VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, the Votes and Proceedings dated Friday, 10 th February, 2017 for corrections. Page 1 . . . 8 --
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, on page 8, list of Hon Members who were absent, I see some Hon Members who had gone to the ECOWAS Parliament, but have been marked absent. I just want to know, because they are there performing --
Are you on page 8?
Mr Speaker, yes, page 8, item numbered 5 on the Votes and Proceedings -- Hon Kwabena Appiah- Pinkrah. I can also see Ms Ama Pomaa Boateng, Hon Opare-Ansah, Hon Sampson Ahi. They are all on the delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament. So, with your guidance, if their names could be moved from the list of Hon Members “absent” to Hon Members “absent with permission”.
Thank you. Table Office to take notice. Any other correction on page 8 or 9?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, just to address the application made by my Hon Colleague, the Hon Member for Odotobri. Mr Speaker, I believe this House has taken a decision on this, that even in Committees, if a Committee is travelling out, the Chairman of that Committee should submit an application covering the delegation or the Committee and it would be considered by Mr Speaker. So, if individuals leave and give the impression that all Committee members should be deemed to be present in Parliament, it cannot be so considered. They are required to fill the leave of absentce form which then would be certified by Mr Speaker. That is the practice of the House.
Mr Speaker, I noticed that I have neither been marked absent nor present. On page 7, I was marked absent with permission but I was in the House on Friday.
Thank you very much. Page 8, 9 --
Mr Speaker, just to add to what the Hon Majority Leader said. Hon Clement Kofi Humado is also at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, but he has asked for permission. Therefore, his name has been marked as absent with permission. I would like to agree with the Hon Majority Leader that, those who have travelled, either their leader applies or all of them could apply that they are out of the jurisdiction or working outside Parliament. Thank you.
The other day when these matters came up, that is, those present in the Chamber or absent from the Chamber -- I spoke to an issue that, until very recently, Hon Members would register their presence in the House by signing the attendance register. An issue arose and that process got truncated. I believe we have to go back, so that it would be the acid test of whether one was in the Chamber. If one was in the Chamber and one did not sign the attendance register, then one may not be considered to be present in the Chamber. As of now, when we are Sitting, I see the ushers come round with some notebook for Hon Members to append their signatures. That cannot be tidy enough because we are not all present at the same time. So, if they come to the Chamber to take signatures and an Hon Member is not here, that Member may be deemed to be absent and it would not be his or her fault. I would suggest that we go back to the old practice where Hon Members visit the Mails Room to sign that they have attended to the business of this House. I believe that would be the best way round this imbroglio.
Mr Speaker, I believe that it is because of the difficulty we have with the manual system of signing, that is why there is an electronic system to develop a system where Hon Members can sign in with the thumb as soon as they come in -- They have even started with a system like that. If we could go back to the system and see what we could do to improve upon it, so that as soon as we come in, we sign in with our thumbs and clock in. This is because, if one is present, one could ask somebody to go to the Mails Room and put something there as a signature, the one to count the Hon Members present might not know it is not one's signature and for that matter, one could be counted as present. So, let us go back to that electronic system, develop and complete it, so that we can sign or clock in as soon as we enter the Chamber. That would solve the problem once and for all.
Mr Speaker, that certainly would be the ultimate but my Hon Colleague recognises that we are not there yet. Not all Hon Members have this facility. So, if we have to do it, yes, ultimately we would have to do it. Until then, what do we do? That is why I say that, in the interregnum, let us revert to the old process, and when everything has been properly fixed in the Chamber, we would go back to that. My Hon Colleague knows that it would take not less than three months to have the facility procured and installed. So, let us go back to the old manual system, then, when we have done what is supposed to be done, we can access the facility before us. Maj. Derek Oduro (retd): Mr Speaker, I agree with the Hon Majority Leader for us to go back to the old system where one goes to sign, or when one is going out, either the Clerk to Parliament, Chairman or all Hon Members going out, would fill the absence form. Not all of us have the thumbprint machine as the Hon Majority Leader has said. Only a privileged few have it; he should look at the back, all of us do not have it. So, if he is lucky to have the thumbprint machine -- Even the frontbench, not all of them have it. What benefit would an Hon Member derive when he or she is absent and somebody signs his or her name on their behalf? I do not believe that it would happen. If one is not there, one is not there; one should be marked as absent. Absence from the House is serious. If one is absent for a number of days, action would be taken against him or her. I do not believe that it would do us any harm if the Clerk to Parliament, Hon Members or Chairman of a Committee -- If one goes out and comes in the morning and sign, there is no problem; one is outside the Chamber. However, if one comes to work, it is part of attendance. It is better we revert to the old system where when one comes, one signs his or her name and if one has Committee assignment and one goes, he or she is present, one should not be marked as absent. If there is correction of the Votes and Proceedings, one can correct it that he or she was present, but had been marked as absent. It would do well for us.
Thank you very much, Hon Members. It is quite obvious that the issue of who is absent or present at any time has been giving us some difficulties. Other jurisdictions have overcome this by some form of mechanised, computerised system or the other. That would be very healthy for us as well. I will meet with the Leaders, so that we see how we will also take steps to follow the best practices. Page 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 --
Mr Speaker, on page 12, item numbered 13, Votes and Proceedings “Adjournment”. And with your indulgence, I beg to I read: “And it being five minutes after six o'clock in the evening the House was adjourned till Tuesday next at ten o'clock in the forenoon.” Mr Speaker, I also refer to Standing Order 40 (2) and with your indulgence, I beg to read again: “The House shall sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Sitting shall, subject to the direction of Mr Speaker, ordinarily commence at ten o'clock in the forenoon and shall ordinarily conclude at two o'clock in the afternoon.” Mr Speaker, in this Session of Parliament, this House has never started work at 10.00 o'clock. At best, you would see three or four people. I also noticed that we get visitors, especially students or pupils from schools who travel across the country to be here on time. This is because they are told to be here on time to witness what Parliament does and we have some here today. They come and sit here for two good hours and nothing happens. Mr Speaker, I seek your direction. Either we move the Sitting time to 12.00 noon or we ensure that we Sit on time. This is because, some of us would ensure to be here at 10.00 o'clock and this does not give any encouragement for us to be here on time only to waste two hours of our time every day and not start work. I do not believe that is good.
Mr Speaker, respectively, we are dealing with the correction of Votes and Proceedings. The Business for the day is set out on the Order Paper -- if an Hon Colleague has any issue, he would avail himself of the processes as set out in the Standing Orders. An Hon Member does not just get up, and at any point submit a petition verbally. It cannot be accommodated in our Standing Orders. Mr Speaker, please, may you rule him completely out of order?
Mr Speaker, I believe that the Hon Member referred to the Votes and Proceedings --
Hon Member, I will not want this to become some unnecessary argument. I thought you would support the position of the Hon Majority Leader. But that not being so, and in order to avoid this becoming an unnecessary ding dong, the Hon Member who spoke first must have realised that, at least, on three occasions, and this would be confirmed by the Hansard -- I had explained why Sitting was late. I personally get here by 9.00 o'clock. But in the early hours, based on Parliamentary Business, certain docu- ments must be ready before Business is started -- Vetting issues in particular arise. We might all be ready but would have to wait for various documents to be run in certain quantities before we Sit. Sometimes, we believe it would be ready in 10 minutes but it would be ready in 30 minutes. Almost invariably, I had intervened to make this known to the public whom we serve. I am glad it has come up so that people would know that Hon Members of Parliament come and wait in the wings for documents to be ready so that we formally Sit. I trust that in due course, all these bottlenecks would be straightened and then things would be much more normal. I believe it is a good opportunity to explain further. Hon Member, that was why I did not want to rule you out of order though you technically were. But it is important for things to be explained for us all to understand, including the public whom we serve. Pages 13…20 -- Hon Members, the Votes and Proceedings of Friday, 10th February, 2017 as corrected are adopted as the true record of proceedings. Hon Members, we have the Official Report of Friday, 3rd February, 2017 for correction. Any correction?
Mr Speaker, line 3, paragraph 4, column 848, the “g” in “Prof. Akilagpa” is supposed to be “k”.
Hon Members, any further corrections? Hon Members, the Official Report of Friday, 3rd February, 2017 as corrected is hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings. Item numbered 4 on the Order Paper -- Statements. Hon Members, we have four Statements and we would give Hon Members the opportunity to make contributions. I would read the titles of the various Statements so that Hon Members would decide where they would want to make contributions, so that we would not have two contributions by one Hon Member while another Hon Member
Thank you very much, Hon Member.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague on the other side of the House, who is also the Hon Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture.
Yes, Hon Member. That is the fourth for chocolate affairs. We will move to another angle.
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement made by the Hon Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture on the celebration of National Chocolate Day. Mr Speaker, even though this day is 14th February, 2017 on the occasion of this Valentine's Day which is celebrated globally, I would take this opportunity to urge all Ghanaians to show love and compassion to the needy in our society.
Mr Speaker, they spend it with people they claim to be in close association with. Mr Speaker, we need to spend the day with the less privileged in our society, the vulnerable and the needy, to show them that, we care about their welfare. I am happy that, even though the day has been set aside to show love and compassion, Mr Speaker, we as a people, have come to a consensus that instead of us dwelling on love affairs -- [Interruption]-- We should rather promote our local cocoa products. By doing this, we encourage others to enjoy cocoa products which would go a long way to fetch us more money as a country. We know that cocoa will continue to be an anchor of our economy. But the fact is that, on this occasion, people try to engage in amorous enterprises which in effect would continue to lessen our moral fibre in terms of being a religious State. Mr Speaker, I would want to entreat all Ghanaians that, we need to demonstrate to those who are less privileged, to those who want to be appreciated based on where they find themselves, that, they are all part of our society. By doing so, we would continue to improve a lot as one people with a common destiny. Mr Speaker, we need to seize this occasion to educate ourselves that, when it comes to love -- especially if you look at our social structure, talking about our political institution, politics is supposed to unite us rather than divide us. Of course, they call me Collins because I was brought up in a Christian home; assuming I was brought up in a Muslim home, I would rather be called Awudu. Mr Speaker, politics is supposed to unite us and not divide us. If you want to look into our various political parties, of course, if you look at the New Patriotic Party (NPP), one could see that, we have people within the party from all walks of life; likewise, the National Democratic Party (NDC). But there is a constitution that binds all of them as political parties.
We are talking of Valentine --
We are dwelling on love; I love you because you are a Ghanaian and that is our identity. It is not a matter of you being in NDC, NPP or CPP.
Hon Member, you would conclude.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I believe we, as a people should see one another as one. Irrespective of our political persuasion or religious standing, we should continue to know ourselves as Ghanaians.That is our true identity. Therefore, I would want to charge all of us to see ourselves as loved ones. Mr Speaker, I would want to end by saying that, even though we are creating awareness to patronise our cocoa products, we should be mindful of the fact that without love, we would not even patronise our made in Ghana goods which would go a long way to affect our sinking economy. Thank you.
The Leaders would come in later to make their concluding remarks. The next Statement is on the struggle of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to meet develop- ment targets. The Statement stands in the name of Hon Samuel Jabanyite. Struggle of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to meet development targets
Mr Speaker, thank you
for the opportunity. I rise to make this Statement on the floor of this august House on improving equity in resource allocation to ensure the general wellbeing of the citizenry across the country. Although Ghana has over the years consistently made tremendous strides in improving upon the socio economic wellbeing of her citizenry, there has not been a well developed data that holistically assesses, compares and measures how key public services are delivered. The absence of such data has led to a lopsided development. This Statement seeks to focus on the disparities in resource allocation and availability in the performance of various MMDAs towards rapid socio economic growth. Mr Speaker, a number of factors militate against MMDA level of development; these include the absence of comprehensive data for policy makers, the region's poverty level, equitability of resource allocation from central government, ability to raise Internally Generated Revenue (IGF), good leadership, collaborative working, over concentration of Government's inter- ventions and the availability or otherwise of donor-funded projects in a specific area, among others. Mr Speaker, I wish to bring to the notice of the House a project produced on an annual basis by UNICEF Ghana and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Develop- ment (CDD, Ghana), in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development referred to as the District League Table (DLT). It is an independent tool for promoting social accountability. It is a simple ranking tool showing national progress towards delivering development across Ghana's 216 MMDAs. The tool assesses MMDA's com- pliance against administrative and statutory provisions and also monitors Ghana's actual progress in improving development and wellbeing across the country as a whole, breaking down the indicators to the district level. Key district indicators are aggregated into an index which then allows districts to be ranked from first down to 216th place in terms of level of development. The results of the 2016 District League Table saw La Nkwantanang-Madina Municipal, in the Greater Accra Region with a score of 77.8 per cent topping the league and North Tongu in the Volta Region with a score of 40.9 per cent at the bottom. The national average is 58.9 per cent, below which 101 districts are found, it is therefore clear that, the majority of districts are still far from this goal. The overarching aim is to draw Government and other stakeholders' attention and to use the results to identify gaps in development, target support better, and monitor progress year on year. Mr Speaker, article 17, clause 4 (a) of the 1992 Constitution states and with your permission, I beg to quote: “Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from enacting laws that are reasonably necessary to provide for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational imbalance in the Ghanaian society.” In addition, articles108 and 179 of the Constitution provide the legal basis for Parliament in approving public spending, settlement of financial matters and goes further to, among others, analyse the various figures allocated to the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies and to determine whether the projects mapped out to be executed are in line with the development agenda presented to the House as contained in the Budget Statement and to also ensure equity and fair distribution of funds for the development of the country in its entirety. Mr Speaker, it is against this backdrop that I crave your indulgence to make the following recommendations; that this House critically examines findings of the DLT project for adoption and implemen- tation in our future budgets moving forward. Again, I wish to recommend that the joint Committees of Finance and Local Government ensure that projects are evenly distributed across Ghana by pointing out these gaps to the Executive for alignment. Mr Speaker, I conclude by calling on your very goodself and the entire House to provide the needed political will and commitment to correct these imbalances. Thank you. Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuye (NDC - - Odododiodioo): Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by my very good Colleague from Chereponi. Mr Speaker, the District League Table is a very important measurable tool for transparency and accountability in the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs). It helps to analyse how appointees at the various District Assemblies embark upon the policies and programmes of Governments and other Agencies in the six mentioned areas, where statistically Ghana finds development, especially in the areas of security, water, education, accountability, et cetera. Mr Speaker, unfortunately, some MMDAs have problems in assessing their full potential in the development of these areas. So, it makes it difficult when weights are put on such indicators and marks are awarded. In the beginning, it was difficult for some of the MMDAs to accept the idea, and that led to agitations among communities against the Assemblies, with the belief that the Assemblies were not up to the task. Some chiefs and opinion leaders were not happy with the positioning of their various districts when the DLT was announced. Mr Speaker, slowly, Ghanaians are beginning to appreciate the fact that the DLT is not meant to name and shame, but to draw attention to the weakness within our development agenda in certain communities and MMDAs. As such, we should do well to improve upon them. Mr Speaker, two years ago, there was a district in the Ashanti Region which was 176 th on the league table. Last year, because this district carefully analysed the output and the indicators on the DLT, it was able to work on their strengths and build up on their weaknesses. This year, I was not surprised when I saw that district within the first ten on the Table. So, this is a very good mechanism for assessing development at the local level. Mr Speaker, in support of the Statement, I would say that it would be good that Parliament, as an institution, has interacts with the people, organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which are involved in the DLT, to see how we could also contribute to enhance the work they are doing. One of the main areas is environmental sanitation. Districts which continue to practise open defaecation are always found in the lower ranks of the Table. That tells us that, as districts, we need to improve upon the access to public sanitation, so that we could move up. When we take it up, as Hon Members of Parliament, it would also give us the feedback on what our MMDAs do. This is so that, we would also be able to prioritise our areas of contribution towards development. With these few words, Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Statement. Mr Speaker, this Statement is obviously very important. Indeed, it touches on a very salient deficiency in our MMDAs. Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that the imbalance that it touches at the local level is real. I would even want to point to a basic example, which is the Members of Parliament Common Fund. We have constituencies that are very large and some that are small. There are constituencies with a population close to 70,000 and others with about 20,000. Mr Speaker, but when we are given Members of Parliament Common Fund, it cuts across. So, if an Hon Member has a population of only 20,000 and I have 100,000 people to deal with, it would obviously reflect an imbalance, where the constituency with a population of 20,000 would be able to do more with what he gets as the Member of Parliament's Common Fund, while a person like me with a population of over 100,000 -- mine would be like a drop in an ocean and the people would not feel it. Mr Speaker, again, the projects carried out by Hon Members of Parliament to augment what the Assemblies carry out, obviously contribute to various projects, so that in cases of assessment, all these things are counted and looked at. At the end of the day, a particular district that has the strength in getting more resources from the Central Government through various means would be adjudged as doing better or well than some other Assembly. So, at the end of the day, a constituency like North Tongu would be counted on the DLT as not having done well, whereas another constituency or Assembly, which has had a lot of resources in order to meet the targets, would be considered as having done so well. That is a clear imbalance. Mr Speaker, like the Hon Member pointed out, Parliament has the mandate to look at these imbalances and fashion out laws or legislate in order to correct those imbalances. It is very pertinent and important.
Other than that, we would continue to have some areas of the country continue in a certain economic deprivation as compared to others that make tremendous progress. Indeed, if international organisations want to make assessments, it would be seen as one area doing well, as against other area not doing well, without necessarily looking at the fact that the area seen to be doing well attracts more resources than the others. Mr Speaker, with that, I would want to support the Statement.
Hon Anthony Akoto Osei?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made that Statement gave us some information on the DLT. Mr Speaker, my good Hon Friend is going on and on about the allocation formula for the district.
Hon Member, are you standing on a point of correction?
Mr Speaker, yes; the Hon Member who last spoke is misleading the House.
Is it a point of correction to lead us onto the proper path?
Mr Speaker, yes. The Hon Member who made the Statement was specific. Hon Quashigah is going on about a very controversial subject.
Could you please give the statistics?
Mr Speaker, I would want him to stay relevant.
He has finished.
Mr Speaker, I was up before he finished.
Please, if it is a point of order, when the Hon Member sits, then it is over. If it is a point of correction, this is a House of records; the correction could be taken for the purpose of the Hansard. Hon Member, if you could go directly to whatever you will want to correct.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement talked about a specific subject matter -- Why the MMDAs have not been able to perform well. He used one index to show us why it is so. The first comment made by the former Hon Deputy Minister stayed on the subject matter. My good Hon Friend here has problems with the District Assemblies Common Fund allocation formula.
Hon Member, kindly go straight to the point of correction.
Mr Speaker, that is the point; he was off-track.
Mr Speaker, I wanted to draw his attention that, he was off-track and completely misleading this House. This was so much that, we could not even pay attention to what the Hon Member who made the Statement --
Mr Speaker, I would want to correct the impression he gave that we are here to debate the District Assemblies Common Fund formula. That is not what we are here to debate.
Thank you very much. I was going to come to the Hon Leaders at the appropriate time.
Mr Speaker, I wanted to correct an impression --
Hon Member, I have made him sit. Therefore, that ends that matter.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the very important Statement made by the Hon Member. Mr Speaker, I think the DLT that is published periodically has got two sides; those whose districts come up at the top appear to be comfortable with it and those who do not do well are not happy. I am happy that the former Hon Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) --
Hon Member, go to your contribution?
Mr Speaker, it is true that a look at some of the reasons for assessing the districts; that is why a district could be the reason others do better than their counterparts. These assessment tools are not within the domain of what the Assembly can do. Mr Speaker, for instance, access to water and other things. It is very difficult for many districts to provide enough water for everybody. My point is that, I wish that, when these things are published, they are not left at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development or the Non-Governmental Agencies (NGOs), but they are shared with other Government Agencies; that is, the Ministries of Roads and Highways, Transport, Water Resources, Works and Housing and so on. So, they would know that some of the indicators being picked up on the ground show that the way distribution of development around the country is done, does seem not to be working very well. Mr Speaker, there is another thing we need to consider. I do not understand why, when the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) is being distributed, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) or the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) should benefit when they can actually generate enough resources among themselves to do much of what they can do. Meanwhile, there is an Assembly in a rural area which cannot even find qualified human resource to help guide their developmental projects. I think that this Statement is very important in the process of trying to develop the country holistically; we should consider some of the things such as: Does this district that came at the bottom of the DLT have even the human resources to guide their developmental process? Is the DACF which is, maybe, 80 per cent of what they use for development able to do this? If not, then maybe, we need to take a second look at the distribution of Central Government allocation to this. It should not be just that we are distributing DACF and so TMA, AMA can get their portion based on their sizes and then a district in the rural area gets a smaller portion simply because they are not many. Mr Speaker, if we go down that paradigm, I suspect that we may be on this journey longer than we think. Mr Speaker, on this note, I thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you very much. Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I rose to correct an impression. The Hon Member who just spoke and sat down stated: what it is that we must do to ensure even developments in all the districts but for the time being, there is a Constitutional imperative and that in article 252 (3) -- It talks about how to share the accruals into the DACF. Subclause 3 provides: “The moneys accruing to the District Assemblies in the Common Fund shall be distributed among all the District Assemblies on the basis of a formula…” Mr Speaker, so not until, perhaps, we have a second look at this, we are bound by this Constitutional imperative.
Hon Majority Leader, in the circumstances, would you say it must be distributed among all and equally, without regard to any special considerations or local peculiarities? We are all learning.
Mr Speaker, those considerations find expression in the formula that is approved by this House annually. So, if we would want to deliberately skew it, then we must find ways to tweak it. Otherwise, for the time being, we must apply ourselves to what obtains in the Constitution.
Mr Speaker, I believe the point I wanted to raise is what the Hon Majority Leader has already alluded to; in developing that formula which Parliament would approve for the sharing of the DACF, it can be structured in a way that would be skewed in favour of the less developed districts. So that it is not distributed equally among all the District Assemblies. It should be done in such a way that, those endowed districts receive less, while less endowed districts receive more. In that way, we would be working towards bridging the gap between the poor and rich districts.
Thank you very much. The last contribution from this end.
Hon Member, I acknow- ledged you. Or you wanted to get involved in another debate? Would you want to make a substantial contribution?
Mr Speaker, I would do --
Do not play on the sidelines; come to the main.
Mr Speaker, the import of the maker of the Statement was for equal distribution of resources. The Hon Deputy Minority Leader and my Hon Colleague just said that it should be skewed towards less deprived districts which I support.
Will it be equality when a mother pays more attention to the child who is sick or the child who is so deficient to be given some more milk or additional egg? Will that amount to inequality? So, sometimes, equality of persons may mean treating a person according to his or her circumstances, so that all will be well. Then there is equality. Nevertheless -- The next Statement is on land degradation and the way forward by Hon (Ms) Freda Prempeh. Land degradation and the way forward
Mr Speaker, I rise to associate myself with the Statement made by the Hon Member and to say that, this could not have been done at a better time. Mr Speaker, the land degradation in its wide form, includes the pollution of our water bodies. Indeed, climatic change has exacerbated the situation of land degradation where the unnatural conditions of the weather is felt by people who hitherto were within the double maximum rainfall period. Today, because of the degradation of the land and the harsh weather conditions that we experience, our people who are largely farmers, have become more impoverished and this is exactly because of the human activities on the land.
Mr Speaker, this brings to mind what we as a people should do about our mining rights that we grant to mining companies as well as the timber rights that we give to timber merchants. It is normally the case that when timber merchants harvest the timber, they are obliged by the agreements to replant. What species of trees do they replant? How many years would the species mature and be harvested? Would they naturally replenish the trees that have been taken out, which timber in most cases uses between 50 and 100 years to mature? Mr Speaker, it also brings to light whether we get value from the exploitation of our natural resources. Indeed, I have always been at a loss. When you visit the southern part of this country, especially the areas where gold is mined, you would see the wanton destruction and degradation of the land. It is characterised by irresponsible behaviour of these miners who fail, refuse or neglect to reclaim the lands and leave the open pits as danger not only to children, but also to adults who ply the farms. Mr Speaker, indeed, as a people, it is about time we evaluated the cost and determined whether we should continue to allow mining, small-scale or large-scale, without the concomitant responsibility of restoring the land. The case study is replete with stories of miners who have exploited and degraded our lands without reclaiming same. The case study is replete with timber merchants who have harvested our timber species without replanting timber on our lands. The case study is replete with collusion among bodies that we have set up to ensure that the environment is not compromised when these contracts are given out. Mr Speaker, I believed that land is a local issue and that any degradation of land takes place within the local context, but if people harvest timber illegally, then they are harvesting it within the local context. Mr Speaker, within the local context, we have the traditional authorities who should have the primary responsibility of protecting the land such that, the Amanhene of the various towns that have been mentioned should be the first point of call in ensuring that those lands are protected. After all, they have ascended the stool to protect the land that is for their ancestors, for them and for their children and those yet unborn. So, until they begin to recognise and appreciate their responsibility to not only manage and protect the land, but to ward off persons who illegally go onto the land to cause massive degradation, Central Government by itself alone, might not be able to do it. It is in this light that I call on all traditional authorities to resume their age old responsibility of providing leadership in the communities that they superintend and ensure that, foreign elements who come onto the land or indigenous people who are on the land and who cause destruction to the land are warded off, arrested and even in some cases, prosecuted, so that it would serve as a bar and deterrent to the people who would want to do same. Mr Speaker, I thank the Hon Member who made the Statement, for bringing this to the fore. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Member, you have had your bite.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I have looked at our Constitution and I make this observation in respect of what the Hon Member said. Mr Speaker, the Constitution has made elaborate provisions to protect our lands and natural resources from abuse. If you look at Chapter 20 of the 1992 Constitution, it sets out the lands and natural resources, public lands and what have you. We have the Lands Commission, Land Valuation Board, a Select Committee in Parliament and the Judiciary to enforce some of the laws. Mr Speaker, it is very unfortunate to have such a Statement made at this time of our development, especially with the Constitution being over 20 years old. The question is; are we a disciplined people? What has led to some of these degradations within our forest reserves? Mr Speaker, we have less than 1.5 million hectares of forest cover and the timber industry in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions, some parts of the Volta Region, Eastern Region and Western Region used to be the highest employer of the teeming youth, but if we go to these sites, some of them have been turned into slums and this had led to high unemployment. This is because, we have not taken the necessary steps to ensure that there is massive afforestation programmes to take care of the loss of forest cover. Our chiefs and some of the citizens have also engaged themselves in some of these unfortunate activities which have led to loss of forest cover. Mr Speaker, we have started a new journey under a new President and I believe this Administration would ensure that the necessary steps are taken under the new Hon Minister to ensure that there is afforestation, massive afforestation, which would lead to massive employment of our teeming unemployed youth. The chiefs should become more responsible to ensure that lands that are left in their care are well protected to ensure that we are disciplined as a people to avoid some of these unfortunate occurrences within our forest belt. I thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, I associate myself with the sentiments expressed in the Statement, and in so doing, I would also want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, to address the situation of forest degradation, we must also take a look at how we do things in Ghana. Biomass or fuel would constitute a good percentage of the energy mix of the average Ghanaian home. Biomass also provides hundreds of thousands of jobs for unemployed citizens of Ghana in the charcoal business. As long as the condemnation is blanketed and as long as we do not isolate possible positive economic outcomes, we would continue to draft laws that only look at negativity. Mr Speaker, it has been part of the policy of the Energy Commission in Ghana to develop woodlots for the charcoal industry. From the transitions zone to some parts of the southern regions of the Volta Region, charcoal making has become a major source of income. A lot of people have been educated through the sweat of charcoal burners.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Hon Member, your contribution?
Mr Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the Statement on the floor and to congratulate Hon Prempeh for such a wonderful Statement. Mr Speaker, I understand her plight and her problem, especially those to do with deforestation in her constituency. This is because, I happened to be with the Committee on Lands and Forestry a year ago when we paid a visit to her constituency and we came across massive deforestation through illegal means. Mr Speaker, when we talk about deforestation, mostly, our attention is drawn to felling of trees and farming, but the serious aspect of it has to do with bush burning and wildfires. Last year and the year before it, we lost almost about ten per cent of our forest cover through bushfire and wildfire that razed through especially, our forest reserves all across the country. It is important that we take measures to stop these wildfires and bushfires from happening, by ensuring that, at least, we do fire belts around our forest reserves. Mr Speaker, this would mean that we would have to resource the Forestry Commission and allied institutions with enough fund to be able to carry them out. The Hon Member who made the Statement also mentioned the 1994 Forest Policy. I would just want to say that, there has been a new policy which came in the year 2012 and as we speak now, there is one also from 2016 to 2036, which is a 20- year Forestry Development Master Plan. This plan seeks to ensure that we implement massive afforestation programmes all across the country, but we need funding. Mr Speaker, as we speak now, one forest guard happens to be protecting a forest reserve under him with the mandate of taking care of forest reserves with the size of an area comparable to the stretch of land from Parliament to Winneba. That is only manned by one forest guard. How is that possible? As he is at one place today making sure that illegalities do not occur, the chainsaw operators also fire off somewhere around Kaneshie making sure that they fell the trees. Mr Speaker, the Forestry Commission currently has a shortfall of staff just for replacement of four hundred and thirty- five as a result of those who have died, those who have gone on pension and have retired and those who have also resigned. They have not been made to replace all these staff. So, if we are not careful, although we would want to protect the forest, the situation would get out of our hands. I would plead that the Ministry of Finance accepts and allows them to replace this staff shortfall that they have. Mr Speaker, I would also want to mention what the former Minister --
Hon Member, in concluding? 1. 35 p. m.
Mr Speaker, in concluding, I would want to make mention of what the former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon Fuseini said regarding the issue of galamsey in the forest reserve. Mr Speaker, this is very serious. As we speak now, 29 West African nationals, not Ghanaians, made up of Malians, Nigeriens, and Burkinabes have been arrested in the Atiwa Forest. Mr Speaker, as we speak now, they are going to be prosecuted. This shows how serious it is. How can foreign nationals come into Ghana, enter our most important bio-diversity area, go in there to destroy the forest and mine gold illegally? Mr Speaker, it calls for serious retrospection. We would have to look at the security that we are in. This is because, if they could come in and just do that -- Now, it is no more the Chinese but West African nationals and this time they are not doing it in any other area, but the most protected area in Ghana. Mr Speaker, we have to make sure that we resource those who are to enforce the rules and regulations to do the right thing. Mr Speaker, on this note, I thank you.
Thank you very much. It is appropriate to direct that a copy the proceedings is sent to the Minister responsible for Lands and Natural Resources on this matter, for the Minister to take the appropriate steps and advise this House within a month. Thereafter, the Hon Member who made the Statement would ask relevant Questions in the House formally, if she is not satisfied with developments. Hon Members, I have said that I will be coming to the Leaders, so, let us finish with these Statements, and then we would ask Leadership for their contributions. Hon Members, there is a Statement standing in the name of Dr Robert Baba Kuganab-Lem, Member of Parliament for Binduri Constituency on the harassment of onion suppliers by police and Customs officials. Yes, Hon Member? Harassment of onion suppliers by the Police and Customs officials
Mr Speaker, onion suppliers are facing unprecedented levels of harassment from Customs officials, personnel of the Motor Transport and Traffic Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service and the general police at numerous and proliferating checkpoints. Mr Speaker, a bulk of the onions we consume in Ghana is imported from the Republic of Niger all year round. We import from Burkina Faso in the month of January to March. Our own local production is from February, March and April.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity. Mr Speaker, I beg to comment on what the Hon Member has read to the hearing of the House. Mr Speaker, it is a definite fact and not fiction. I just arrived from Kumasi at dawn. I went on my ‘thank you' tour and I visited the onion and cattle market, and what the Hon Member read is exactly what goes on.
Hon Members, Order!
It declared the fact that many of them are not educated -- They do not have secular jobs to do, that is, their source of livelihood that they use to take care of themselves, their wives, children, extended family members and even the entire populace. Mr Speaker, they pleaded that if we could do something about it, then it could give them the necessary encouragement to go ahead with the business, that is also service to the people of Ghana. Mr Speaker, they accepted the fact that the Police on the highways in one way or the other, is very necessary, since the operations of armed robbers have reduced drastically. But their fear is that, they deal in perishable goods, especially onions, and just because of something meagre, sometimes, it looks like they go into bargaining, where some of the Police take the opportunity of their uniform to maltreat them. For the cattle dealers, they say some of them, because of the number in a particular truck, pose a lot of stress and danger to the animals. So, Mr Speaker, before they offload on arrival, they see that many of the animals are dead. That actually causes great financial loss to them. Mr Speaker, if this august House actually can do something about it to mitigate the suffering of our people, I believe, it would go a long way to help. Mr Speaker, I end here and congratulate my Hon Colleague, Dr Robert Kuganab- Lem for this very important Statement. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Hon Member.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. At the outset, I wish to congratulate Dr Kuganab-Lem, the Hon Member for Binduri for making such a wonderful Statement. Mr Speaker, I wish to place on record that I am a Member of Parliament for a constituency where a lot of cattle are reared. So, on the question of alleged Police misconduct relative to extortion, I would want to say that I am privy to the issue to a large extent, and when I became privy, we did take steps. The Inspector-General of Police at that time was immediately summoned and directed to deal with the issue. They put in place a number of measures to deal with the issue. But this issue kept recurring. What that meant was that, we needed to adopt a holistic approach to deal with the alleged misconduct on the part of police officers in this country. Mr Speaker, the Ghana Police Service itself has certain internal mechanisms to deal with misconduct on the part of officers. So, the Police Professionals Standards Bureau was set-up to deal with indiscipline on the part of Police officers.
Considering the time and Business before this Honourable House, I direct that Sitting goes beyond the prescribed hours.
Mr Speaker, I want to commend the Hon Member who made the Statement for bringing this matter to the House. And I would want to sympathise with the traders and the cattle rearers. But Mr Speaker, this is a very serious Statement that we should not joke with. I want to add my voice to the former Deputy Minister for the Interior. I recall that the Hon Member who made the Statement made a categorical statement about the quantum of extortion that takes place at the border posts. Mr Speaker, I would want to urge my Hon Colleague that, because of the seriousness of the matter, he should go to the Police authorities and present the evidence that he has, so that those people can be prosecuted and same be done to the Customs officials. Mr Speaker, I cannot imagine that people may go through almost 45 thereabout barriers on the way from Kulungugu to Kumasi and at each stop, either it is GH¢10.00 or GH¢ 20.00 -- This is scandalous and we should take it seriously. I believe if he has the evidence, he should be bold to take it there and make sure that this matter is dealt with and dealt with very quickly. We cannot have extortions taking place in our country and we as Members of Parliament know about it, yet we do not ask that something is done. Mr Speaker, so, I want to add my voice to my Hon Colleague's, that this matter should be taken up urgently and the Hon Ministers for the Interior and Finance, who superintend the Police and Customs officials be called here to explain how such a situation can exist in our country. I thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, I beg to contribute to the Statement made by the Hon Member for Binduri. The increase in police barriers on the corridor is necessitated by the recent upsurge in armed robbery, speeding and also general security on our roads. I believe these were the basic reasons that prompted the Ministry for the Interior to increase police posts on these highways. It is, however, seen to be a bit detrimental to the development of trade within the sub-region. In 2005 and 2006, the West Africa Trade Hub under USAID, did a comprehensive study right from Lome to Burkina Faso. It indicated the number of barriers and extortions that drivers and businessmen suffer on a daily basis. What the Hon Member has read on the floor of the House goes further to tell us that, businesses within the sub-region are further slowed. Also, businessmen are being discouraged from continuing with their businesses, because of the extortions that they experience on our highways. It is against this background that, I rise to give my support to the Statement and also to respectfully crave your indulgence, Mr Speaker, that this issue be taken up seriously. We talked about the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and regional trade. If these impediments are not resolved, I do not see
how we can rise as a block, to move our development agenda to the level we all seek. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
In line with the number of views expressed by Hon Members, I order that the Statement made on the floor of the House, be brought to the attention of the Hon Minister for the Interior and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP). The Hon Minister should report to this Honourable House within one month what his findings are. If this should fail, the Hon Member who made the Statement should ask a formal Question on the floor of this Honourable House. Leadership, your contributions?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. In commenting on the Statements, I have to commend the Hon Members who made those Statements for bringing such serious and critical issues to our attention. I can also not go without commending Mr Speaker for directing that those Statements be referred to the appropriate Ministries for quick action. These are issues that are known in this country. The way they happen is what makes them reoccur. I strongly believe that the direction you have given would bring these matters to a halt. Mr Speaker, first of all, about mining and deforestation in most of our restricted areas. I come from one of those constituencies which is close to those areas. Right from our school days, in our educational books, from the junior high school level through the senior high school to the universities, the causes, effects and harm of deforestation on this nation, are known. Yet those people we complain about, go through all those schools only to come and join those groups who are perpetrating those atrocities in our country. One of them is the overgrasing by cattle rearers in restricted forest areas. There are overgrazing, deforestation and galamsey operators' activities. Rapidly, the depletion of our forest reserves is at an exponential rate. The peasant farmers who have farms dotted around the rural areas of this country are so poor to the extent that they cannot face these challenges alone. I am an Member of Parliament and on some occasions, when these cattle rearers come with heards of cattle and invade the constituency, the first person they look for is the Member of Parliament. This is just to establish rapport with you. The next person they look for is the District Chief Executive (DCE). From there, they look for the District Commander then the powers that be, just to establish rapport with them. Mr Speaker, these are common things. Therefore, when you refuse at a certain point, a farmer comes to you to complain “my farm has been raided by cattle rearers”. You report to the Police and they say tomorrow, they would go and look at the farm. When they go to the farm, it is the Fulani who is made to decide how much he can give to the farmer, instead of the other way round where those whose properties are destroyed, should have been those to come out with prices. If you want to trace this further, you would realise that some people are really adamant in pursuing some of those issues. So, I was happy that currently -- the former Minister for Energy is not here -- When the Hon Inusah Fuseini happened to be the Hon Minister for Lands and Forestry, he was very active in arresting some of those foreigners who were doing galamsey in some of those forest reserves. Unfortunately, he was promoted. From the Ministry of Lands and Forestry, he became the Minister for Energy and because the work there was so huge -- [Interruption] -- So, I do not know the outcome of those who were arrested. [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague has made a very important statement. This is a House of records. I have been here for 12 years and I do not know as a fact that when one is moved from the Ministry of Lands and Forestry to the Ministry of Energy, it is called a promotion. He should not mislead this House. It is a dangerous path that he is treading. Unintentionally, he has diminished the value of some Ministries, so, he should please withdraw.
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague has misconstrued me. He was reshuffled --
Hon Member, no Ministry would be degraded even by implication by this Honourable House. Please, withdraw that and go on. You can make a good contribution and let us be unemotional in such good contributions.
Mr Speaker, I withdraw that word. I meant that some were reshuffled but he was reshuffled to continue.
Hon Member, when an Hon Member withdraws, he withdraws. Those withdrawals with explanation, I would not accept.
Mr Speaker, I withdraw honourably that word.
Mr Speaker, the former Minister for Lands and Forestry, Hon Inusah Fuseini, was vigorously pursuing this, chasing people with the immigration officers, forest guards and police officers to those illegal immigrants who were mining in these forest reserves. The entire country was happy about that but that recently is not seen. If the Hon Chairman for the Committee on Lands and Forestry said about 29 of those foreign illegal miners have been arrested, it means the practice is being continued. Collectively, we must come together and bring that issue to a rest. The farmers alone cannot do it because of how sophisticated and well-armed those perpetrators are. If collectively this House does not help in making sure that the Committee on Defence and Interior, for Lands and Forestry together with the sector Ministers of these two Ministries help the peasant farmers to protect our depleted forests, onion sellers from some of those illegal miners, we would realise that very soon, Ghana's vegetation would not be different from the Saharan vegetation which happens to be producers of the onions we import. The earlier we act, the better. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to make these few comments.
Thank you, Hon Member. Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I have no contribution. The Hon Members have exhausted the issues and I would not want to overflog matters that have already been addressed.
Hon Members, at the commencement of public Business -- item numbered 5 on the Order Paper -- Motion. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Chairman of the five-member Committee has called to indicate to me that the Hon Member that we wanted to replace; Hon Ama Pomaa Boateng would be in the jurisdiction by close of day today, for which reason substituting her with the Hon Abena Durowaa Mensah may not become necessary. Mr Speaker, in that regard, I would plead that we stand the Motion down until tomorrow to watch the radar. If she does not appear, we would take the Motion tomorrow.
Hon Majority Leader, in effect, you have asked for it to be stood down?
Mr Speaker, that is in essence of what I said.
Hon Majority Leader, do you have any other indication?
Mr Speaker, five Committees have been programmed to sit excluding the Appointments Committee which is now sitting. Mr Speaker, having exhausted the Business for the day and the time reading six minutes after 2.00 o'clock, I may remind you that adjournment rests with you.
Hon Deputy Minority Leader, do you have any indication?
Mr Speaker, as the Hon Majority Leader indicated, it is past 2.00 p.m. and for that matter, the House is in your hands.