has gone viral and is still trending unchallenged, with government's call for retraction sounding more hollow by the day.

With Parliament ensnared in the noose of corruption and apparently refusing to do anything about, all the realms in the Republic of Ghana are now tainted with the bug of corruption.

The Executive has been known to be corrupt since the First Republic, with the collection of 10-20 percent from contractors.

Sometime during this current Fourth Republic, the collection of this "pot of sin" was allegedly centred in the Presidency and not at the party headquarters, as had previously been the norm.

There had been persistent reports of lawyers bribing judges to win cases over the years, through all the republics we have had. This came to a head with the 2012 presidential election petition, after which the losers claimed they lost because President John Dramani Mahama allegedly procured the Asantehene to allegedly bribe the Supreme Court judges for him.

The Fourth Estate of the Realm, the Press, has equally been tainted with the ubiquitous "brown envelope" since the First Republic, often freely offered, but at times openly extorted. And now virtually a way of life.

Now, what has always appeared to be the exception to the rule, the Third Estate of the Realm - Parliament - appears to be carelessly throwing away its halo of sanctity, and we all are clapping for them? Pity.

Bartidam and his colleagues in the civil society movement should put their feet down today and petition CHRAJ to probe the MPs-take -bribe scandal before Ghana loses the shred that is left of her integrity.

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