VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 on the Order Paper -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings and the Official Report.
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Friday, 9 th June, 2017.]
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Wednesday, 7th June, 2017.]
Hon Members, item numbered 3 -- Questions. The Question which stands in the name of the Hon Member for Juaboso, is directed at the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways. Hon Minister, if you would take your seat. Hon Member for Juaboso?
MINISTRY OF ROADS AND
Mr Speaker, Background Juaboso is one of the leading cocoa producing towns in the Western Region. The town roads are in fair to poor condition. Current programme Bitumen surfacing of Juaboso-Dadieso and other feeder Roads The Juaboso town roads form part of the Juaboso-Dadieso Feeder Road Project. The project commenced on 17th November, 2016 and is projected for completion by 16th November, 2018. Works are ongoing on the Juaboso- Dadieso section of the project to facilitate hauling of cocoa. In accordance with the contractor's work programme, works on the Juaboso town roads will commence in June, 2017. The roads for the entire projects are: (a) Juaboso - Dadieso (km 16.40 - 18.40), (b) Kaleo - Dadieso (8.08km) (c) Dadieso town roads (2.80km) and (d) Juaboso town roads (2.28km) Overall physical progress as at May, 2017 is estimated at 30 per cent. Breakdown of Juaboso town roads The total length of roads in Juaboso town programmed for bituminous surfacing is 2.28km. The roads are as listed below: 1. Nana Yaa Menka Road -- 1.25km; 2. Hospital Internal Road -- 0.73km; 3. Community Centre Road -- 0.30km
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, may I know the name of the contractor and whether he has been given mobilisation?
Mr Speaker, the name of the contractor is Messrs GS International Development (Ghana) Limited. The contractor was cumulatively mobilised and paid the sum of GH¢5,354,357.78.
Mr Speaker, my concentration is on the Juaboso town roads. The last time I spoke to the contractor, he indicated that he was supposed to commence work in February. In the Answer provided by the Hon Minister, however, the commencement date is in June. Mr Speaker, we are in June but the contractor is not yet on site. Could the Hon Minister consider it as a matter of urgency to make sure that the contractor goes back to site with immediate effect?
Mr Speaker, it is true that the question was specifically about the Juaboso town roads, but the Juaboso town roads do not stand alone. The project name is Juaboso-Dadieso and other feeder roads. So, it is compact; it defines the scope of the project. That is why I have given him a detailed Answer. The contractor started working on the adjoining roads because it is one indivisible project. Mr Speaker, yes, as I have indicated in my Answer, according to the contractor's schedule of work, he is supposed to start work on the Juaboso town road itself in the month of June. Although we are in June, we have not even got to mid-June. So, the work is on course.
Mr Speaker, per the Answer on page 7, the total number of kilometres (km) awarded on the Juaboso town roads is 2.28km. Mr Speaker, the total number of kilometres for Juaboso town roads is more than eight kilometres. Could the Hon Minister give this House the assurance that he would consider another package to add up the difference?
Mr Speaker, yes, it is true that what has been indicated as a 2.28km section of the roads in Juaboso is not the total, because we are working in
Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Minister when the bitumen surfacing from Amoya-Dadieso will also be completed?
Mr Speaker, it is one complete project and the duration for the project is 24 months, starting from November, 2016, when the project commenced, up to November, 2018. So, within the 24-month period, the job would be completed.
Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Minister; from his response, he said the Juaboso town roads are in fair to poor condition. I would want to know when the road got to that status?
Mr Speaker, we have three processes of categorising the state of any road; it may be good, fair or poor. There is no homogeneity in any stretch of road. One could get one stretch of road with parts of it being in fair, good or poor condition. If one considers the totality of the roads in Juaboso, of course, all of them are not in the same state. No part of the road could be considered as good, but for sure, it is either poor or fair. Mr Speaker, he also wants to know when the road developed into that state. I would only say that it was developed over time.
Mr Speaker, I think the contractor in question in Juaboso -- Per the Answers given, it looks as if there is a general feeling that contractors, specifically in my area, say that work on such cocoa roads have been suspended, pending review and approval by the Ministry. Going forward, could the Hon Minister confirm if the contractors have been asked to stop work pending review, generally in the Western Region in terms of cocoa roads?
Mr Speaker, yes, I am aware that some cocoa roads are undergoing rationalisation. Cocoa roads under the previous Administration were hijacked from the Ministry of Roads and Highways to Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) under its former Chief Executive Officer. So, as of now, the current authorities of Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) are reviewing some of the projects, as I said, under their rationalisation programme. So, since it is not under the purview of my Ministry, I do not exactly know what is going on with regard to those specific roads, but I can assure the Hon Member that this particular road is ongoing.
Mr Speaker, the Question was whether the Ministry had given specific directives to contractors to suspend work within the Western regional enclave? Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister also indicated in his Answer that COCOBOD, under the previous Chief Executive Officer, hijacked the award of cocoa roads. Could he explain what he meant by “hijacked” the projects?
Mr Speaker, this is a two-in-one question and I would answer the first one. My Ministry has not directed the suspension of any project on cocoa roads; we could not have done that because it is not within our jurisdiction. Once we do not have jurisdiction over cocoa roads, we cannot direct its suspension or its continuation. That is the first point. Mr Speaker, secondly, the Hon Member wanted to know what I meant by ‘hijacked'. I simply wanted to inform this Honourable House, that, the projects were shifted or taken from the Ministry, which has all the competences to handle roads, and sent them to COCOBOD, which has the authority to handle cocoa. So, that was the impression I sought to create. Mr Speaker, it was shifted from the area of competence to another area, which had no technical knowledge to handle it. That is what the previous Administration did. Thank you.
Hon Buah, you have had your time.
Mr Speaker, I heard the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways state that he had no jurisdiction over cocoa roads. May I know from him who has jurisdiction over them and who is the beneficiary of the cocoa roads? Mr Speaker, is he not aware that the Act, which created the Ministry places the jurisdiction of all roads under his care?
Mr Speaker, my Answer was relative and its meaning could be gleaned from what I said. The jurisdiction that I referred to was on the administration of the roads. Of course, every road in this country falls within the ambit and the confines of my Ministry. Any road in this country might belong to the Ghana Highway Authority, the Department of Feeder Roads or the Urban Roads Authorities. So, we have total responsibility covering all road networks in this country. Mr Speaker, I would want to confirm that the total network of 72,282 km roads in this country are within the control of my Ministry. But the jurisdiction refers to the day-to-day administration of the cocoa roads, because COCOBOD had taken control over them. That was what I meant.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Minister, whether he has plans to bring harmony between what COCOBOD and his Ministry do in terms of management of the roads.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader is asking about whether there are plans to harmonise the relation. This in itself suggests that something had been done wrong in the past. Mr Speaker, I would want to assure the Hon Minority Leader, that, my Ministry would take every needed step to right the wrongs of the past and harmonise the road sector.
That ends Question time. Hon Minister, thank you very much for attending upon the House to answer our Questions. You are discharged.
Hon Members, I have the pleasure to introduce to you a six-member delegation of the Privileges Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Kenya who are on a one-week study visit to Ghana. They are here, among others, to meet and interact with Members of the Privileges Committee, to share knowledge and learn best practices on modern approaches to Parliamentary Powers, Privileges, Immunities and Code of Conduct of Legislators. The visit is also intended to create the platform for networking among Members, with the aim of deepening relations between the two Legislatures. The delegation comprises the following: Hon Christopher Omulele, MP -- Leader of the delegation Hon Florence Mutua, MP Hon Jakoro Midiwo, MP Hon Barchilei Kipruto, MP Mr Kipkemoi Arap Kirui, Secretary to the delegation Moses Lemuna, Assistant Clerk. Hon Members, on your behalf, I wish them fruitful deliberations and a pleasant stay in the country. Hon Members, item numbered 4 -- Statements. Today is World Albinism Day and we have a Statement from Hon John Majisi, Member of Parliament for Krachi/ Nchumuru.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, today, the 13th of June, 2017 is International Albinism Awareness Day. It has been proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) to spread information about albinism. The theme for the celebration of this important day is “ADVANCING WITH RENEWED HOPE”. Persons with albinism are born with a congenital condition characterised by complete or partial absence of melanin, the pigment which gives colour to the skin, hair and eyes. Albinism is non-contagious and occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world. Specific barriers persons with albinism encounter in Ghana Mr Speaker, persons with albinism face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide, because of their distinctive appearance. They are often denied the most basic rights, such as access to education, healthcare, employment, right to political participation, social and family life and their freedom of movement is curtailed. Mr Speaker, in the area of health, persons with albinism have pale or fair skin, susceptible to sunburns, skin cancers, wrinkling of the skin and chapped lips which can lead to cancer. They live with poor uncorrectable vision, either by medication or eyeglasses. Regarding education, it has been noted that most persons with albinism encounter obstacles in formal schooling and skill acquisition, as their irreparably impaired vision renders them unable to copy notes from chalkboards in classrooms. There are no tailored textbooks with large fonts to aid their studies. They also face social challenges with inclusion and forming positive relationships with other students, as they are often subject to ridicule, exclusion and even ostracism. Mr Speaker, the World Bank in 2011, reported that the overall employment rate for persons with disabilities are low in 12 out of 15 countries studied. Meanwhile, persons with disabilities are generally poorer. They need to spend more on medical care or personal support and at the same time, they need to overcome various barriers which prevent them from earning a living. Legal Instruments against ill-treatment of persons with albinism Mr Speaker, it is noted that local, regional and international human rights Instruments emphasise the importance of human respect and dignity. Articles 26 (2), 15(1) and 17 (2) of Ghana's 1992 Constitution; article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (1981); the International Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights all stress freedom and justice, respect, dignity and well-being as basic or fundamental human rights for all persons, irrespective of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, et cetera. A person with albinism should, therefore, not suffer any form of discrimination. Awareness day Despite these constitutional and legal safeguards, acts of injustice against persons with albinism in many African countries abound. The United Nations General Assembly thus instituted International Albinism Awareness Day (IAAD), globally on June 13 every year to increase international attention to the human rights situation of persons with albinism, as well as recognise the importance of increasing awareness and understanding of albinism in order to fight against global discrimination and stigma against persons with albinism, among other things. As we celebrate and recognise the achievements, contributions, abilities and struggles of persons with albinism, it should serve as a moment to awaken or reawaken our moral consciousness, with a view to radically rethinking society's perceptions about persons with albinism. Key issues for Government intervention The Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism and Engage Now Africa bring to the attention of Government, the following key issues for urgent intervention: Health: Inclusion of sun care products, dermatological and optical services on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) drugs and services list for persons with albinism Education: Mainstream albinism and disability issues in all levels of the educational system; printed material in large fonts and allowing persons
Hon Member, thank you very much. Hon Buah?
Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Statement ably delivered by the Hon Member on this very important day for albinism. Mr Speaker, I completely share in some of the important points that have been raised by the Hon Member, especially the need to make sure that people with albinism are treated with dignity, fairness and given equal opportunity. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement made a very important point about challenges with health and education, and I believe that as a country, we must do everything to ensure a level playing field for individuals with different types of challenges or disabilities. In that sense, I believe the call to ensure that certain requirements are provided to help individuals with albinism, to ensure that they have access to education and also the call for the right healthcare as provided for by the National Health Insurance Scheme, are good ones. Mr Speaker, on that note, I would want to support the Statement and call on this House to make sure that this Statement is ably entered into the policy of Government, to ensure that people with albinism have equal access and opportunity in this country. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Thank you very much, Hon Member.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, we might think that it is not a disability for people to suffer from albinism, but indeed, it is. The first issue I personally noticed about them is their sight. Mr Speaker, you would find that anytime you meet them during a sunny day, they find it very difficult to see. Secondly, we also tend to discriminate against these people because of their appearance. Culturally, there are some ethnic groups who sometimes use these people for rituals. That is very bad. In the 21 st Century, it is very uncalled for, for people to use others as rituals for their own purposes. Mr Speaker, another issue is about people living with bald heads. There was a news item in this country that some people had been murdered just for ritual purposes and nobody knows the origin of these things. Mr Speaker, if somebody has a bald head or anything like that, and others decide to use them for ritual purposes, then many of my Hon Colleagues in this House would be murdered. But I thank God that, that would not work in this country. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement mentioned putting albinism on the National Health Insurance Scheme. I believe that it is very important. Mr Speaker, because of the numerous challenges, many of these people do not go to school and I believe that infringes on their rights as human beings. Therefore, it would be better if government would take note of this and ensure that anybody suffering from albinism, would indeed, be enrolled in our schools, at least, at the basic level, so that they could also get formal education and contribute their quota to national development. Mr Speaker, finally, if somebody suffers from this, it does not mean that the brain is not working. They could be people who have great brains and could contribute their quota to the development of our nations, especially in Africa. Therefore, I would seize this opportunity to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement, and also call on Hon Members and the Government, to take note of the discussions and the contributions in this House, to ensure that these people are fully integrated into society, so that they could also be useful for the development of our nation. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Dr Okoe Boye?
Mr Speaker, I am very grateful. Mr Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the Statement and to actually emphasise that albinism is a challenge, that, as a country, we must deal with and support albinos to ensure that ours is an all-inclusive society that accommodates the black, dark, pale and white. Mr Speaker, actually, albinism is a genetic condition. We are dark skinned people in this country. This is because there is a chemical in our bodies called melanin; this chemical is produced with the help of some genes. So, whenever we see an albino then the problem is that his genes had a defect. It is also important to be able to know the difference between an albino and a caucasian. This is because some people sometimes, mistake an albino for a white person or a caucasian. Most albinos have some black or dark patches in between the pale skin. Mr Speaker, how do we know if we are at risk of being an albino? Once a person is born and he is not an albino and he is dark skinned, then he cannot become an albino in the future. A person must be born with it and so, any parent who is an albino has the risk of giving birth to a child who is also an albino. Mr Speaker, albinism is a big challenge because most albinos have peculiar health problems. The very obvious one is the risk of skin cancer. We are fortunate. When we were created, God gave us
Hon Member, thank you very much for your very insightful contribution.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to associate myself with the Hon Member who made the Statement and the comments made so far on the floor of the House. Mr Speaker, today is an important day for that sect of the human race, who have found themselves in a minority within the context of us, the black people. They are a people of colour. Pigmentation has rendered them different from us. Mr Speaker, however, there are certain basic facts that we need to state on the floor of the House, that albinos are human beings, first and foremost. Their dignity and rights as human beings are protected by national and international laws. The fact that they have pig- mentation does not in any way suggest that they could be used for devilish purposes, or any other purposes that are not in accord with human dignity. It is a grievous crime to do acts that derogate from the dignity of such persons. Mr Speaker, I am saying so because, yesterday, I was watching a documentary, and it was shocking and mind boggling, where even dead albinos' bones were exhumed and used for medicinal or “juju” purposes. I pray to God that such calamities do not befall us in this our beautiful country, Ghana. Mr Speaker, being different and being in the minority means that they need special protection. It is precisely because they are in the minority that they are being visited upon with insults, abuses and things that clearly do not accord with the majority of the people. As I said earlier, this minority group of people deserve the protection of all of us. Where they have challenges with health, we as a people of this country, ought to appreciate that because they are in the minority, they require special protection. So, we must make health facilities available to them, so that as a beacon of democracy in Africa, it could spread far for people to know that here in Ghana, we accord albinos the highest of rights as enjoyed by all citizens of the country because albinos are citizens of the country.
Thank you very much, Hon Fuseini.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague on albinism. Mr Speaker, it is just unfortunate that this group of people suffer so much simply because of the complexion with which they were born. As we have heard from other contributors early on, it is mere pigmentation that has given them the decolouration of their skin and also problems with their eyes. This group of people are not that many, and because of that, they are shunned. Right from birth, they are shunned, and the women are the sufferers. This is because we have heard and seen in certain communities that women who give birth to such children are either called witches or sent away from families because of ignorance. Mr Speaker, this leads me to say that it is very important, that education is given not only to communities at home or to the women, but even in the schools. This is important because these children who are lucky and get to school-going age, are shunned by their schoolmates when they go to school. So, eventually, they are compelled to leave school and that leads them to struggle to survive, and they cannot even be compatible with their colleagues in the communities. Mr Speaker, it is important that health workers, and for that matter, the hospitals, when they visit communities or villages give health talks on this particular group of people. We have all heard and learned about their predicament of sometimes being pursued to be killed for ritual purposes, which is very bad. We should let each and every one understand that they are also human beings and they need the same protection and care, and that they have the right to life, and for that matter, to education and all other social amenities. Mr Speaker, it is very important that health wise, they should be considered. There should be a special package for them because basically, their eye sight is very poor and they normally use glasses. One would realise that when the sun shines, they try as much as they could, to protect their faces or their eyes from the sun, especially when they do not have glasses.
So, if they are given the opportunity, I believe they can do well. Not to mention names, we have seen some albinos who have made it. We have seen them make it. We have seen make it to higher heights and they are all right. They do everything that people of other complexions do. So, why do we not give others that opportunity? Mr Speaker, if we give them the opportunity, it would go a long way to help us and also help parents who might have given birth to such children. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you very much. Any contributions from Hon Leaders? I have two other Statements, both relating to health. The first one stands in the name of Hon Annoh-Dompreh; “ Time for the Establishment of a Health and Safety Authority in the Republic”. The second Statement stands in the name of Hon Dr Apaak; “ Mental health situation in Ghana and the challenges in the Northern sector. Hon Annoh-Dompreh? Establishment of a health and safety authority in Ghana
Mr Speaker, I thank you for your kindness. My Statement is captioned “Time for the establishment of a health and safety authority in the Republic”.
Hon Dr Apaak? Mental health in Ghana -- Challenges in the Northern sector
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to make a Statement on the issue of mental health, an important challenge that needs the urgent attention of this House. In a country where mental health facilities are in deplorable conditions, and most invariably, we view mental health diseases as products of spiritual causes, the need to tackle mental health is now more urgent than ever before. Mr Speaker, the importance of mental healthcare cannot be underestimated, since its ramifications affect all and sundry. Challenges of mental healthcare delivery, like any other health challenge, are varied and complicated. Mr Speaker, anybody or any of us here at this moment, can be at risk of one mental health condition or the other. Mr Speaker, suspected mental health related suicide cases are on the rise in recent times. A case in point is the alleged suicide of a final year student (Jennifer Nyarko) of the University of Ghana, who allegedly jumped from the fourth floor of Akuafo Hall Annex “A”, Room 407, to her death on Wednesday, 8th March, 2017. Mr Speaker, this incident is similar to a case of a student (Adwoa Agyarka Anyimadu-Antwi) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), a couple of weeks earlier , who also allegedly committed suicide. Sadly, in our country Ghana, mental health issues are considered incon- sequential matters or spiritual issues by some, and therefore, have been largely relegated to the background, to the detriment of mental health patients. As a result, we read about the chaining and confinement of mental health patients by some so-called pastors, spiritualists and herbalists. Mr Speaker, in an interview granted The Mirror newspaper on 27th February, 2016, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, stated clearly that mental health had become a silent national crisis owing to poor quality of care in that area. Mr Speaker, Dr Osei has further noted that mental healthcare in Ghana is one of the poorest and the worst on the continent of Africa and needs serious attention. In a further interview with utlimatefmonline.com published in October, 2016, Dr Osei revealed that 2.3 million people out of the population of about 26 million Ghanaians are suffering from one or another type of mental health challenge. Mr Speaker, this statistic is alarming and needs urgent redress. Mr Speaker, a 2003 government report dubbed “Mental Health Profile (Ghana)” summed it all. It showed that Ghana has only three psychiatric hospitals available to serve the over 26 million of our population -- the Accra, Pantang and Ankaful hospitals -- all of which are located in the urban south of the country. The report stated that the Accra Psychiatric Hospital was built in 1906. It has capacity for 800 patients, but houses an estimated 1,000 inmates. Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital was built in 1965 in the Central Region of Ghana, has a capacity for 500 beds, but had 150 in- patients. The reduction in the number of in- patients was attributed to dwindling numbers of nurses and doctors. The Pantang Hospital on the other hand, was commissioned in 1975 to decongest the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. The original intention of President Dr Kwame Nkrumah, according to the report, who initiated the building of Ankaful and Pantang hospitals, was to provide a Pan- African Mental Health Village for Research. As the report put it, “It was a grandiose project that would have recruited experts from Africa” Currently, the Pantang Hospital has a capacity for 500 beds, but accommodates 450 patients. It has a vast land with a number of uncompleted wards, bungalows and junior staff accommo- dation left in the bush. Both Ankaful and Pantang hospitals have nursing training schools attached, producing Registered Psychiatric Nurses. Mr Speaker, the top ten mental problems often diagnosed in Ghana, according to the 2003 government report, include schizophrenia, substance abuse, depression, hypomania, acute organic brain syndrome, manic depressive psychosis, schizo-affective psychosis, alcohol dependency syndrome, epilepsy and dementia. Mr Speaker, the irony is that, all the three mental health facilities are located in the southern sector of our nation -- According to a recent research publication by BasicNeeds -- Ghana, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), providing support to mentally sick and/ epileptic patients in the northern sector of Ghana, with over 60 per cent of its population classified under the poorest and most underserved in terms of mental health services, does not have a single psychiatric clinic or hospital, although it has a large number of mental patients. Mr Speaker, there is only one psychiatrist stationed at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, in the Northern Regional capital, taking care of patients scattered all over northern Ghana which
Thank you very much. Hon Members, we would have two contributions from each side. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Brother, the Hon Annoh- Dompreh. Mr Speaker, it has been very clear from the submission by the Hon Member that there is a lacuna in our law, which needs to be filled, going forward. Mr Speaker, clearly, there is an acknowledgement that at work places, injuries are sustained by workers in the course of the discharge of their legitimate duty. Mr Speaker, there is also an acknowledgement that when such injuries are sustained at the work places, there is the need to compensate the individuals involved. So, we have the Workmen's Compensations Act, which makes provision for such situations. Mr Speaker, the Ghana Standards Authority, as indicated by the Hon Member who made the Statement, also ensures standardisation, but in between these two Acts or Legislations, is the void or lacuna created as a result of the fact that we do not have safety standards that are supposed to be carried out by a mandated Authority. Mr Speaker, when such an Authority is established, it would ensure that we sanitise the situation and protect the working population, by providing them with all the necessary equipment and safety measures to protect them against injuries. Mr Speaker, once we have acknow- ledged as stated in the legislation that in the course of the discharge of their duties, such individuals who work at these institutions, can sustain injuries, then we should put in place measures that would protect them from sustaining those injuries in the first place, so that we do not get to that state, where we would have to talk about issues of compensation, et cetera. Mr Speaker, even if we would have to get there, then we should put in place measures that are of a legal nature and a regime that would be regulated by an Act of this august House, to protect the vulnerable working population of our dear nation. Mr Speaker, the need for this Authority cannot be over-emphasised. Indeed, going through our law, one realises, and it is without equivocation, that once we have these two other legislations, which deal with standards for our systems and the need for compensation, then we ought to also, with due diligence, craft a legislation to ensure at the work site, we put in place all the necessary measures to protect our working population by way of safety. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I fully associate myself with the Hon Member who made the Statement.
Mr Speaker, first of all, let me thank the two Hon Members who made the Statements. One of the Statements is about occupational safety and security health standards and he would want an Authority to be set up. I remember that in 2011, I signed a foreward to a policy document that was developed in the Ministry of Health (MoH) on occupational health and safety. That document should still be in the MoH, and I would advise that, they take a close look at it, because this was the document developed after a lot of consultations with all key stakeholders. This Authority, if it is to move from policy to legislation, should be clearly relocated in the area of health and all the provisions that we would put in such a law would also incorporate the Workmen's Compensation Act provi- sions. Again, if we look at the issues that have been raised, occupational health, safety and security relate more to the workplace. So, the Ministry of Employ- ment and Labour Relations also has a role to play. In the case of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), there is always that conflict. So, this time round, I would call for a proper situation where there is no conflict over which Ministry supervises what. That document outlines all the issues because it took consideration Protocols that we signed as a country, the international Conventions were all
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement made by Hon Annoh-Dompreh and a call to establish a Health and Safety Authority. Mr Speaker, I agree with the Hon Member when he says the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) is doing a lot. Per their mandate, little is done when it comes to the promotion of health and safety in this country. Mr Speaker, when it comes to health and safety in this country, there is too much non-compliance with regard to health and safety procedures. Why do I say this? Safe havens are encroached upon and developed. So, should there be any serious disaster in this country, where would the people of this country run to? In this Parliament, we are even supposed to have a safe haven, but where is it? Also, we see high buildings springing up, schools are built without disability or less abled person access. Also, siting of gas filling stations in industrial areas. Mr Speaker, this country had a test case when there was this disaster at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and the Trade Fair Centre, but I would want to talk about the one at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, because it was rainfall coupled with a spillage. Why do I want to talk about the Kwame Nkrumah Circle spillage and the floods? It is because we have started producing oil and gas in this country? Have we put enough safety procedures in place, so that should there be any spillage, we would be able to cope with the situation? Mr Speaker, in 1988 in Aberdeen, on an oil rig, and that was Britain's largest oil and gas producing rig, when there was a spillage, out of 228 workers who were working on the oil rig with about 30 helicopters for rescue operations, only 61 survived. I am saying this for us as a country to take health and safety procedures seriously since we have started producing oil and gas in this country. Mr Speaker, it would interest you to also know that, even here in Parliament, what we have at the back of Parliament is a hazard. I am a trained health and safety officer, so, I know what I am talking about. Therefore, if the Hon Member is talking about the establishment of Health and Safety Authority in this country, he is saying so because little is done when it comes to health and safety standards in this country. That notwithstanding, we have agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), and the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), that are supposed to make sure that health and safety standards are promoted in this country. So, if little is done about it, that is the reason the Hon Member is calling for the establishment of a Health and Safety Authority. But it would be a duplication of roles. If the Hon Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation would also take up this responsibility to monitor and to make sure
Any contribution from the Leadership? [Pause] In the absence of any contribution from Leadership, that brings us to the end of Statements. It is recommended that this matter be further referred to the Committee on Health to consider the possibility of a Health and Safety Commission in Ghana and an appropriate legislation regarding same. Thank you. At the Commencement of Public Business, item numbered 5 -- Presen- tation of Papers. Item numbered 5 (a) (i) by the Hon Minister for Agriculture? Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister for Agriculture is attending to some other very important issues, and he has asked his Deputy Minister, who is an Hon Member of this House to come and lay this Paper on his behalf. That is for items 5 (a) (i) and (ii).
Hon Majority Leader, do you want items numbered 5 (i) and (ii) to be stood down or for someone else to present?
Mr Speaker, that is what I have said, that, the Hon Deputy Minister in charge of Agriculture is the one to hold the fort for the Hon Minister to lay the two Papers.
Very well. Hon Deputy Minister, you may do so.
Order! Item numbered 5 (b) by the Hon Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs?
Mr Speaker, I think I was looking at some other matter. We have decided to stand item numbered 5 (b) down.
Should we stand item numbered 5 (b) down?
Yes, Mr Speaker. The reason is that the person to lead us to shepherd the formula has not been vetted yet by Parliament, so, we have decided to stand it down until the vetting and then, she would come and lead the issue about the formula.
Thank you very much. Item numbered 6 -- Motion -- by the Hon Chairman of the Committee?
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 80 (1) which require that no Motion shall be debated until at least forty-eight hours have elapsed between the date on which notice of the Motion is given and the date on which the Motion is moved, the Motion for the adoption of the Proposed Formula for the Distribution of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) for the year 2017, may be moved today.
Mr Second Deputy Speaker to take the Chair. Hon Chairman of the Committee?
MR SECOND DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, we had to deal with item numbered 6. Unfortunately, the Hon Chairman of the Committee of the Whole is not in the Chamber. I guess --
Hon Majority Leader, I saw that item numbered 5 (b) was not laid by you.
That is so.
So, item numbered 6 would definitely -- I do not know when it was laid -- It deals with the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund).
Mr Speaker, that has been dealt with. It was done last week, so, it has matured for the processes listed to be embarked on. Mr Speaker, in the absence of the First Deputy Speaker who chaired the Committee of the Whole, I would like to stand in his stead to lead the processes.
Motion moved; any seconder? Deputy Majority Leader (Ms Sarah A. Safo): Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion.
This is a procedural Motion. In the absence of any contribution, I would put the question. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Majority Leader? Proposed Formula for GETFund, 2017 Majority Leader (Mr Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu(on behalf of the Chair- man of the Committee): Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House adopts the proposed formula for the distribution of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) for the year 2017. In doing so, I would like to present the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the proposed formula for the distribution of the GETFund for the year 2017. Introduction In fulfilment of the provisions of section 8 (2) of the Ghana Education Trust Fund Act, 2000, (Act 581), the distribution formula for moneys expected to accrue to the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) for year 2017 was laid in Parliament on Wednesday, 7th June, 2017 and referred to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and report. Subsequently, the Committee met on Thursday, 8th June, 2017 and considered the referral. The Committee is grateful to the Hon Minister for Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh and the Acting Administrator of the Fund, Mr Richard Boadu, for providing clarifications on the proposed Formula. Reference documents In preparing its Report, the Committee availed itself of the following documents: i. The Standing Orders of the House. ii. The Ghana Education Trust Fund Act, 2000 (Act 581). iii. The formula for the distribution of proceeds of the GETFund for year 2016. iv. The formula for the distribution of proceeds of the GETFund for year 2017. Background information Section 8 (2) of Act 581, provides that the Board of Trustees of the Fund is required to submit annually to Parliament for approval, a formula for the distribution of funds to the following sub-sectors of education: a. Tertiary b. Second cycle c. Basic and d. Other related agencies of education, such as distance education, school and public libraries and special education. In arriving at the 2017 formula for the distribution of the Fund, the Board was guided by the following crucial factors that relate to education delivery and development in the country, as provided for in section 8 (3) of Act 581: i. Promotion of the study of mathematics, science, and technology ii. Advancement of female educa- tion iii. Reduction in the high level of illiteracy in historically disad- vantaged areas v. Promotion of computer, voca- tional and technical education and training vi. Equitable allocation of funds to the districts at the pre tertiary level of education. Projected accruals for the 2017 fiscal year For the year 2017, an amount of seven hundred and ninety million, two hundred and twenty-four thousand, one hundred and forty-nine cedis (GH¢790,224,149.00) is expected to accrue into the GETTFund. The distribution of the amount of GH¢790,224,149.00 per the various sub- sectors of education and other related areas is shown in the Table below: GETFund Distribution Formula for year 2017 SPACE FOR TABLE - PAGE 6 - 1.45 P.M. Observations and Recommendations Disbursement of accruals for year 2016 The Committee was informed that an amount of one billion, twenty one million, five hundred thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢1,021,500,000.00) was approved by the House for the Fund, for the year 2016. However, nine hundred and forty-eight million, nine hundred and forty-one thousand, three hundred and forty-nine Ghana cedis, thirty-three pesewas, (GH¢948,941,349.33) representing 92.9 per cent of the total approved funds was the actual outturn for the year 2016. It is worth noting, that an amount of ninety-four million, five hundred and fifty-four thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine cedis, ninety-three pesewas (GH¢94, 554,979.93), in respect of GETFund's actual outturn is yet to be released to the GETFund. The Committee expressed concern about the delay in the payment of accruals to GETFund. In the opinion of the Committee, delay in the payment of accruals adversely affect the implemen- tation of planned projects and pro- grammes. The Committee therefore urges the Ministry of Finance to release the outstanding amount of GH¢94,554,979.93 in respect of 2016 as a matter of urgency, to enable GETFund meet its 2016 commitments and liabilities. Focus areas for year 2017 The Committee noted, that the new areas of focus of the Fund for the year 2017 are as follows: i. Fencing of schools with high risk of encroachment ii. Provision of white boards in schools iii. Construction of kindergarten facilities iv. Regulatory and policy reforms. Addtionally, the structure of spending for the year 2017 formula is aligned to the education sector's priority projects and programmes. These are academic facilities and infrastructure; scholarships; allocation of funds to the Students Loan Trust Fund; procurement of teaching and learning materials; demystifying and popularising Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (SMET)/ Information Communication Technology (ICT). The Hon Minister for Education informed the Committee, that notwith- standing the new areas of focus of the Fund for 2017, attention would be given to priority needs at all levels of education. Amendment of Act 581 The Committee observed, that there is the urgent need to amend the GETFund Act, 2000 (Act 581) to enable the Fund perform more efficiently. The Committee expressed concern about the membership of the Board of Trustees of the Fund comprising seventeen (17) persons as provided in section 6 of Act 581. In the opinion of the Committee, the present composition is too large and must be reviewed. The Minister for Education assured the Committee, that measures are being put in place to amend Act 581 in its entirety. Conclusion The GETFund, undoubtedly, plays an important role in the development of education in the country. The Committee, having examined the distribution formula of expected inflows into the Fund for the year 2017, observed that the Fund would certainly support critical programmes and projects in the education sctor. In order not to defeat the purpose for which the Fund was set up, the Committee urges the Ministry of Finance to ensure timely payments of accruals, to enable GETFund meet its objectives. The Committee hereby recommends to the House to approve its Report on the 2017 GETFund distribution formula for an amount of seven hundred and ninety million, two hundred and twenty-four thousand, one hundred and forty-nine cedis (GH¢790,224,149.00), to enable the GETFund secretariat distribute same to the specified areas of the education sector. Respectfully submitted.
Any seconder? Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion for the House to approve a sum of GH¢790,224,149.00 for the GETFund for the 2017 financial year. Mr Speaker, I would want to do so with some level of reservation. Mr Speaker, the Report of the Committee was not detailed enough to bring out all the relevant information needed for the attention of the House. Mr Speaker, on page 3 of the Report, I believe it would have been better for the Committee to have brought out the out- turn for the year 2016 for the various sub- sectors. This is because, if we look at the Table on page 3 of the Report, the tertiary sector was allocated with an amount of 32.33 per cent. If we have the corresponding figure for the year 2016, it would give us more information to know whether there was an improvement or not for that sector. It also applies to the secondary and basic sectors as well. Mr Speaker, more importantly, we would realise that, over the years, the amount allocated to the GETFund had increased. This particular year, one would realise, that the amount which has been allocated to the GETFund is rather a reduction of what was allocated in the year 2016. This is because, in the year 2016, an amount of GH¢1,021,500,000 was allocated to the education sector, out of which GH¢948.9 million was disbursed, with the balance of only GH¢94 million to be disbursed. Mr Speaker, if we compare the GH¢1,021,500,000 to the GETFund for the year 2016, this year, it is only GH¢790,224,149.00 which has been allocated to the GETFund and it is a reduction of almost 21 or 22 per cent. This would affect the educational sector in terms of the provision of infrastructure for all the sectors; basic, secondary and tertiary. Mr Speaker, we would want to urge the Hon Minister for Finance to ensure that, once the amount allocated to the sector this year is less than what it is supposed to be, we should not come here next year and talk about non-release of the Fund to the GETFund. We would want the Hon Minister for Finance to release the fund on time to the GETFund Administrator, in order for the Ministry of Education and the GETFund to provide the schools with all the resources needed in order to provide the materials and the projects that are needed by the sector. Mr Speaker, we would also want to demand, that the Hon Minister for Education provides details of the various of schools which would benefit from the allocation for all these sectors. This is to guide Hon Members of Parliament and to ensure that we can also monitor those schools that would fall under our constituencies. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I second the Motion and urge the House to support it. Mr Speaker, I thank you. Question proposed.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion, that this House approves an amount of GH¢790,224,149.00 for the services of the GETFund for the year 2017.
Hon Deputy Majority Leader, before you end — why are they referred to as new areas of focus? The area that you focused on in your submission in the Report says: “The Committee noted that the new areas of focus of the Fund for the year 2017 are as follows:” Why are they referred to as new areas of focus?
Mr Speaker, I believe that is the novelty and innovative aspect of it. In the past, I believe that this —
Construction of kindergarten facilities is a novelty?
Mr Speaker, it is not that it does not exist or has not been part of our programmes, but the focal point or the emphasis has not been on that in the past years. That is why the emphasis in this Report says that the Ministry of Education —
Is the Hon Minister for Education available?
Mr Speaker, I am sure that it is because no emphasis would be placed on these major items; (i) to (iv).
I can see the Hon Member who moved the Motion —
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who moved the Motion wants to step in the stead of the Minister for Education to throw more light on it, so I would want to thank you for the opportunity —
I will give him some time to try and educate us on this. This is because to say, “new areas of focus” It is not just area of focus this year, but “new areas”, that sounds a bit out of the norm, and that is why I asked the question. But please conclude.
Very well Mr Speaker in concluding, I would want to urge the Hon House to approve the Report on the formula for the distribution of the 2017 GETFund, for an amount of seven hundred and ninety million, two hundred and twenty-four thousand, one hundred and forty-nine cedis (GH¢790,224,149.00) to enable the GETFund distribute same for its projects.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to support the Motion\ to approve the GETFund formula for 2017. Mr Speaker, I was expecting the Minister for Education to be around so that he could take on board some of the reservations and issues that we raise here. Unfortunately, the Minister for Education is not around and the Deputy Minister for Education is also not paying attention. This is because, issues that we raise are germane to the fulfilment of their educational policy of the nation as a whole. Mr Speaker, as we looked at the 2017 formula, we saw a reduction in the allocation for second cycle education. The formula for 2016 was 39 per cent for second cycle education. If this country talks about technical education which is at the secondary level — If we look at the manifesto of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), they would also want to increase and bring free education at the Senior High School level. But we have noticed that it has reduced from 39 per cent to 30 per cent. That alone suggests to me, that we would not be able to fulfil some of the promises and things that we would want to do, especially, at the Senior High School level. Mr Speaker, indeed, the Ministry of Finance owed GETFund some amount, especially, the 2016 allocation, and the Committee is of the view, that the amount, totalling almost GH¢94 million should be given to the Fund so that it can pay contractors so that they can continue their projects. Mr Speaker, I am happy that the Committee of the Whole and the GETFund stated that they would continue with the projects that the NDC Government started, and that they would finish these projects before new projects would come on board. Mr Speaker, but the new policy outlay which has to do with the fencing of schools, is a noble idea, just as the Hon Deputy Majority Leader has alluded -- it is a noble idea to fence most of our Senior High Schools. But it is not a new idea as stated. With regard to the kindergartens, it is a good idea but I would prefer that all the projects that have not been completed, especially, the community-based Senior High Schools and the E-blocks would be completed so that there would not be any cost overrun in the short and long terms. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion. Mr Speaker, it is noted that the formula for this year has clearly been affected by the general capping that happened to all the Statutory funds. One observes that, for the GETFund which was allocated GH¢1,210,500,000.00 for the 2016 fiscal year, because of the onslaught on all earmarked funds, this year, the GETFund would only have to manage with GH¢790,224,149.00. This in actual terms, is a reduction by GH¢253,272,179.00 -- a whopping GH¢253 million. If this capping had not happened, GETFund would have been receiving this GH¢253 million which they are being denied.
Mr Speaker, if you consider the fact that GH¢94 million is outstanding, and so you would want to look at the actuals -- what went to the GETFund in the year 2016 -- What the GETFund received in the year 2016 was in the region of GH¢951 million. So, in terms of actuals, because the argument has been made, that -- yes, you would do the allocation, but what really gets to the entity is far less than what has been allocated. So, if you take out the GH¢94 million which is outstanding and which the Ministry of Finance is yet to release to the GETFund, the GETFund still is short- changed by GH¢158,717,200.00 because of the capping that happened. Mr Speaker, I would want to renew the call to the Hon Minister for Finance, to take a second look at this generalised capping. There are some agencies, like the GETFund, which play a very critical role and they could be exempted. Maybe, some agencies have the funds lodged in their accounts so the Hon Minister for Finance may decide to have other priorities for those funds. But for the GETFund, as the Committee's Report indicates, there is even the issue of commitment and liabilities where every year, they would have to roll-over because they are not able to fully honour all the commitments that GETFund enters into. Mr Speaker, so this generalised capping which is going on is a clear indication, that it is not helpful and would affect education. That is the reason, if you go into the details of the formula -- and I refer to the distribution formula table as provided in the Committee's Report-- one would notice that for the year 2017, there would be serious challenges. We do not get indications of new projects that are going to be undertaken by the GETFund. There is no commitment to complete the famous community-based Senior High Schools. We left off at 123 community-based Senior High Schools and I would have thought that, at least, the remaining 77 schools would see some commitment to be added to that number. But the GETFund formula is totally silent on that. Mr Speaker, I must commend the new administration, that they made a commitment to continue with the ongoing projects, but they could have continued and they could have also increased the number. But because of the capping that the Hon Minister for Finance has visited the GETFund with, one can see that there is very little room for the GETFund to manoeuvre. Mr Speaker, on page 3 of the Committee's Report, there is also the contentious issue on the formula which states that: The new areas of focus of the Fund for 2017 are as follows: i) Fencing of schools with high risk of encroachment ii) Provision of white boards in schools iii) Construction of kindergarten facilities iv) Regulatory and Policy reforms.” Mr Speaker, you have rightly pointed it out -- fencing has been going on in our schools; provision of whiteboards has been going on; the construction of kindergarten facilities has been going on. Indeed, we commissioned 23 kindergarten facilities in the last quarter of the year 2016. Mr Speaker, regulatory and policy reforms are really part of the day-to-day responsibilities of the Minister for Education. So, I would want to appeal that if they want to tell us that it is just an issue of focusing attention on these selected interventions, that is fine, we can all come along and support it. But to present it as new areas of focus, as if this has not received attention before, then, I am afraid, that would be erroneous. Mr Speaker, there are also some generalised statements that have been made in the formula and we would want to see the breakdown. For example, when we are told that a total of 3.6 per cent of total spending has been allocated to the Ministry of Education,we would want to know in which sectors. We are told that agencies of the Ministry of Education are going to be supported for offices -- which agencies are going to be supported to have offices? This is because we do know that there are more than 20 agencies under the Ministry of Education. So, to just tell us that you are going to provide offices for the agencies, when we know that there are some of the agencies that do not need offices-- They are alright in their current office accommodation. Mr Speaker, so there are many generalised statements in the formula and we do not have details in terms of what the Ministry of Education and the GETFund promised to do this year. Mr Speaker, there are also new projects that require the attention of the GETFund and one does not get the impression that that would be prioritised. The University of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Eastern Region is a major intervention that requires the attention of the GETFund. We hope that the GETFund would support that project so that we would achieve the policy of this country which is our vision, that every region should at least have one public university. Let us see to that commitment. Mr Speaker, the new universities we started -- the University of Energy and Natural Resources in the Brong Ahafo Region and the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta Region. The Vice Chancellors have indicated that they would want to see GETFund carry out an affirmative action. Mr Speaker, when we read the formula, it appears that we are treating all the universities the same way. The University of Ghana started in 1948. We cannot allocate the same resources to them and the new universities. We need to carry out affirmative action and support the new institutions so that those that do not generate enough Internally Generated Fund (IGF) can quickly get on their feet and be able to support the agenda of education, as contained in article 25 of the 1992 Constitution. We need to carry out affirmative action to support the University for Deve- lopment Studies (UDS), University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) and the University of Environment and Sustainable Develop- ment (UESD).
Mr Speaker, let me thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion for the approval of GH¢790,224,149.00 to enable the GETFund Secretariat distribute same to the specific areas of the education sector. Mr Speaker, in doing so, I would draw your attention to the fact that the formula, as was submitted by the Administrator of the Fund for our purposes, even in this House, is inadequate. It is inadequate because, I am holding the GETFund formula in my hands. Let me refer to column 1807 of 18th March, 2008. I have also run same for 2014, 2015 and 2016. I do not find this GETFund formula satisfactory. I do not find it satisfactory in two important respects. One, it fails to highlight the new Government's policy priorities and how government intends to navigate, using GETFund to work towards the attainment of those policy objectives. It is true, that we have a new government which is the outcome of the 2016 election, but Ghanaians bought into some promises of the government which can only be achieved, depending on how much financial resources are made available in pursuit of it. One would have expected that the Minister would lead a detailed discussion, highlighting the priorities of the new government and ensuring, that allocations within the formula respond to the needs of the new Government, pursuant to their education policy objectives and that of the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) Manifesto. Mr Speaker, with the second inadequacy, I would like to refer you to two documents. I am holding in my hands the GETFund formula for 2014. In there, we have GH¢739,447,024.00. For the period of 2015, the figure increased to GH¢843,899,000.00. So, just between 2014 and 2015, a significant increase of over GH¢100 million was added to the VAT accruals and made payable to GETFund. So, as the Minister for Finance comes with his wicked and unkind hand of capping, he must appreciate, that naturally, if GETFund was to perform its duties as an inelastic demand because of what it has been imposed upon it, we expect that even without capping, there must have been an increase in the GETFund allocation meant for 2017, given the experience of 2014 and 2015. Now, to the era of capping-- Beyond that, they are now capping and for 2016, I am holding the parliamentary Report of GETFund. They had at least, GH¢1 billion. Now, they have GH¢ 790 million today. If I were to do kulikuli school arithmetic, they are capping close to GH¢200 million to GH¢300 million. I am saying that they should add the additional GH¢100 million which would have accrued because of expansion in the VAT returns on GETFund. What are they going to do with that resource other than to avail it for the new government to prioritise? Mr Speaker, a major priority of this Government, to which the people of Ghana are looking forward, is the September free Senior High School. I used September because the promise is that, Ghanaian school children who are in Senior High Schools should expect free education. I hope and pray, that they do not come back telling the people of Ghana and this august House, that it is meant only for first year students. Mr Speaker, equity would mean that every Ghanaian student in a Senior High School (SHS) deserves it. We do not find place in it in terms of support for the SHS; whether in the Budget Statement or
capped resources. They have taken resources for GETFund, which were meant for something else. Mr Speaker, my third difficulty with this particular formula that has been referred to earlier by Hon Members who spoke -- Mr Speaker, may I refer to page 3 of your Committee's Report. This is what we have -- tertiary education, GH¢255,500,000.00; secondary education, GH¢242,019,149.00; and basic education, GH¢222,755,000.00. Mr Speaker, again, precedent and practice; what has been the practice in this august House? I hold the GETFund formula for 2015. In every formula, there is detailed provision of how much goes where, in terms of amount. The reason being that, for instance, if we allocate GH¢20 million to the University of Ghana, GH¢10 million to the University for Development Studies (UDS), GH¢32 million to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, approved by Parliament, then the institutions know how much to expect as allocation from the GETFund resources. Mr Speaker, if we just come here for an envelope approval - GH¢255,500,000.00, we would now give discretion to an Hon Minister or the National Council for Tertiary Education; that would be wrong and unacceptable. This is because, this House is appropriating the GETFund resources for them. So, we should have details. Mr Speaker, I refer to appendix 5 of the 2015 GETFund Formula. We would see the attachment there -- Ghana Library Board, GH¢1.5 million; monitoring development projects, GH¢1 million; public education and information; United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organisa- tion (UNESCO) Office; and Best Teacher Award. Then we know that, to each of these institutions, this is how much they should expect from the GETFund. They only come here to say we should approve percentages. When has this House been reduced to approving percentages for GETFund or any other Fund? We need the fine details in order that, tomorrow, we can ask for accountability from the institutions to which these moneys are allocated. In 2014 and 2015, that was done. It is only in 2017 that we have these new ways of doing things. Mr Speaker, again, in 2015, we know how much went to Abetifi Presbyterian School, Atebubu College of Education and St Francis College of Education within the tertiary envelope. Then we went to polytechnics; all of them knew how much was going to them. Bolgatanga Polytechnic, GH¢2.5 million; and Ho Polytechnic, GH¢2.4 million. In this particular instance, Parliament has been denied the opportunity to know. So, what we are doing is to say 32.33 per cent; then when we come to secondary education, GH¢242,019,149.10. We should know. Is this going to infrastructure or the Free Senior High School Policy of the Government? We deserve to know how much of the money would go into the purchase of textbooks and other related issues? Nothing is said about it. Mr Speaker, I do not find this formula good enough. I support it reluctantly because we have run into half year, and probably, they only need to struggle from July up to December, 2017, when we would have the next Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, since 2008, this formula does not meet the requirement of this House as a GETFund formula -- 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 up till today, this has never been the way this Parliament works in terms of approving formulae. Therefore, what accounts for this? It cannot just be in terms of it. Mr Speaker, my second point is that, I know that when we dealt with the formula -- the Hon Member for Savelugu is here. I visited the Veterinary College in his constituency, in between Walewale and Savelugu; one of the best tertiary institutions that does training at that level. They have never benefited from any Government financing by way of infrastructure or GETFund. I know that Hon Ras Mubarak raised it very strongly, that a special dispensation be done for the Veterinary College at Pong- Tamale, if the people of Savelugu are to benefit from this particular facility. Mr Speaker, therefore, next time, I hope that the Hon Majority Leader would encourage the Hon Minister, to give us fine details, so that we, the institutions and the Ghanaian public, could track that it was said that UDS would get GH¢10 million. They must know, that is their entitlement. Mr Speaker, but if they just put it at GH¢255,500,000.00, we may never know the discretion and how this money would be disbursed, which could be problematic. Mr Speaker, in conclusion, the Hon Minister for Finance -- I am happy the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance is here. When they came and laboured to introduce the new capping policy, we knew that they would run into difficulties. Mr Speaker, this is because simple and basic economics show, that the reason the previous Government did not keep faith with statutory funds was the very rigidities we talked about. The rigidities are captured in compensation, statutory funds and interest payments. So, given that for 2010 up to 2016, the Administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) never honoured this VAT obligation to the statutory funds, is primarily because the moneys were re- profiled in order to meet those obligations. Mr Speaker, when they tell the Ghanaians that they are capping, as if they have made savings -- no, it would go into the same expenditure envelope of compensation, interest payments and debts. If it is not true, they should bring the additional resources. They are taking more than they require from this. Mr Speaker, we have difficulties with it. Mr Speaker, my final comment is to the Ministry of Finance. Our understanding of their introduction of capping on Value Added Tax (VAT) for National Health Insurance, and specifically to GETFund, was that, henceforth, they would not accumulate arrears. Therefore, any accruals to those funds, based on the 2.5 per cent formula, would be released to the statutory funds. So, from January up to the first quarter, we expect them to be up to date with 2017 and on the second quarter. Then their problem would be arrears. Mr Speaker, but if they want to accumulate arrears in 2017, even as they cap, they would destroy the sustainability of the Fund and undermine their own capping objectives. Mr Speaker, if they have come to cap, we do not expect them to accumulate arrears again in respect of the statutory 2.5 per cent. If they cannot do it for 2017, they should assure us that in 2018, they would live anew, which would be that, anything of 2.5 per cent would go straight to the Controller and Accountant-General and the Fund.
This is because we do not want arrears to be accrued. We support them in that enterprise. Mr Speaker, so it is not for them to say here, that they are capping the resources; yet there are delays in releases. There is an arrears of GH¢94 million now which must be paid to the GETFund. Mr Speaker, it must be paid because, contractors are suffering and suffocating. They promised the contractors that in 100 days, arrears would be paid. Those arrears include that of the GETFund. Mr Speaker, many of the GETFund projects are at different levels of completion. The sooner they pay, the better for the early completion of the projects. If they do not have allocation - I expected that in this particular fund allocation, they would have dedicated repayment of arrears, then we know how much the outstanding obligation is. Mr Speaker, this is because, I read that Prof Dominic Fobih, Chairman of the GETFund, said in the Daily Graphic that the arrears are more than what they expect. So, if they come for a formula here and they do not even share with us how they intend to retire the arrears, what good are they doing to the Ghanaian contractor and education? Directive principles of State policy -- they have inherited projects that they must naturally continue. Mr Speaker, so, this formula is woefully inadequate; but with a “cap” the Ministry and the Hon Minister for Finance are looking for fiscal space and resources for the September Free SHS -- which would yaamutu. Mr Speaker, in September, they cannot do it and I support the approval, but we would insist, that the next time, we would have fine details of the allocations to the various institutions, sector by sector, so that Parliament and other bodies could take note of it. I trust that the Hon Minister together with the Ministry of Finance would make a special case for the Veterinary College at Pong Tamale. I am also sure, that they are admitting young people and I hear it is the only College dedicated to that support. Mr Speaker, with ICT; that is where the world is now and therefore, we must make allocations to support ICT from the secondary through to the tertiary levels and a certain percentage -- It does not make sense, and they must work with the Ministry of Communications, whether every other year, we would want to buy laptops. Mr Speaker, we must have a major paradigm shift on how to get the children to live in a world of ICT revolution and benefit from it.
Hon Majority Leader, may we listen to the Hon Deputy Minister for Education. I am told the Hon Deputy Minister for Education is around and she may have a word before you wind up. Deputy Minister for Education (Ms Barbara A. Ayisi)(MP): Mr Speaker, I wish to add my voice to the ongoing debate. This year, an amount of GH¢790, 224,149.00 is expected to accrue into the GETFund. The Minority side has raised quite a number of issues concerning the formula for allocation. I wish to say that all those points have been noted, and would be discussed later. Mr Speaker, the Minority side of the House also raised an issue of the innovation that the GETFund wishes to incorporate this year, as regards the construction of kindergarten facilities. I wish to say, that as a nation, when we take a tour to some of the schools, we would realise that some of the schools do not have kindergartens and as part of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto, we would ensure that there is a kindergarten in every institution. So, this year, our focus is on ensuring that every school gets a kindergarten. [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, I wish to say, that the Minority side of the House should rather pray that this dream of every school getting a kindergarten comes to pass. I would want to entreat this august House to accept this Report, and that the Ministry of Education would make sure that the various -- [Interruption] -- The Minority side of the House wishes to distract me, but I would not be distracted.
Hon Members, please, keep quiet.
Mr Speaker, I wish to say that this august House should accept this Report and I pray that all that has been said would be accomplished.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity and to express gratitude to Hon Colleagues who have made significant issues about the formula for the year 2017. Mr Speaker, a contributor raised an issue about the fact that on page 3 of the Report of the Committee of the Whole, the outturn for the year 2016 is not indicated. Mr Speaker, I agree with him. The outturn exists in the primary documents and should have found expression in the Report of the Committee of the Whole, but it is coming from all of us. So, it is good to criticise ourselves, that perhaps next time, we should improve on what we do in the House. Mr Speaker, an issue has been raised about the fact that year-in-year out, on the average, allocations have been increasing and that this is the first time we are witnessing allocation to the GETFund that would appear to be decreasing. I think that in principle, we should agree with that, but more importantly, what should inform us about increasing the allocation is the stability of the economy. If it increases and it is not commensurate with interest rates, inflation, exchange rate and depreciation, we would hit ground zero and it would amount to nothing. What is important is to ensure, that we are able to stabilise the economy such that whatever allocation is made, would reflect and that it would do a meaningful job for all of us. That should be the issue to question and not just talking about merely increasing the thresholds. What we should interrogate is the stability of the economy in the first place. Mr Speaker, the allocation for the year 2017 as compared to the year 2016, is a bit on the downside and that is accepted. But I was listening to Hon Colleagues who
were making issues about the allocation for last year. Yes, the year 2017 allocation was in excess of GH¢1billion but indeed, the outturn was GH¢948,941,349.33. The GH¢948,941,349.33 includes commitments that were not attended to. The real performance was in the region of GH¢854 million. That is the real performance and this amount is out of the GH¢1billion. Even that for this year, the allocation is GH¢790,224,149.00 and there is an outstanding amoount of GH¢94, 554,979.93. Mr Speaker, I am happy that the Hon Minority Leader is indicating to us that the emphasis should be on performance. Given the level, we should ensure that we are able to perform, and indeed, deliver the GH¢790,224,149.00. If the Committee is insisting that we should ensure the payment of GH¢94,554,979.93, which is outstanding, and in addition, ensure that the GH¢790,224,149.00 is fully paid, it would mean that for this year, the outturn would be GH¢848million as against GH¢854 million for the year 2016. So, which is a larger amount? Mr Speaker, it would mean that for the year 2017, the performance of a larger amount would be higher than that of last year. That is what it means. Otherwise, anybody could commit -- Mr Speaker, that is the issue. One cannot just say that they allocated GH¢1.2 billion, when he or she knows that they were only able to perform to the tune of GH¢ GH¢948,941,349.33, out of which GH¢ 94,554,979.93 is outstanding in just commitments. Mr Speaker, we are all insisting that the GH¢790, 224,149.00 million should be paid fully -- it should be delivered -- performance should reach GH¢790 million and we are also insisting that the commitment which is outstanding -- the GH¢94 million should be paid. So, the GH¢94 million added to the GHG¢790 million would be GH¢884 million which would be higher than the GH¢854 million and so that was done. So, I thought that Hon Members would interrogate that issue. Mr Speaker, the issue about GETFund -- Again, I believe we should interrogate what GETFund was for? The GETFund was set up to complement what performance exists in the Ministry. It is not supposed to be a supplement or substitution for what is there. It is supposed to complement it. So, how much would go into these other areas -- and we should know from the Ministry. Mr Speaker, an issue had been raised about what we have always done that is giving us the figures. I agree, that for purposes of tracing and tracking, and indeed performing our oversight responsibilities, we would need that. This House would need those allocations, but technically, a formula is a ratio, maybe a percentage or a quota allocation. This House has always insisted, that further details should be provided to us and I agree that they should be served to us for purposes of performing our functions. Otherwise we would not be in the position to trace and track the allocations in order to assure ourselves about whether there is value for money. So, I would agree, that we need those figures as well. But let nobody say that because we do not have it, then the formula has not been satisfied. Mr Speaker, that is the issue I am raising. The formula is not about quantum allocations -- it is not about that. So perhaps, we all have to question what we did and going forward, maybe, insist that it should be part and parcel of it every time for purposes of satisfying the work of Parliament. Mr Speaker, the former Hon Deputy Minister made a revelation about the number of E-Block schools that they left and Mr Speaker, I beg to quote him: “They left 123 out of 200.” Mr Speaker, but one would want to know the status of the 123 schools. Is it the case that all the 123 schools were completed -- [Inter- ruption] -- They were started? Good! Mr Speaker, site preparation is part of starting the work and so if we prepared the site, we would then say that it is part of what we did. What is the status of the 123 schools and that is what one would want to know? He cannot just read the records, that they left 123 schools -- [Interruption] -- At what levels of performance? Is it five per cent, two per cent, 90 per cent or 99 per cent? They are matters that would be relevant to this House. Otherwise, just getting up to say that they left 123 schools without giving us further and better particulars -- [Interruption] -- at various stages; at assorted levels and including those at two per cent. Mr Speaker, we should be candid with ourselves. I believe that those that were above 60 per cent would be less than 50 and he knows that. Mr Speaker, but as I have said, they are matters of concern that have been raised and we should concern ourselves with them. As for the Hon Minority Leader ending his contribution by saying that the programme by government in September is yaamutu -- Mr Speaker, I would not question that, except to tell him that this world is not for eternal pessimists -- the world is for optimists. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the space accorded. Question put and Motion agreed to.
The formula for the distribution of the GETFund 2017 is accordingly approved. Hon Majority Leader, are we taking item numbered 8 on the Order Paper?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I would ask that we deal with the item numbered 8 on the Order Paper.
Hon Members, item numbered 8 -- Hon Minister for Finance?
Mr Speaker, as I indicated earlier, the Hon Minister is attending to a very special issue and so I sought leave for the Hon Deputy Minister to stand in for the Hon Minister.
Hon Deputy Minister, to move the Motion.
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question proposed.
Mr Speaker, the Motion has been seconded already, but I want to find out what the reason is for the Motion numbered 8 requesting that the House should take the item by suspending the Standing Orders. The Hon Minister did not provide any reason for the suspension of the Standing Orders and so, if he could do that, we would be appreciative.
Hon Deputy Minister for Finance, your Hon Colleagues are requesting to know the reasons for the hurry. It is part of the duties of the Hon Majority Leader to do what he is doing and so he has done nothing wrong.
Mr Speaker, the tax measure that this amendment seeks to impose was part of the 2017 Budget Statement and some consultation had to be done to select the exact list that has been provided in the amendment that we are bringing. Mr Speaker, by the time it was ready, the House was not Sitting and time is far spent . So, we considered that, in order for the benefits that we want to bring to the beneficiaries of this measure to happen immediately, we request this House to treat this as urgently as we could.
Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I do not think that the Hon Deputy Minister actually understood what he said. This is because he said the tax measure to impose -- This is not to impose tax. We are rather exempting the taxes. It is not imposing, and so I do not understand why he said the measure is to impose tax, and for that matter, it needs an urgent action.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, in the context, the position is intact. Imposing could be positive, upward or downward. [Uproar.] Mr Speaker, so, it could be positive, it could be negative and it could be zero. So, I fail to see what it is. But Mr Speaker, the Long Title of the Bill reads: and I quote with your permission. “An ACT to amend the Customs Act 2015, to provide for zero rate of duty payable on specific imported vehicular parts.”
Hon Majority Leader, in your last sentence, did you say “if anybody could not understand this”?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, are you quoting me and descending into the arena of debate? [Laughter.] I believe you would not. Ultimately, the climax of it was that, people understood it.
Hon Majority Leader, I have to understand your language so that I can manage the House. So, I wanted to know whether the language was parliamentary or unparliamentary. That is why I raised it.
Mr Speaker, you raised it. It is my understanding that the Chair raised it.
Yes, I raised the issue.
Mr Speaker, I meant no harm. I believe my Hon Colleagues would understand what I said.
Yes, it is because they are your Colleagues.
It is just so that the Chair would resist the temptation of descending into the arena of debate.
No, the Chair would intervene to make sure that we have a harmonious debate, and that you do not ignite some nerves. That is why I have intervened.
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Majority Leader is the Leader of Government Business. There are young and new Hon Members of Parliament who need to learn from elders of this House. Being an elder in this House, and also the Leader of Government Business and Majority Leader, his choice of words, “if nobody understands”. There is no “nobody” in this House. We are Hon Members of this House, elected by our constituencies. Mr Speaker, therefore, I would plead with my Hon Majority Leader to just withdraw the word, then we could continue. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, I believe from how he presented it, he said it in jest. I think it is not that he meant to denigrate his Colleague Members of Parliament. But, I will not speak for the Hon Majority Leader. He is very capable, so let us hear him.
Mr Speaker, as I said, the Hon Colleague is not in any way implying that we all have the same understanding of all issues at the same time. If he is, he would be liking us to robots. We do not have the same appreciation of issues on any matter at the same level. I just said that “if nobody understand”. It does not mean that everybody. “Nobody” does not mean “everybody”. But if he is offended, I did not mean to offend him. Mr Speaker, if he is offended, it is to just pave way for a good debate and to assure him that he should not be agitated and that we are on course and doing the right thing, no offence was intended.
Thank you, Hon Majority Leader. The point he raised was the reference to them as “nobody” instead of Colleague Hon Members of Parliament. Hon Members, I would put the Question. Question put and Motion agreed to.
We would accordingly move to item numbered 9.
BILLS -- SECOND READING
The Motion has been moved. The Hon Chairman of the Committee may now present the Report of the Committee.
Mr Speaker, before I get into the presentation of the Report, I would want to amend same sections of the Report.
Definitely, we will grant you the permission.
Mr Speaker, in the introduction, the second paragraph would read “A Deputy Minister for Finance …” and not “The Deputy Minister ...” Also, in the same second paragraph, it should read “… officials from both the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Revenue Authority…”. So, that correction should be effected. Mr Speaker, again, in paragraph 2.0, the references, I am deleting (e). It is the Harmmised Systems Commodities Code, and should be deleted from the Report.
Are you saying the Committee did not refer to that document? This is because, paragraph 2 is talking about references, and the Committee referred to these documents. Are you saying the Committee did not refer to that document?
Mr Speaker, the Harmonised Systems Commodities Code is a schedule to the Customs Act listed in (c). Mr Speaker, I hope I am making sense.
Yes Hon Member, you are making sense. I am looking at the Code and the Act. Even though it is a Schedule, the Act is the 2015 Act. Is that the time the Code came into force?
Mr Speaker, the Code, as it exists currently is the Common External Tariff (CET), and it came into force in 2016. It was an amendment of the Customs Act that existed previously, but the Code itself did not change.
So, by being a bit more specific, I do not see any harm in referring to it.
Mr Speaker, but then what has to be corrected is “Harmonised”, not “Harmmised”.
Exactly, because that word is wrong. I do not know whether it is an English word.
Mr Speaker, it was my “pocket lawyer” friend who advised me -- [Laughter.]
What did you say? Who is that “pocket lawyer”? Are you referring to the Hon Member for Suhum as a “pocket lawyer”? -- [Laughter.]-
Mr Speaker, it was the Hon Member for Suhum who advised me to delete (e) from the Report -- [Laughter]
We should not debate this issue. The corrections are mainly clerical. There is no substantive amendment to the Report, so I believe he is doing the right thing. I was only not sure about the whole deletion of (e), but now he has come back to get the correction of “harmonised” captured by the Report, and I believe that is right. So please, continue.
Finally, Mr Speaker, in paragraph 6.5, the heading should be “Vehicle Tyres Excluded”, and tyres is spelt with a “y”.
Where are you reading from?
Paragraph 6.5 on page 4. The heading should be “Vehicle Tyres Excluded”.
So you are adding the word “Excluded”, because it is not there, and the spelling of ‘tyres.'
Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would read paragraph 6.5 all over, because there are a few corrections there; with your kind permission I read; “The technical team explained to the Committee that the exemptions providing for road wheels, parts and accessories thereof captured in the Bill under paragraph (g) of the First Schedule with HS Code number 8708.70.00.00 do not refer to vehicle tyres”.
Hon Members, page 4, paragraph 6.5, the Heading should read “Vehicle Tyres Excluded”, and the body should read; “The technical team explained to the Committee that the exemptions providing for road wheels, parts and accessories thereof captured in the Bill under paragraph (g) of the First Schedule with HS Code number 8708.70.00.00 do not refer to vehicle tyres”. Am I right?
Very well Mr Speaker.
You may now present the Report.
Mr Speaker, Introduction The Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2017, was presented to Parliament by the Hon Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister for Finance and read the First time on 30th May, 2017. The Bill was subsequently referred to the Finance Committee for consideration and report in accordance with article 174 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 169 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana. A Deputy Minister for Finance, Hon Kwaku Kwarteng, officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Revenue Authori ty assisted the Committee in its deliberations on the Bill. The Committee expresses i ts gratitude to the Hon Deputy Minister and the officials from the Ministry of Finance and Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) for attending upon the Committee. References The Committee referred to the following documents inter alia during its deliberations on the Bill: a. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana b. The Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana c. Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) d. Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792) e. Harmonised Systems Commodities Code Background Government, as part of the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy has proposed to reduce or abolish some taxes in order to bring relief to consumers and to stimulate growth in certain sectors of the economy. Pursuant to the above, Government introduced this Bill to amend the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891), to reduce the cost of supplies of specified vehicle spare parts in order to provide relief to consumers. Purpose of the Bill The Bill seeks to amend the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) to provide for a zero- rate of duty payable on specific imported vehicular parts. Content of the Bill The Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2017, contains one clause. The clause provides the amendment of the First Schedule to Act 891 in Chapters 40, 68, 70, 73, 84, 85, 87, 90 and 94 by the substitution of for stated import duty of zero per cent for the specified commodities , all of them being vehicle spare parts as particularised in the Harmonised Systems Commodities (HS) Code. Observations Fiscal impact On how much revenue would be lost as a result of the passage of the Bill, the Committee was informed that the amount realised from the taxes on the specified vehicle spare parts for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2016 were GH¢23,876,000; GH¢32,678,443; GH¢21,400,000 and GH¢19,547,000 respec- tively. Thus a total of GH¢97,501,443for the entirety of 2016. It was further explained, that the Ministry of Finance did not forecast revenues from the selected spare parts in the 2017 Budget and Economic Policy Statement. The Committee noted, that an amount of GH¢30,441,159.82 has been realised from the affected taxes for the first quarter of 2017. Specified spare parts The Deputy Minister for Finance, Hon Kwaku Kwarteng, explained to the Committee that government held consultations with spare parts dealers upon which all the necessary spare parts were identified for inclusion in the zero- rating. He was optimistic that the Bill captures virtually all commonly used vehicle spare parts. ECOWAS Common External Tariffs Members enquired whether Govern- ment had secured the approval of the ECOWAS Common External Tariffs (CET) Secretariat to implement this tax measure. To this, the Committee was informed that Ghana does not require CET approval, but has duly informed the secretariat of the CET about the policy. It was further explained that Ghana has a total of 170 exempt lines, out of which we have now exhausted 118 (including this new measure), thus leaving a balance of 52 exempt lines still available. Old and new parts The Committee observed that the removal of the taxes affects both new and used parts and therefore importers and consumers of both new and used spare parts would benefit from the removal of the taxes. Vehicle tyres excluded The technical team explained to the Committee that the exemptions provide for road wheels, parts and accessories thereof. Captured in the Bill under paragraph (g) of the First schedule with HS code number 8708.70.00.00 do not refer to vehicle tyres. Conclusion The Committee, having carefully examined the Bill, finds that its passage is an important step towards bringing reliefs to consumers and to also st imulate growth in the domestic transportation sector, by making it relatively cheaper and easier for vehicle owners to maintain their vehicles to help reduce road accidents. In accordance with Order 126 of the Standing Orders of the House, the Committee recommends to the House to adopt this Report and pass the Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2017, into law, in accordance with article 106 of the Constitution and Orders 127-131 of the Standing Orders of the House. Respectfully submitted
Hon Members, pursuant to Standing Order 127, a full debate shall arise on the principles of the Bill, on the basis of two items. One is the Explanatory Memorandum, and the second one is the Report of the Committee.
Hon Members should therefore take this on board in their contributions. I have realised that the Hon Minority Leader wants to start from his side. Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for recognising me. It is not that I am in a hurry to start, but I am in a hurry to raise a preliminary constitutional objection, based on what you have just said. Mr Speaker, that puts me and my Hon Colleagues in great difficulty to be in a position -- the principle of wanting to reduce the tax, as we would recall on page 136, paragraph 796 of the sowing of the seeds for growth and jobs budget of the Government, was the abolished duty on the importation of spare parts. So, it is in tandem with Government policy. Mr Speaker, I would however refer you to the constitutional objection that I have, by referring you to article 106 of the Constitution. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would quote -- even before we go to the merit of our Second Reading, we have a strong objection, that this Bill does not satisfy the requirements of article 106. I would therefore quote article 106.
and I quote with your permission; “The power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by Parliament and assented to by the President…”.
“(2) No bill, other than such a bill as is referred to in paragraph (a) of article 108 of this Constitution, shall be introduced in Parliament unless -- (a) It is accompanied by an explanatory memorandum setting out in detail the policy and principles of the bill, the defects of the existing law, the remedies proposed to deal with those defects and the necessity for its introduction and…” Mr Speaker, I am holding the memorandum accompanying this Bill. It is my submission that it does not satisfy article 106 (2) (a). If we read the four paragraphs signed by the Hon Minister, it just talks about the object of the Bill, then reference to vehicular transportation is made, then it goes on to say that Government has decided. Mr Speaker, even in his own Committee's Report, he makes an allusion, and I would go back to page four of your Committee's Report where it reads, and I quote: with your per mission; “The technical team confirmed to the Committee that the exemptions covered all road wheels, parts and accessories thereof. This is captured in the Bill under paragraph (g) of the First Schedule with HS Code number 8708.00.00”. Mr Speaker, what the Hon Minister is actually doing, is making amendments to the harmonised code, and not an amendment to Act 891. They know that it is the harmonised code, which has the Schedule to which they are borrowing. Mr Speaker, we would not stand in the way of Government in reaching out to spare parts dealers, whether at the industrial area in Tamale, Suame or Abossey Okai. But it must be done, respecting the provisions of the Constitution. What is wrong with the harmonised code? That is what you seek to amend. Mr Speaker, even in the Memorandum, no reference has been made to it. Mr Speaker, my second fundamental objection is that, this harmonised code is a collective regional decision of the Heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is normally between five to ten per cent of what we now call the spare parts or vehicular parts, whether old or new. Mr Speaker, we are also, by proceeding on this Bill, disrespecting the ECOWAS Protocol on this matter. I therefore thought that I should raise this as preliminary objection, that they have not met the minimum requirements of the Constitution in respect of justifying why they are coming for this amendment. Mr Speaker, the Explanatory Memorandum is defective and inadequate, and at best, there is the need for a withdrawal and to clean it up and come back properly. They should clean it up, we would support them to give relief to spare parts dealers. They should just do it in a manner which respects the laws of Ghana, and in a manner which respects Ghana's position as a stalwart of ECOWAS and a country, which holds the values of our regional integration.. Mr Speaker, I so submit.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I was struggling to appreciate the issue that my Hon Colleague was trying to raise. Mr Speaker -- [Laughter] --
“interested party” -- [Laughter] -- it is not by any stretch of imagination implying that the Hon Minority Leader is a disinterested party. [Laughter.]
Hon Majority Leader, are you addressing me or?
Mr Speaker, I am addressing the House through the Chair. [Laughter.]
Who is now the Chair?
Mr Speaker, your goodself.
But all what you have said has nothing to do with the House through me.
Mr Speaker, when I started, I said: “Mr Speaker”.
You were responding to an issue which is not before the House.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, it is not everything that you would hear. [Laughter]
Now, the Hon Majority Leader is doing the hearing for the Hon Speaker, and he is aware that it is not everything that the Hon Speaker hears. Anyway, let us go on.
Mr Speaker, indeed, it is not everything that even the Hon Speaker sees. Mr Speaker, do you agree with me?
Please, may we continue?
Mr Speaker, I was saying that I was struggling to appreciate the import of the intervention of my Hon Colleague, the Hon Minority Leader. Mr Speaker, yes indeed, we have Act 891. The Customs Act, 2015 is the parent Act which was amended by the insertion of the harmonised system. Mr Speaker, that became Act 905. We do not amend an Act by amending the amendment. We amend the parent Act. Mr Speaker, I believe the Hon Minority Leader knows about this. At least, given his own antecedent, he knows about that. So, Mr Speaker, I am really surprised that he attacks the fabric of what we are doing. Mr Speaker, I believe that the preliminary objection would not hold any water so we can go on. The issue that he relates to about our disrespect for the ECOWAS Protocol -- Mr Speaker, he himself has not sighted it. Let him tell us which provision in the Protocol or Treaty we have offended by this. Mr Speaker, the Protocol provides for the exemptions. Unless he can tell us that there is a particular section that we have offended, we may perhaps, have to take a second look. But to the best of my knowledge, Mr Speaker, we have not offended any provision in the Treaty or the Protocol. Mr Speaker, I thank you. 3.35 p.m. Mr Second Deputy Speaker: Hon Majority Leader, I believe you have to respond to an issue he raised. In fact, the first leg of his intervention was to draw our attention to the fact that the Memorandum to the Bill is not in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution. You have not responded to that. We would want to hear you on that issue.
Mr Speaker, I believe the defect, that this seeks to correct, is the hardship imposed on the people, and indeed, spare parts dealers who purchase high cost parts. It has effect on the transport owners who pay for the parts, which cost is ultimately passed on to the consumers, the people who patronise the transports and even when they ferry goods, people who buy the goods are also affected. Mr Speaker, that is the defect. So, if he says he does not see the defect, I would be surprised. Mr Speaker, it is borne out in paragraph 2 of the Memorandum.
Mr Speaker, I am sure the Finance Committee members on our side are ready. I raised this as a matter of principle for the record and also to borrow the words of the Hon Majority Leader -- In concluding, he laboured and he said if I feel it is not “amplified” enough. So, substitute the word “amplify” for “detail” in article 106. Now, he would appreciate the point I raised. Mr Speaker, we should not take these constitutional matters for granted. Government has a policy; it wants to reach out to spare parts dealers in Suame, Abossey Okai, Tamale and the one emerging in Suhum; it can do that. But Mr Speaker, we say that when one comes to Parliament, the Constitution requires that the -- The words of the framers of the Constitution is “in detail”. So, Mr Speaker, to use his words, “in an amplified manner.” Mr Speaker, when he was growing up, he used to love music and he knows what “amplified” did for him in order to appreciate the quality of the music he enjoyed. This Bill is defective constitutionally. Per article 106, it does not satisfy the basic requirement. Mr Speaker, I wish the Hon Majority Leader had given the words he borrowed to the Hon Minister to add to the Memorandum. Whether transporters are suffering and whether prices are passed on, must be part of the detail. They must justify. All they did was that paragraph -- I referred to it. Mr Speaker, anyway, I rest my case. If he thinks that the Constitution and the people of Ghana are better served this way, it is fine with us. I however think that this House -- Hon Ministers must show respect when they appear before us; and when they write explanatory memoranda; they must make sure that they provide the details that we need. Mr Speaker, I am not on my way from Aburi travelling somewhere. I rest my case.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, when the Hon Minority Leader said that Hon Ministers who come to this House must show seriousness, it was as if the Hon Minister for Finance had decided not to respect this House. I believe that we should put this in its proper context. Mr Speaker, I indicated that paragraph 2 encapsulates what we are going to do. Mr Speaker, it is a four-paragraph Memorandum. I chose my words carefully when I said perhaps, what the Hon Minority Leader needed was a further amplification of these reasons given. If you look at the last sentence of paragraph 2, it reads: “The cost of road transportation is therefore a major expenditure for individuals and industry.” Mr Speaker, it is a very loaded statement. What we have before us is a five-page document and the Memo- randum is four paragraphs. The Hon Minority Leader said that it is scanty. Mr Speaker, I do not think that we should be splitting hairs on this. Let us make progress; I believe we can make good progress on this.
Hon Members, do you intend to pursue this issue? Do you want to debate it. Well, I have listened to both sides of the House and I believe that the Memorandum has complied with article 106 of the Constitution. The Bill is properly before the House and so we would proceed with the Second reading of the Bill.
3. 45 p. m.
Hon Chairman of Committee, I thought you have already had a bite?
Mr Speaker, I tried to catch your eye because --
No, I wanted you to take it on in your contribution and that is why --
Since I presented the Report, I only have the opportunity to --
It is not only the Chairman who is a capable member of the Committee. There are other members who could respond to those issues that have been raised, including your Friend, the ‘pocket lawyer' -- [Laughter] -- I am not referring to the Hon Member for Suhum. Hon Member for Suhum?
Mr Speaker, I was not aware that all those accolades were about me. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, we must all support this Bill; and indeed, allow Government's effort in reducing the burden placed on dealers in spare parts as well as road users. Mr Speaker, the impression being created that the NPP Government, through its Manifesto, promised one thing and they are delivering another is entirely false. Mr Speaker, first of all, through the Budget Statement, the Manifesto spoke about removing duty on spare parts. Nowhere did it talk about removing VAT and NHIL. I am not very sure when VAT and NHIL became duties. When you take any import charge that the Customs Excise and Import Service (CEPS) would give to an importer, the amount paid is clearly stated for import duty. It is and also clearly stated the amount of VAT NHIL paid. Mr Speaker, how anybody would stretch a promise to remove import duty to include VAT and NHIL, I cannot understand. But Mr Speaker -- [Interruption] -- Somebody is encouraging me to say, it is “Ajumako Economics” but I would not say so. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, the other important thing for us to note is how the removal of these taxes would translate into several benefits across segments of the economy, and how it is going to make the ordinary person really feel like belonging to the country. Mr Speaker, I am looking forward to the day when indeed, not only taxes on spare parts would be taken away, but even import duty on vehicles. There are several mechanisms by which Government can get its revenue when more vehicles are on the roads. This is because there are several other levies, taxes and charges that we put on these vehicles. So, the more we keep these vehicles on the roads, the better Government does in other revenue mobilisation efforts.
Mr Speaker, with these few words, I urge both sides of the House to support this Bill and pass it as quickly as possible to enable the Government deliver on its mandate to the people. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
May I, with your kind permission, call your lieutenants behind you? Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, in supporting the Motion, if I heard the Hon Deputy Minister and the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee very well, they said this is going to help in reducing accidents because they are going to procure better spare parts. I am surprised, however, that they are talking about accidents. What was the reason behind taking out car tyres? What is the spare part? -- [Laughter] -- Mr Speaker, if I may ask him, what is the spare part or car battery? Mr Speaker, if indeed, we want to reduce the burden, then one part that takes a lot away from car owners or transportation is the tyres. This is because, sometimes, the users of the vehicles -- [Interruptions.] Sometimes, when you are travelling to Kumasi and you meet the market women, those who sell tomatoes and plantain -- Most of the times, when cars break down on the way, it is either because the tyres are worn out or it is due to something else related to the tyres. Therefore, the Hon Minister should tell us why they have not included tyres. They should include it if they want to really ease the cost of running transport in this country. The first thing should be vehicle tyres. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
So, Hon Member, what is your position? Do you support the Motion or you are against it?
On condition that the tyres would be added, I support the Motion.
I would get back to the Minority side. Who is a member of the Committee? Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We would all agree that as a policy, this Parliament gave its approval for the Government to abolish duties. There are different classifications of duties; one of which is import duty. We have now defined that duty, which is import duty. So, we understand what we are giving to the folks at Abossey Okai and others. We now understand that. Mr Speaker, one of the reasons that has been given for the abolition of the import duty is the fact that it would bring relief to people who buy spare parts to repair their cars. There is no dispute about that. Unfortunately, this Government is becoming known for just cutting taxes and not implementing them. We are still struggling to see the implementation of the flat three per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) rate and the reductions under the Energy Sector Levy. We are now adding another one just to pass tax cuts. What exactly is the motive? We want to cut the tax but we do not want to lose the money we are currently getting. Yet, we continue to let the people of Ghana believe that we are shifting from taxation to production, although we are keeping the old taxes. Mr Speaker, at the end of the day, this country wants a Government that shows the same level of speed with which the laws were passed on the implementation of the tax cuts.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to the Motion. This Bill is another opportunity for this Government to prove how caring it is to the people of Ghana. We all know that one of the major costs to drivers in Ghana is the cost on transportation. So, any step by the Government to reduce this cost would invariably support almost every home in this country. Mr Speaker, the consultation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) does not mean the Government seeks their approval. We know that from the Protocol, the Government had the authority to introduce these exemptions. We had to inform them just so that it falls within the harmonised system. Secondly, the Hon Member who spoke before me mentioned some three per cent.
Hon Member, please address that issue properly. “Consultation” and “just giving information,” are they the same? The wording did they say they had to consult or inform? I do not have it before me here and that is why I asked.
When the Hon Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance made his contribution, he stated that the indication he got was that the Government said they were in consultation with ECOWAS. We are saying that it was never said anywhere. So, we do not know where he got that assertion from. I am only reiterating that, if anything came up about ECOWAS, it was just to inform them, so they would know about the steps the Government is taking in Ghana, as regard these import duties. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who spoke previously referred to three per cent --
Hon Member, let me just interrupt you. Sitting is hereby extended. It is less than a minute to 4.00 p. m.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who spoke previously indicated that the relief the consumers or the spare parts dealers would get is three per cent. I am sure he knows that is a grossly misleading information. This is because he knows that the Harmonised System (HS) code has different rates for different parts. That is why the amendment listed the various HS codes which are now becoming zero-rated. So, trying to create the impression that they are only getting three per cent reduction is an erroneous one which we need to forcefully correct in the House. Mr Speaker, I want to reiterate that it is really refreshing that the Government has actualised --
Hon Member, I thought that you were going to help all of us by telling us the percentage. He has mentioned three per cent. You seem to vary from that position by saying that it is not a fixed three per cent. So, mention the others and you would now communicate properly.
Mr Speaker, the number of items which will benefit from the reduction are many, and each of them has its own percentage. Some are 20 per cent and others are 15 per cent. So, it depends on the item and I am sure when we go through the body of the Bill, all those things have been succinctly listed. I am sure the Hon Member, who is a member of the Finance Committee, is aware of what I referred to. I do not know; maybe, I have to make a few references to buttress that point.
You have clarified the situation and drawn our attention to that fact, that during the consideration of the provisions, these things would come up in detail. So, that is sufficient.
Mr Speaker, I would end my submission by urging both sides of the House to approve this Motion and subsequently, help to pass this Bill to ensure that consumers all over the country and traders in various locations would benefit from this relief that the Government hopes to bring to the people of Ghana.
Hon Members, if I may take two other contributors. Hon Majority Leader, would you contribute? Hon Deputy Minority Leader, do you intend to add your voice? So, we would take more contributions. Mr Yieleh Chireh?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. The Hon Member on the other side who just spoke, talked about three per cent. He was not following the debate of the Hon Member on our side. Mr Speaker, he said that a flat rate of three per cent VAT, which we should have enjoyed has been passed -- [Interruption] -- Yes, that was what the Hon Member said in context. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, again, the Hon Member said that what they would want to pass would be something that has been passed and would not be implemented. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would want to quote item 2 on page 17 of the Manifesto of the NPP. (ii) “removing import duties on raw materials and machinery for production within the context of ECOWAS Common External Tariffs (CET) Protocol”. Mr Speaker, this particular Bill they have talked about concerns the removal of import duty and we would want to say that they should not let the CEPS officials have problems with the spare parts dealers at Abbosey Okai. This is because importantly, when they get to the port, they would want everything for free, but they know that they would still have to pay VAT and National Health Insurance Levy. Mr Speaker, this kind of confusion they would want to create is not good [Laughter] -- That is why we would want to draw the attention of the whole country to this fact. One, a statement is made to get general acceptance, but when it comes to the reality, a different thing is being proposed. We would all want to feel it -- we want cheaper spare parts. Everybody who uses a vehicle wants cheaper spare parts, but we should be truthful and tell everybody what this tax measure would do. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member talked about different rates. He is an Hon Member of the Finance Committee and he knows that -- he saw all those things and that was the basis for the amendment. Mr Speaker, what we believe should be done is that, even before a Bill is brought here, they should also have a timetable for its implementation. This is important because nobody enjoys hardships. They said there were hardships and so, they should remove the hardships as quickly as possible. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much.
Yes, the Hon Member sitting far behind the Minority side of the aisle.
Hon Member, you would have your turn so, please, wait. You just woke up from your slumber -- [Laughter] -- So, please, allow the Hon Member to contribute because you would have your turn.
Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Motion, but in doing so, I would wish to advert the minds of Hon Members to paragraphs 5.0 and 6.2 of the Committee's Report. I particularly would like the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee to look at these paragraphs well, because, something appears to be missing. Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I would want to quote paragraph 5.0. “The Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2017 contains one clause. The clause provides for the amendment of the First Schedule to Act 891 in Chapters 40,68,70,73,84,85,87,90 and 94 by the substitution of for the stated import duty of 0% for the specified commodities, all of them being vehicle spare parts as particularised in the Harmonised Systems Commodities (HS) Code”. Mr Speaker, my understanding of this paragraph is that, they would want to take the duties of the various chapters which have been mentioned.
Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would also want to quote paragraph 6.2 which is headed “Specified Spare Parts”: “The Deputy Minister for Finance, Hon Kwaku Kwarteng explained to the Committee that government held consultations with spare parts dealers upon which all the necessary spare parts were identified for inclusion in the zero- rating. He was optimistic that the Bill captures virtually all commonly used vehicles spare parts”. Mr Speaker, my argument is that, did the Hon Member say that these consultations he had and through which he arrived at the commonly used spare parts were the same as those chapters which had been indicated in paragraph 5.0? If it is so, then paragraph 6.2 is not necessary. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Mr Speaker, I would want to support this Bill and urge my Hon Colleagues on the other side of the aisle to do same. This is because this Bill is likely to bring lots of benefits not only to --
Hon Member, would you want to support the “Motion” or the “Bill”?
Mr Speaker, I would want to support the Motion and I urge my Hon Colleagues on the other side of the aisle to do same. This is because I believe it would bring a lot of benefits, not only to consumers, but to the whole nation. Mr Speaker, when the Hon Minister for Finance appeared before this House and presented the Budget Statement, he said that we were moving into an era where we would move from taxation to production. This is an attempt to show that what the Hon Minister intended was -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, the Hon Members are disturbing me.
Hon Member, I do not believe you have done justice to what the Hon Minister for Finance said. You did not paraphrase him well. The Hon Minister for Finance did not tell us that we would do away with taxation and focus on production.
Mr Speaker, yes, he said that. He said that we would move from excessive taxation to production and that, instead of putting more emphasis on taxing consumers and businesses, they would rather be taxed not so high and be given the opportunity to produce more. That was what the Hon Minister for Finance said. This is because taxation is a disincentive to business.
Hon Member, I am doing this because I believe it is important that we truly reflect what the Government intends to do, so that we do not end up confusing the public. The issue the Hon Minister for Finance addressed was about raising of revenue and he thought that the imposition of taxes - What he referred to as nuisance taxes would not lead into the raising of more revenue - more revenues could be raised through increased production. That was the point the Hon Minister for Finance brought forward and not that we would move away from taxation to production.
Mr Speaker, what the Hon Minister for Finance intended to put across was that, we should move away from excessive taxation to more production - if you would want me to put it that way. This is because taxation is a form of cost to business; the higher the cost, the higher the price, and the lower the cost, the lower the production. Mr Speaker, so if these costs were to be reduced, businesses would be in a better position to produce more. That is what he said; if we move away from excessive taxation, we should be in a position to produce more goods and services. Mr Speaker, another aspect of this Bill that attracts my support is the fact that it would also reduce accidents and improve car safety, particularly when the tax also affects new spare parts. Hon Colleagues from the other side will bear me out, that most of us go to Abossey Okai to patronise second hand spare parts because we find the prices of new spare parts to be a bit exorbitant. Now that taxes on spare parts are going to be removed, I believe it could bring new parts within the reach of most of my Hon Colleagues, instead of acquiring used spare parts. That would also go a long way in improving car and road safety. Mr Speaker, another issue that I would like to raise is that, this Bill will go a long way in showing that the Government actually fulfils what it pledges in its Manifesto. It is also in attempt to realise what is in the NPP Manifesto. I believe that it is also something that my Hon Colleagues from the other side find difficult to accept. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleagues are struggling to accept this Bill just because the NPP is fulfilling its Manifesto pledge and they are creating the impression, if not mischief, as if there exists a difference between import VAT and other VAT —
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, with all due respect, the Hon Member says in his submission that his Colleagues on the other side find it difficult to accept — Meanwhile, every Hon Member who has made a submission on the Motion on the floor has supported the debate and advanced additional issues to it. So, I do not think that anybody in this House, who has spoken to this Motion has found it difficult to support or understand the Motion on the floor. What we have done is to engender the other side to add certain parts of vehicles which have not been included in the Schedule. So, he should not make that submission in order to generate more debate. He should stick to the issue.
Hon Member, your intervention is under what Standing Order? — [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, for the information of my Hon Colleague, Hon Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi made a conditional acceptance that we should even expand the scope of the zero-rating. My Hon Colleague on the other side did a similar thing, and he did not even mention whether he supported it or not when he made his submission. The Hon Chairman himself even asked for a withdrawal. I believe he was also here, listening to all these people when they were making their submissions. Mr Speaker the reason I am saying they find it difficult in accepting this Bill is because, NPP will use it to fulfil its pledge;
that is why they are trying to make a difference between import VAT and other VAT — Mr Speaker, the former Hon Deputy Minister for Finance is an economist and he knows very well that he can never make a difference in any type of VAT. VAT is a consumption tax imposed on taxable supplies; these taxable supplies are listed. There is no difference, there is no import VAT or any other VAT. There is nothing like that. So, I am confused on how they are trying to make a difference out of the VAT. In my opinion, this is an attempt on their part to confuse Ghanaians as if there exists import VAT. There is nothing like that. VAT is an imposition of a consumer tax on taxable supplies. There is nothing like import VAT — No. There is nothing like that. They should show me the VAT Law where import VAT appears. Nothing like that is defined in the VAT Act. Mr Speaker, I believe that this is a good tax and I will request my Hon Colleagues to support the Motion, because it is not going to affect the revenue inflows of this country but rather —
Hon Member, what are you referring to as a good tax?
Mr Speaker, a good Bill.
I heard you say this is a good tax.
Mr Speaker, it is a zero-rated tax. Mr Speaker, it is a good thing and I would encourage my Hon Colleagues to support —
In ordinary parlance, they would say that you pulled foot. And so please conclude.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I would urge my Hon Colleagues to support it because it is a good thing that will help this economy to grow; we need growth in this economy.
Let me please now take the Hon Deputy Minority Leader and after that the Leader of the House will conclude the debate. I am sorry, time is of essence now.
Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Motion and ask that we approve of it so that the government can, after the passage of this Amendment Bill into an Act, implement it and then give the exemptions or zero-rated import duty for the specified items. Mr Speaker, I am surprised to hear from an Hon Colleague that there is nothing like import VAT, there is. If he does not know, he should say so. There is Import VAT.
Hon Member, he did not say there is nothing like Import Tax.
Mr Speaker, he said, Import VAT.
Mr Speaker that is what I am talking about. The VAT imposed on imported goods is called Import VAT. If the VAT is imposed on goods, it is a domestic VAT, but the imported ones are called Import VAT. Mr Speaker, the Harmonised System Commodities (HS) Code —
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague still talks about import VAT, and I request he shows me where in the VAT Law the import VAT is defined. There is nothing like that. I defined VAT as a consumer tax on taxable supplies, and these supplies are listed in the VAT law. There is nothing like import VAT in the law; that is it.
And so when VAT is imposed on imported goods, it is called what?
Mr Speaker, it is called VAT.
Everything is VAT.
Everything is VAT. Mr Speaker, if one wants to make differentiations, one can just extend the definitions.
Hon Deputy Minority Leader, the Hon Appiah- Kubi still disagrees with you but this is just language.
Mr Speaker, I think that, in order not to delay, I will definitely provide the definition even in the Budget Statement that the Hon Minister for Finance read to us on the floor of Parliament. I will show to him where the Hon Minister for Finance himself said that there is a VAT on import - Imports VAT. Mr Speaker, but I am saying that the Harmonised Code has been made part of the Customs Act through the amendment. So if you take the Customs Act, you should read it together with the Harmonised Code. Once we have amended, it is now a Schedule to the original Act. So, I would be tempted to agree with the Chairman of the Committee where he attempted to delete the clause (e) on page one, from the various documents that they referred to in the consideration of the Bill. This is because once they have quoted Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891), it is assumed that the Harmonised Code is part of that. So, there is no need to repeat the Harmonised Code as one of the documents that they are referring to.
Hon Member, there is a saying that you cannot have Africa without Madagascar. But you can have Madagascar without Africa. Can you not?
Mr Speaker, my next -- [Laughter] I understand Mr Speaker, and that is the reason I am moving to the next item.
I understand the point. Hon Member, you may proceed.
Mr Speaker, my next item is paragraph 6.1 on page 2 -- Fiscal Impact. Mr Speaker, we are made to understand, that the total revenue that is going to be revenue loss the State is GH¢97.5 million. This point of mine is
going to the Hon Minister for Finance or the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance. Are the beneficiaries of this amount going to be consumers as the individuals who go to the market to buy the spare parts or it is going to be the importers who do not pay the duty at the point of entry? Mr Speaker, I am saying this because, if a trader at Abossey Okai Market imports spare parts, and at the point of entry, he is disallowed to pay the import duty, how would he transfer this reduction to reflect the price of the spare parts? So, that if I go to the market to buy spare parts, I would be sure that the price at which I am buying the item has taken account of the duty that has not been paid by the importer. That is a problem because there is no mechanism in place to monitor. How do you ensure that the duty-free import is reflected on the product? This is a question that the Hon Minister for Finance should look at and see how to handle it. Mr Speaker, if we do not do anything about it, the conclusion would be that the importer or the trader who imports is the one going to be the beneficiary. I am saying this because, if duty is not paid on the spare parts and one buys from the market at the same old price, and he or she asks the seller why there is no difference in price since there is no import duty, and he is told that the cedi had depreciated, and for that matter, it is to create a balance, how would the individual know? Mr Speaker, so there is a problem on the implementation of this policy, if we can find a way of ensuring that the price is actually reflected on the final product that we buy on the market. Mr Speaker, the other issue is that out of the 170 exemption lines available to Government, the Hon Minister says that we have so far exhausted about 118, leaving 52 of them. According to the Hon Minister, we do not need to get permission from ECOWAS Secretariat; it is a matter of informing them that these are the items that we are taking out of the exemption line of 170 items. But this is for only a period -- the Hon Ranking Member of the Committee alluded to it earlier. So, as we pass this law, we should bear in mind that after three and a half years -- come 2020, that exemption available to us is exhausted. It will lapse. They have a policy that they are going to exempt import duty on spare parts and then they now go and sit with the traders at Abossey Okai Market, for the traders to give them the list of the items? It means that before they even came with the policy, they were not prepared and did not even know what items the exemption was going to cover. [Interruption.] It is an afterthought that they had and sat with them to select; they then chose some of the items and left some out. Mr Speaker, the vehicle tyre which is an important component of a car which causes accidents in this country -- they are not exempting it. So, if they do not exempt, it would compel the transport owner to go and buy an “overly-used” tyre -- not a second-hand tyre, and that can cause accidents. The vehicle tyre is very important and should be part of this exemption. [Interruption] It is a spare part
Vehicle tyre is not a spare part.
It is a spare part! Mr Speaker, what is a spare part? A spare part is a part that you use and replace -- [Interruption] I use a part, it gets worn out and I get a new one to replace it -- that is what we are talking about. I am not talking about spare tyre, I am talking about spare parts. So, vehicle tyre is a spare part because you use and replace it. So, it is very important that vehicle tyre is also made part of the items that should be exempted. Mr Speaker, so our brothers and sisters who sell vehicle tyres by the roadside have their hopes of benefitting from this exemption dashed. They would not benefit. So, two of us can be selling spare parts, I can be selling tyres and another person selling other spare parts. He would now enjoy the exemption but I would not enjoy it. What kind of discrimination is that? So, I believe the Minister for Finance should take all these on board to ensure that the right thing is done so that we can promote what government wants to do.
Mr Speaker, just a few comments, I believe the issue about the removal of import duty, as against the removal of VAT and NHIL, has already been addressed. But some Hon Colleagues have made an issue about Ghana consulting, and yet the Committee being informed that we are not in breach of any protocol. Mr Speaker, I believe that yes, Ghana belongs to a comity of nations in the ECOWAS sub-region, and if we would want to depart from what others are doing, we would need to pass on information to them. Consultation does not mean that we are imposing anything on them. So, that exactly is what went on and the Committee should be rest assured, that there was no breach. Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minority Leader is saying, Company Income Tax. Yes, it is in place for now. Are we saying that forever and ever, it would be in place? [Interruption.] So, Mr Speaker, that is what I am telling him. One cannot predict what would happen tomorrow. We cannot. Again, he said that well, because government would have to engage with the spare parts dealers, he thought that
Hon Majority Leader, you know that is the rule but there are exceptions.
Mr Speaker, you are talking about general conside- rations. Mr Speaker, I believe that you will resist the temptation --
Exactly, what I am talking about -- [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, so, the general rule is for any Bill to ensue from a policy. That is the vision that crystalises into the Bill. Then, when we have it, we engage stakeholders. That is how it is done. We do not engage stakeholders before we evolve policy, otherwise it would precede what is done at Cabinet level. So, Mr Speaker, that is where we are and I am talking about consistency, for people to follow the process. That is how it is done everywhere. So, he agrees that what government is doing is right, except that he is pleading that we include many more items. Very well, join the bandwagon! Mr Speaker, as for the Hon Adongo, he went completely on a different trajectory other than what is recommended to this House by Standing Order 127. I am sorry, the Hon Member is not here, but because he has made the point on the floor, I believe it is important to let people know what we do here. Mr Speaker, we are into the Second Reading of the Bill and Standing Order 127 (1), provides and with your permission I quote: “On a Motion being made that a Bill be now read a Second Time, a full debate shall arise on the principle of the Bill on the basis of the explanatory memorandum and the report from the Committee.” Mr Speaker, the principle is captured in the Memorandum. Then, an Hon Member of the Committee gets up and he is talking about other things that are contained in the principle. He is talking about three per cent that we are not harvesting and so on and so forth. Where is it in the Bill? [Interruption.] Where is it in the Memorandum? Mr Speaker, I do know that nobody brought his attention to it. That is why the Hon Speaker did not rule him out of order. I believe if your attention had been drawn to it, you would have gratuitously ruled him out of order.
Hon Majority Leader, I saw that he was a first timer so, I did not want to discourage him by ruling him out of order.
Thank you very much, Oh! Daniel. You have come to judgement. Mr Speaker, it was a complete and grotesque misinformation. He departed from what was here and went on his own errand. Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minority Leader is asking who the beneficiaries would be? The market is very sensitive to these things. If one has, say petroleum products in your dump and a price increase is announced, automatically one adjusts. If there is a price reduction, one may resist it. But those who would be bringing the new ones into the system will reduce theirs. If one does not reduce his, he would pile up the stock and nobody would buy. Mr Speaker, the market will respond appropriately. He should have faith in the market forces to determine the price at which each item would sell. So, I am happy that in principle, we are talking about the same thing and I believe that we would all be ad idem in supporting what government has set out to do. I thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank Hon Members for the contributions made to this Bill. Mr Speaker, I would like to assure the House, that in arriving at the particular parts to be captured in this tax measure, we had extensive consultations with the spare parts dealers and other stakeholders. The list on the balance we have captured in this measure serves the needs of all stakeholders, including Government. What Government seeks to do by this measure is to remove its own contribution to the price build-up of spare parts in the country, with the objective that this would be translated to the benefit of businesses and the consumers of transport services. Mr Speaker, finally, in response to concerns that the tax cuts are not implemented the tax cut that was passed by this House as part of the 2017 Budget Statement, the following have been implemented. The one per cent special import levy passed by this House is being operationalised.
Hon Deputy Minority Whip, you were on your feet.
Mr Speaker, I tried to draw the attention of the Hon Deputy Minister, when he commented on the area that my Hon Colleague, Hon Isaac Adongo went; but the Hon Majority Leader drew our attention to it, which you said you could have overruled it, but because he is a first timer, you allowed him to go there. Mr Speaker, meanwhile, the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance is responding to the issues that were raised by the diligent Hon Isaac Adongo.
Hon Deputy Minority Leader, it is because the issue is on record that I did not overrule him, but encouraged him. So, the Hon Deputy Minister is responding to him, for it to be on the record. I do not think there is anything wrong with that.
Mr Speaker, I do not want to take further time of this House, except to make the point that, most of the tax cuts passed by this House have been operationalised. Mr Speaker, I thank you. Question put and Motion agreed to. The Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was accordingly read a Second time.
Hon Members, I intend to adjourn the House so that we could continue tomorrow.
Hon Majority Leader, what do you say to that? I can see the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee on his feet.
Mr Speaker, ordinarily, I would have agreed with you; but it appears that it is a non-contentious Bill, and I am told that the Hon Member who has filed amendments intends to even abandon them. For this reason, we could deal with it today.
One of the main reasons I wanted to adjourn the House was the proposed amendments. This was because I had a problem with them. So, I think there is the need for further consultation on the proposed amendment. So, if the intention is to abandon them, then we could go on; but if the intention is to move them, we would need to relook at them. Is it the position that the Hon Member for Suhum has abandoned the proposed amendments? [Interruption] -- I did not hear you. What is the position? Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I am told that the Hon Member has signalled to abandon the proposed amendments.
Hon Member for Suhum?
Mr Speaker, I noticed we were not even at the Consideration Stage yet; but I had indeed signalled my intention to abandon the amendments.
Is it a firm signal or --?
Mr Speaker, when we get to the Consideration Stage.
I trust you; it is a firm signal. So we can proceed to item numbered 10 on the Order Paper. If he would not move the proposed amendment, then we can easily take the Consideration Stage; but if he would do that, then we would have a problem. Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader wanted to file an amendment. So, if we do it without his presence here, probably we might not do the right thing. [Interruption.] -- He is not here because he knew that if he filed the amendment, the Consideration Stage would be taken tomorrow. That was why -- [Interruption] -- Yes, he gave an indication of filing an amendment. [Interruption.] -- Why does he say he is not fair to the House? By the rules of the House, no Consideration Stage could be taken until 24 hours have elapsed. So, he is working under that.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, for the record, I just heard that the Hon Minority Leader wanted to file an amendment. So, when he was exiting, I asked him where the proposed amendment was. This is because when we get to the Consideration Stage, we could relax the rules to accommodate it. So, I asked where it was. Mr Speaker, we have done so on many occasions when amendments were not really advertised. That was why I asked whether we could not do that. So I do not think that it would be fair to hold the House to ransom, because the Hon Minority Leader is not around. Mr Speaker, however, I also note that on the Order Paper, we are not billed to do the Third Reading today. What it means is that, even if we go through the Consideration Stage, we might not be able to do the Third Reading, because it is not advertised. If it is not advertised, it would mean that we could accommodate the Hon Minority Leader's concern at a Second Consideration Stage before the Third Reading. Mr Speaker, now the choice is whether to do this Consideration Stage and wait for him to insert it in a Second Consideration, or we may hold it down, because the Third Reading has not been advertised. Then we could accommodate his concerns. I would think that in deference to the Hon Minority Leader, and because of the fact that it has not been advertised for the Third Reading, we could hold on and do it tomorrow. Mr Speaker, but let it not be said that anybody could hold the House to ransom.
Mr Speaker, this is just to set the record straight. We had a discussion this morning concerning this Bill, and we were assured by the Hon Minority Leader that he would file an amendment. When the Report of the Committee came, there was no indication that this Bill would go through a certificate of urgency, in which case the Consideration Stage would follow immediately after the Second Reading. Once the Hon Majority Leader had his contribution, he was of the opinion that once we were not going through the certificate of urgency, he could file his amendment, so that tomorrow, when we are at the Consideration Stage, it would follow. That is what we are referring to.
Hon Members, I think the equation is very clear. No Hon Member of the House can hold the House to ransom by his or her absence; that should be made clear. Definitely, once we have a strong indication that the Hon Minority Leader, supported by the other side would want to file an amendment, I think that in due deference to them, as stated by the Hon Majority Leader, we should adjourn to give them the opportunity to do so. I really think that there is a lacuna in the Bill, because we are dealing with taxes and there must be certainty of the effective date, but I cannot see any provision here. It means that it has to come into force on the operation of the law, which we all know. That is the reason the Hon Member for Suhum proposed the amendment. I have a problem with the way it is couched. But I think that there is the need for us to at least, come clean, by coming with a provision that will give an indication of the effective date of the law that we want to pass, so that we could direct the authorities about when to start the implementation and the calculation of the zero rated duty. I think it will benefit the country and all of us, if we take a bow now and continue tomorrow. Is that clear? I am only here to go by the decision of the House; and not to impose mine.
Mr Speaker, we have no problem with that. I think we all want to have a very good Act which would be in operation and that is why we are all opting for this.
Hon Majority Leader, are we together?
Mr Speaker, in principle - that is why I said that I do not know the gravamen of the proposed amendment by the Hon Minority Leader. But in deference to him, we could wait, except that I made a point, that notwithstanding, it cannot be said that the House should be held down because one person or the other wants to make an amendment and the person --
Yes, I totally agree with you on that.
Mr Speaker, let us defer to the Hon Minority Leader on this occasion. Let him bring it and maybe, we could also look at the amendment being proffered by the Hon Member for Suhum, especially, the item numbered (ii) -- how to further improve it and then I guess we could take them tomorrow. Mr Speaker, may I also sound, that if anyone else has any other amendments, let the person file them so that when we come, we would deal with it. I guess the Hon First Deputy Minority Whip would also inform himself, that the Committee never established that they were going to take this under a certificate of urgency, which explains why the Third Reading is not advertised. So, what we have is what is on the Order Paper and any diligent Hon Member must look at what is on the Order Paper.
Hon Majority Leader, your words; “any diligent Hon Member”. Definitely, this Bill has been with us since the 30th of May, 2017, so, it cannot be a Bill under a certificate of urgency. Yes, I see the Hon Member for Effutu itching to say something.
Whether a Bill is under a certificate of urgency, it is the decision of the House. It is usually a recommendation from the Committee, but it is the House that takes the decision. So, if it is not recommended by the Committee, an Hon Member in his contribution could do so, but the decision would have to be taken by the House before it is so considered. What we get from the Executive is just a proposal, and in fact, many at times, we ignore those proposals and we go through the full rigours of the processes and passage of the Bill. So, it is usually a decision of the House, but now, we are all ad idem, that it would better serve the interest of everybody if we adjourn the House till tomorrow, and I accordingly do so.
The House was adjourned at 5.02 p.m. till Wednesday, 14th June, 2017 at 12.00 noon.