Parliament approves Evelyn Ama Kumi-Richardson’s appointment as Minister of Bono Region

BY: Musah Yahya Jafaru

The approval of the Minister for the Bono Region, Mrs Evelyn Ama Kumi-Richardson, met a stiff opposition from the Minority in Parliament on Friday as they insisted that her approval should be suspended till she was cleared of some allegations against her.

The allegations had to do with her alleged perjury on the declaration of assets and refund of money to the state as demanded in the Auditor General's report.

But the report of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, which recommemded Mrs Kumi-Richardson's approval by majority decision, indicated that she had been cleared of all the allegations by the Auditor General.

An earlier move by the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, to call for a voice vote on the approval was challenged by the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu.

Mr Iddrisu said per the law and the Standing Orders of Parliament, once her approval was opposed by the Minority Members, the process of approving her nomination should be by secret voting.

Responding, the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said indeed the law provided for secret voting in the approval of nominees to public offices.

However, he said, Parliament had by convention resorted to the voice vote in approving nominees.

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But Mr Iddrisu said there were occasions in which the House used the secert voting process in the approval of presidential nominees.

He mentioned Fifi Kwetey, former Transport Minister, and Sherry Ayittey, former Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, as examples of nominees whose approvals were by secret voting.

The Speaker then ruled that the process for the approval should be by secret voting.

After the secret voting by MPs, the nominee was approved as the Minister for the Bono Region.

Why the delay

The approval of Mrs Kumi-Richardson was suspended by Parliament a week ago because of some unanswered questions regarding a redistribution of a vested land and asset declaration.

All the other nominees for regional minister and deputy regional minister positions for the five other newly created regions were approves by the House.

Allegations debate

Speaking to the allegations on Friday, Mr Iddrisu said Mrs Kumi-Richardson did not tell the truth about the declaration of her assets.

He said she had told the committee that she had declared her assets only for her to go and declare the assets after the interview.

Again, he said, the Auditor General had not cleared on the demand for her to refund $54,737 ah e spent on her trip to Canada.

But Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said there was no issue around Mrs Kumi-Richardson that should stop her approval as a regional minister.

He said in the past ministerial nominees with allegations of misappropriation of funds were approved by Parliament.

Committee's report

Presenting the report of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, the committee's chairman, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu said, regarding the Canada trip, Mrs Kumi-Richardson confirmed to the Ccmmittee that she undertook a trip to Toronto, Canada to renegotiate a sanitation project with a Canadian investor, a project she had inherited from her predecessor.

"On whether she had responded to the audit query relating to the trip which directed that an amount of US$54,737.40 be refunded, the nominee answered in the affirmative.

She explained that the audit query relates to an inappropriate attachment which the Assembly has rectified.

She further explained that on the issue of the audit query, she has already responded to the management letter and submitted all relating documents of the assembly for audit in the period under review", he said.

Mr Osei-Owusu said the committee deliberated on Mrs Kumi-Richardson's audit query and wrote to the Auditor-General to enquire of the audit status of the nominee.

He said the Auditor-General in a written communication to the committee explained that the management letter could not be relied upon by Parliament, as the query is work in progress.

He said the Auditor--General further stated in his written response "that in as much as a management
letter may contain infractions, they remain observations to the management of the audited organization (Pursuant to Section 29 of the
Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584)).

“The Auditor-General indicated that since the audit is still under investigation he objects to the use of the audit queries on the nominee", he said.