Members of Ghana’s Parliament have come under fierce criticism for receiving cheap mobile phones from a Chinese company, ZTE, to allegedly influence their decision to approve a contract between the company and the Government of Ghana.
Reports indicate that all the 275 MPs had been given Chinese phones before approval of a contract that will allow ZTE Corporation of China to supply dedicated security information system at a cost of $129.9million to boost national security in the country.
Anti-corruption groups have criticized the lawmakers for receiving what they described as bribes from the Chinese company which has gained notoriety for allegedly giving bribes in exchange for contracts.
The company was said to have been fined in Algeria after an alleged misconduct in this regard.
ZTE also has a link with the rotten Subah deal which creamed off GH¢144 from the national coffers for no job done.
New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Assin Central and Minority Spokesperson on Communications, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong recently cautioned the government on the floor of the House to do due diligence on ZTE before entering into any contractual agreement with it because, according to him, the company had been blacklisted in a number of countries, including the Philippines, for bribery.
After the initial rejection of the multi-million-dollar contract, the MPs found in their pigeon holes brand new ZTE handsets already connected.
They were said to have grabbed them happily, following which they duly sanctioned the agreement.
The Director of the Canadian Parliamentary Centre, Dr. Rashid Dramani, also condemned the action of the MPs—for taking phones from the company—describing their decision to accept the phones as “a big insult” on Ghana’s Parliament.
“If the Chinese company actually gave phones to our Members of Parliament, it is a very big insult,” he stressed.
He maintained that the MPs should not have accepted the phones, especially when they were to approve a contract involving the same company.
However, Deputy Chairman of Parliament’s Committee on Communications, Ahmed Ibrahim, yesterday dismissed claims that MPs were bribed with cheap ZTE phones to approve the contract.
Ahmed Ibrahim, who is also the Second Deputy Majority Whip in Parliament, insisted the phones were not gifts or bribes to influence the MPs but were rather security gadgets given out as entitlements to the lawmakers.
Speaking on Asempa FM’s Ekosii-Sen programme, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP described the allegations against the MPs as pure mischief.
He explained that the government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Communications, already had a contract with the Chinese company, dating back to 2006, which mandated the company to supply security phones to senior government officials, police and army officers.
According to him, thousands of such phones were supplied and distributed to ministers of state and security officials.
Ahmed Ibrahim did not understand why MPs were not included in the first delivery, given that they were also prone to security attacks.
He said as a result of the oversight, the company was charged to provide all the MPs with the security phones, insisting it did not in any way influence their decision over the company’s contract that was before Parliament.
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Communications said contrary to the allegations that Parliament approved the contract because of the phones, the MPs rather threw out the initial contract with ZTE because it was not in favour of Ghana.
According to him, the legislators approved the contract only after the Chinese company had amended the proposal in it for the benefit of Ghana.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Ranking Member on the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Daniel Nii Quartei Titus-Glover, has expressed shock over allegations that the phones were to bribe MPs.
He described the phones as cheap and insisted that the MPs were ready to return them to the Chinese company if it was proven that they intended to bribe the lawmakers.
“If the public thinks that taking that phone is something that they are not comfortable with, I believe my colleagues from both sides are prepared to give it back,” he reiterated.
Mr. Titus-Glover also described the equipment as “a national security phone and you cannot discuss anything personal with that particular phone. That phone is cheap; it cannot influence me, Titus Glover or anybody. I’m prepared for them to take it away. I don’t need it.”
He cautioned that Ghana must be “very serious as a country and we have to send a very clear message because it’s a very cheap phone; even if it’s an expensive phone, I don’t think that for the sake of a phone, even if it didn’t influence their decision finally to approve that agreement…I think it’s an indictment on our Members of Parliament.”
Source: Daily Guide