– NLA GHC150,000. Saga:
…Says ‘My Hands Are Clean, Report Misleading’
Hon. James Klutse Avedzi, former Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, has denied any corrupt deal with the National Lotto Authority (NLA), describing the media reportage as misleading.
According to Hon. Avedzi, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ketu North Constituency and now Chairman of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, he never received bribe money from NLA to push any Bill as reported by the media.
The then Finance Committee, he stated, ” received money from officials of the National Lottery Authority prior to deliberate on the amendment of the National Lottery Act, 2006 (Act 722). The Authority first presented 50,000 cedis to the Committee but when we looked at the provisions, we realised that the amount was inadequate so they promised to bring another 50,000 cedis.”
Mr. Avedzi made the denial in response to revelations on JoyFM, that the former Finance Committee of Parliament in which he was Chairman between 2013 and 2016 was allegedly involved in improper dealings with the National Lotto Authority.
An Accra-based private radio station, Joy FM, reportedly intercepted an email conversation in which the head of Legal at NLA, David Lamptey, was asking for an amount of 150,000 cedis from the then Director General, Brigadier General Martin Ahiaglo (Rtd), to be paid to the 2016 Finance Committee of Parliament.
In that email, the report said, Mr. Lamptey indicated in his internal email MEMO that the said GHC150,000, was to be given to the MPs to push through the NLA Bill, Act, 2006 (Act 722).
The leaked internal MEMO has degenerated public uproar, of which many described it as bribe, corruption and called for an independent body to probe the parliamentarians.
The joyFm report comes at an acutely sensitive time for the legislators, who are still defending themselves against a barrage of corruption allegations, as well as vicious public attacks, following earlier bribery comments by a member of Appointment Committee,Hon. Mahama Ayariga.
In denying the former Finance Committee was involved in any wrongdoing, Mr. Avedzi told The Republic exclusively that, the news reports were ill-motivated and a desperate attempt to link the work of the committee to corruption without ascertaining the relevant issues at stage.
The committee, he averred, did not illegally seek money from any state agency to do its constitutionally mandated work, but rather Parliament has been resourced by leading state agencies to offer helping hands whenever work of the various committees is at stake.
“Let me state it again that, we did not take money illegally. The Finance Committee of Parliament in which I was privileged to be Chairman did not take money unlawfully to do work which we do not deserve. All what are being said in the public are misleading, when you are in a hurry to report your news without checking facts and figures, you will end up in this misleading reportage,” Mr. Avedzi stated.
He explained that, the Speaker of Parliament referred the NLA Bill to the Finance Committee as it has been the case of all Bills relating to any subsidiary or Select Committees of Parliament to work on.
“At the time the NLA Bill was referred to us, the Finance Committee to work, Parliament was on recess and most members on the Committee had left to their various constituencies, thereby making it difficult for the committee to sit on the Bill though we have the obligation to sit on bills referred to us.”
“The NLA was told we (Finance Committee) could not sit, because most of the members were unavailable. As election year, they all left to campaign at their constituencies.”
“So I have to recall all the Finance Committee members from their constituencies, because the NLA expressed the need for the Bill to be work expeditiously and offered to assist the Committee. Under normal circumstances, parliament is obliged to provide funds and logistics, but that was not done for parliament as at the time was not having the needed funds to recall MPs who left to the various places back.”
“The NLA offered to help for the purpose and they (NLA) provided everything. Thus, the NLA provided the venue, which was outside Accra. They transported the parliamentary staff that was needed at the Committee meeting, the accommodation, feeding and others,” he told The Republic.
On the side of the Committee members, that is, the MPs, Mr. Avedzi said, “We transported ourselves with our private cars and the NLA paid for our fuel, feeding and accommodation for the days we spent in working on the Bill. The Committee members took the money for our fuel, because we were taken out from our working schedules and you know it was campaign and stopping someone from campaign grounds to come and work for you.”
The former Chairman of the Finance Committee said, every member on the Committee who were present to work on the NLA were given money as sitting allowance /per diem, as it has been the case for such committees, indicating that it has been the norm that in a situation where parliament is unable to provide the necessary funds, the agency involved does offer to help and that could not amount to bribery or corruption.
Mr. Avedzi argued that, the element of corruption could only have arisen if there is evidence that, parliament as an institution has provided funds for that purpose, yet the committee had gone at the back of parliament to take money from NLA, stating that has not happened in the instance allegation.
Asked if that is the best practice, the PAC Chairman said, that could only be avoided if parliament is resourced to handle its own activities, but as at now, the august House is poorly resourced, hence the idea of agencies wanting quick and timely work on their Bills have had to facilitate the work of the various committees.
While admitting that some money was received for the purpose of the NLA Bill, it was done in transparent manner, noting that he has documentary evidence to prove it and that his hands are clean of any wrong doing.
He welcomed any form of investigation into the matter, but assured that that will yield to nothing, because the Committee did not act illegality, stating, if state agencies stop supporting the work of committees of parliament, government work would grind to a halt.
Currently, Mr, Avedzi said, GIZ of Germany is supporting most of the works of parliament committees and wondered whether that too amounts to bribery or corruption?
He charged the media to be circumspect with their reportage on parliamentary issues, as unverified information has the tendency to tarnish hard won reputation, noting, he viewed the JoyFM misleading reportage on the NLA matter as an attempt to destroy his reputation.
The Ketu North legislator stated, so far the media has the right to public information, and they must be doing so with clear guidance of the fact that any wrongful reportage hurts individual and the society they seek to inform.
The work of Parliament, he said, involves a lot of resources and it is the view that government would now onward release budget on time for parliamentary duties to enhance transparency and speedy work of government business.
He further called on Ghanaians to appreciate the work of parliament and find ways of resourcing to meet its constitutional mandate and work rather than back lashing as our democracy would not be enriched without the full function of parliamentarians.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba