THIS WEEK IN PARLIAMENT [2 - 5 June, 2020]


Here are the stories from Parliament for the third-week ending Friday, June 5

MP Questions: Minister of Trade and Industry

Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyeremateng, on Wednesday, took his turn on Question Time to respond to queries from MPs about what government intends to do with the possible operationalization of the Komenda Sugar Factory in the Central Region. The question was by Mr Samuel Jabanyite (MP, Chereponi) which was asked on his behalf by Yusif Sulemana (MP, Bole Bamboi). The Minister in his response told the House that Cabinet after studying the recommendation of the Transaction Advisor gave approval to Park Agrotech Ghana Limited, a company operating and incorporated in Ghana in the agribusiness sector as the preferred strategic investor for Komenda Sugar Factory in June 2019. According to Mr Kyeremateng, the Transactional Advisors entered into final negotiations with the successful bidder following cabinet approval. Park Agrotech will invest $28 million over the first 3 years of the agreement which comprises capital expenditure and working capital including paying an annual concession fee of $3.3 million for the period of 15 years. He says the agreement will take effect upon completion of conditions precedent which includes approval by Parliament.

He further stated that implementation of the said agreement will be delayed until coming into force of the National Sugar Policy which is to provide a strategic framework for the implementation of the project albeit approved by Cabinet in October 2019. According to the minister, approval of the Sugar Policy paved way for the concessionaire to be formally introduced to Chiefs and Elders of Komenda Traditional Area in November 2019. The formal agreement has now been executed between Park Agrotech & Komenda Sugar Development Company; then assured the House that technical partners of Park Agrotech will begin a comprehensive program to restart Komenda Sugar Factory as soon as the restriction on foreign travels is lifted & after all the relevant approvals have been secured.

Park Agrotech will be working with STM Projects Limited, an Indian based company, on the Komenda Sugar Factory project.

In a follow-up to the main question, Samuel Atta-Mills (MP, Komenda Edina Eguafo Abirem), the member for the area in which the factory sits, asked the Minister of Trade and Industry about the time the agreement was signed between the investor and the ministry, because according to him the investor has not shown up at the site of the factory giving the excuse that it does not have an agreement with the ministry. Responding to Mr Atta-Mills, the Minister referred the Member to his responses earlier that the concessionaire has already been introduced to chiefs and elders of Komenda Traditional Area, therefore, their moving to the site depends on the approval of the National Sugar Policy which sets a strategic framework for the operationalization of the factory by the concessionaire.

 

MoPA Engages Parliamentarians

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs on Wednesday held its yearly “curtain-raiser” stakeholder engagement with the “core leadership” of Parliament on the theme “Parliament and the sustenance of Ghana’s democracy beyond 2020”.  The group was made up of House leadership on the frontbench from both sides of the divide, and Committee chairpersons. Addressing the forum, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and House Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (MP, Suame) commended the current Seventh Parliament for its role in supporting the government’s efforts in fighting the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, in the history of the 4th Republic, the Speaker has had to suspend the first meeting indefinitely instead of adjourning the House sine die usually at the end of every meeting. During the suspension parliament sat 4 times which MPs made effort to attend. On curbing high attrition rate in the House, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said capacity-building of parliamentarians is not a 4-year effort; it requires much longer time. He says the rather high attrition rate is attributed to the increasing monetization of internal party politics which is negatively affecting parliamentary work and called on political parties in the country to do serious introspection as the practice "opening up the sluice gate at the end of every 4 years" is not advancing democracy in Ghana.

On his part, House Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) says Parliament since the return to democratic rule in 1992 has not lived up to its responsibility of exercising checks and balances particularly over the Executive branch of government. According to him, parliamentary committees such as the Appointments Committee which is currently chaired by the First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu (MP, Bekwai) does not scrutinize nominees of the President who appear before it for vetting. In his opinion, Parliament will never ever be strong until it elevates itself from being a clearinghouse of Executive embarrassment as parliament is always seen to be rushing to the side of the Executive because it does not want to offend party folks who form the Executive branch. He sighted an instance of where parliament has failed Ghanaians to hold government accountable in the area of budget scrutiny especially on expenditure related to COVID-19 emergency in recent times. He says the government in last 3 months has had to spend $1 billion of an IMF emergency facility, but it is currently borrowing $219 million from the sinking/contingency fund making reference to Article 177(2) of the Constitution which states that, “Where an advance is made from the Contingency Fund a supplementary estimate shall be presented as soon as possible to Parliament for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.” He says Parliament has gone to sleep on that for the Minister of Finance to withdraw $219 million (equivalent to GH¢1.2 billion) and he has failed to account to the House for what he has used that sum for. He, therefore, questions how parliament is unable to hold the Minister of Finance accountable as he engages in an ‘illegality’ with his indication that “we are not in normal times” as he triggered Section 30 of the Bank of Ghana Act and presented the report last Thursday which according to Mr Iddrisu, total government revenue for the 2019 fiscal year was GH¢52 billion so he does not understand why the Ministry could not withdraw GH¢10 billion it said it needs but rather asking for parliamentary approval to increase the limit for borrowing as per the Bank of Ghana Act. He is however optimistic that parliament can do better as the revision of standing orders hopes to strengthen the works of the house committees to effectively exercise oversight over the Executive.

Some MPs who participated in the forum shared diverse opinions during an open session on the remarks that were shared by the speakers. One of them was the chairman of the Local Government Committee Kennedy Ohene Agyapong (MP, Assin Central) who opined that the gap between Executive and the Legislature has widened that it is not encouraging collaboration among the two organs of government.

 

The following Bills have been read the third time passed;

• Chartered Institute of Human Resource Management Ghana Bill, 2019 (after 2nd consideration)

• Chartered Institute of Marketing, Ghana Bill, 2019

• Education Regulatory Bodies Bill, 2019 (after 2nd consideration)

 

Frank Bruce | PARLIAMENT House, ACCRA

 

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