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Mon, Mar

The question and the answer: What Bagbin said (text and audio)

Below is a transcription of Hon. Alban Sumana Bagbin's response to the question of whether MPs take bribe which was put to him at a workshop for NGOs in Koforidua organised by Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund and Star Ghana.

Question: Honourable, yesterday, we deferred a question till you come. And the question was that, all this house has the perception that MPs take bribe before a bill is even passed, especially when the bill is under a certificate of urgency, and people were prepared to give examples. And we said, let’s wait when you come so that we don’t go over giving the examples. So the answer you give, people will challenge you, so tell us, is it true that before a bill goes through parliament, MPs must be given brown envelopes otherwise that bill will never see the light of day. And workshops, that I’ve gone, people were challenging Peter yesterday that if you are an NGO and you want the MP to come, you must pay. But he said he paid nothing, but he paid for hotels and good meals and all that. Let us know, I know you are a frank man. Respond to them, do MPs take money?

Answer: You want to stage a coup. You know, the reality is that MPs are Ghanaians. Yes, and so, there is some evidence, there is some evidence that some MPs take bribe and they come to the floor and try to articulate the views of their sponsors, do you understand? Because, in Ghana we have not developed what we call lobbying. There are rules, there are ethics surrounding lobbying and so we think that lobbying is taking money to go and give to some MPs and writing your piece for them to articulate on the floor. That is bribery.

Lobbying is a profession which is done all over the world. Like the civil society organisations, if you want to lobby parliament there is a way of doing it without it being seen as bribery. STAR Ghana has done a lot of lobbying Parliament but they haven’t bribed us.

I told you, we want to do a lot of work, but no releases and so we cannot move. We don’t have office spaces in parliament, just a few rooms for committees and we are thirty-something committees, so they can’t get space even to sit. Even if they are to sit, at least they should drink water. You can’t even buy that.

And the man is being pressurised from his constituency. There is a funeral they want you there, there is a festival they want you there. Your constituents are looking for money to pay school fees. They want to go and help you to do, eh, eh, they call it vacation classes and they expect you to give them money to motivate them. They don’t say pay them, they say, motivate us. Now, you think the MP can use the Common Fund to do all this? No, you won’t get that, since the last time Common Fund was released was First Quarter of 2013. And so you need to have these resources to be able to get the MPs together to be able to build their capacity to do what you want them to do.

I started myself as a lawyer, what do I know about oil and petroleum? Nothing. You know. I didn’t even do the law in that area. It was not in existence. Even during the time I was doing the law there was nothing like intellectual property, ok, intellectual property law was not studied. Now it’s being studied. I have to learn it and the people who have the capacity will have to teach me. As an MP I have the basics. Not only that, I mean, every degree holder is basic. You have the capacity to learn faster in whatever area. And so when you take us through your subject area, you improve our capacity then we can handle the policy or the business in parliament better, ok.

When I was chairman of the legal committee from 1997 to 2000, you see I’ve come back to chair it again. That time Nana Akufo-Addo, he was my ranking from the other side. We used to debate a lot and most at times, I relied on articles written by professionals in Ghana and outside Ghana. I took time to read, that is how I built my capacity to be able to lead that committee. If not the other side were very strong, you know the NPP is mostly lawyers because of the value system, aristocrats ok, and so they like dressing in suit, so until I took the traditional dress to the house and wore it throughout. I have managed to convert my successor, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu doesn’t wear suit again, it’s only what I used to wear, have you observed that? Yes, so I’ve been teasing him that he’s been trying to emulate me including my dressing, you see, and everybody laughs over it because they know it’s true.

So, that is it. It’s not just bribery but at least there are some members who take bribe. And sometimes, some governments, both sides, they have come with some policies to the house that are very, very controversial that even their members disagree with them and they have to influence their members through these bribery. And that is why you heard my friend, Appiah Ofori say that during the privatisation of Ghana Telecom they were given some 5,000 dollars each and so when we came to the privatisation of Merchant Bank, our people  decided to bring that information that we were also given 5,000 dollars each. I can swear on my honour that we were not given any 5,000 dollars. We were not bribed. There was a team, including myself, we were called to be given the full details of the matter, full details, ok, and we were given all the records including those who owed Merchant Bank. The highest was the President’s brother, but there are many, many people up to about 11 or 12, mostly from the other side, ok. But we were given all the story. We were fed – food and that kind of thing, ok. We were given T&T, that is that team. But we were not given one dollar, we were not given one dollar. And that team came to the house and led the caucus to try and debate it. That was what happened. But they just wanted to equalize for people to think that that was what happened. No, it did not happen.