MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings and the Official Report.
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday, 27th June, 2017.]
Item numbered 3 on the Order Paper -- Questions. The Hon Majority Leader/ Minister for Parliamentary Affairs is expected to respond to a Question today. The Question stands in the name of the Hon Member for South Dayi.
Mr Speaker, I have the permission of the Hon Member for South Dayi to ask the Question on his behalf with your leave.
Why is he not here?
Mr Speaker, I just spoke with him on the telephone and he is on his way to the Chamber.
Hon Member, I did not hear you.
Mr Speaker, I spoke with him a while ago and he is on his way to the Chamber.
Hon Minority Leader, is there a reason for permitting somebody else to ask a Question on his behalf? It is half past midday and we were supposed to Sit at midday.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is on his way and in order to do justice to our time, if it pleases you, you may permit our Hon Colleague to ask the Question on his behalf. But he would certainly attend to the House today. Mr Speaker, I am sure -- I was just sharing with the Hon Majority Leader that I know that many of our Hon Colleagues would normally wait to see you arrive in the Chamber on the screens in their offices. I have observed it and it may not be a good practice, but it is a way of getting them into the Chamber. Mr Speaker, so, if you could indulge him, we would be most grateful.
Very well. The Question as has been listed is of general interest to Hon Members. So, I would allow it, otherwise, I do not think it is a practice for Hon Members to wait in their offices until the Speaker sits in the Chair before they proceed to the Chamber. So, Hon Member for Yilo Krobo, please, proceed.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
MINISTRY OF PARLIAMENTARY
Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs?
Mr Speaker, I believe this Question is asked of me in my capacity as the Hon Majority Leader and not the Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs -- [Interruption] -- If the Hon Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor intends to ask this Question of both the Hon Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, then it cannot be answered because the Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs does not have anything to do with this. I am answering the Question in my capacity as the Hon Majority Leader. Mr Speaker, The Job 600 Office complex, which was refurbished into Offices for Members of Parliament took into consideration the total membership of Parliament which stood at 200 at the inception of the Fourth Republic. When the membership of Parliament increased to 230 in 2005, the then Board ensured an increase in the number of offices to 252. This arrangement was to make available 22 additional offices for purposes as may be determined by the Board. Mr Speaker, the coming into force of the Representation of the People's (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instru- ment, 2012 (C. I. 78) on the eve of the 2012 elections, eventually led to an increase in the number of Members of Parliament from 230 to 275, with an addition of 45 new constituencies. At the time the membership of Parliament increased to 275, the civil works for the refurbishment of the block had been completed and further tampering with the structure would have involved a lot of demolition with attendant huge financial implications. Apart from the huge financial outlay as a result of any demolition, the structural integrity of the building would have been compromised and hence necessitated relevant adjustments and reinforcement. It is these considerations and the effect of huge additional loads to a structure that was itself over 50 years at the time and it resulted in maintaining the original facility. This, therefore, resulted in a shortfall of office accommodation for 23 out of the additional 45 Hon Members who joined Parliament in 2013. Consequently, the Parliamentary Service Board (PSB) of the Sixth P a r l i a m e n t a t i t s 2 1 st Regular Meeting held on Friday, 29th July, 2016, approved the Parliament House Physical Infrastructure Enhancement Project to urgently address the shortfall in office accommodation for Members and staff of Parliament. The project, as anticipated at the time comprise three (3) sub-projects, namely: i. Sub-project I -- Supplementary MPs' Offices (Job 600 Annex);
Hon Member, any supplementary questions?
Mr Speaker, I do not know your pleasure. The Hon Member in whose name the Question stands is here. So, I do not know whether I should ask him to continue with his supplementary questions or I should go ahead. Mr Speaker, I am at your pleasure.
Hon Member, I permitted you to ask the Question in his stead, so, please, proceed with the supplementary questions.
Mr Speaker, very well. Mr Speaker, may I find out from the Hon Majority Leader whether in the interim, there would be other arrangements to house the 23 Hon Members of Parliament and their staff?
Mr Speaker, various arrangements were given consideration before Hon Members were asked to move into the various offices. Given the fact that at any particular time, we have a minimum of about 40 Hon Members of Parliament who would double as Hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers, at the very outset, consideration was given to the fact that those Hon Ministers and Hon Deputy Ministers, perhaps, may not be assigned offices. Unfortunately, that consideration was breached because at that time, the Hon Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, who was superintending the construction, insisted that he should be provided with an office. Mr Speaker, that opened the excuse gate for other Hon Ministers to also access the facility. This is because most of them are senior Hon Members of Parliament and the argument then shifted to; why do we deny a fourth-time Hon Member of Parliament an office because he is an Hon Member of Parliament in the first place before he was made an Hon Minister? Mr Speaker, so, as I said, consideration was breached and then the idea of pairing some Hon Members came up for consideration. Along the line, that consideration itself suffered some ups and downs because it was not a firm decision. So, we have the situation where some Hon Members do not have offices. Mr Speaker, for now, Hon Members may recollect that some Committees were given offices. So, the Hon Whips have been tasked to relate to the possibility of converting those offices into office space for those Hon Members. We may not be able to satisfy all 23 Hon Members, but that will provide us with a useful beginning. Mr Speaker, additionally, we are looking at converting a nearby facility, close to the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) office; that is a facility for Parliament. We are looking at converting that facility into offices that would have
Mr Speaker, in the Hon Majority Leader's Answer and with your permission, I quote the last paragraph: “. . . As soon as a determination is made, processes leading to the award of the contract in respect of the project would be triggered and I would want to assure the House that the contract will be awarded in accordance with due process for construction works to commence in earnest.” Mr Speaker, the assurance is there. May I find out from the Hon Majority Leader the time frame he is putting on this assurance.
Mr Speaker, I am careful not to put any time frame on that. First of all, the decision is not entirely mine; it rests with the PSB. Mr Speaker, I have indicated that the original position that got the contractor, China State Hualong Construction Limited to come on board was to construct a 23- office complex, which was the additional number required to satisfy Hon Members who do not have offices. That was why they agreed to bear the cost of construction before Parliament was able to have an arrangement to pay them back. Now, as I have indicated, we are considering to increase the number from 23 rooms. Originally, we had 22 rooms as spare rooms, which could be used by some other smaller committees. Committees are
Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. I appreciate his Answers. Mr Speaker, could he confirm that the US$23, 074,249.84 is not only for the offices of Parliament, but for the three sub-projects he talked about? Mr Speaker, the possibility is that, some of our Hon Colleagues may never have offices. This is because, if the project was to start today, there is a period within which procurement would be complemented and then the construction -- Could the Hon Majority Leader give us an assurance that this project will be a top priority to Parliament, so that the rest of our Hon Colleagues will have decent working environment instead of having the condition we had in the previous Parliament where our offices were not different from our car boots? Can this Parliament priortise the provision of these offices to the rest of our Hon Colleagues?
Mr Speaker, the construction of the additional offices for our Hon Colleagues who do not have offices now is a top priority.
Yes, Hon Member for Keta.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Majority Leader whether the US$23, 074,249.84 was the amount at the time when we talked about the construction of the office complex? Is it the same amount now or it has increased? If it has increased, what is the current figure that we are talking about?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is a good Friend. I do not want to tell him that, that question has substantially been answered; he is taking me back. Mr Speaker, Hon Agbodza asked that question of me and I answered. But Mr Speaker, for his benefit and that of the House, I may repeat. I said that was the cost at the time. He asked whether it is the same amount or it will witness an upward adjustment, or perhaps, a downward review. I said that where we are now, we are having some discussions at the Board level to determine whether we should maintain the construction of the 23 offices or increase it. I can assume that certainly, it will go beyond the 23 offices. So, certainly, that amount is of no relevance at the moment.
Mr Speaker, reading from the Answer provided on page 7 of the Order Paper, from the 4th paragraph -- Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I beg to quote: “Mr Speaker, I wish to indicate that prior to approving this project, the PSB of the Sixth Parliament accepted a financial proposal from the contractor that refurbished the Job 600 Tower Block, Messrs China State Hualong Construction Limited of its willingness to raise the required funds to pre-finance the project on a design-and-build arrangement.” Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Majority Leader the nature of the proposal, whether we are sure that value-for-money will be conducted, and whether it is in any way linked to the US$19 billion Chinese facility, which his Government is talking about lately?
Hon Member, the proposal you talked about is 2016, so, the linkage to any US$19 billion facility is clearly out of place and out of order -- Well, I have the authority to admit or not to admit questions. This question is totally inadmissible. But the Hon Majority Leader may answer the other parts of the question.
Mr Speaker, if my Hon Colleague listened to the Answer I provided, I believe it satisfies the core issues that were raised on the value-for-money audit and so on. Again, if he listened to me, I said that the 23 office accommodation might no longer be relevant. It is likely to appreciate. So, that amount for the time being, might not be relevant for our consideration.
Hon Ras Mubarak?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, I would ignore the Hon Majority Leader saying that I am an “Alhaji” and go straight to the point. Mr Speaker, would the Hon Majority Leader assure the House that the project has met the necessary requirement and value-for-money for the Ghanaian tax payer?
Hon Member, you are only demonstrating that you came in late. [Laughter.] This question has just been asked. If you have another question, please, ask, otherwise, I would move on to another person. [Pause.] Very well. That brings us to the end of Question time. Hon Majority Leader/Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, thank you very much for attending upon the House to respond to the Questions. Item numbered 4 on the Order Paper -- Statements. The Hon Speaker --
Mr Speaker, you have not discharged the Hon Majority Leader from the position of an Hon Minister answering questions to the position of a Leader. So, if you could kindly do that.
There is something wrong, probably, with the hearing of Hon Members to my left. This is because I discharged him before I proceeded to go to item numbered 4 on the Order Paper. [Laughter.] Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, if you would recall, at the very outset, I said to my Hon Colleague that I was being asked the Question in my capacity as the Hon Majority Leader. And as the Hon Majority Leader, this is my seat. So, even if the Hon Speaker discharges me, I would still be on the same seat. Mr Speaker, that was what I told him, that the Question should have been addressed to me as the Hon Majority Leader and not as the Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. He got himself confused and got caught in that labyrinth.
Very well. We would go to item numbered 4 on the Order Paper -- Statements. The Hon Speaker has admitted some Statements. The first one is in the name of the Hon Member for Juaben, Hon Ama Pomaa Boateng. You may please, read your Statement now.
Hon Member, hold on. Hon Members, there is too much noise in the Chamber. Can we listen to the Hon Member in silence? This is an important Statement on our personal data. Please.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the important Statement made by the Hon Member. I rise to support the Statement and I do so with recourse to article 18 (2) of the 1992 Constitution, which is to the effect that; no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of his home, property, correspondence or communica- tion, except in accordance with law and as may be necessary in a free and democratic society for public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights or freedoms of others. Mr Speaker, the Statement of the Hon Member clearly dovetails to the principles enshrined in article 18 (2), of the 1992 Constitution that correspondences that we make with each other should not be subject to interference, unless on those stated grounds. So, it is very important that while in our primary everyday activities as a people, our communication with State institutions are not interfered with and they are properly protected. Mr Speaker, a couple of weeks ago, this House debated a very important issue of terrorism and communications that are subject to be hacked by individuals who want to engage in such activities. They are prone to be abused. So, this is a very important Statement made by the Hon Member and I would commend her for the bold effort of bringing this to the attention of this Honourable House. Thank you for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, let me commend the Hon Member who made the Statement for the way and manner that the Statement has been delivered. I must say that it is long overdue, because this House and Ghana as a country takes the issue of data protection seriously. Mr Speaker, when I was young, my father told my siblings and I, that when we meet a stranger and he asks of our names, we should not give our names out. We have reached a point where a stranger does not need to come to us and ask of our names. He can sit in the comfort of his home and get all the information that he needs. Mr Speaker, while we all accept the fact that the country is moving towards the e- Governance era, it comes with its own challenges, which have been properly laid down by the Hon Member who made the Statement. Mr Speaker, the issue of security is very important when it comes to data protection. Personally, for the few months that I have been in this House, my emails have been bombarded by people I do not know, simply because I have given my data out to someone in this House. Mr Speaker, we need to be protected, and the time is now. If countries like the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) can be hacked, then how fortified are we as a country when it comes to cyber attacks by these hackers? Mr Speaker, I keep on telling to several of my friends that the third world war would not be by troops going on the ground to fight, but it would be by cyber- attack and as a country the time to take this issue seriously and put measures in place to combat it is now. Mr Speaker, I would again commend the Hon Member who made the Statement and thank you for the opportunity.
Yes, Hon Member for Asante Akim Central?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to comment on the Statement made by the Hon Ama Pomaa Boateng, Member of Parliament for Juaben. Mr Speaker, Information Technology (IT) has caught up with the society and we cannot run away from it. It is for this reason that the Government decided that data protection must be a sui generis law, and therefore passed this Act, aside other intellectual property Acts, in order to flourish easily and effectively as a country. Mr Speaker, unfortunately, while we put data together and use it for our purposes, most people would want to use it for good purposes because it saves time, promotes businesses and whatnots. Others also look at it and plan negatively, hacking in order to achieve their fraudulent aims and also defame others. Mr Speaker, I think as a nation, we should be going further to look at the effects of other laws that would arrest these unfortunate situations, where people rather aim at using data wrongly. If we are not able to protect this, we would get to a situation where immediately e- Government gets to its peak, other people may use it for their selfish and illegal interests. So, we may have to go further. Mr Speaker, data protection has principles. When we need the information for a purpose, we must use it for that purpose and no other reason. It must not be kept more than necessary. It is for a reason that the Act aims at these things. It must not be kept unnecessarily for long periods when the person keeping the information or anybody else does not need that information. It must be concisely used for the purpose for which it was gotten. Mr Speaker, all these are measures that would protect individuals and protect the country as a whole, but we must go further to make stringent laws to deter others from using this as another means of exercising or engaging in fraudulent activities. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Members, I would admit one each from both sides and close the debate. Yes, Hon Member for Ningo- Prampram?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the Statement made by the Hon Member for Juaben, Ms Ama Pomaa Boateng. Mr Speaker, the issue of data collection, handling and protection is a major issue the world over at this moment in time. In fact, the Data Protection Law was modelled around what happens or exists in the United Kingdom (UK), where they have an Information Commissioner's office, where they try to do data protection. Mr Speaker, if we look at Ghana today and our preparedness when it comes to data processing and handling, we are gathering a lot of data. A lot of institutions in our country today are huge data generators -- the banks, churches, universities, and even Parliament. Many of the blue chip companies are constantly collecting data of their citizens. Mr Speaker, Government in itself, the Executive, is actually one of the biggest data generators and collectors in the country. We all know that if one holds a biometric passport today, his data sits with the passport office or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They have one's biometric data. If one is a Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributor, they also have one's biometric data. If one is also a government staff, he would have to go through a biometric process and so constantly, Government is collecting all of these biometric data. Mr Speaker, however, if we ask ourselves the question of how Government is prepared to secure the data that it collects, it becomes a completely different issue. If we look at the Data Protection Commission itself, their staff strength today is under fifteen. I believe they have less than ten staff, who are full time staff. How then do they regulate all of these huge companies that collect data? Mr Speaker, if we go to church and pay tithes, our church collects our data. They have critical data of us. Right now, in some of the churches, one could even pay his tithes using an ATM machine and a point of sale terminal, which means that access to our bank accounts and bank details is sitting with our churches. Who is protecting that system? With the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), who protects that system? These are where the issues are. Mr Speaker, currently in the UK, they have taken data protection to a new level, where a small and medium enterprise (SME) that was recently hacked but held the data of staff, was fined 60,000 sixty thousand pounds by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for not putting in place the right protection for its staff, and exposing their data to risk. If that were to happen in Ghana, the bills and the surcharges that would go to the Government of Ghana, I doubt if the budget of Ghana would be able to pay for it. This is because we realise that even when we look at our National Data Centre, which has become the hub of all our
Yes, Hon Deputy Minister for Communications? Deputy Minister for Communications (Mr George Nenyi Kojo Andah)(MP):Mr Speaker, I rise to comment the Statement made by our Hon Colleague and to say that, to a large extent, all the comments on this Statement are worth noting. Mr Speaker, while commending the Hon Member who made the Statement, I would also want to commend the previous Administration for the data infrastructure that has been put in place. I would like to commend the current Hon Minister for Communication for the effort that she is making to take data protection to the next level as my Hon Colleague, the Hon Member for Ningo- Prampram made reference to. Most importantly, let us also commend the staff of the Data Protection Commission. They work under quite difficult circumstances but they make the effort to do things right. Mr Speaker, you would recall that when we had the ransomware attack, none of the Government facilities were subject to this attack. It means that we are doing something that is good; we have some sufficient firewalls that protect our data but there is more that needs to be done. Mr Speaker, while talking about Government institutions, Parliament and the Bank of Ghana on the need for them to have solid data protection rules, we also need to look at things that we
Mr Speaker, let me thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by our Hon Colleague, Ama Pomaa Boateng, on Information Privacy Protection Issues in Ghana's e- Government. Mr Speaker, in doing so, I would like to commend her for bringing this major issue to the fore. Probably, Mr Speaker, we would look forward to your directive and guidance on this matter. The Statement is on information privacy protection. Mr Speaker, let me indulge you to quote article 18 (2) of the Constitution before I set out the issue that I intend as part of my contribution to the Statement.
and with your permission I quote; “No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of his home, property, correspondence or communication …”. So, my purpose today is communica- tion. It means that the 1992 Constitution recognises the right to the protection of privacy of communication; a right that we must respect. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member's Statement comes at a time that globally and even in Ghana, we have a challenge of unfettered freedoms versus national security and safety limitations. Where do we stand as a country that we must respect the right to free speech and the right to privacy of communication? But what is the implication of the right to privacy of communication on national security and on private safety and probably even on the matter of morality? For instance, if today, our security agencies -- National Security has to do an investigation, God forbid, that there is a terrorist attack, we may have to go into personal data. That would amount to an
The question is not directed at me. -- [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, since it may be difficult to get an answer, you are not part of it at all. -- [Laughter]-- But Mr Speaker, I am raising another issue which must engage our attention; morality versus law. The morality is that, wives would have a right to know what the men are doing -- [Interruption] -- I said morality, I did not say law. Mr Speaker, I am saying this because tomorrow, it is only Parliament that can pass a law and in passing the law, we would be better guided whether spouses, in opening up the right to privacy and protection of data and information would have a challenge of morality and law. Even children, what kind of data should they have access to? I know limitations on pornography and others and the extent to which we deal with them. Mr Speaker, but as I said, I would want to end on this note. I know that many homes and marriages have suffered social upheavals because of spouses' inability to manage privacy of information. -- [Laughter]-- They read what they should not read, and they weep helplessly. -- [Laughter.]
Does the Majority front bench want to make a comment? Very well, Hon Deputy Majority Leader?
Is it appropriate to request the Hon Minister for Communications to come and brief the House on what steps they are taking to protect data in view of the happenings around the globe? I think it is appropriate. Hon former Minister for Communica- tions, what do you suggest? I propose the Hon Minister for Communications, should come and brief the House on what steps they are taking to protect the data of Ghanaians, particularly sensitive State institutions from being hacked?
Mr Speaker, if the House at your pleasure has no objection, I would wish you include the Hon Ministers for National Security and the Interior in briefing Parliament. They could forge ahead with us what their thoughts are on this.
Do you mean all the three Hon Ministers should brief the House at the same time or there should be a joint briefing? Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, if they would agree, they could come to brief us, except that it would be in a Committee of the Whole. That would be quite informative. The briefing should be qualified. This is because I do not know what role any of these Hon Ministers could play in the defence of men against women as the Hon Minority Leader indicated. I do not know what defence they could offer in plenary or in Committee. If we want to invite them, we should qualify what information the House requires from them.
I have no intention but to remind the Hon Majority Leader that I was at his 60th Birthday Party and he knows where I sat and what I kept on his behalf. [Laughter.]
Hon Members, in the circumstance, I direct that the Ministers for National Security, the Interior and Communications come to brief the House at a Committee of the Whole and to assure Hon Members that data collected from us and indeed of national State institutions are well protected. There is one more Statement and that is very characteristic of the Hon Member. Her Statements are often very brief. The Statement is by Hon Naana Eyiah on teachers impregnating school girls.
Order! Order! Are the Hon Members leaving the House for former teachers or what? Please, resume your seats. Hon Member, you have the floor. Teachers impregnating school girls
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancy is an issue of concern to all parents, especially mothers because some fathers usually stop caring for their teenage girls when they become pregnant and mothers have to take the responsibility all alone. Teenage pregnancy has been debated on several platforms and attempts to put in place measures to reduce the situation have been to no avail. In the Central Region of which my constituency is part, recent reports from Ghana Health Service Performance Review in the Central Region reveal that 12,048 young girls got pregnant in 2016. A total 301 of the girls were impregnated by teachers and teachers were named among the top people that impregnated these school girls. Mr Speaker, the situation is devastating because teachers who are supposed to play the roles of parents in the schools, and are seen in our communities as role models, guardians and counselors are now the major perpetrators of this wrong doing in our various schools. If we should allow the continuity of this wrong doing, then what would be the future of the girl child's education? Mr Speaker, in my constituency, Gomoa Central, for example, we have teenage mothers between the ages of 13 and 16 in almost every home, which is one of the factors that leads to high levels of poverty in the area. Statistics show that most of these teenage mothers had no formal education. One of my top most priorities for my constituents is to empower the girl child through education which will help them acquire employable shills. This will improve their access to job opportunities and empower them economically to help their families, reduce teenage parenting and poverty. I see this irresponsible attitudes of some teachers impregnating school girls as a threat to achieving my aim. Mr Speaker, I wish to appeal to the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection to put some mechanisms in place to curb this menace as a matter of urgency. Mr Speaker, I also urge the police to enforce sections 101 (1) and (2) of the Cri- minal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29). This law makes one criminally liable if he has natural or unnatural carnal knowledge of a child under sixteen years of age. Therefore, teachers who impregnate these school children are culpable and must face the full rigours of the law. Mr Speaker, I also encourage all parents whose girl children or wards fall victim to this wrongdoing, to promptly report such criminal acts to the Police. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I see that this topic has generated a lot of interest. Hon Heloo, I would give you the first opportunity.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. First of all, I would like to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement for bringing this important topic to the fore. The issue of teenage pregnancy is assuming very high proportions of late. It is a matter of public concern to all of us. However, in looking at the issue, I would propose that we take a holistic view. In the first place, if you asked these young girls what prompted them to take either a teacher, other worker or friend in school, they would tell you that they lacked basic amenities. In a survey conducted in our community, we found out that girls had to resort to people other than their parents for supply of their school needs. They had to rely on boyfriends or other persons for even sanitary pads. That meant that parents in one way or the other might not have been fulfilling their God-given roles. If parents have money to buy funeral cloths every now and then; black, red, white, et cetera, and their daughters came to them to get something small for sanitary pads -- We know how important sanitary pads are to a girl child and they could not give them, in a way, they are telling their girl child to go outside and look for it. Mr Speaker, there are people outside who are ready to jump on such a fortune and take care of those little needs -- and teachers, unfortunately, have been caught as some of the people who try and give favours to the girls. Mr Speaker, if we look at the root cause, most of the girls are engaged in this for some needs that are not satisfied by all of us - The society, the parents, the guardians and the community as a whole. In the past, when one sees another's daughter, one could tell or encourage the girl to be in school. Now, the social fabric has broken down and children are left on their own. Mr Speaker, it is important for us not only to point fingers at a particular group but to have a very holistic view of the issue -- Who would supply the needs of the girls? Is it the parents, teachers, the boyfriends or the galamsey man out there? When we do all these we would be able to satisfy the needs of the girls. Mr Speaker, I picked on the purchase of funeral clothes -- but what do the fathers and men use their moneys for? They take girlfriends who are as young as their daughters -- [Interruption] -- Spend the money on alcohol and forget the needs of their daughters, and we point fingers at the daughters and also at those who satisfy their needs. Mr Speaker, I would want to call on every parent and every community member that we should all come together and take care of the needs that push our girls to seek boyfriends. We should take care of their needs and I believe when that is done we would make a headway to solve this issue of teenage pregnancy. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity and I would also wish to thank Hon Naana Eyiah for the Statement.
Yes, Hon Member for Bia West? Hon Members, in this matter, I would allow as many Hon Members as are willing to contribute.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, the issue of teenage pregnancy in the Central Region is indeed a big problem. In fact, it has reached an epidemic proportion. Some of us who come from the Central Region see that as a major problem and it is a huge problem around the fishing communities. Mr Speaker, when parents entrust their children to teachers in the schools so that they are developed emotionally, socially and physically, it is very sad to see that the situation is turned to the exploitation of these children who are to receive education to become functional members of our society. As surrogate parents, they are supposed to provide secondary socialisation so that these children would have every form of support in order to grow up to be responsible members of our society. Mr Speaker, the exploitation of the girls by the teachers in the schools is very sad. I am a teacher myself and some teachers in our schools -- However, the issues that have been raised about parents who are not able to support their children are critical and sometimes, some of the children are already introduced to these forms of inducement in the society before they come to the school. So, there must be a collective effort on the part of all. Mr Speaker, it is pleasant to know that the Ghana Education Service (GES) has policies regarding these matters, to the extent that, a teacher is not allowed to date a student in the school because there is a superordinate-subordinate relation- ship and in that case it is an exploitation of that child. Even in the tertiary institutions, most status of our universities have that same principle, so that a teacher cannot date or be in any form of relationship with a student other than the formal student- teacher relation which is professional and formal. So, when the human rights of these children are taken away, whether they become pregnant or even where they do not become pregnant, it is still an exploitation that must be taken seriously. Mr Speaker, the critical understanding, probably of human sexuality itself has not been explored by a lot of these teachers. We have continuing professional education of our teachers, where they go for what is called “in-service training” and they review all the things about teaching in the classroom -- pedagogy, andragogy and all the key things. But a critical part of their work is to impart knowledge which would transform these children. However, that transformation does not take place sometimes. If gold rusts, what about iron? Mr Speaker, the teacher is supposed to be the person who would lead the process of transformation and assuming what happens if that teacher does not get it right. So, if gold rusts, what about iron”? It is important that these teachers are equipped to understand the nuances of their role in the classroom because increasingly, our teachers stand in the classroom in large numbers as a last resort. Mr Speaker, in other jurisdictions, any person who wants to become a teacher must be approved. At least, in Tennessee in the United States of America, where I was a teacher, one has to get his or her fingerprints taken to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and approved as a person who is normal and not a paedophile before one would become a teacher. Mr Speaker, there is the National Teaching Council which is one of the agencies of the Ministry of Education which pioneers the process of licensing teachers either for private or public schools, one must be licensed before one could teach in the school, and part of the process was to ensure that the person did not have any criminal record before the person could come to the classroom as a teacher because of the superior role they play. Mr Speaker, I would want to call on the GES, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to collectively work together and speed up this process. This is because we see it in the newspapers all the time and we have reports of people asking us to go and beg the Police so that the dockets on such issues would not be forwarded. Mr Speaker, the basic thing is, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should come together and have a draft policy which would address this issue and also include it as part of the ongoing training of teachers, so that teachers -- both in-service and pre-service teachers in our colleges would be equipped to stand up and really function effectively and have the trust of parents and society at large to cater for our children. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, I would like to thank Hon Naana Eyiah on the Statement ably made and bringing this important issue to the fore. Mr Speaker, you would all agree with me that impregnating a girl-child between the ages of thirteen (13) and sixteen (16) is criminal and unethical. One of the reasons I say it is unethical is the fact that, according to the Joy Heart Foundation, the brain development of the child is greatly influenced and responds to the experience with families, caregivers and the community. Who are our teachers? They are definitely our caregivers. They are directing the course and growth of our children. And if at a point in time, these teachers would not look at the stature and development stage of the girl-child but impregnate that girl-child, I believe it is wholly unethical and must be condemned by all of us. Mr Speaker, I believe that something needs to done and it is to apply the laws. It is very important that we apply the laws. We have the Child Abuse Act, the Children's Act and the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 Act 291, all in place in our society. But what do we do? Mr Speaker, as people, we are always indulging in the wrong things that are done in the society. I believe it is about time we called on our Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to take this issue very seriously and ensure that each time a girl-child is impregnated, we should delve into it and if it is caused by a teacher, the definite sanction should be applied. This is because if one is a caregiver, he or she is directing the course of the child. And if at this point in time, the person shortens the life of the child, then it is a serious thing that we need to critically look at. This is because what happens at the end of the day is that, the children begin to experience insecurity and low self- esteem and all these things affect them in life. It is very important that we enforce the laws to the letter. Mr Speaker, I recommend that the necessary Ministries and Agencies should take this issue as a serious one and apply the necessary sanctions. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for allowing me to contribute to this Statement.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancy is a big problem which all of us need to make sure that we pay attention to and do something about it. But talking about the Central Region, let us please get some things in perspective here.
“Teenage Pregnancy for Central Region from Regional Director of Women and Children, 2016” -- from July to December. There were 5,106 pregnancies, and out of them, there were 430 pregnancies of ages between 13 and 15. Mr Speaker, there were 4,682 teenage pregnancies from ages 16 to 19. And so, it is not all of them that are below 16.
Members of Parliament (MPs)!
No, we are only four (4) MPs and so that would not happen -- [Laughter.] Engineers, 11, drivers, 676, masons, 232, students impregnating other students, 187, carpenters, 93, traders, 173, motorbike riders, 35, galamsey workers, 397 — [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I will stop here with the numbers — [Interruption] -- All right; unemployed workers, 353, and those who could not state their profession, 412. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancy is a problem in the Central Region, but I wanted to bring out these numbers -- It is not only Central Region that we have these problems. It is because of unemployment, and you would not believe what GH¢2 would do in the villages. So, it is something that we are working on and we need to work on it more. Mr Speaker, the danger is, these are kids having kids, and when this happens, what do they have to teach these kids? They are the ones who grow up to be unemployed and become armed robbers and all kinds of things. It is a big problem that the Departments for Women and Children DOW/DOC needs to help and make sure that we are providing for these teenagers. Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Education should also help us; the question I ask is this: we had over 600,000 kids in Junior High School (JHS) but less than 300,000 of them went to Senior High School (SHS). What happened to the over 300,000 that were left behind? They are not old enough to have any kind of employment or attend technical schools, and the easiest way for some of them is to get pregnant. Mr Speaker, how many of us ever sat down and even talked to a 13 or 14 year old girl about what she might be going through? But as soon as she becomes pregnant and has a child, we all go to the outdooring and that is when she feels
Mr Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to also contribute to the Statement. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancies ought to be a major concern to all of us. When a teenager is in school and she becomes either by the teacher or someone else, it has the tendency to disorganise the education of the teenager. Mr Speaker, even when the person is not in school, psychologically, the teenager may not be prepared to be an expectant mother to give birth to a child, nurse that child and begin to raise a family. Mr Speaker, a teenager by definition is somebody between the ages of 13 and 19 years. There is a legal regime for it. When the person is above sixteen years and consents to sex, that is not a criminal offence. But it would be unethical or professional misconduct on the part of a teacher to impregnate a teenager above sixteen years who is under his supervision or care. That could be a legitimate basis for the dismissal of the teacher. Mr Speaker, however, if the person is below sixteen years, whether the person consents or not, it is an offence which is defilement. What we normally experience or witness in most cases is that, when defilement occurs, the perpetrator of the offence would go behind the scenes, see the parents of the victim and try to settle
Hon Member, is it not the case that lawyers advise how to go about it to get to the conclusion of being struck out for want of prosecution?
Mr Speaker, for that one, I cannot tell whether lawyers, at times, do advise accused persons to go behind the court and see the parents of the victim in order to broker an amicable settlement with the parents. Mr Speaker, with the greatest of respect, I cannot tell. Mr Speaker, but parents ought to know that this is an offence which cannot be settled out of court. If parents get to know that it is a serious offence, a felony and has the tendency of disorganising the education of their own wards, we believe the rate of teenage pregnancy would be minimised if not completely eliminated. Thank you.
Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this very important Statement ably made by the Hon Member from the Central Region. Mr Speaker, it is quite clear from the contributions in this House that the practice of defiling girls under the age of 16 is not limited to teachers alone. Even in the Central Region, it has been clearly demonstrated that it spreads wider than teachers. Mr Speaker, albeit people who are not within the teaching profession or teachers, it is an act that we ought to bemoan and condemn in absolute terms the practice where males or people take advantage of children and defile them in the process, thus destroying their future. Mr Speaker, I believe clearly that in stopping the practice, blame must be laid squarely at the doorstep of the Ministry of Education and particularly, the Ghana Education Service (GES). I trained as a teacher before I became a lawyer, and one of the induction courses we are given as teachers, when we are about leaving the training college, is to be reminded that pupils and especially, girls who are under our care are in a position of trust with us. That relationship is an unequal relationship. So, the teacher should not pry, whatever be the case, on girls who are in his or her class, whose charge have been given to the teacher to train. Mr Speaker, so, when it happens in the classroom, it is the GES which should discipline the teacher, recall the teacher's certificates, bar the teacher just like it is done in legal practice from trading the profession because that is a betrayal of trust. When Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) is written or about to be written every year, we hear reports that X number of girls wrote the examinations while being pregnant. We do not hear follow up reports of people who impregnated them. We also do not get sanctions meted out to teachers as ably demonstrated by the Hon Colleague from the Central Region who have found themselves in that act. Mr Speaker, many societies have dealt with this situation; what we ought to do as a country, which clearly should be within the Civic Education Department of the Non-Formal Education Unit, working in conjunction, probably with the office of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, to train these people and to make it part of the curriculum in the schools. Teach the girls and even the boys their fundamental human rights. Embolden them to know that they can say no in all situations and nothing can happen to them. That, if they are threatened, they have recourse to the counselling services established by the GES, and that they as pupils can follow up and ensure that action is taken against people who pry into them. Mr Speaker, the girls themselves must be empowered and emboldened to stand up to the tyranny of teachers or any other person who would want to exploit them. That is one of the most important ways that we can embolden our girl-children as most of the parents are poor. So, when their daughter is put in that situation, the compelling effects of monetary incentives, sometimes, get them to drop the case because they are already poor. In Dagbani, they say that if you are already in tattered robes and you are challenged to a fight, you hurry onto the fighting grounds because your clothes are already in tatters. Mr Speaker, so, if girls are impregnated and people dangle money before the parents, most often than not -- and that is what we see in courts -- the parents take the money, advise, compel and coerce the girl not to pursue the case. The parents even sanction the girl for reporting the case to the police in the first place. Mr Speaker, it has been said time and again, that any girl below the age of sixteen has no capacity to give consent. So, we cannot rely on the consent when the girl is less than 16 years. If the girl is more than 16 years, probably, she would be in the secondary school. There is that relationship of trust between the teacher in the secondary school or the tertiary institution and the students they are charged with to train. So, they ought not to take advantage of them. As I have said, the counselling services of the Ghana Education Service must be seen to be up and doing. If all these bodies work together, we would ensure that the future of these girls can be guaranteed.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. I would want to take this opportunity to congratulate Hon Naana Eyiah for the Statement ably made and to also add that
Hon Member, who and who are all teachers? [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, while we were teachers and we know that teachers are doing well, we have a few of them who are painting the picture as if all teachers are making children pregnant. When we take the statistics of the teachers involved in the figures given by Hon Samuel Atta-Mills, we realise that the number would not be more than three per cent. So, if it is bad --
It is actually a bit over two per cent.
Mr Speaker, a bit over two per cent. So, out of the 5000 pupils who were impregnated, if we tag teachers as the ones solely involved in it, then I believe it is in bad taste. Let us commend the teachers who are also doing well by restraining themselves from making children pregnant and to say that, if it is bad, it is bad. We should condemn it in its entirety. I would want to add that our traditional marriages, the early child marriage, is also a factor. If we go to our communities, a girl within the ages of 15 and 16 is married. Their colleagues in school also think that she is matured enough to also get married. So, some of the social practices should be condemned and not blame the teacher as the sole person causing this act. Per the statistics, I heard that even lawyers are involved. [Laughter.] I hear that some lawyers are involved. So, if a lawyer is going to defend this case, then one can imagine that he would call for an out of court settlement in some instances. [Laughter.]
Hon Gyato, be advised that in discussing Statements, you should not generate controversy, please.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. As it has been said, per the statistics of Hon Atta-Mills, we might see that even parents are impregnating their own children. So, let us delve into it and know the causes. Then, we would know how best we can address this holistically. Mr Speaker, I would also want to add that now, all that children need is cell phones. Those days when we were young, our senior brothers would send us to a house in the night and if one is not lucky and is caught, one is beaten. Now, because of the use of cell phones and other gadgets, the children stay in their homes and communicate. So, let us find a way of making sure that our children are prevented from the use of cell phones while in basic schools so that, at least, we can also manage them in our homes. This is because if a man wants a pupil to come to him, all he does is to use his cell phone to text. For all we know, we would not see the teacher coming close to the house but rather the lady going. So, let us try to find a way of solving this problem once and for all.
I would take another lady. Hon Ntoso?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. My Hon Colleagues have said so much about teenage pregnancy. What I would want to add is, it is not only about teachers impregnating -- [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, we heard the statistics from the Hon Member, Mr Atta-Mills, that it is not only teachers who are impregnating these young ones. Research shows that most of these pregnancies take place after social events like festivals in the various communities. I believe the District Assemblies should enact bye-laws restricting festivals from running-deep into nights. This is because, once the parents are asleep, these children would be outside enjoying themselves. It is like a Twi adage that goes like this: “woada nso na wo nan gu abuntene” which literally means, “while one is asleep, his legs are outside”. While parents are asleep, their children would be out there socialising. They come back when their parents are fast asleep. They do not know what happens out there. So, if the District Assemblies would enact bye-laws that social events should end at a point when parents would monitor the time the children come back home that would help us. We have been discussing teenage pregnancy for years now. I am aware the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry of Health and that of Education have been organising sensitisation workshops. I would urge them to continue educating parents and guardians on how to take care of their wards. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I would like to just add some few words to what has already been said on the floor. I came to meet the discussion but it is a very interesting one. There are certain salient points we need to stress on. Mr Speaker, earlier, my Hon Colleagues have expressed some sentiments concerning this issue. But my main point here is that there must be discipline. Parents must get involved in their children's daily activities. Honestly speaking, we have talked about men's and women's day. But to stress this point, we feel that the women are doing very well. The men do not get involved in their children's activities in school. The involvement of parents in activities of their wards in schools should be emphasised. When we are training the children in the house, we feel that the training in the schools should be in tandem.
Hon Member, could you leave me out of the debate, please?
Mr Speaker, I agree with you. Mr Speaker, the men and their wives should get involved in the activities of their children and train them. I know that when they are trained in a way that they should go, when they get to the school and the teachers try to get to them, they would know how to approach certain issues. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would end by saying that I plead with Hon Members to get busy in the activities of the children and not only business affairs. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on the Statement regarding teachers impregna- ting students. Mr Speaker, while I appreciate the several --
Hon Member, do not be intimidated by those who have always envied Commonwealth Hall. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, while I appreciate the several meaningful and worthy contributions made by Hon Colleagues of this House, I still feel that it is necessary to call attention to the original thesis that the Hon Member who made the Statement sought to present to us. Mr Speaker, as far as I understood the intentions of the Hon Member who made the Statement, it had to do with teachers impregnating students. This is not to say that broadening the conversation to encompass the general challenge we face as a nation with regard to teenage pregnancy is not relevant. Mr Speaker, the reason I seek to reiterate and emphasise on that unacceptable relationship between teachers and female students is largely because of the issue of power and power dynamics. We all know, as someone who was a teacher myself, that there are power dynamics between the teacher and the student. Sometimes, it is not because the female student is weak or accepting of an offer made to her by a teacher. It is rather because some teachers use the power that they have as instructors and persons who grade the students, to coerce and sometimes intimidate the female students to agree to their amorous adventures towards them. It is within this context that I would want to emphasise the need for the Ghana Education Service, to make sure that where and when there is evidence to show that a person entrusted with the responsibility to educate our youth abuses his power by taking advantage overtly or covertly, to have that type of relationship with a female student which then occasions a pregnancy, that teacher should not only be dismissed, but severely punished. This must be stopped. It is not acceptable, and we must not condone it. We must understand that the teachers always have an upper hand largely because of their position and the power they wield both cohesively and directly.
Yes, Hon Dr Sandaare? Hon Kpodo, do you also want to contribute to it? I would allow you after him.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity. I associate myself with the Hon Member from the Central Region who made the Statement on teachers impregnating school girls. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancy is a sociocultural problem because the factors that lead to a teenager getting pregnant are embedded within our cultural system. Mr Speaker, when a teenage girl is pregnant, it means that a pregnant girl child would give birth to another child. In our society, it is not normal for children to give birth to children. So, if this is happening, it also means that society has failed in taking responsibility to ensure that children do not give birth to children. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement bordered on teachers impregnating school girls. It happens because we sometimes fail to recognise that these teenage girls have needs. They have physiological needs because it is within these age brackets that their hormones are at its peak. That is the time they feel the way adults felt when we were in that range. They feel for sex and also have social needs. That is the time that as families and society, we have to meet these social needs. So, when we fail to recognise that as teenagers, they need support, and that even sometimes, what they need from us parents is just to tell them that they are beautiful. The fact that we say they are
Mr Speaker, I would just want to take off from where my Hon Colleague has just ended. The Statement attempted to haul in teachers as the main culprits of school children getting pregnant at very early ages. The statistics provided by our Hon Colleague shows that teachers could be vindicated. There are many more people indulging in this malpractice so to speak than teachers. So, I think we should not box the problem on teachers. The issue is even wider when we look at what is happening in our current system. We are talking of young children but Mr Speaker, it is even worse at the post- secondary school level. Yes, we could say they are grown-ups but it is for the same reasons which compel the young girls from the post-secondary school level to do the same thing. Mr Speaker, the point is that basically, people have needs and we are unable to meet the needs of these young children and even the adults. That is why they go in these directions to do what they have been doing. One would even see that some of the girls entice the men and so, it is not only men who go in for the girls. What is our solution to these types of problems? Mr Speaker, our extended family system is no longer working. If we find ourselves in an advantageous position in our family, it would be appropriate for us to go beyond our nuclear family to assist the young ones around us, so that this need- syndrome could be curtailed. In the past administration of the former President John Mahama, there was a programme introduced -- the Secondary Improvement Project (SIP), where students in certain secondary schools were assisted with the provision of sanitary and other such items. But this became a problem nationwide, that we had gone for loans to provide sanitary pads for children. It was a big problem and the President and the other people were dissuaded from going for the Loan. But it has definitely come to solve problems for some people. I am aware that instead of buying the sanitary pads for the students, this has been converted into cash and it is a good project. I think every effort should be made to extend this facility to our students. Mr Speaker, I would also want to urge Hon Colleagues to apply part of their Common Fund to assist students in settling some of their secondary school bills, so that the burden on the parents could be reduced. That would lessen the problems that we are confronted with. Mr Speaker --
Hon Naabu, do you have a point of order? I saw you up; did you want to intervene in any way?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. I was trying to correct him. He says, we the Hon Members should apply part of our Common Fund to support payment of students bills.
Hon Member, continue.
Mr Speaker, I would want to thank my Hon Colleague for doing a good job and that was just what I was saying, that it should spread across all other Hon Members of Parliament. Mr Speaker, I think that collectively, we could take different measures. Parenting is a major problem. I have an Hon Member of Parliament sitting in front of me who has told me that when she was young, there were many people making advances at her -- [Interruption] -- But because of the upbringing from her family, she was able to say “no”. So, I think that parents should also have a responsibility to help their children say “no” in these kinds of circumstances. That way, I think we could curb the menace that we are all complaining about. I thank you very much.
Hon Naabu wants to contribute. I would recognise him. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity. Yes, we are putting the blame on the teachers, we should not put the blame on the teachers alone. Some of them have fallen victim to students also enticing teachers. I would not go into details.
Mr Speaker, thank you. I rise to contribute to the Statement. I was actually not going to speak, but I have heard some statements being made here that would be in our Hansard. So, I also feel compelled to add my voice. Mr Speaker, the Statement is about girls getting pregnant in basic schools, and it is specifically mentioning the names of teachers and there is evidence in this country that teachers have actually made their pupils pregnant. So, when I hear statements such as, “teachers have been vindicated and the girls are enticing the men”, I am compelled to contribute to the statements about that. Mr Speaker, these are children between the ages of 13 to 16 years old and our law is clear that this is defilement. At that age, the children are not capable of giving their consent. Our law says that children below the age of 16 are incapable of giving their consent for sexual interaction. Mr Speaker, at this stage, we cannot be talking about girls enticing men. A man at whatever age, who has sexual intercourse with any girl below the age of 16 years has committed a crime called defilement and he should be prosecuted accordingly. So, there is no situation where a teacher who has had any sexual intercourse with a child and impregnated the child -- For us to say that because other people are also involved, the teachers have therefore been vindicated or the girls have been enticing -- Please, I do not support that language in this House. This is because I know that a child between the ages of 13 and 16 years is not capable of giving any consent to sexual intercourse; therefore, it is defilement. Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Education has a Code of Conduct and there is a family and social welfare policy -- Mr Speaker, in fact, it is not because of lack of policy, there are policies in this country but they are not being enforced. The problem is the enforcement of the policies and the law and so our agents who are responsible for the enforcements must be up and doing. I propose that this House should develop a campaign and it should be on safe school environment. We could do that and the various sector committees could lead us in that regard. Mr Speaker, indeed, the Women Caucus could also lead in that regard. So, let us have a campaign on safe school environment for our pupils. Mr Speaker, thank you.
If the Leadership would want to make a contribution at this point -- I would acknowledge them. Is there anyone to make a contribution from the Leadership of either the Minority or Majority side? Very well. That brings us to the end of Statements. I am supposed to present the Paper, so, I would ask the Hon Majority Leader to present the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Formula for the Distribution of the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) for the year 2017.
Hon Majority Leader, which of the Motions is ready?
Mr Speaker, the Motions numbered as items 6 and 7 are supposed to emanate from the Committee on Defence. They are not yet ready and so, we would move to Motion numbered as item 8.
Very well. Hon Members, the Motion numbered 8 -- Hon Majority Leader?
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 Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Proposed Formula for the Distribution of the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) for the year 2017 may be moved today.
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly,
Hon Members, we would move to the Motion numbered 9 -- Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I believe that we made a mistake. The procedural Motion should have been numbered as item 10 and not item 8 that I moved.
Hon Majority Leader, it is right.
Mr Speaker, the Motion numbered as item 8 has to do with Health Insurance and that is not what we are dealing with.
Hon Majority Leader, maybe you are holding a different Order Paper. In the Order Paper that I have, the procedural Motion is item numbered 8.
Mr Speaker, let me reinstate myself then. What I said is inaccurate -- Motion numbered as item 8 is correct. So, I would move the Motion numbered as item 9 on the Order Paper.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Proposed Formula for the Distribution of the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) for the year 2017. Mr Speaker, I beg to submit the Report of the Committee of the Whole that you chaired, and as a member of the Committee, I would present it on your behalf. Introduction The Proposed Formula for the Distribution of the District Assemblies Common Fund was laid before Parliament on 27th June, 2017, by the Majority Leader, Hon Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, in accordance with article 252(2) of the 1992 Constitution and sections 125(3) and 129(a) of the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936). The Rt Hon Speaker referred the Proposed Formula to the Committee of the Whole House for consideration and report. The Committee met on 27th June 2017, and considered the referral. Acknowledgement The Committee met with the Hon Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, the Administrator of the District Assemblies Common Fund, Ms Irene Naa Torshie Addo, as well as officials from the District Assemblies Common Fund and considered the Proposed Formula. The Committee extends its gratitude to the Hon Minister, the Administrator and the officials who attended upon the Committee to assist it deliberate on the proposed formula. References The Committee referred to the following statutes and documents: i. The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana ii. The Local Governance Act (2016), Act 936 iii The Standing Orders of Parliament iv. The Proposed Formula for the Distribution of the District Assem- blies' Common Fund for the year 2017; and v. The Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Formula for the Distribution of the District Assemblies' Common Fund, 2016. Background Parliament is mandated by article 252(2) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and section 126(1) of the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936) to make provision for the allocation of not less than five per cent of the total revenue of the country to the District Assemblies Common Fund for the implementation of development pro- grammes in the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs). The allocation to the Fund for the 2017 fiscal year is five per cent of total tax revenue of the country instead of 7.5 per cent for the 2016 fiscal year. The reduction is attributed to change in policy of Government to cap overall transfers to earmarked Funds at 25 per cent of tax revenue as contained in the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government for the year 2017. By the provision of section 129(a) of the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936), the Administrator of the Fund is to propose annually for the consideration and approval of Parliament, a formula for distribution of the Fund to MMDAs. Principles underlying the 2017 Formula The Administrator informed the Committee that there was no significant change in the guiding principles of choosing the factors and corresponding indicators in developing the DACF Formula for the year 2017. In developing the Formula, the ‘Basic Needs” approach to development was adopted and considered as a factor in the Formula with the following as its indicators: Hlealth Service Education Service Water Coverage Tarred Roads Coverage Under the above factors, those who have more facilities/services receive less in order to bridge the development gap between the MMDAs. Additionally, the Formula also took into account other factors such as: i. Responsiveness a. Improvement in revenue generation and collection b. Budget implementation status ii. Service-Pressure; and iii. Equality. Sources of data for the Formula The Committee was informed that the data for the determination of the Formula was obtained from central sources. This is to prevent MMDAs from influencing the data used and also to prevent falsification. However, data on project implementation status was sourced from the MMDAs and Regional Coordinating Councils (RCCs) monitoring and evaluation reports. Population Population data was obtained from the Statistical Service. The population data used was the 2010 Population Census. Since the newly established MMDAs were created after the 2010 Population Census, the population figures for the old MMDAs were shared equally between the old and the new MMDAs. Education Data on Education was obtained from the Ministry of Education. Data required included education facilities, pupil and trained teacher population. The data on education covered all the MMDAs in the country, except the new districts where data is shared with the old districts. Health The Ministry of Health provided the data on health. The data provided included health facilities such as public hospitals, clinics, health posts and CHIPS
Table 3: Allocation Statement for 2017 And 2016 SPACE FOR TABLE - PAGE 9 - 3.00 P.M. Source: 2017 District Assemblies Common Fund Formula.
Observations Decrease in allocation The Committee observed that the total allocation to DACF decreased from GH¢2,013,9 13,015 in 2016 to GH¢1,575,935,339 in 2017, a decrease of about 28 per cent. The decrease in the total allocation to the Fund has led to a decline in allocation to finance various programmes within the MMDAs. Programmes under the Reserve Fund and Monitoring and Evaluation were particularly observed to be severely affected by the reduction. The nominal decline in the allocation, the Committee was informed, was mainly due to the Earmarked Funds and Capping Act, 2017 (Act 947) that had reduced the funding rate for the DACF from 7.5 per cent to five per cent in 2017. MMDAs allocation The Committee observed that only 43.52 per cent of the allocation for 2017 was to be disbursed directly to the MMDAs with a greater percentage disbursed directly at the central level to finance various programmes and entities at the national level. It was explained that there was an improvement in direct allocation to MMDAs than in previous years. The net allocation directly to MMDAs saw an increase of about 10.22 per cent over the 2016 allocation. There was also an increase in the proportionate share in 2017 of 43.52 per cent as compared to 33.30 per cent in 2016. The Committee urged the Administrator to be guided by Government policy by ensuring that direct allocation to the Assemblies is increased significantly in subsequent years. The Committee was informed that, going forward, the cost of Government priority programmes such as the School Feeding Programme, School Uniform Programme and others would be borne by their respective Ministries. It was noted that although an amount of Gh¢ 70.1 million had been allocated to cover national priority education programmes to be undertaken by the Ministry of Education, it was explained that this was a one-off funding for 2017 and not intended for subsequent years. Institutional transfers The Committee was informed that the financial obligation of the following organisations requires DACF to provide funding for the implementation of their various programmes. These include: a) Youth Employment Agency (section 23(c) of Act 887) -- 10 per cent b) National Youth Authority (section 17(b) of Act 939) -- five per cent and c) National Disaster Management Organisation (section 9 (c) of Act 92/) - 1.35 per cent. An amount of Gh¢257million has therefore been allocated to cater for the above organisations in 2017. The Committee was further informed about an apparent overlap in the provision of funds to the above organisations. It was noted that these organisations benefit directly from other sources of funds and there was therefore the need to review the funding sources to some of the institutions stated in the Earmarked Funds and Capping Act, 2017 (Act 947). Audit of sanitation budget (YEA- Sanitation Module) The Committee raised concerns about the arrears of GH¢321.3million owed to service providers under the YEA- Sanitation module. The Committee was informed that the debt came about as a result of lower inflows into the Fund over the years. An amount of Gh¢11.9 million has been budgeted for 2017 to reduce the debt. The Committee urged the Administrator to conduct an audit into the claims. Allocation to cured lepers The Committee observed that a total amount of Gh¢l,575, 935, representing 0.10 per cent of the Fund was allocated to cater for cured lepers in the country. It was noted that out of the amount, 25 per cent would be used for feeding, while 75 per cent would go in to physical development. While the Committee commends the Administrator, the Committee expressed optimism that the Ministry of Finance would commit itself to timely release of funds for the realisation of the objectives of this social intervention measure for the improvement of the lot of such socially deprived class of persons. It was further recommended that the allocation be increased to cater for all lepers in the country and that Members of Parliament partner the District Assemblies to have a proper census of the cured lepers in the various Districts. Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) The Committee noted that a total amount of GH¢47, 278,060, representing three per cent of the Fund has been allocated to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). The Committee was happy to observe an increase in the allocation in 2017 as compared to 2016. The Committee observed that 25 per cent of the allocation would be used to improve twenty-six facilities in disability institutions and rehabilitation centres across the country. Furthermore, the Disability Council will be strengthened to perform its monitoring role as provided for in the Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715). The Committee urged the Administrator to ensure the timely release of funds for implementation of these laudable commitments by Government. It was further recommended that access to the funds allocated to PWDs be improved. Recommendation and conclusion Having carefully considered the Formula for the distribution of the DACF for 2017, the Committee recommends to the House to adopt its Report and approve scenario B of the Weighting Formula for the distribution of an amount of GH¢1,575,935,339.
Hon Member for Odododiodioo? Question proposed. Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuye (NDC - - Odododiodioo): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion for the adoption of the Report of your Committee.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, as I indicated, I only provided highlights of the Report. What I did not add was that the entirety of the Report must be deemed as having been read and be so captured in the Hansard.
Very well. The Hansard Department would take note. Hon Member for Odododiodioo? Nii Lantey Vanderpuye: Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity granted me to second the Motion to adopt the Report of your Committee of the Whole on the Formula for the distribution of the DACF. Mr Speaker, having gone through the allocation formula and the scenario adopted, we were very much concerned about the reduction of the total amount as a result of capping. We were also concerned about the fact that this would affect delivery at the Metropolitan,
Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) level. However, we were assured by the Administrator that even though in the short term, that could be a reality, subsequently, with improvement in revenue generation, much improvement in the allocation to the various Assemblies would be done. Mr Speaker, however, if funds have been capped and it is ultimately going to affect delivery of development and infrastructure in the District Assemblies, it is important that timely release of the capped funds is ensured. We do not want the situation where it has been capped and it would not be released when it is due. This would further put stress on the District Assemblies and lead them into serious difficulties in the delivery of their services in the districts. Mr Speaker, one of the most important aspect of this Report is the oversight responsibility role of the Hon Members of Parliament. The Administrator has made it clear, that it is important for us to monitor how these funds are used and utilised in the District Assemblies and it would also depend on us to furnish her office with reports on the proper utilisation of these funds. We should make sure that we show interest. I believe this is very important for us as Hon Members of Parliament. This is because when we take part in the deliberations in the Assemblies, we would be able to make an input into how those allocations are utilised at the Assemblies, so that it could be effective. Many a time, Hon Members of Parliament and the Assemblies go on different currents. While the Assemblies have their priority, MPs also have their priorities, and as such, it does not make for coordinated development in the Assemblies. Mr Speaker, I would plead, that in ensuring that we play our role well in making sure that the funds that we approve here for distribution and allocation to the District Assemblies are used for their intended purposes, we must also make sure that we report how the usage is being done. Mr Speaker, I am particularly happy about your Report touching on the issue of cured lepers and persons with disabilities. It is important. These are vulnerable groups of people in our society. Sometimes, we look at only Accra, but I believe the case of cured lepers is all over the country. I know that when we were discussing it yesterday, the Hon Speaker himself mentioned that in his constituency, there are cured lepers and as such, it is important that we make sure that moneys which are allocated for the sustenance and welfare of these people are duly used for that purpose, and that the Assemblies do not use the moneys for something else. They should make sure that these people get access to the funds. The same goes to the persons with disabilitIES. Mr Speaker, with these, I would once again plead that the Ministry of Finance should see the release of funds in the DACF as a priority so that we would be able to discharge our responsibilities appropriately to our constituencies and districts. Mr Speaker, with these words, once again, I thank you for the opportunity given me to second the Motion for the adoption of the formula for the distribution of the DACF.
Hon Members, I have been advised that we are out of power, and running on the
Mr Speaker, this year's Formula for the Distribution of the District Assemblies' Common Fund is directed at pushing more of the resources to the MMDAs. The Common Fund is so much weighted with arrears, so, our desire to push as much resources to the MMDAs has faced some limitations, but nonetheless, the formula has been able to direct 46.52 per cent of the Common Fund to the MMDAs as compared to 35.1 per cent last year. So, there has been quite some movement; we would say, about 11 percentage points towards ensuring that the resources go directly to the districts. Mr Speaker, some of the amounts that we have put in here, as noted in the Report, would just be a one take-off. For example, the National Priority Education Programmes. I was expecting that the Ministry of Education would budget for this programme and therefore, they would not have space in next year's allocation statement. Mr Speaker, the School Feeding Programme has been taken off completely. School feeding arrears have already been absorbed and whatever is happening this year would have to be taken care of by the Ministry of Gender, Children and
Mr Speaker, in my contribution to support the Motion, I would draw your attention and that of the House to paragraph 8.2 of the Report -- MMDAs allocation. The fifth line, the increase in direct allocation to the MMDAs should not increase by 2.2 per cent. The allocation this year is 43.52 per cent from an allocation of 33. 3 per cent, so the increase should not be 2.2 per cent but rather 10.22 per cent. So, that correction should be effected. Mr Speaker, even though there has been an increase in the direct allocation to the MMDAs of 43.52 per cent, we still think that the establishment of the DACF is purposely meant for the development projects or development agenda of the Assemblies. So, if a 100 per cent allocation is made in the Budget and out of that 100 per cent, only 43.52 per cent is going directly to the Assemblies, it is actually defeating the purpose for which the Fund was established. So, we encourage that in the coming years, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, and for that matter, Government should consider ensuring that a greater proportion of the Common Fund is allocated directly to the MMDAs, so that it can be used for the development of the District Assemblies. Mr Speaker, again, you can also see that even though this year, allocation to the MMDAs increased from 33.3 per cent to 43.52 per cent, in absolute terms, there is a reduction because of the capping of the Common Fund from 7.5 per cent to five per cent of total revenue and for that matter, even though there has been an increase, it is affecting the actual amount that is given to the Assemblies So, Mr Speaker, this signal that we are running on -- that the power can go off any moment -- with these few words, I urge Hon Members to approve the Formula, so that the Common Fund Administrator can disburse money to the local Assemblies. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Majority Leader, I do not think there is time for any rounding up, so, I direct that the corrections that have been noted be effected. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Hon Majority Leader, any indications at this stage?
Mr Speaker, I would thank Hon Colleagues for their staying power and to move that the House takes an adjournment until tomorrow at 12.00 noon.
I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to.
The House was accordingly adjourned at 03.29 p.m. till Thursday, 29th June, 2017, at 12.00 noon.