VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, Correction of Votes and Proceedings dated Friday, 6 th October, 2017. Page 1… 7 --
Mr Speaker, George Mireku Duker was in the House last Friday but my name has unfortunately been marked absent on the list. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Thank you, Hon Member. Page 8 … 15 -- Hon Members, the Votes and Proceedings of Friday, 6th October, 2017, as corrected are hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings.
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Tuesday, 3rd October, 2017.]
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Wednesday, 4th October, 2017.]
Mr Speaker, my profound condolences go to the families of those killed in the Atomic Junction disaster. One of my constituents, Alhassan Ushan, was among the victims.
Hon Member, ask the Question.
Mr Speaker, that is exactly what I am doing. I am asking the Question.
Hon Member, you do not respond to the Speaker in that manner.
Noted, Mr Speaker.
You would apologise and learn how to do things in this House.
Mr Speaker, he is a leader in the House and he should know how to respond to issues --
Hon Member, take your seat.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, this House is governed by rules. He filed the Question that has been admitted by the Speaker. The Hon Minister is here to respond to the Question and he is running commentary. So, I just got up to draw his attention to what he should do and he said the Leader should know better. Mr Speaker, let him apologise to me, respectfully.
Hon Mubarak, withdraw that statement addressed to the Hon Majority Leader.
Mr Speaker, accordingly withdrawn. I sincerely apologise to my very good Friend, the Hon Majority Leader.
ORAL ANSWERS TO URGENT
MINISTRY OF LANDS AND
Mr Speaker, the direct Answer to the Urgent Question can be found in paragraph 4 of page 22 of the Order Paper. Mr Speaker, the Ministry did not and is not planning to institute an independent public inquiry into the Prestea-Nsuta mining disaster.
Mr Speaker, if the Ministry does not intend to undertake an inquiry into the disaster, what guarantees do we get that lessons would be drawn from the Prestea-Nsuta disaster? And going forward, what lessons could be learnt if there would not be an inquiry into the incident?
Mr Speaker, there is a similar Question asked by the Hon Member on the action the Ministry took when the illegal miners were trapped in the mining pits. Mr Speaker, I would address the response to these Questions when the follow-up Question is called on.
Hon Member, are you conceding? If you do so, you would not get up again.
Mr Speaker, several people have died from a mining disaster. I have asked the Hon Minister what steps have been taken in respect of an inquiry and he has indicated that there is no public inquiry. I followed up with a question to him saying that if there is no inquiry, then it would be difficult to draw lessons from what may have occurred in the Prestea incident, and hopefully, guide us going into the future. So, I am surprised by the response he has given.
Bonsu — rose
Hon Majority Leader, you address me.
Mr Speaker, I believe the problem we have is that, the same Hon Member of Parliament has asked two similar Questions, the answers of which are about the same. He decides to file one as Urgent Question and the other as Ordinary Question.
The Hon Minister would answer the Question and when we get to whatever is a repetition or otherwise, in due course, we shall cross the bridge at that juncture.
Mr Speaker, the issue of illicit miners being trapped in galamsey pits across the country is not new to this country. Similar incidents have occurred over periods for which the Ministry had drawn certain lessons. It is based on those lessons drawn by the Ministry that certain measures are currently being initiated and put in place to make sure that Ghana, as a country, would no longer witness such a disaster.
Mr Speaker, it relates to the point I made; that the supplementary question was entering the realm of the other Question that the Hon Member had filed, that is Question numbered 175, which is why I was imploring Mr Speaker to ask the Hon Member to hold his horses so he could ask Question numbered 175 for the appropriate response to be made. Mr Speaker then said that he should answer it and when we get there and he has to stop him, he would do so. That is the issue before us.
When we get there, he would inform the House that this Question has already been answered and we would then proceed. He would inform the House that the Hon Member has already asked the Question and he has already answered and the Hansard has captured it. So, we do not dilate any further on that. Meanwhile, so far as the Question that the Hon Member is asking is relevant, I would not stop him because that would come for us to look at some time or the other. It may so happen that by the end of the day, we may not get to that Question. And so long as it is reasonably proximate, the Hon Minister would answer like he has done. Any further Questions?
Mr Speaker, I wish to ask the Hon Minister if there are commitments by government to deal with such incidents of mining disasters as seen in Prestea-Nsuta. Is the Government committed to dealing with these kinds of situations?
Hon Member, please, come again, and draw the link between this and the original Question.
Mr Speaker, I was asking what Government would do in respect of averting such incidents of mining disasters as seen in Prestea-Nsuta.
Is government considering doing something that would ameliorate or avoid these problems? Hon Minister, you may answer the Question.
Mr Speaker, we hope such incidents never happen again in our beloved country. But if it does happen, committed as we are as a Government and as people of the Republic of Ghana, we would put in actions which the Ministry is currently undertaking to make sure that such disasters never happen again in our beloved country.
Hon Minister, would you help us and assuage our fears by telling us some of the things that you are doing now in preventive terms?
Mr Speaker, it is noteworthy that the accident that was caused by the illegal mining activities, as we are all aware of, happened as a result of the activities of the illicit miners which were not regulated within the framework of our mining regime. Galamsey activities spread across this country and it is estimated that eight out of the ten regions are infested with illicit mining activities. Mr Speaker, Government continues to put in measures and action plans to make sure that sanitisation of the illicit mining activities in Ghana is done to conform to all standard practices across this world. The Ministry on its part, in collaboration with other sector Ministries, has put in place a well-crafted documented programme of actions lined up for five years, called the Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP). Mr Speaker, the MMIP is a five-year document project that Government would like to use to sanitise the illicit mining regime, which eventually would eliminate all actions and inactions of Ghanaians who would want to undertake mining in the regime without regulations.
In view of the time, we have two other interventions before we get to Leadership. Hon Ayariga?
Mr Speaker, I would want to ask the Hon Minister a question on the MMIP. Can the Hon Minister point to one specific lapse in existing legal or policy regime that needs fixing by such a project? [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, that is to say that do we not already have an adequate legal policy institutional framework for dealing with these problems for which all one needs to do is to just implement instead of this MMIP that the Hon Minister keeps talking about?
Hon Ayariga, take a close look at the original Question. If you are interested in the question you are asking, please file a Question. [Laughter.] Yes, any other question?
Mr Speaker, I would want to find out if our Hon Minister's dressing is Indian or Ghanaian -- [Laughter.] I would like to know whether the Hon Minister is properly dressed.
Mr Speaker, in the Hon Minister's Answer to the Question, I would want to know what exactly the Ministry did when the incident happened or came to their attention. What did they do?
Mr Speaker, this Question is in direct relation to Question numbered 175 and it states the action the Ministry took when the illegal miners were trapped in the mining pit. Mr Speaker, if you would allow me, I would go straight to the Answer provided for Question numbered 175.
Hon Minister, you are allowed. Please, go on.
Mr Speaker, thank you. It is noteworthy that the accident was caused by illegal mining activities. As Hon Members are aware, mining in Ghana can only take place under the auspices of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, Act 703, its regulations and affiliate legislation. One can therefore only undertake mining legally if he is granted a licence for the purpose by the Minister responsible for Lands and Natural Resources, on a particular piece of ground, for the duration, terms and conditions stipulated in that licence. Failure to comply with any of these would render any mining activity carried out illegal. Mr Speaker, the ascendancy of illegal mining activities had reached a point where it had become a menace, threatening livelihoods and even our sources of water had been polluted. It is this preponderance of the flouting of the legislative framework for such operations by a large number/proportion of small-scale miners, with its associated threat to life and property that led to Government declaring a 6-month moratorium on all small-scale mining activities in April 2017. Government put a complete ban on mining in river bodies and suspension on issuance of new licences. This was to create opportunity to eliminate the worst forms of this activity and also use the period to ensure that small scale mining was streamlined with due regard to the environment, safety and other land-use dimensions. Indeed, with the support of the Media and this Honourable House, this information was broadcast across the country. Mr Speaker, however, some recalcitrant operators still perpetrated their illegal activities, generally with no regard for their own safety and security, much less that of others. This is, unfortunately, what created the setting for the Prestea-Nsuta accident and its fatalities. Government partnered other stakeholders in rescue efforts. The Deputy Minister spent 5 working days with other stakeholders, comprising: the Safety Department of Golden Star (Prestea-Bogosu); NADMO, the Fire Service; Association of Small Scale Miners; the Police; officials of the District Assembly and the Inspectorate Division of the Minerals Commission; as well as adjoining communities led by their chiefs and Elders in the rescue efforts. Mr Speaker, however, instead of continuing to undertake salvage exercises after incidents, Government decided to increase the preventive measures to forestall, or at least, minimise the occurrence of further accidents. In the short-term, the preventive measures employed have included the deployment of coordinated security forces, under the name of Operation Vanguard. The interventions have minimised illegal mining activities. However, a longer term plan is being worked on and a coordinated project, the Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) has been developed, taken through validation, and is being fine- tuned to enable us secure the requisite financial and other resources to start its implementation. Unlike the short-term measures which focus on just reducing the activity, the long term approach is more holistic and incorporates developing alternative livelihoods and other social engagement methods to also assure the citizenry of economic sustenance. We have, therefore, decided to spend our efforts more on this multilateral and comprehensive approach to completely stamp out illegal mining.
Hon Member, the last question.
Thank you very much, Hon Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I would like the Hon Minister to clarify something in the Answer as it relates to the Question that my Hon Colleague asked. He asked the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources the actions the Ministry took when some illegal miners were trapped in a mining pit in Prestea-Nsuta. Mr Speaker, in response to the Question starred 175 on page 22 of the Order Paper, the Hon Minister says in the first paragraph, and with your permission, I beg to quote: “Mr Speaker, the direct answer to the question is that the Ministry did not and is not planning to institute an independent public inquiry into the Prestea-Nsuta mining disaster…” Mr Speaker, I fail to understand how this is a direct answer to the Question that was asked. Can the Hon Minister explain how this is a direct answer to the Question that was asked by our Hon Colleague as captured in his Answer?
This is only an indication of your dissatisfaction. It should not be answered. Any further questions? The last question, then, we come to Leadership.
Mr Speaker, I would want the Hon Minister to clarify for my understanding what he meant by MMIP as a long-term approach in dealing with the illegal mining challenge that we have.
Hon Minister, he wants a clarification. Please, clarify for the Hon Member.
Mr Speaker, the MMIP is a five-year project that puts together legislation, enforcement and technology in addressing the illicit mining we have within Ghana. Mr Speaker, over the period, we have noticed that technology has been missing in our value chain in terms of the mining regime we have in Ghana. What the MMIP seeks to do is to bring in technology which includes applications of satellite imagery,
Thank you very much. Hon Leadership? [Interruption.] Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister in his Answer was emphatic when he referred just to the last question on his MMIP. He indicates that they have put together a legislation. I am not aware that he has come to this House with any new legislation. Is he referring to the proposed legislation? [Interruption.] But if he says legislations, he should come clear on which legislations and whether they are not in the public interest for him to institute a public inquiry into the matter.
Mr Speaker, the Answer to the Question is on page 23 of the Order Paper. Legislations, as we aware, would definitely have to come to this august House. So, that has not been done. But the programme is incorporating existing legislations, enforcement and technology. The programme is not putting together new legislations, but the existing ones are being looked at and the enforcement procedures are being well defined in addition to technology. That is what the programme entails.
Mr Speaker, no question.
Thank you. Hon Minister, you would continue this in your seat as the Hon Member for Tatale/ Sanguli asks his Question listed 174 on the Order Paper.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
MINISTRY OF LANDS AND NATURAL
Mr Speaker, Ghana has two (2) major iron ore deposits in the northern part of the country; at Pudo in the Upper West Region and at Shieni in the Northern Region, located approximately 160 kilometres east of Tamale. The deposits contain total resources of 1,270 million tonnes with grades of not less than 30 per cent iron which can be upgraded using beneficiation approach. Two hundred million tonnes of the deposit is estimated to contain a higher grade of 45 per cent. Mr Speaker, in the past, energy requirements for ore beneficiation and transportation were major challenges. However, it is expected that additional energy from the Bui Dam project and the recent thermal projects being undertaken by Government will address the energy challenge. The Volta Lake is also some 48 kilometres away, and the development of a lake transport system could improve accessibility to the Shieni deposits. The lake port of Yapei is about 96 kilometres southeast of the deposit. Government facilitated the development of such resources by the private sector through promotional drives and invitations to undertake due diligence. In view of this, a company named Emmaland Resources Ltd was ultimately granted a Prospecting Licence over the area in 2011, which was subsequently extended in 2014. However, a protracted court case ensued between the company and another Ghanaian company over the deposit. Subsequently, there was judgement in favour of Emmaland Resources Ltd in March, 2016. The other party filed an appeal in court over the judgement. Therefore, Emmaland has not been able to mobilise to continue with the exploration activities to validate historical data as well as prove other deposits in the area. Emmaland has spent quite over US$10 million on exploring the deposit so far. Granted that the exploration work confirms the suitability of the grades and tonnages available, the company will proceed to prepare a Feasibility Study Report for review by the Minerals Commission. Following from the feasibility study report, Mr Speaker, a mining lease, which alone can be given, or a right for developing the concession may be granted by the Ministry. Mr Speaker, the feasibility study report will be the basis for the timelines for the development of the project. The Ministry, Mr Speaker, is waiting expectantly for the resolution of the judicial impasse to enable us facilitate progress on the project with the investor.
Mr Speaker, what role is his Ministry playing to ensure that the court expedites action on the impasse?
Mr Speaker, unfortunately, the Ministry cannot and does not have the capacity to intervene in the court process.
Any question from Leadership?
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, may I kindly yield to Hon Kwabena Donkor.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister stated that energy was one of the major constraints to the development of the Sheini deposit in the past, and that with the Bui Dam, there would be energy for the project. I wonder whether the Hon Minister knows that the Bui Dam generates at 10 cents per kilowatt hour, and therefore, in terms of energy effectiveness, the dam would not provide the answer. Mr Speaker, he also mentioned the Yapei Dam; I would want to ask him whether he is aware that the Yapei Dam has been dysfunctional for decades.
Mr Speaker, the Answer to the former Hon Minister for Energy is, the Bui Dam is a hydro energy source. What I did state here were the Bui Dam project and the recent thermal projects. So, even though one would not directly use the Bui Dam or the Bui Dam might not directly contribute, once in the grid, it is added-up energy. So, the availability of the Bui Dam in combination with any other sources -- which of course we know our energy problems are now being gradually addressed-- we strongly believe that would be a source of energy to speed up the process. The operational status of the ports; we understand that the ports are just about 96 kilometres (km) south east of the deposits. For proper operations and transportation of this ore to be done, there would definitely be a need to do some level of upgrading or more activities on the port area to make sure that transportation by the lake is done. Maj Derek Oduro (retd): Mr Speaker, he said that the litigation over the project has been on since the year 2011. Would it not be prudent for the Ministry to intervene, so that this litigation would be brought to a close for us to get the benefit of the deposit?
Mr Speaker, the judgement was given in favour of the company in March, 2016 and not the year 2011; but it is the appeal by the other party that is currently ongoing. So, the judgement had already been delivered in the year 2016.
Hon Minority Leader, if you are not really certain on the chronology of events, I noticed -- Hon Donkor was already on his feet.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, yes, but when you called him, he yielded his place to Hon Kwabena Donkor --
Please, I did not consider that yielding. I did say that there are many times when Hon Members and Leaders have drawn my attention to other Hon Members who were on their feet ready to speak or ask a question. I balance all these before I proceed, and I did make mention of that. Hon Minority Leader, you may ask your question.
Mr Speaker, I can only thank you for the honour, and I would keep it very brief. I am aware of a larger Government policy and interest in the development of iron ore and other mineral resources including uranium, which was part of the agenda of the Vice President-led delegation to China. I just wonder whether the Hon Minister situates his responses within the larger Government umbrella of managing these mineral resources.
Mr Speaker, yes, the Ministry in collaboration with the Government and its objectives of developing these deposits -- the Ministry's agenda is in collaboration with Government's larger agenda of developing these mineral deposits. As a Ministry, we are not doing this in isolation; it is an aspect of Government's bigger agenda.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader, you may ask the last Question.
Mr Speaker, is Emmaland Resources Limited a Chinese company, and would they work with the Chinese interest tomorrow, assuming Government signs a larger contractual obligation over the exploitation of the resources?
Mr Speaker, that development pattern or structure would be negotiated when we get there.
Hon Majority Leader, any other question?
Mr Speaker, I would just want to ask the Hon Minister whether he considers that the recent consideration by the Government to introduce solar energy would result in bringing down the cost of energy production in the north -- such that the exploitation of the resource would come down considerably in order to make it beneficial to Ghana.
Mr Speaker, the Government of Ghana has embarked on an aggressive energy-mix strategy to make sure that we incorporate other sources of energy into our energy mix. The introduction of solar energy is key in addressing our energy problems. Mr Speaker, I would want to assure the House that the addition of more solar energy would be key in addressing our energy problems to finally resolve issues that are necessary in the application of energy in our industrial materials and other usages.
Hon Members, we would proceed to Question numbered 175 on the Order Paper standing in the name of the Hon Member for Kumbungu.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful. The Question has already been answered, and for that matter I would stand it down. Thank you very much.
Hon Member, thank you very much. We would move to the Question numbered 176 on the Order Paper -- Hon Isaac Adjei Mensah. Number of closed down Galamsey sites across the country Mr Isaac Adjei Mensah asked the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources how many galamsey sites across the country have so far been closed down and their regional locations.
Mr Speaker, galamsey activities are rather widespread, covering most of the country. The sheer numbers, aerial spans and the remoteness of these illegal operations which cause wanton destruction to the environment in terms of land degradation and pollution of rivers is a phenomenon found in virtually all regions of the country. It is estimated that 4 per cent of Ghana's total land surface of 238,000 sq. km is highly degraded as a result of the galamsey menace. Mr Speaker, while there are thousands of such sites across the country, the following are the noted galamsey-prone areas: Bolgatanga, Wa, Bole, Berekum, Bibiani, Asankragwa, Tarkwa, Dunkwa, Akwatia, Konongo, Tinga, Dormaa, Kenyase, Juaboso, Enchi, Wassa Akropong, Prestea, Daboase, Diaso, Manso Nkwanta, Obuasi, Assin Fosu, Akim Oda, Kwabeng, and Nkawie.
Hon Minister, thank you very much.
Mr Speaker, I rise to ask the Hon Minister to indicate to this House the numbers or a single galamsey site that had been closed or shut down.
Mr Speaker, an example of an illicit mining site that has been shut down is the Geo Professional Service (GPS) site which is located in the Ashanti Region, where two Ukrainians and Russians were arrested. Mr Speaker, currently, that site has been shut down.
Hon Member, any other follow up question?
Mr Speaker, my question was actually about how many galamsey sites have so far been closed down. Fortunately, he gave us one that has been closed down. Mr Speaker, the next question is, what measures does the Ministry have in place to ensure that no illegal miners re-occupy or re-enter the sites that have been closed down and evacuated?
Mr Speaker, currently, the taskforce has been deployed across the country. The rationale for the deployment of the taskforce is to make sure the illicit miners do not have the opportunity to revisit those sites that have been shut down. One particular site is owned by Geo Professional Service, which I have earlier mentioned.
Hon Member, let us carry on with your question for the time been.
Mr Speaker, I have asked my question, and the question is --
Hon Member, once your question is on the floor, it must be answered before we tackle other purported business. Hon Minister, please, answer the question.
Mr Speaker, I mentioned the “Wa area” and not “Wa” specifically. We normally use an easily identifiable mark or a bigger city to locate some of these illicit mining sites. That is why I mentioned the “Wa area”. So, it is Wa and its environs.
Hon Minister, you have answered the question. Any further questions? Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I have just learnt from the Answer given by the Hon Minister that my noble Municipality is now a galamsey-prone area. I just would want to find out from the Hon Minister what criterion he used to define the gallamsey-prone area. Which other classifications does he have, and since when did we adopt that classification? This is because we know other communities have not been heard of here, but my place is now a galamsey- prone area.
Mr Speaker, galamsey or illicit mining activity --
Hon Minister, we would like to know the classification for “galamsey proners”.
Mr Speaker, galamsey or illicit mining activity is defined as any methodology adopted in the mining practices to extract ore which does not conform to the specifications, rules, norms, and regulations within the mining law. Any area that undertakes these activities is classified as a prone area. We are not necessarily looking at the magnitude or the number of people engaged. So long as the activities do not conform to the specifications, norms, regulations and laws that mandate people to undertake that activity, we describe them as prone areas.
The final question, then we close. Hon Member?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Minister; the closure of these galamsey sites resulted in the seizure of products and equipment. Section 99 (5) of the Mineral and Mining Acts as amended in the year 2015 outlines where these products or equipment should be. It outlines that it should be in the custody of the police. We watched, listened and saw some equipment burnt. I would want to ask the Hon Minister whether that action by the security forces is a breach of the law?
Hon Member, there is no nexus between your question and the main Question, and you seek that he expresses an opinion on what may even border on legal issues. Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, mine would be to refer the Hon Minister to page 24 of the Order Paper. He provides an elaborate list of what he describes as galamsey-prone areas. Conspicuously lost is Kibi and Prestea Nsuta as he himself responded to. [Interruptions.] I just would want to find out whether lives in the area have so improved that they have since abandoned what they have also gained notoriety for.
Mr Speaker, the phrase there is: “…the following are the noted galamsey-prone areas:” Mr Speaker, Kibi is under Akim Oda. [Uproar.] These are the mining --
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I have no question.
Hon Minister, the House is done with you for now. Thank you for attending to the House to answer our Questions. You may go. Item numbered 5 on the Order Paper - - Statements. Hon Members, there is a Statement on World Mental Health Day, a day that commemorates the World Health Day, in the names of Hon Dr Baba Kuganab-Lem and the Hon Member for Ledzokuku, Hon Dr Bernard Okoe Boye. Hon Dr Okoe Boye?
Mr Speaker, I am very grateful for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, World Mental Health Day is set aside globally for observing mental health issues ranging from progress points in mental health practice, to challenges on mental health workers, rights and needs as well as raising the need for awareness on mental health education. Mr Speaker, a healthy body can be so called only when both the physical body and the mind are both healthy. A healthy brain is not necessarily a healthy mind. The mind functions with the brain as the Central Processing Unit while other elements such as perception of events, interpretation of events, and one's belief of what is considered acceptable to society all add up to establish the mind. Any abnormality of the mind of an individual that affects the individual's proper functioning in the family, corporate and/or societal setting is considered as a mental disorder. A few signs of mental disorder include feeling sad for a longer loss of interest and pleasure in favourite sports or activity; sudden and dramatic changes in mood, such as extreme distress or anger; lack of sleep (insomnia) usually less than six hours, sudden drastic changes in weight due to eating disorders; extreme fear and/or anxiety; feeling guilty or worthless; and gravitating towards mother tongue at the expense of other languages learnt. Many causes can be listed for mental health disorders. Some notable ones include severe psychological trauma such as the gas explosion at the Atomic Junction recently, relationship breakage, divorce, hard economic conditions, physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse and genetic association like-close relative with a history of mental illness. Mr Speaker, in Ghana, mental health practice has made some significant gains such as the passage of the Mental Health Act (Act 846) and the establishment of the Mental Health Authority. Mr Speaker, unfortunately, the few gains in the mental health faculty have been drowned by the numerous challenges in mental health practice in Ghana. According to the Kintampo Project Report, by Dr Mark Roberts, Prof. Joseph Asare et al, 10 - 58 per cent disorders in Ghana had no known cause, which is a good reason to invest in further research to identify local causes of mental disorders. Minimal research activity in mental health has a link to inadequate funding in mental health practice. In 2011, only 1.4 per cent of Ghana Health Service's spending went into mental health practice. Mr Speaker, clearly, it is not only the mental health patient that is treated with stigma by a sizeable number of Ghanaians. Even the mental health practitioners, administrators, and nurses are all treated with some level of prejudice. Mental disorders can be treated, and this message should be carried out across Ghana through aggressive educational programmes, so that we as a country can effectively diminish the stigmatisation and succeed at promoting the reintegration of cured mental patients back into society. Mr Speaker, about four out of every ten Ghanaians are claimed by sufficient empirical studies to be mentally challenged -- that is, having a mental disorder. Out of 275 people in a family, 110 would likely have mental issues when we go by the statistical ration given. Mr Speaker, this family, be it in Ghana, Europe or America, obviously must be interested in supporting every effort to promote mental health education. Every mentally ill person was once mentally stable like us. Anyone can become a patient; the more reason Hon Members must become ambassadors for Mental Health. I am very grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for the attention.
Mr Speaker, thank you. Mr Speaker, the World Mental Health Day is set aside for the promotion of mental health education, awareness creation and advocacy against social stigmatisation. This is annually celebrated across the globe with the focus on bringing attention to mental illness and its key effects on the lives of people. This year, the theme for the campaign is dubbed, “Mental health in the workplace”. It brings to the fore the need for raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilising efforts to support a better mental healthcare, in our workplaces. Mr Speaker, according to the World Health Organisation, mental health disorders accounted for 12 per cent of the global disease burden in 2000, and it is estimated to increase to 15 per cent in 2020. Unipolar depression is also predicted to increase from the fourth to the second most disabling health condition in the world. Mr Speaker, recently, there has been an increased number of suicide cases in the country with a large proportion occurring amongst the youth. Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicidal tendencies are as a result of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders and substance abuse, including alcoholism. Stress from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, pressure from colleagues and employers at workplaces, and loneliness are other known reasons for suicide. Mr Speaker, modernisation of our society goes with increased levels of depression and anxiety disorders as a result of increased social stress. Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have grave impact on our ability to work. The World Health Organisation characterises depression as one of the most disabling disorders in the world. Mr Speaker, in the past, colonial psychiatrists asserted the virtual absence of depression among Africans. However, in recent times, depression has been noted as the commonest mental illness among Ghanaians. It is the assertion of psychologists in Ghana that, 7 out of 10 people in the country suffer from one form of depression or the other. The role of psychologists in mental health care is very important as they assess, diagnose, and manage psycho- logical problems and behavioural dysfunctions resulting from, or related to physical and mental issues. Most educational institution and workplaces lack psychologists who will attend to their mental needs; yet, our universities train a lot of psychologists, who are very useful for our psycho-social wellbeing. The need for psychologists to be engaged in institutions and workplaces is now. Mr Speaker, a high level of commitment from the Executive arm of Govemment is needed to give a big push to the mental health agenda. The Mental Health Authority Act was passed in 2012. The Legislative Instrument is yet to be brought to Parliament for its passage. Mr Speaker, to increase productivity in our workplaces, organisations should put some resources to improve the mental conditions of employees. Medical examinations should not be limited to only screening for physical medical conditions, but should include mental examination. It is crucial that mental health assessment is done for all persons in high offices of responsibility including Members of Parliament. Mr Speaker, this is a constitutional requirement. As part of the medical examination conducted for newly admitted tertiary students, mental screening should be incorporated. Continuing students should also do annual screening, so that any aberration is noted and the student supported. Mr Speaker, this year's theme requires us to mobilise efforts in the support of better mental health at workplaces. Mr Speaker, with your guidance, Parliament can lead this crusade against a neglected critical health issue -- A health issue that does not affect an individual only but the country as a whole. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statements ably made by my good Friend from Ledzokuku and my Brother on the other side of the House. Mr Speaker, yesterday in England, Prince Harry and the Ministry of Defence -- and I am happy the Hon Minister for Defence is here -- teamed up to promote a new mental health strategy for the armed forces personnel and veterans in the United Kingdom. Mr Speaker, various causes, challenges and recommendations have been ably enumerated by the Hon Members who made the Statements. Issues in Las Vegas last week and Norway, a couple of years ago, make some of these issues very important to the development of mental health; and it is very important for a country like Ghana to fashion out a good strategy to deal with them. Mr Speaker, Military officers, Members of Parliament, students and what have you must be made to undergo a compulsory annual mental health screening. Mr Speaker, it is very important. Mr Speaker, it is not everybody who is well dressed that is mentally sound. It could be anybody in this Chamber. Mr Speaker, if somebody, a retired financier, could go and hire a hotel room and just spray and kill over 50 people, then it means that we must take some of these issues critically. Mr Speaker, in other civilised jurisdictions, every individual has a lawyer, a doctor and a psychiatrist. It is not for anything. It is not because people are crazy or what have you, but we never can tell. We need a psychiatrist, a doctor and a lawyer to represent us at every point in our lives and we have taken some of these matters on a lighter note. Mr Speaker, funding for these health institutions that support these medical challenges is not in a good stead. I advocate for the setting up of the Charities Commission in the same lines as the UK and the Indian Charities Commission, where we would be able to streamline donations into some of these charities or
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Hereafter, we would take one contribution from each side and then the Leaders.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to also contribute to the Statements made by my Hon Colleagues on World Mental Health Day, which falls on 10th October every year. Mr Speaker, the theme for this year's celebration, as articulated by my Hon Colleagues, is “Mental Health at the Workplace”. Mr Speaker, the theme is important because productivity is a function of competence and job satisfaction. Mr Speaker, whether you are a farmer, an MP, a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist, a teacher, a housewife, you should be happy wherever you work. Mr Speaker, unfortunately, many people suffer depression or anxiety at their various workplaces and in fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that, about 300 million people suffer from depression and over 200 million people suffer from anxiety just from work-related issues. In Ghana, the situation is not different. Mr Speaker, what confronts us at our workplaces or what drives depression is that, some bosses do not even appreciate the efforts of their workers. Mr Speaker, after a hard day's work, every worker demands a smile on the face of the boss. That is not the case in some workplaces in Ghana. Mr Speaker, the environment in which we work is important in determining whether we are happy or not. That is the essence of this year's theme. That wherever we work, let us make the conditions favourable for workers so that they would be excited to contribute to increase productivity. Mr Speaker, you would realise that at the end of the month, many people feel sad instead of being happy. This is because at the end of the month, every worker demands their salary. However—
Hon Member, you would be winding up.
However, either the salary would not come or what comes cannot take us home. And we need to address all these factors so that workers would be happy in Ghana and that we can increase productivity for the development of this country. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to add my voice to the Statements made by my two Hon Colleagues.
Thank you very much, Hon Dr Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings. Minority Leadership?
Mr Speaker, I am the available Leader and I would like to yield to Dr Mark Kurt Nawaane, who is the Hon Member of Parliament for Nabdam because of his medical profession.
Mr Speaker, I want to thank my Hon Colleagues, Dr Okoe Boye and Dr Kuganab-Lem for the very good Statements that they have made. Mr Speaker, from the submissions, 12 to 15 per cent of the Global Disease Burden in 2010 is that of mental cases. Then, four out of every10 Ghanaians, that is, about 40 per cent of Ghanaians are mentally challenged. But at the same time, in 2011, Ghana as a country, we spent 1.4 per cent of our health resources to treat mental cases. That is a summary of the problem that we have in the country; inadequate funding of our mental health.
Thank you very much, Hon Member, for your contribution. Hon Members, there is a Statement on the Atomic Junction fire to be delivered by Hon Emmanuel Akwasi Gyamfi, Chairman of the Committee on Mines and Energy. Atomic Junction Gas Explosion (1)
Mr Speaker, I am grateful. Mr Speaker, with a heavy heart I make this Statement to this august House. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to make this Statement on the gas explosion which occurred at Atomic Junction on the night of Saturday, 7th October, 2017. Mr Speaker, permit me to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of our dear brothers and sisters who have lost their lives during this deadly explosion. We have been told that seven (7) people lost their lives, while, about one hundred and thirty-two people sustained various degrees of injuries. Properties and personal belongings worth millions of cedis have also been lost. The trauma that many Ghanaians went through are still fresh in our minds. Mr Speaker, this is the eighth explosion on roll since 2014. Never again should the nation experience this unfortunate deadly explosion. We cannot continue to allow such preventable accidents to happen again, and therefore, we need to do everything possible to end it by ensuring strict adherence to all safety, health and technical standards by all operators. The Ministry of Energy which is responsible for ensuring efficient and effective operations of all fuel stations, including diesel, petrol and gas stations must act and ensure that operators adhere to all safety regulations and health standards. The National Petroleum Authority, Energy Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities who are charged with different responsibilities of issuing licences and permits to operators must act immediately to ensure that the industry is free from bad operators. Licences and permits issued must meet all requirements and be regularly inspected to make sure that the right things are done. The Statement by the Minister for Energy, Hon Boakye Agyarko to recruit two hundred safety auditors is therefore welcome. This is to ensure that all diesel, petrol and gas stations are audited immediately for safety, health and technical standards and those who fall short of the audit standards are sanctioned. Mr Speaker, the Minister also made mention of the gas re-circulation policy which is aimed at addressing preventable explosions which we have been witnessing in recent times. Stakeholder engagement is ongoing but has had to be put on hold as a result of some misunderstanding between bulk transporters of gas. There is, therefore the need to re- engage the various stakeholders to resolve all outstanding issues for the policy to come into force. The policy is to allow bottling plants to be sited offsite where there would be strict adherence to safety and technical conditions. Cylinders will be refilled at these plants and distributed to customers through the existing gas stations. The policy, if implemented, will minimise the incidence of explosions and its associated effects. Mr Speaker, I wish to appeal to all relevant institutions, including the Energy Commission, National Petroleum Authority, Ghana National Fire Service and the Public Utility Regulatory Commission to step up their public education on gas usage, as it has become one of the sources for heating and cooking in our homes. Consumption of gas for various purposes is on the increase and the necessary preventive and management safety and health standards must be followed. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the oppor- tunity.
Hon Member, thank you very much. Hon John Jinapor who also submitted a Statement after this Statement by the Hon Chairman, would make his Statement at this stage. Atomic Junction Gas Explosion (II)
Mr Speaker, thank you very much.
Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would wish to skip some of the introductory statements because our Statements virtually capture some of the points and I would then proceed with what I consider as the salient points because of time factor.
Thank you very much, Hon Member.
Mr Speaker, for the record, this is not the first of its kind. Available information confirms that Ghana has since 2014 recorded, at least, eight of such major explosions. In all these cases, six were recorded in the Greater Accra Region, one in Takoradi in the Western Region, and one at Kasoa in the Central Region. Two of these cases were recorded in 2014, two in 2015, one in 2016 and three in 2017 alone. Statistics from the authorities have revealed that about 35 per cent of the over 300 burnt cases recorded at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital this year were from gas explosions; Mr Speaker, I must emphasise that this is not good news for Ghana. Mr Speaker, these disasters can be minimised and possibly prevented, should the laid down safety measures and protocols be observed and adhered to. Managing and handling of petroleum products which by themselves are volatile and highly combustible, require strict adherence to the various laid down regulations and protocols as well as continuous training, education and more importantly, enforcement of the various laws regulating the sector. In Ghana, the downstream petroleum sector is regulated mainly by the National Petroleum Authority, which was established by an Act of Parliament (NPA Act 2005, ACT 691). As a Regulator, the Authority ensures that the industry remains efficient, profitable, fair, and at the same time, ensure that consumers receive value for money. In addition to this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formally established on 30th December, 1994 and given the responsibility of regulating the environment and ensuring the implementation of Government policies on the environment. The EPA, among others, have a responsibility to ensure that air, land and water are looked after by everyone in today's society, so that tomorrow's generations inherit a cleaner, healthier world. To complement this, Mr Speaker, the Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD), established in 1945, has a duty and responsibility for planning and management of growth and the development of the cities, towns and villages in the country. Moreover, the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), established in 1963 by Act 219, was given additional responsibilities under Act 537. As part of its core mandate, the GNFS has a responsibility to ensure the prevention and management of undesired fires and other related matters. The purpose of Act 537 was to expand the functions of the GNFS, taking into cognisance modern trends fire fighting services all over the world; from fire intervention to fire prevention and safety. These agencies are just a few of several State agencies and institutions expected to play various roles towards ensuring that we do not experience calamities of this magnitude. 2.34 p.m. —
MR SECOND DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Jinapor, continue.
Mr Speaker, this is to tell us that if all these agencies were to work, we would probably not experience such a calamity of this magnitude. There are indeed strict requirements for siting a fuel station in this country. Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are required to apply for a “No Objection letter” together with a site plan for verification by the NPA. NPA's evaluation of the site is vital to the issuance of licence to OMCs. OMCs have a legal obligation to adhere to safety standards issued by the NPA which monitors the activities in the downstream sector in collaboration with the GNFS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Town and Country Planning Department, as I stated earlier. The question to ask is, with all these agencies and their various mandates, do we have any further excuse for the disaster of last Saturday night? It is my contention that the causes of these explosions can largely be attributed to the lack of enforcement of regulations and guidelines by the various agencies responsible for their enforcement. Indeed, we do have enough laws; the challenge is the enforcement of these laws. Currently, most people who live close to gas and petrol stations live in fear, because they believe that sooner or later, they could suffer the same fate. Their fears are well grounded because the NPA's regulations stipulate that gas and fuel stations should be sited at a minimum of 30.8 metres or 100ft from residential areas, this unfortunate development appears to be continuosly flouted Records from the NPA have shown that Ghana operates about two thousand, nine hundred (2,900) fuel service stations and six hundred (600) Liquefied Petroleum Gas Product (LPG) dispensing centres across the country. Mr Speaker, I have deliberately refrained from cataloguing instances or examples of some of these infractions, because it is my firm conviction that where regulations work, the other accompanying concomitant challenges will be addressed. In the petroleum sector, the catch phrase is strict adherence and enforcement of the regulations and guidelines. As an august House with oversight responsibility, I wish to appeal to you, Mr Speaker, to direct the various committees of Parliament to take particular interest in ensuring that we constantly monitor and keep the various agencies on their toes. We must continuously engage these agencies in order to determine their challenges and factors militating against the enforcement of these laws so as to avert any future calamity. Mr Speaker, public education should also be of utmost priority for us all, especially on how to conduct ourselves in response to such an event or those of similar nature. The pandemonium that we all witnessed on this day and the previous events clearly attest to the fact that the nation needs to be educated on how to respond to such incidences. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, the number of Hon Members on their feet is quite large. So, I would give the opportunity to those Hon Members I know are in the sector and have overseen and practised in the sector, so that we can focus on exacting some expertise in the contribution. We do not want to be hearing “never, never again”. [Laughter.] It has been happening every year and we keep saying “never, never again”. Let us look at how we can prevent this from happening again. So, I would call Hon Agyarko to comment on the Statement.
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement on the gas explosion which occurred on the night of Saturday, 7th October, 2017, at Atomic Junction in Accra, and ably made by Hon Gyamfi and Hon Jinapor. Mr Speaker, I am the Hon Member of Parliament for the area where this unfortunate incident occurred. Kindly permit me to use this opportunity to express my most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the bereaved families and also to the numerous people who have suffered some casualties -- some on admission in hospitals and those who were treated and discharged. Mr Speaker, in the Statement of Hon Gyamfi, the operative phrase for me was “such preventable accidents”. Assuming that the siting of these LPG dispensing stations were all right, I believe it is one of the issues, as there had been much talk about the siting of these stations. But I would want to assume that in this particular case, they had approval from National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and they even had approval from the Town and Country Planning Department. Mr Speaker, the real issue was their failure to completely abide by the safety regulations. I would really wish that we have the report of the investigative body that looked into this. While it is not ready, I happened to have gone to the scene the night that the incident happened and the following morning. From eyewitness account, it is alleged that there was some gas leakage. A tanker had come to discharge LPG and it is alleged that there was a leakage and that the attendants just shouted and ran away. Mr Speaker, the real problem is that, we need to find out if the people these LPG stations employ to do this work really understand what they are doing. Secondly, do these people have any training on what to do in the event of an accident like this? I believe this is where the problem started from. Mr Speaker, I have a classmate who once happened to be the managing director of one of the multinational oil companies. He mentioned to me that 23 years ago, all of them decided to get out of that business because there were no margins to ensure that anybody that did that business would be able to meet the safety requirements. There are very high safety requirements -- indeed, one could even ask, in the event that they detected that there was a leakage, did they have the chemicals and training to contain the leakage? In my view, these are the real challenges and these are the things that we must be looking at going forward. Mr Speaker, if we do not do something about this, there is the chance that it would happen again. I have heard His Excellency the President, the Vice President and the Hon Minister for the sector say that they would be at Cabinet on Tuesday and that they would issue new guidelines. I completely agree with one of the Hon Members who made the Statement that there must be enough laws. But I believe it is the enforcement of those laws -- I heard the Vice President clearly say that when they set out to enforce those laws, nobody must complain. Mr Speaker, I believe as a Parliament, we must help the Executive to ensure that if the laws come, all of us would obey these laws. If it does not, then in another three months, we would be here speaking about this same thing. Mr Speaker, the issue is about following the safety procedures; I would want to ask, as I have heard that there is a Bill being prepared on health and safety, I believe that as a House, we must expedite this. NPA may issue the licence, EPA and even Town and Country Planning Department may approve of the site, but I believe that there must be a health and safety executive who goes round on a regular basis to ensure that all of these operators strictly comply with the requirement. For instance, in the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, I believe there is an agency called Factory Inspectorate division. When you even look at the vehicles and offices of this agency, it is nothing to write home about but it is such an important agency. Mr Speaker, to sum up, I am reliably informed that out of the seven casualties, there is virtually none that died as a result of coming into direct contact with the fire. I know of three or four cases -- in one case, I hear of a media man who was trying to capture the incident and when the fire came towards him, he jumped off the overheard bridge and died. I am also informed that in the panic, some two children who were running were knocked down by a car, the driver himself also in a panic mood. Mr Speaker, indeed, in Legon, there may be about 30 students who suffered various casualties. Four of them are on admission. One student I went to see at the University Hospital actually jumped off his balcony when he thought that the fire was coming towards his hall of residence. Again, Mr Speaker, it brings into question our own exposure to emergency preparedness. In this country, we have the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the Ghana National Fire Service. I wonder whether we ever clearly understand how to react to emergencies. I daresay, Mr Speaker, that even in this House, if there is fire right now, I wonder whether we the enlightened ones, Hon Members of Parliament, would know exactly what to do. In our own houses, if the gas cylinder begins to leak, I wonder whether we would know what to do in that event.
Hon Mahama Ayariga?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statements. Let me also thank the two Hon Members who made the Statement and to join Hon Colleagues in expressing condolences to the families of the bereaved and extend sympathies to the injured and those who have lost properties as a result of this incident. Mr Speaker, the Hon Members who made the Statements have given us some statistics that are instructive. We have about 2,900 outlets in terms of stations that dispense petroleum products and 600 stations that dispense gas. One has been involved in this incident. The casualties are serious enough but this is one out of several hundreds and thousands. When occasions like this occur, we tend to focus on the institutions that are responsible. He has mentioned several institutions that are responsible. I believe a lot has been said about the institutions already, and what one can say for now is to urge them to continue to do their work but to improve upon the way that they perform their functions. One, by making sure that they take decisions based on the right technical advice and not as a result of inappropriate influences. This is because it is often difficult to justify the decisions to site those facilities at those locations. Mr Speaker, I recall that in my days as the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, I had the occasion to shut down a number of fuel stations. Very often, after shutting down these fuel stations, we would be confronted by the owners who would show us that they have every conceivable permit under this sun. They have the Ghana National Fire Service permit, the NPA permit and my own EPA permit. They have every permit, including District Assembly permit. They have every permit that one can imagine but Mr Speaker, an ordinary person looking at the location where the facility has been sited can just see that there is a problem. On one occasion when they produced all those permits, I still insisted that considering the objections that the community members had, I felt the facility ought to be shut down. I am talking about a similar gas station that was coming up right opposite the Islamic Senior High School in Kumasi. I travelled to Kumasi to see the site. The EPA argued that they had given him all the technical prescriptions. They had asked him to construct a seven inch thick bunker where he was supposed to install the facility. Everything that they thought was needed to ensure safety, they had prescribed and this investor had invested money to actually cater for all these. But the students in the Islamic Senior High School who are directly opposite the facility said they would not allow the facility to dispense gas there. So, I advised that there is something also called social impact assessment. If one has met all the requirements and yet over 2,000 young boys and girls across the street have an objection to the facility, then one might want to reconsider his investment. This is because anyone of them can one day engage in a conduct that would expose everybody to danger. So, Mr Speaker, there is a major problem. The public awareness of the technical issues involved and the realities in terms of what safety measures really need to be put in place -- Lastly, Mr Speaker, because a lot has been said and I would want to focus on your direction that we should look at how to resolve the issue. Very often, when incidents like this occur, we are hard on the institutions and we often fail to focus on the individuals. Like the Hon Colleague, Mr Agyarko has indicated, if we analyse this situation, we cannot say the siting is wrong. This is because this facility has been there for years, and technically, it would be difficult to fault the siting of it. National Petroleum Authority claims it has been doing the routine maintenance and checks. From eyewitness accounts, clearly, there is some element of negligence. Mr Speaker, I have not heard so far, that for all the years that we have been experiencing these incidents, we have taken legal action against the owners of the facilities under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher, which is a basic tort principle that when one brings anything to his property which escapes and causes danger to third parties, he or she should be held accountable for the damage that it caused. Mr Speaker, very often, our failure to take on the owners of the facility and their insurance and make them pay dearly for the loss of lives and property has often led to others not taking a cue and continuing to behave in very reckless and negligent ways which result in these dangers. We can take all the tax moneys and pay compensation which I believe is wrong. This is because someone causes a loss and then we take tax payers' moneys to go and pay compensation and that person and their insurance are left to go scot- free. Mr Speaker, I believe it is high time the lawyers, legal aid service organisations and human rights organisations provided assistance to communities that are affected, so that we can take action against owners of these facilities so they can also feel the pain, and then in future, I believe every owner of such a facility would sit up in addition to ensuring that State institutions also do their work. Mr Speaker, on that note, let me once again continue to express my condolences to the bereaved, my sympathies to those who are injured and to also urge State institutions to try as much as they can, to do their work to forestall future occurrences of such nature.
Let me recognise the Hon Minister for Works and Housing.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker and I also stand to add my voice to the Statements, one coming from the young looking Hon Chairman of the Committee on Mines and Energy and the other from my Hon Colleague on the other side. [Interruption.] Yes, two young men. Mr Speaker, it is with deep sense of grief that I would want to speak on this matter and anybody who has lost a family member, our sympathies are with you. What is even more serious are those who have suffered burns and body disfigurement and their countenance would change permanently because of this incident. We do not know how much money can compensate for body disfigurement. Mr Speaker, I think what my Hon Colleague who had some legal training in Harvard University said, he mentioned Rylands v Fletcher, which is the area of occupier's liability, I wish to add that we should deal with criminal prosecutions. The reason I am on my feet is not just to talk about safety measures and the rest of them. The owner has elected to own a facility to service the community and it is his property and if one asks me, it is not just the regulatory bodies that we would want to blame for the state of affairs. He owes a duty to himself and his neighbours to ensure that the facility cannot endanger lives. When we want to say that they should go scot-free, we would come and preach another message when a similar incident occurs. Then we are not respecting the laws of this country. Mr Speaker, I just rushed out and fetched the Criminal Offences Act 1960, (Act 29). I know that by your training, you are familiar with section 12 which is on criminal negligence and with your kind permission, I would like to quote: “A person causes an event negligently if, without intending to cause the event, that he causes it by voluntary act, done without the skill and care as are reasonably necessary under the circum- tances”. I am of the humble view that a licensor should be punished for criminal negligence if, with his training whether he is working for the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) or whoever, to licence somebody to run a gas station, when it is not conducive for environmental sanity and safety. That licensor should face criminal justice no matter how exalted he is, because he is supposed to exercise the necessary skill and tell a potential licensee that by my training and skill, he or she is not able to situate a gas station at one particular place or the other. When we say that we are trained to help these individuals who want to have gas stations and the rest of them, and without training, we give them licences which are not conducive to the good of the community, then they should suffer criminal culpability. It is very important. If one owns the place and would not want to even maintain it, I am talking about post-licence agreement, one has the first duty to oneself and society to ensure that one understands what they are doing, and whether there is somebody who is coming to inspect your premises or not, the safety to the community and the area where ones function is paramount. Mr Speaker, so, I would say that there have been several traducers of the law who have gone scot-free. Today, let us begin to talk about criminal compensation. Being a lawyer for a considerable length of time, I have seen that when we give monetary compensations, like he talked about the area of tort; people do not care. The man running the gas station must be so rich. He would dole out money and go scot free but if we arraign him before a criminal court and it is very obvious that because of his criminal negligence, he may be on the verge of going to Nsawam prisons. Also, it is clear that the so-called licensor or NPA technical man was so negligent in the siting of the place and he licenced somebody to do it and if we imprison a couple of them, I can assure you that laws are intended to scare people. The deterrence effect of the law -- and very soon, we would have sanity in this realm. This is because we cannot continue like that. Mr Speaker, so, I am not being mean but I think it is about time we applied section 12 of the Criminal Offences Act of 1960, Act 29 to obviate such terrible tragedies which are beginning to define our landscape.
Three of you are standing in line. Should I give it to the Hon Ranking Member? Definitely, the Hon Ranking Member would have to take precedence.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to associate myself with the Statement ably made by the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Mines and Energy and Hon Jinapor. Mr Speaker, when this occurred, I listened to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NPA and he clearly indicated that the Inspectorate Division submitted a report to the NPA in June. This report highlighted three dispensing centers that needed attention and one of them was the Atomic Junction Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) dispensing center. Indeed, he indicated that they informed the centre and gave them up to the 4th of September, 2017, to do corrective measures. More than a month after that deadline, this incident happened. So, a lot of questions need to be raised. When the deadline elapsed, what happened? Did the Inspectorate Division go there after the 4th of September and when they went, had the correction been made? Mr Speaker, this is an issue that has been with us for the past three or eight years and for each of them, a report has been written. I would want to find out whether the recommendations of this report had been implemented or it was a normal talk show? We talk, a report is written and nothing is implemented. I think it is time we held people responsible for these types of disasters that have happened to us in the recent three years. It is very important that we bring them before Parliament and question them in respect to this.
Let me be guided by Leadership whether they would make some comments; one from each side of the House. Before I come to Leadership, my Friend, Hon (Dr) Kojo Appiah-Kubi would have a bite.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to add my voice in expressing my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. Once again, this country has witnessed a gas explosion in which human lives have been lost and properties destroyed. It is, however, gratifying to know that the President of this country, H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, has acknowledged that the talking must stop and we all agree that the talking must stop. Mr Speaker, to that extent, it is not gainsaying to demand a review of all the policies to close any potential loophole and to ensure high effectiveness and enforcement of these laws. Indeed, I am elated to hear the lawyers on both sides of the House demanding stiffer punishment for the people who violate and abuse these laws. Mr Speaker, but let us not forget that it is these same lawyers who would procrastinate any adjudication of the law. I hope that the lawyers who are demanding stiffer punishment would acknowledge that there are in some instances --
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member has made a very serious statement by saying lawyers just procrastinate issues when the culprits needed to be dealt with. Mr Speaker, I believe that he has no basis to be throwing dust into the eyes of Hon Members of the House. This is a serious statement and I believe that he should withdraw that statement. Mr Speaker, it is baseless.
Hon Dr Appiah-Kubi, what do you say to that?
Mr Speaker, let the State attempt to prosecute or take up the owner of this gas station for any infraction and we would see the number of lawyers who would stand up to defend this person and delay --
Sit down. Sit down.
Hon Member, I am sure that you could get the sense of the House.
Mr Speaker, yes, I get the sense of the House and I would take a cue from you. Mr Speaker, I withdraw.
You do not only withdraw but you would also have to apologise to the lawyers.
I know that Mr Speaker is also a lawyer.
Hon Member, I have not heard your apology.
Mr Speaker, I apologise for the statement that the lawyers are part of the problem. Mr Speaker, I apologise. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, it is in the right direction that the Hon Minister for Energy would also like to undertake an extensive audit of all existing stations. Mr Speaker, in my opinion, I would also suggest that this audit should include a risk assessment of all the stations and the result of this risk assessment should include all the risk profile of these stations and the results should be pasted in all the stations for the general public to see the sort of stations that they patronise. I would also like to put across that it is important for every gas station be made to acquire an International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) safety certificate and also employ a safety assurance manager. Mr Speaker, I think that if this station had a safety assurance manager, he could have probably mobilised the people and given directions as to how the people in that station should behave during such an occurrence. Mr Speaker, education has been emphasised by my Hon Colleagues who have spoken previously and I do not believe that it could be over-emphasised. Mr Speaker, education is key in raising the safety consciousness of the Ghanaian populace and I would also want to put more emphasis on that. That it should be made to be part of the educational curriculum; how do we behave in case of such emergencies, what do we need to do. Mr Speaker, as it was said, most of the deaths that occurred were not as a result of the fire but rather as a result of related occurrences. Mr Speaker, I believe that if we had been given enough safety education and if there had been a safety assurance manager, most of these things could have been nibbed in the bud or they could have been reduced. Mr Speaker, there are a lot of things that we could suggest but I believe that when the time comes these suggestions would flow. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to express my sincere heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, let me also add my voice by extending my condolences to the bereaved families. Mr Speaker, as the Hon Members who have spoken earlier indicated, if we go to the respective districts, we would notice that the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Town and Country Planning Department and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) would tell you that they are not well resourced to undertake their mandated constitutional duties. Mr Speaker, how often does the NPA at the district levels do inspection? Obviously, the tankers that are situated at the various filling stations have not more than 15 years of leverage of filling those tanks. Mr Speaker, but let us go round and inspect and some would have been in existence for more than two decades and of course, they cause harm to the environment. Mr Speaker, it is time for us to resource the decentralised agencies to undertake their mandated duties.
Mr Speaker, schools of thought are suggesting that we move these gas filling stations to the outskirts of the various communities. But I am told that the gas filling station where this incident happened was there before the area got developed. Obviously, it tells us that when we even move the filling stations to the outskirts, development would surely get to the various places and that is not the solution. Mr Speaker, I believe that if we have a centralised area where we could be bottling this fuel and resell to the consumers at the ports or have it as how we have the industrial areas; buildings 100 metres away, it would go a long way into resolving this challenge rather than moving them from where they are now to the outskirts of the various communities. Mr Speaker, when one goes to other jurisdictions, one would realise that gas is piped to the various homes and are not carried in bottles as it is done here. Moreover, if they are even moved to the outskirts, people would go there with lots of weakened cylinders and cylinders that do not conform to the standards that are set for the filling of these liquids and also dangers that are looming in our various homes must be checked. Mr Speaker, as it was earlier stated, how many of us take the safety of our lives into consideration as far as this fuel problem is concerned as a first aid. Mr Speaker, could we add the safety measures and protocol measures to the syllabus of our educational sector or the syllabi that are being utilised by our children. I believe that it is time to consider putting the safety and first aid measures in our syllabus. Mr Speaker, it is also important to take a cue from what has happened and establish a spill taskforce. We now get oil and gas together with oil companies in Ghana. Have we taken measures to arrest any future negative occurrence as far as spillage is concerned? Do we have a taskforce? Do we have a centre that would address these issues when they happen? I believe it is time for us to undertake quality measures to ensure that spillage centres are established, spill forces are instituted, so that we do not take knee-jerk decisions when they happen. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I would yield to the former Minister for Power and the Hon Ranking Member for the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises to wind up.
Thank you very much. Hon (Dr) Kwabena Donkor?
Thank you, Mr Speaker; and thank you, my Leader. Mr Speaker, in winding up, I would want to congratulate the two Hon Members who made the Statements; the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Mines and Energy, particularly where he emphasised that, it is his contention that the causes of these explosions are largely attributable to lack of enforcement of regulations and guidelines by various agencies responsible for the enforcement. I also would want to pick from Hon Jinapor's Statement where he says, “public education should be of utmost priority for us.” Mr Speaker, as the Hon Member who made the contribution said, the issue is not just about gas. In other jurisdictions, gas is piped into homes, factories, and are closer to human habitation than we have here. The issue is about compliance with existing protocols. The issue is about our own metaphysical outlook in life. The issue is about our own values and emphasis on safety. As a people, how important do we prioritise safety; safety of the individual, safety of the public and safety of the general good? These are some of the major issues that we would have to tackle. It is not for lack of regulations. We have enough Regulations and enough Protocols. For example, every Bulk Road Vehicle (BRV) must meet certain specifications, and be covered by certain protocols. The discharge of white products, be it petroleum or gas is covered by a Protocol. Even the discharge holes must meet a certain standard. Mr Speaker, all of these Protocols are available, and it would interest this House to know that, within the Shell Group in Africa, this year, the best three transporters came from Ghana. So, it is not for lack of ability to do it. We have what it takes to excel when we set our minds to it, but it is about the attitude. As a people, do we take compliance seriously? Particularly in the petroleum sector, whether downstream or upstream, compliance, health and safety are the most important tools. In upstream, we say if it cannot be done safely, it should not be done. How do we prioritise safety? Even in our inter-agency corporations, if we take the issue of gas, we have so many State institutions that have roles to play; the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the District Assemblies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the Department of Town and Country Planning, et cetera. Each has a responsibility for compliance. It is not about licensing, and it is not just about permitting, but it is more about compliance. Do these operators comply with existing requirements? That is the issue. Mr Speaker, we could move these stations out of town, without a change in attitude; without a change in mental outlook; and without a doing away with our metaphysical approach to things, we would still have the same results. What needs to change is our attitude to compliance. We must prioritise compliance, we must prioritise health and safety and we must enforce existing protocols. It is not about adding new rules and regulations. We have enough of them. But do we enforce them? Are we committed to their enforcement? Do we have high officials from higher positions breathing down on technicians and technocrats who would want to enforce the law? Mr Speaker, so, as a people, we need to reorient our minds; decide that enough is enough, and decide that we would put compliance into top gear. We must decide that there should be health and safety -- If it cannot be done safely, it should not be done.
Hon Member, I see your Hon Colleague on his feet. Maybe, he has a point of order.
Mr Speaker, before my Hon Colleague resumes his seat, I would want him to clarify this point. Is it the regulators who are supposed to be compliant with the existing law or the users of these facilities? He should clarify things.
Hon Member, please, your Hon Colleague would want some clarification. So, kindly give the clarification and try and wind up.
Mr Speaker, on clarification of compliance, every institution has a post-permit compliance regime. Compliance comes from both sides; operators complying with protocols and institutions responsible for compliance enforcing the protocols. That brings up the whole issue of compliance. So, it is both a demand and supply side in terms of compliance. Mr Speaker, I would also want to say that the EPA and the NPA are the lead actors together with the Ghana National Fire Service. We would want to believe that, H. E. the President's comments, especially on the two institutions, would not be allowed to go without being put into action. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would want to thank you and my Hon Leader of the House for the opportunity.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I also beg to express my deepest sorrows and condolences to the bereaved families, and indeed, to the injured who are hospitalised. Mr Speaker, we are told that, since the year 2014, there have been eight of such incidents relating to gas explosions in the country. We are being economical with the truth. Why did they use the year 2014 as the base year? Let us start from the year 2000, and I know that at least, there were three major incidents of gas explosions in Kumasi. They are not talking about that. Why are they using the year 2014 as the base year, and who stated the 2014 as the year, and everybody is feeding into it that we have had only eight incidents since the year 2014? If we start from the year 2000, nationwide, it would be over 50 of such major incidents. Mr Speaker, on 3rd June, 2016 when this incident happened, we came to this House and contributed to a Statement made on the floor in respect of what happened, the Hon Deputy Majority Leader, the Hon Sarah Adwoa Safo, in her contribution made a candid statement, and I would want to quote it. Mr Speaker, this can be seen in column 1085 of the Friday, 3rd June, 2016 Official Report. She said among other things, and I beg to quote her: Mr Speaker, “go round the country and you would realise that many filling stations are springing up in residential areas, and the question you ask yourself is: “what are the authorities doing”? You see a filling station sandwiched between two residential homes and in the event of a spill, Mr Speaker, only God knows what would happen.” Mr Speaker, we see these things play out year in, year out. The Hon John Jinapor informed us about statistics that indicated that, 35 per cent of burnt cases at Kole Bu Teaching Hospital are gas induced. Mr Speaker, what is required is a massive education that would get to our people. Mr Speaker, 600 authorised gas stations are known to the system, but there are some that are not even registered which are operating. There are some gas stations which are not certified but they are operating. Do the authorities know about that? We should be careful as a nation, knowing how combustible gas is. Mr Speaker, the Hon former Minister for Power, the Hon Dr Kwabena Donkor has told us that indeed, we have adequate laws and regulations. Yes, we have laws and regulations, but how we implement them is the problem. Mr Speaker, within the District Assemblies, there are the people, together with others who are faceless, responsible for what they term as “re-zoning”, and they locate these stations within residential areas with all the impunity. They are the people responsible. Mr Speaker, the Town and Country Planning Department that is supposed to provide the masterplan, has now been put in the bowels of the District Assembly. People, with respect, who do not have the competence now, supervise them. So, when the technical people are telling them not to do that, the Assemblies do not comply; they do what they want. Mr Speaker, we are talking about compliance to laws. The siting of the gas farms themselves are regulated, and it is provided that one cannot site a gas farm 500 metres from a residential settlement. Mr Speaker, how many of them are within the residential settlement themselves? Not less than 500 metres, yet, right within the residential settlements, structures are being pulled down for the construction of gas stations. So, what is happening to us as a people? Mr Speaker, we have regulations relating to the construction of pipes. We need to install gas leak detectors and even smoke detectors. However, when we go to many of these places, they are not there. Mr Speaker, these licences are supposed to be renewable every year, but whether or not the bodies charged with the inspection to do it yearly do it is another matter, and whether those licensees submit themselves to inspection is also another matter. Mr Speaker, if one listened to the account of the driver, he said that, when he was discharging, he saw the leakage and he wanted to approach the owners to see where the valve was, but they were all
Hon Members, I get the sense that the House insists that what must be done must be done well and that democracy is about responsible governance; it is not recklessness; it is not even about the translation we have given to it: ka bi na menka bi. That is not democracy. The recklessness in this country is beyond description, and we are all aware that Ghanaians are completely fed up with these songs of sorrow. The Hon Majority Leader referred to them as “dirges”. We have to go beyond that. I can only remind you of your oversight responsibilities and that all Committees be supported to go out there and make sure that the right thing is done. This time around, please ensure that the whip is cracked. I have been urged to direct. I do not intend to direct you. I am only reminding you about your responsibilities. This country is rolling down a dangerous hill and as leaders, we must take quick action to stop it. I thank you for the Statements --
Hon Minority Leader, is there any point of order? Is the Speaker out of order?
Mr Speaker, I was just going to plead so that in your ruling, as you may be dissatisfied with the actions of our Committees and institutions, for the record, that we are seen empathising with the Ghanaian people and for those who are potential persons who may suffer risk including loss of lives, if it would please you, we would still want you to direct for the record, particularly for the Committee on Mines and Energy to report comprehensively on what they intend to do, assessing the preparedness of the NPA and the Committee on Environment, Science and Technology on the preparedness of the EPA, and the extent to which each of these agencies demonstrates respect for their own laws and regulations and to report same to this Parliament how they intend to save lives and property into the future. Mr Speaker, I plead that you further direct that the Committee must come back to this House within 30 days and tell us the steps they are taking, working with those institutions, in order that we can allay the fears of the Ghanaian public. Mr Speaker, we cannot agree more with you on your conclusion, but we believe that the people of Ghana would take seriously -- to quote the President, he would want to see a terminal end to talk. This is not time for talk; we need actionable results from each of these institutions -- NPA and EPA. What the Hon Majority Leader said, must it be only poor people in Ghana who cannot ask for their due and fair share when it comes to these issues? We owe them an explanation. Mr Speaker, without intending to interrupt you, I believe that you should not get tired accordingly directing the institutions -- Mr Speaker, probably to rope in what one of our Hon Colleagues raised, I believe Hon Agyarko raised the Factories Inspectorate of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations. Even related to it, Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations is supposed to work on a Regulation and a law known as Occupational Health and Safety Law. We would need a timetable on how Parliament gets ownership of this Bill because that is another way of securing the security of citizens.
Item numbered 6 (b) -- Hon Minister for Finance?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is in a meeting now, so, if I may do so on his behalf.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, if any of the members of the Executive arm of Government is available, they may as well proceed to lay it since it is a grant of exemptions relative to what was approved by this august House. I see the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways. I see the Hon Minister for —
The Hon Majority Leader is also a member of the Executive.
Mr Speaker, because he walks on left and right, sometimes, he says he is the Majority Leader and not Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. This time, he would come because he probably would have taken part in the Cabinet decision on it so that if we ask him, he would be able to elucidate.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I believe this commentary is not meant to be responded to.
You may proceed to lay the Paper.
Thank you very much. By the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs (Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu) (on behalf of the Minister for Finance) — Request for waiver of Import Duties, Import VAT, ECOWAS Levy, and other approved imposts including EXIM Levy, Special Import Levy and Inspection Fees as assessed amounting to the Ghana Cedi equivalent of six million, sixty-eight thousand, nine hundred and thirty- three Euros ($6,068,933.00) on imported construction materials and equipment in respect of the upgrade and major rehabilitation of the Tamale Teaching Hospital -- Phase II by VAMED Engineering International BV. Referred to the Finance Committee.
Item numbered 6 (c)? Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I want to beg leave of you and seek the indulgence of the House to, on behalf of the Hon Minister for —
Hon Majority Leader, this is a Report from a Committee but you are talking about the Hon Minister.
Yes, Mr Speaker. I am seeking leave of the Hon Minister to withdraw the Bill. Mr Speaker, it would be re-submitted in the House. And if you indulge me, then, it would render redundant item numbered as 6(c).
Hon Majority Leader, I would have preferred to hear first from the Committee Chairman before your intervention. This is because we referred it to them, they have considered it and they are submitting a Report on it. And so, they should lay the basis and on that, you can then come in. But we have not heard anything from them.
Mr Speaker, if you had allowed me, I was only submitting an application to withdraw. If you had allowed me, in withdrawing, I would have justified it.
The issue I raised is whether you as the Hon Majority Leader can withdraw a Report from a Committee. You are talking about the Bill, but what is before us now is the Report of the Committee. So, that, that foundation can be laid before you come in to talk about the Bill.
Mr Speaker, first of all, the Hon Chairman of the Committee would tell you that the Report itself is not ready. But secondly and much more importantly, in consultation with the Committee, the Hon Minister, upon further consultation with the Attorney-General's Department, has decided to withdraw the Bill for a fresh one to be laid in Parliament,
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, if I would be given my own opportunity -- I note that the Hon Ayariga was on his feet, I would not know what he has to add. But I certainly have something more on this matter that I would like to share.
Your Hon Colleague, the Hon Majority Leader has raised some issues and therefore, if there is any other matter —
Mr Speaker, I would proceed. The Hon Majority Leader is purporting now in one of his shoes as Minister to withdraw a Bill that consequentially would affect the Report of a Committee. Mr Speaker, he knows that the learned Attorney-General, who supervises the drafting section of Bills and who has the State responsibility for the drafting of Bills, has behaved in a manner which should not be tolerated by this House and which is not acceptable. I have with me a letter dated 8 th September, 2017 signed by Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, suggesting amendments to the Zongo Development Fund Bill, 2017. There are eighty-six (86) amendments by an Attorney-General to a Bill which emanates from her and a Bill signed by a Minister responsible for it. Mr Speaker, 86 amendments to a Bill by an Attorney- General? Where did the Bill emanate from? So, in his role as Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, he should serve his Hon Colleagues in the Executive notice that they should append their signatures only when they are satisfied with the content and with the explanatory memorandum. Mr Speaker, you cannot have this happen anywhere. And it is not only with the Zongo Development Fund Bill. I have seen same for the Special Prosecutor Bill. The Attorney-General again, after submitting it to Parliament, coming back. If you are not ready, do not come to this House and lay a Bill and follow up with these amendments. Mr Speaker, we take our work here seriously; he should kindly get his Hon Colleagues to take us seriously. You cannot submit a Bill here and follow the Bill with 86 amendments, and follow another Bill with twenty-seven (27) amendments. Mr Speaker, I say so because some of these amendments are at the thrust of policy. Therefore, we expect that the policy approval they get at Cabinet -- We have been there before, but we did not see changes that watered down the policy principles as approved in the content of the Bill, particularly as approved by the President. It lies with him as Leader of Government Business to withdraw the Bill. Our concern, however, is with the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. I believe the Hon Majority Leader would take it in good faith. We have been in Government before, and in the past, there were instances where Hon Ministers entered into agreements without recourse to the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. They entered into many legal regimes without the Hon Attorney-General's concern. We would like to believe that she is really in charge and responsible for Government legal business. Therefore, this Bill could be withdrawn but we should not be tolerant of this practice of the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. To the Hon Ministers, when they sign the Explanatory Memorandum -- That is why in the Explanatory Memorandum, clauses are itemised and explained. It means that the Hon Minister has gone through every clause diligently, with its remit and why it is included. So, he can walk on that leg as Hon Minister and withdraw the Bill. However, he should get his Hon Colleagues, particularly the learned Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. If she is faltering on these small matters, we could be worried. This is because there are major legal issues, and we think that she must demonstrate more diligence. We do not see that appear in this. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, you know as an Hon Deputy Speaker, I cannot descend into the arena of conflict. I can only guide you. The issue I raised is one of procedure. I do not have before me the Bill you are referring to. What we have is a Report of a Joint Committee. So, procedurally, I would want to hear from the Hon Chairman of the Committee. Following upon that, the Hon Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs could then inform the House about his instructions from his Hon Colleague Minister for Local Government and Rural Development.
Is that Hon Kennedy Agyapong? [Laughter.] That is what has appeared on my screen. Hon Kennedy Osei, you are now at your proper place. You have been advised many times to please assume your proper seating arrangements. It assists the Rt. Hon Speaker to identify you and for the records. The Hansard Department is also following, so, I would like to urge you to do the right thing. Yes, Hon Kennedy Osei?
Mr Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to a few issues and challenges the Committee encountered when we met to consider the Zongo Development Fund Bill, 2017. We realised that about 97 new amendments were introduced by the sponsoring Ministry. After carefully evaluating them, we advised the Hon Minister that it would be wise for the Ministry to withdraw the old Bill and lay the new one. This would give opportunity for Hon Members to have a fairer view of the new amendments. This is because moving all those amendments on the floor would delay the process and maybe, prolong the passage of the Bill. So, per such considerations, we decided to proffer such advice to the Ministry, which the Hon Minister accepted. I am sure it would be done; that is why the Leader of Government Business in the House is standing in to withdraw it. That was the decision by the Committee.
In other words, there is no Report from the Committee. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The Hon Minority Leader raised certain issues. I agree with him, but it is not through any fault of the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. He said that the Hon Attorney- General and Minister for Justice should take the work of this House seriously. What happened, unfortunately, was that after the initial draft, the Attorney- General's Office worked to improve on it. What eventually got gazetted was the original. We are not too sure who did that. So, what came out of the Gazette publication was the original draft, which did not include the second consideration that the Office of the Attorney-General had on that Bill. We all did not peruse the document well, and when reference was made to the Committee, they went and dealt with the original Bill. That is why we have this problem now. Mr Speaker, I believe we still have sufficient time. My understanding is that the gazetting is going to be done, once it is withdrawn, today or tomorrow, such that by the 25th or so of this month --
I direct that we sit beyond the prescribed time. You can continue.
Mr Speaker, it is for that reason that it has become necessary to withdraw. Fortunately, because they have worked on the original, I think that they have tried to incorporate the perspectives the Committee has brought to bear on the old one plus the suggestions that came from the Attorney- General's Department. Their Drafting Unit incorporated everything into the new Bill. So, I believe that when it comes back to this House, we would spend less time on it. Mr Speaker, on the second one, the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill, 2017, when Bills are laid in Parliament, it is regular for the Attorney-General's Department and the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice herself to come and consider the clause by clause issues in the Bill with us. During the process, given what ideas may be generated, they may proffer suggestions. That is a regular thing that happens every time. If the Hon Minority Leader says that even with the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill, he has noticed that about 26 amendments have come from them, that is no news. It happens regularly. Mr Speaker, with that, if you would indulge me, I would withdraw the Bill.
Leave granted. Hon Members, the Report of the joint Committee on Local Government and Rural Development and Finance on the Zongo Development Fund Bill, 2017 is withdrawn. Consequentially, from the submission of the Hon Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, acting on the
Mr Speaker, just for the records; the Zongo Development Fund Bill has its sponsor as the Hon Minister for Inner-City and Zongo Development. I note you are making reference to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. That would be inadvertent.
Thank you for the correction. Hon Members, we would now move to Motion numbered 7 on the Order Paper. Hon Chairman of the Committee?
Mr Speaker, may I seek your leave and move the Motion on behalf of the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who unavoi- dably is absent. He needed to travel.
In your capacity as?
Mr Speaker, as a senior member of the Committee — [Laughter.]
I see. I know about members of Committees. I do not know about senior members of Committees.
Mr Speaker, as a member of the Committee.
Exactly. You did not state that one. You can go ahead.
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 on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (2013) may be moved today.
Mr Speaker, I rise to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly.
Hon Members, we would now move to item numbered 8 on the Order Paper. The representative of the Chairman of the Committee, who is a member of the Committee — Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (2013)
Mr Speaker, I beg to move that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (2013). Mr Speaker, on 1st August, 2017, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled was laid in Parliament for its ratification in accordance with article 75 of the 1992 Constitution. The Treaty was laid by the Hon Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, on behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo. Consequently, the Treaty was referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report pursuant to Order 179 of the Standing Orders of Parliament. Consideration The Committee met with officials of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney- General's Department to consider the Treaty. The Chairman of the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises, Hon Kwame Anyimadu- Antwi, and the Ranking Member to the Committee, Hon Richard Quashigah also attended the meeting as directed in the referral. The Committee is grateful to the officials for attending upon the Committee and for assisting in the deliberations. Reference documents The Committee referred to the following documents during its deliberations: i. The 1992 Constitution ii. The Standing Orders of Parliament iii. Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690) iv. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights v. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities vi. The Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of intellectual property Rights vii.The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; and viii. The World Intellectual Property Organisation Treaty (WIPO Copyright Treaty). Background Information The special circumstances of persons with disabilities including visually impaired persons are well recognised not only in the domestic laws of countries but also affirmed in international instruments. Some of these instruments are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These instruments have established principles of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, accessibility and full and effective enjoyment of the rights of disabled persons across the world. Despite the above, there still exist in many countries a number of challenges which impede the complete development of persons with disabilities including visually impaired persons across the world, especially developing countries. These persons continue to encounter difficulties in accessing published literary and artistic works as alternative forms of these works are generally non-existent. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and other international instruments were therefore adopted to require member States to provide exceptions and limitations in their national copyright laws for the benefit of visually impaired persons. Subsequently, the General Assembly of the WIPO adopted some recommendations to ensure that developmental considerations form an integral part of the Organisation's work. This culminated into the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled on 27th June, 2013 at WIPO's Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh. Its main goal is to create a set of limitations and exceptions for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled. The Treaty forms part of the body of copyright treaties administered by the WIPO. Consequently, Ghana being a signatory to the WIPO Copyright Treaty gained automatic qualification to become a party to the Marrakesh Treaty.
It therefore became necessary to lay the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled in Parliament for its ratification in fulfilment of article 75 of the Constitution. Purpose of the Treaty As may be gleaned from the text of the Treaty, its overarching purpose is to make literary and artistic works accessible in alternative formats for use by persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. Summary of provisions The Treaty contains 22 provisions. Article 1 of the Treaty declares that the instrument is not intended to derogate the existing right and obligations of parties under treaties. This is followed by a definition provision which defines key terminologies in the Treaty. The specification of intended beneficiaries, the obligation of parties to provide limitations and exceptions in their copyright laws and matters relating to exchange of accessible copies of relevant works are provided in articles 3, 4 and 5. The importation and obligations of parties in respect of technological measures are covered under articles 6 and 7. Articles 8, 9 and 10 respectively deal with privacy provisions, duty of parties to cooperate and general principles for implementation. Further to this, the general obligations on limitations and exceptions and other related obligations are set out under articles 11 and 12 of the Treaty. It goes on to establish the Assembly of Parties and the international Bureau respectively under articles 13 and 14 of the Treaty. The eligibility criteria, rights and obligations of parties, signatures and requirement for entry into force of the Treaty are provided under articles 15 to 19 of the Treaty. The Treaty finally provides for the denunciation, the languages of its texts and its depositary under articles 20, 21 and 22. Observations Key obligation of contracting parties The Committee observed that a key obligation of contracting parties is to provide limitations and exceptions in their national laws to permit changes needed to make works available to beneficiaries in alternative formats. Specifically, parties are requested to adopt measures that will permit recognised entities to make accessible format copies of the works to beneficiary persons. It was noted that section 5 of Ghana's Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690) already allows copyright holders to translate their works to other formats. The Committee therefore urged the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice to take the necessary steps to fulfil all the other obligations if the Treaty is ratified by the House. Institutional Arrangements The Committee also noted that the Treaty provides for the establishment of a body called the Assembly to deal with matters concerning the maintenance and development of the Treaty and for the admission of certain inter-governmental organisation to join the Treaty. The Assembly will be composed of a delegation each of the contracting parties. It is hoped that this institutional arrangement will help achieve the purpose and objectives of the Treaty. Benefits for persons who are visually impaired The Committee noted that the Treaty seeks to allow recognised entities have lawful access to works, convert them to accessible format forms and supply same exclusively for use by persons who are visually impaired. This will significantly facilitate access to the relevant works by over 1,000 visually impaired persons in the country's formal educational institutions as well as those outside the educational sector if ratified by Parliament. It is therefore hoped that the eventual implementation of the measures under the Treaty would go a long way to assist the beneficiaries in their educational pursuits, give them a level playing field and empower them to develop socially and economically. Stakeholder engagement On whether relevant stakeholders were engaged prior to the laying of the Treaty in Parliament, Officials of the Attorney- General's Department responded in the affirmative. They disclosed that the Ministry of Justice and Attorney- General's Department met with relevant stakeholders and they unanimously endorsed the Treaty. The stakeholders included the Ghana Society for the Blind, the Ghana Association of Writers and the Ghana Book Publishers Association. Possible impact on copyright holders The Officials of the Attorney-General's Department informed the Committee that the ratification and the ultimate implementation of the Treaty will not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of copyright holders in the country. Instead they believed that it will create opportunities for them to export their diversified works to other countries and benefit therefrom. Conclusion Having carefully examined the provisions in the Treaty, the Committee is of the considered view that the purpose and objectives of the Bill are consistent with Ghana's constitutional and international imperatives to promote equality, eliminate all forms of discrimination and create equal opportunities for all its citizens. It is believed the Treaty offers the opportunity for the country to garner international support to create equal opportunities for the the benefit of the over one thousand persons with visual impairments in the country. This will empower them to fully participate in all aspects of social, economic and cultural aspects of national life. It will also offer the country opportunities for the development of its intellectual property through competition and innovation. It will further expand opportunities of authors of literally and artistic works as a result of promotion and expansion of international trade for their works to improve their lot and also for the country to rake in foreign exchange earnings. On the basis of the above, the Committee recommends to the House to adopt its Report and to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are
blind, visually impaired or Otherwise print Disabled, in accordance with article 75(2)(b) of the 1992 Constitution. Respectfully submitted.
Mr Speaker, I beg to support the Motion as ably moved by the representative of the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in my capacity as the Hon Deputy Ranking Member. Mr Speaker, I was part of the conference in June, 2013 on the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva that adopted the Treaty that is the subject matter of this Motion today. I remember very well that Ghana ably articulated the position that under our Constitution, because of the principle of equality in treatment of all citizens, it was unbecoming that we had not made provision for the access of visually impaired persons to works of art and also for purposes of intellectual property rights protection. Mr Speaker, therefore, it is only in order that currently, under the Treaty, it is our duty as a country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty so that visually impaired persons --
Hon Member, I can see your Hon Colleague on the other side on his feet. Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, it is a point of clarification. Is the Hon Member seconding the Motion or just supporting the Motion.
Hon Member, I am very vigilant; I am aware of what the Hon Member said. I am listening to him -- that is part of my duty. Let the Hon Deputy Ranking Member land, and then you would hear from me.
Mr Speaker, I just want to bring that to his attention. Thank you.
Mr Speaker, the point I am making is that, we have a constitutional obligation to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, so that the visually impaired in our country can have access to such works of art. For that matter, I second the Motion, so that we can ratify the Treaty for purposes of compliance with our international obligations. So, I beg to second the Motion.
Hon Members, the norm is that people start by seconding the Motion; but there is a style where at any time during the submission, one can second the Motion or even when the person is ending, say “I beg to second the Motion”. Question proposed.
Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Motion on the floor. Mr Speaker, one of the commonest disability that we have in the world is blindness. It is well known that about 285 million people in the world are blind. In Ghana, based on the 2010 population census, it was realised that about 300,000 people have this disability. What is very clear is that the numerators, consider those who were totally blind and do not have light perception. By looking at a survey that was carried out by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), it was noted that about 800,000 people have a problem with vision, which includes those who are totally blind and those who have low vision. Mr Speaker, it is also known that one of the challenges of people who are blind is the ability to access information. It is also on record that about 75 per cent of the information that we acquire is through vision. So if people do not have a vision, it means that they would lose about 75 per cent of the information that is required. Mr Speaker, we are also aware that reading is very important; we need to read to acquire information, empower ourselves, and become aware of current issues in our country. The information available to blind people is not in an accessible format. I have a braille material here, and I believe that if we want to look at people who can read braille, perhaps, apart from me, there is no single person who can read braille in this Chamber. This is the situation in which blind people find themselves. This is a published material, which otherwise only blind people can read. So, it means that those numerous materials that are published are not accessible to them --
Hon Member, can you also write braille, or you can only read it? [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I can read and write braille.
That is good information. Hon Member, you would proceed, please.
Mr Speaker, so, it means that it is very important that we are made aware that the normal format that is used by blind people is audio, light framed and braille. As I said earlier, how many materials do we have in that format? If we do not have materials in accessible format, it means that persons who are blind are going to be left out here in Ghana. The consequences of lack of accessible information. We are aware of increased education programme. It was launched in 2016; we are expecting our children to be mainstreamed in the normal school. They are supposed to learn with their started counterparts -- Where are the materials? Mr Speaker, I am aware of the Executive Director of the Ghana Blind Union who has a Ph.D. If he reveals the ordeal he went through in order to acquire his Ph.D., we would really marvel and sympathise with him. It is very important that we, as Ghanaians and as Members of Parliament, should realise that the Marrakesh Treaty has come to enable persons who are visually impaired, and for that matter blind,
to access normal information and published material. Mr Speaker, we are all being asked to help ratify the Marrakesh Treaty. Many countries have done it; the advantage is that, if we are able to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, people can access information through the accessible format which is braille, audio and large print. It is also possible for us to import materials from other countries that have also done the ratification. Ghana is one of the countries that leads in disability areas. If this particular time has come, I do not think we should have even waited up to this time. Mr Speaker, on this note, I call on all Hon Members of Parliament to see the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty as a very important event for us today to enable the blind and the visually impaired access published material in accessible format.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion and to support it. Mr Speaker, the Marrakesh Treaty recognises that information empowers; a large pool of people, the visually impaired, represents potential resources -- mental, intellectual, economic and social resources for this country. Given the opportunity that this Treaty offers for them to access information, they would be able to contribute materially not only to their own wellbeing, but to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire country. Mr Speaker, we have institutions where visually impaired persons attend and seek to better themselves through the acquisition of knowledge. In this modern world, being visually impaired ought not be a barrier to anything because technology is so far advanced. Accessing this Treaty will bring us at par with current trends in the world so that we can remove any barriers that impairment puts in the paths of our people. It will create a lot of opportunities; it will create an industry in copyrights and translation works. Indeed, local works can be translated for the benefit of foreign users who are visually impaired. That way, we would not only export economic opportunities, we would also export cultural ones. It is in this light, Mr Speaker, that I recommend that this House ratifies the Marrakesh Treaty because we would more than benefit from being party to it. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the debate on the Motion on the floor. The goal of the Treaty before us is to help end book famine faced by people who are visually impaired. Those of us who have our sight have the luxury of changing books at anytime and anywhere. Same cannot be said for people who are visually impaired. Mr Speaker, people with visual impairment have been starved for far too long because of the absence of published works or books that are accessible to them. People with visual impairment also need books for education, employment and active social inclusion. That is what we must be fighting for. Mr Speaker, it is important that after the ratification of the Treaty, we encourage and support the relevant institutions such as the Ghana Blind Union and even our educational institutions to take advantage of the provisions of the Treaty. Today, there are over 1000 students in our educational institutions who do not have the luxury of access to books that they need just because of their visual impairment. Mr Speaker, I would entreat all of us here to approve the ratification of the Treaty, so that we as a House can put an end to the book famine encounted by people who are visually impaired. On this note, I would want to end and call on all of us present to contribute and make this a reality for the visually impaired. I thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, let me thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled (2013), which was adopted by Ghana in June 2013. It has taken us a number of years to get it ratified by Parliament, which we do in pursuit of the mandate of this House per article 75 of the Constitution. So, what Parliament is called upon to do today is to walk the constitutional process of getting the Treaty ratified. Mr Speaker, let me refer you to your Committee's Report. In particular, Stakeholder Engagement on page 5. Reference is made to the Hon Attorney- General and Minister for Justice on stakeholder consultation with Ghana Society for the Blind; but conspicuously lost here is the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, and more especially, the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. For this purpose, I refer to the Hon Minister with the responsibility for social welfare. It is a key stakeholder, and the Committee ought to have engaged them. Mr Speaker, I would also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the leadership of the Ghana Blind Union led by Dr Peter Obeng-Asamoah. I note that they called on the Leadership of this House individually. I recall even the advocacy role they played with Angela Afranie, Director for Africa Perkins International; Mr George Abese, Bismark Amu; Benjamin Brenya of the Ghana Blind Union; and Mrs Stella Wilson while I was at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations. Mr Speaker, we have to note that it is sometimes not the state actors, but civil societies and concerned groups affected by some of these issues can bring pressure to bear on Government in order that we appear more responsive to it. Mr Speaker, it would appear that the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, in particular, the Hon Minister for Employment and Labour Relations and the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection must work towards the domestication of this after Parliament ratifies it.
The important thing is what the provisions are in our domestic law, particularly the copyright ones of Ghana, which would accommodate this particular decision that we are taking. Mr Speaker, I note that if we read paragraph 7.1 of your Committee's Report, section 5 of Ghana's Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690) already allows copyright holders to translate their works to other formats. This would mean that the Committee must urge the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice to take the necessary steps to fulfil all the other obligations. The important thing, as I have indicated, will be for us to get the ratified Instrument domesticated into Ghanaian law. Mr Speaker, it is important to note that there are very well meaning Ghanaians at the World Intellectual Property Organi- sation (WIPO) in Geneva who are playing leadership roles, and we should again note that governments of Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay presented this Treaty on behalf of the World Blind Union in May, 2009, at a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Later in 2013, it was approved in Morocco and Ghana proudly signed on to this document. I am sure, today, the Blind Union of Ghana and persons affected who would benefit from this ratification can only celebrate with joy that we are preparing the grounds for them for intellectual upliftment and enhancement, and that they can have access to many of these published works. Mr Speaker, just to end with a quote; “The full significance of the Treaty must be seen against the backdrop that currently only five per cent of all published works worldwide and less than one per cent in developing nations are available to blind persons in those formats, . that they can access. Consequently, blind and reading disabled persons are virtually excluded from the tons of published materials produced in Ghana and indeed worldwide. This includes books in libraries, in schools and in communities, universities, bookshops and even various aspects of the public sector.” So, it means that it imposes some obligation on the Ministry of Education to get our libraries and other institutions to be responsive to the needs of blind persons. Apart from the fact that Ghana was one of the first nations to sign the document in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2013, there are other reasons Ghana signed on to this document, so that blind persons can have access to textbooks and other reading materials at a minimal cost. Therefore, we should endeavour that having suffered that disability, they do not suffer further financial burden and obligation. Mr Speaker, I therefore urge our Hon Colleagues to wholeheartedly support this Motion, and vote for it and its consequential Resolution. We should commend the Government at least, for bringing it on time. We have seen instances where many of these treaties are signed sometimes up to a decade but we do not ratify it as a country. It does not send a good signal to the international community but as I have indicated, Mr Speaker, the Hon Attorney- General and Minister for Justice's office together with copyright and all other Ministries affected, must leave the process beyond the Instrument being ratified today to make sure that our blind persons can continue their celebration beyond this day. Mr Speaker, let me also, for my purpose, recognise our Hon Colleague and Member for Krachi Nchumuru, Hon John Majisi, who has been a friend of disabled persons since his presence in this House. I should commend him for the leadership role he has played and many of the meetings he facilitated in order that he, today, would be part of Parliament which is seeing approval to this and to encourage him not to give up representing and reflecting the aspirations of the vulnerable group. So, to Hon Majisi, kudos to you and I am sure that his friend Dr Peter Obeng Asamoah and his Hon Colleagues would join him in celebrating, that today, Parliament joins the Executive in giving meaning to this Instrument which would create new opportunities for the blind union in Ghana. We trust that, subsequent to this ratification, the Government agencies and Institutions would follow up with other actions that assure them of this important Instrument.
Mr Speaker, Hon Colleagues before me have spoken eloquently about the benefits that would inure to this country if Parliament ratifies this Treaty. The purpose of this, is indeed, to broaden the sphere of dedication of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. Mr Speaker, our Constitution provides in article 25 (1); “All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities…” Indeed, it is in furtherance of article 25(1) of the Constitution that, it has become necessary for this country to sign up unto this Treaty for Parliament today to ratify. Mr Speaker, again, article 17(2) of the Constitution provides that; “A person shall not be discri- minated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status”. Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution further provides that; (1) “All persons shall have the right to -- (f) information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society;” Information may exist in a textbook in a published work which cannot be assessed by the visually impaired, persons who are blind or otherwise print disabled. Mr Speaker, we want to level the playing ground for such groups of people in order that they would feel that they are also full-fledged citizens of this country. That, if we come to counting the royals of this country, they could also, with their hands on their chests, say to themselves that they are royals of this country called Ghana.
So, I believe that all of us are ad idem on this and I would urge all Hon Members to move to adopt the resolution as expressed by the Hon Member who held the fort for the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Now, we move to item numbered 9 on the Order Paper which deals with the Resolution. The Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is not available, may we listen to the Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is with us. So, I believe that he would move the Motion for the adoption of the Resolution on page 4 of today's Order Paper.
Thank you for drawing my attention. Hon Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, you are welcome.
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly.
Hon Members, item numbered 10 on the Order Paper -- Motion. Hon Minister for Special Development Initiatives, you may move the Motion numbered 10 on the Order Paper.
Mr Speaker, we have not had a Second Reading of the Coastal Belt Development Authority Bill, 2017. Mr Speaker, we could do that but I would want to implore you that we should rather go to item numbered 13 on the Order Paper and start the Consideration Stage of the Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017. Mr Speaker, once we start that we could come and deal with the Coastal Belt Development Authority Bill 2017. Mr Speaker, with respect, we have spent time unduly on Question time and Statements and so, I would urge that we have a commitment to the Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017, by beginning the Consideration Stage today. We could deal with item numbered 10 tomorrow.
Hon Majority Leader, you may not inadvertently intrude into the area of discretion of Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, far it be from me that I would do that, but I was just trying to assist the Chair.
Hon Majority Leader, your reference to “unduly” spending my time on Question time. That is what I am drawing your attention to.
Mr Speaker, I recognise that but it was not to indict the Chair but to indict all of us.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I note that the Hon Minister sponsoring the Bill has been with us almost the whole day. Mr Speaker, understandably, they share the same paradigm. Therefore, I share the view that we should move to item numbered 13, so that we could begin the Consideration Stage of the Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017. This House must be seen to be facilitating the work of the Executive in creating the bureaucracies in pursuit of their policies. Accordingly, I am sure the Hon Minister could come back tomorrow to move the other Motions. I am sure it is not only the Coastal Belt Development Authority Bill, 2017, which is outstanding -- at least, we could travel some few clauses and it would also guide us when we come to these other Bills. That is what I have observed -- whether it is the Coastal or Middle Belts, let us use the Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017, as a guide. Mr Speaker, I am sure that the Hon Minister would be with us and she could still have the opportunity tomorrow to do the Second Reading. Mr Speaker, thank you.
I get the sense of the House that we should move to item numbered 13 on the Order Paper -- Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017, at the Consideration Stage.
BILLS -- CONSIDERATION STAGE
Hon Members, there is an amendment to clause 1. Hon Chairman of the Committee?
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, there is no advertised amendment for clause (1), subclause (2), but I just wanted to draw attention for reasons of consistency. Mr Speaker, under subclause (2), the provision is that;
“The Authority may, for the performance of its functions, acquire and hold movable and immovable property, dispose of property and enter into any contract or any other transaction relating to the object of the Authority.” Mr Speaker, I said that I am bringing this back to the front burner for purposes of consistency. In the first line, we have the words “its function”. Previously, we had decided to do away with such pronoun constructions and insert “The Authority may, for the performance of the functions of the Authority, acquire and hold movable and immovable property, …” That is what we have done in recent times and this looks like it is a throwback to the past. So, I want us to be consistent.
Hon Chairman of the Committee, you have heard the Hon Majority Leader and so what do you say to that? You were with the draftspersons and these are usually drafting instructions given to the draftspersons.
Mr Speaker, we would take a cue from what the Hon Majority Leader has said. So, we would go by the amendment.
Mr Speaker, before you put the Question, in previous legislations, I have seen reference to the State Property and Contracts Act, 1960 (CA 6) or the State Lands Act, 1962 but for this purpose, we have restricted ourselves to only the State Lands Act 1962 yet we say that it could enter into contracts. Mr Speaker, I am referring to clause 1, subclause (3) -- the reference should not only be to the State Lands Act 1962.
Hon Members, may we start from clause 1 (1) and move accordingly, so that you could propose your amendments and we take them along. So, I will go over the whole clause 1. Clause 1 (2) -- Here, there is a proposed amendment by the Hon Majority Leader that in line 1, delete “its” and insert “the Authority” --
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that clause 1, subclause (2), line 1, delete “its” before “functions” and insert “the” and after “functions” insert “of the Authority”.
So, subclause (2) would now read: “The Authority may, for the performance of the functions of the Authority, acquire and hold movable and immovable property, dispose of property and enter into contract or any other transaction relating to the object of the Authority.” Is that correct?
Mr Speaker, that is so. Question put and Amendment agreed to.
Hon Member, subclause 3.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, Clause 1 -- subclause (3), before “hindrance” insert “a”
Hon Members, the Hon Chairman of the Committee has moved that we insert “a” before the word “hindrance” in line 1 of subclause (3). So, the subclause would now read: “Where there is a hindrance to the acquisition of the property …” So, I would put the Question.
Mr Speaker, before putting the Question, I looked at the whole of subclause (3). It reads: “(3) Where there is hindrance to the acquisition of property, the property may be acquired for the Authority under the State Lands Act, 1962, (Act 125) and the cost shall be borne by the Authority.” Mr Speaker, property might be movable or immovable. Because we are using the word “property” here, the property cannot be compulsorily acquired, particularly, if it is movable under the State Lands Act, 1962, (Act 125).
Well, let us take this first amendment before we get to the other aspect since the Hon Minority Leader drew our attention to it. So, when we get there, you could move for the addition of the other Act. Question put and amendment agreed to.
The same subclause (3) of clause 1. Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, it would appear that the recommendation of Hon Ahiafor would sit in well with subclause (2) of clause 1. So, if you would oblige me, without notice, I read: “(2) The Authority may, for the performance of its functions, acquire and hold movable and immovable properties, dispose of property and enter into any contract or any other transaction relating to the project of the Authority.”
We have amended “its functions”. So, take the new amendment on board.
Yes, to what the Hon Leader did, my attention -- Mr Speaker, where we have the word “any contract”, we insert “subject to the State Property and Contracts Act, 1960”; and it would satisfy the requirement of clause 1.
No. It cannot flow that way. Please, reconsider your proposed amendment. On clause 1, subclause (3), that is the proper place for the proposed amendment. Yes, Hon Member, let me hear you.
Mr Speaker, I was earlier raising the point that where we are speaking with reference to Act 125, we are talking about compulsory acquisition of land, but in this particular law, we are making reference to property. And property might be defined to include both movable and immovable properties. In the sense that it appears in the clause, it would mean that` if one has an immovable property, the State could
acquire it compulsorily from him. That is where I have the problem. Particularly, when “property” has not been defined to limit it to land. So, Mr Speaker, I would propose that instead of using the word “property”, we use the word “land”.
Hon Members, the clause is talking about property in general. And so, whatever amendment you propose, make sure it takes that into consideration. I believe you wanted to talk about the State Property and Contracts Act, which we would have to insert in subclause (3). That is what is missing in subclause (3).
Hon Minority Leader, let me listen to Hon Kpodo.
Mr Speaker, conferring with my Hon Colleague to my right; my learned Hon Member, he has made me to understand that it is only land that one could forcibly take for the purpose of performing the functions of the Authority --
We do not forcibly take. We acquire it by law.
Yes, we acquire it compulsorily by law, which has been referenced here. But if property extends to cover somebody's shoe or furniture, we cannot use the Act to take it from him compulsorily. So, if we are referring to land, let us limit it to land.
Which subclause are you referring to?
Mr Speaker, I am referring to subclause 3 of clause 1. This is because we cannot insert a fourth clause which would cover other properties, since we cannot take other people's movable properties compulsorily.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that clause 1, subclause (3) should read: “(3) Where there is a hindrance to the acquisition of property, the property may be acquired for the Authority under the State Lands Act, 1962, (Act 125) or the State Property and Contract Act, 1964 (CA4) and the cost shall be borne by the Authority.”
Yes, that is what is missing. The earlier part of the subclause does not say that whatever property that one acquired must be compulsorily acquired. It simply says, “Where there is a hindrance to the acquisition”. And the acquisition could be in any form. It could be compulsory or through the due process. Do you understand? It is not spelt out there that the acquisition must be compulsory, in subclause 3. So, once it is either movable or immovable properties we need to bring the law that could apply to both movable and immovable. Therefore, it is the State Property and Contract Act that was missing, to apply to the immovable properties that one could contract. So, the amendment has been moved. It is now for the consideration of the House. The Hon Minority Leader has proposed an amendment after seeking leave of the House, that after “State Lands Act, 1962, (Act 125),” insert; “ The State Contract Act, 1962”. Hon Member, is it CA 4?
Mr Speaker, it is 1960. Mr Speaker, however, I would want to be satisfied with the status of that law. Mr Speaker, as of this afternoon, I needed to apprise myself such that I -- and so we can flag it, if it is not -- I suspect that there may have been some review of it -- I am not sure, but in previous legislations, we have been guided to the State Property and Contract Act, 1960, CA 4. Mr Speaker, I therefore move that we add as an insertion to the States Lands Act of 1962.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, while I appreciate the principle that has been espoused by the Hon Minority Leader and my Hon Colleague, the Hon Member for Akatsi South, I believe that we should thread cautiously. Mr Speaker, this is because in all the pieces of legislation that we have crafted recently, the template has been like this. Unless we are cocksure about what we are doing, I would say that we should not introduce any new elements. Mr Speaker, therefore, we could stand that one down and further interrogate it and see where we are, but we should consider the principle. I believe for the time being, we can flag it and continue, but not insert it. Mr Speaker, this is because we have not done so in all the recent pieces of legislations that we have crafted, and I worry that we may insert any foreign matter, which may turn to haunt us.
Hon Majority Leader, I do take that on board, but if we are going to acquire movable property under this law, then through which Act would we have to do it? We cannot do it through the State Lands Act, but clause 2 grants that power to the Authority, and that is why there is a proposal. Hon Members, clearly, we have to thread cautiously and maybe crosscheck. I am not aware that that Act had been repealed. I believe it is still part of our law, but we should crosscheck and then clear all doubts, but I believe it is still part of our law. Hon Members, we would therefore flag subclause 3 and move on. Hon Members, clause 2. Clause 2 -- Objects of the Authority.
Yes, Hon Chairman, you may move the amendment.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, clause 2, paragraph (c), sub- paragraph (ii), line 2, after “each” insert “District or”
“Private investments achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in each district or constituency” Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, the Hon Chairman of the Committee -- sorry, a representative of the Hon Chairman of the Committee, who is a member of the Committee -- [Interruption.] --
Mr Speaker, this is the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises and we are assisted by the Leadership of the Finance Committee --
All right, so you are the one who chairs that Committee.
Yes, Mr Speaker, I chair that Committee.
I am sorry about that. Hon Members, the Hon Chairman of the Committee has moved an amendment, and the amendment is that on clause 2, paragraph (c), sub-paragraph (ii), line 2, after the word “each”, we should insert the phrase: “District or”. Hon Members, therefore that part of clause 2(c) would now read: “…co-ordinate development activities in the Northern Development Zone with the aim of ensuring that; (ii) “Private investments achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in each district or constituency”
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Bill originally provides for constituency and at the consideration of the Bill by the joint Committee, attention was drawn to the fact that if an overemphasis is placed on “constituency”, it may cause some supervisory difficulties, which is why I then introduced “district”, and I believe it found favour with majority of the Committee members. But upon second consideration, Mr Speaker, I would want to go back for us to reconsider that portion. Mr Speaker, this is because if we are not careful, the District Assemblies may assume a role that once they have been mentioned here, they have to assume responsibility, and that could create some problems from the very outset. Mr Speaker, what we are doing is to cure the problem that we have, that is the balance in development in the country, and indeed, article 36 (2) (d) provides: “ … The State shall, in particular, take all necessary steps to establish a sound and healthy economy whose underlying principles shall include -- (d) Undertaking even and balanced development of all regions and every part of each region of Ghana, and, in particular, improving the conditions of life in the rural areas, and generally, redressing any imbalance in development between the rural and the urban areas…” Mr Speaker, today, we are talking about the creation of a zone, which straddles three regions. So, I believe that we can still borrow a leaf from the language of the Constitution, and say to ourselves that we would want to reduce poverty and deprivation in every part of the zone, and not emphasise constituencies and districts, otherwise we would introduce problems where problems should not be existing, and then matters of jurisdiction would arise.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I would want to persuade the Hon Chairman to abandon his amendment but in the end, I would attempt to see if I would indulge you to further improve what his thoughts are on this. Mr Speaker, the headnote there is “Objects of the Authority”. Subclause (c) too does not stand alone. It reads: “The objects of the Authority are to. . . (c) co-ordinate development activities in the Northern Development Zone ...” It is already defined. We do not need “district” or “constituency”. It is the Northern Development Zone. Mr Speaker, I have no notice so you have to tolerate me. Even where we say “private investments achieve”, how are private investments achieved? The use of
Mr Speaker, it appears the Hon Minority Leader is singing the same song that I raised. That we need to delete “constituency and district”. So, I said that it is: “private investments achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in every part of the Zone.”
I believe we should look at the clause carefully. This is because subclause (c) talks about co- ordinating and so, if we just leave it to the Zone, there is no Authority to co-ordinate with. If we talk about constituency, we do not have established units, public offices or Authorities in the constituencies for that co-ordination to be done. So, I
thought we should talk about districts, not constituencies so that they can co- ordinate it. The co-ordination is to talk about the effective utilisation of public resources. The second one is to co-ordinate private sector investments to make sure that they achieve maximum development impacts. So I would agree with the proposal that we rather delete “constituency” but limit it to “district”. This is because constituencies do not have units that we can have co-ordination with the Authority but the districts have and every constituency belongs to a district. Many of the constituencies are districts by themselves but the administrative unit is in the district; it is not in the constituency.
Hon Chairman, I saw you.
Mr Speaker, we deliberated on “district” and “constituency” extensively at the Committee stage. We realised that this Bill focuses on constituency; it is constituency-based. The objects of the Bill talks about that so, we would rather avoid the duplication of the district structures assuming the role in order to actually stifle the vision of the Bill. Therefore, we would rather be comfortable with “constituency” and taking a cue from whatever had been said, I would rather say that the proposed amendment must fall so that we maintain “Constituency”.
I just want clarification on the public unit that the Authority would co-ordinate with at the constituency level.
Mr Speaker, we came to this position of introducing “district” as well as a reasonable working compromise in that if you look at the sources of funds for the Authority, one particular fund is constituency-specific. The other funds have nothing to do with the constituency as per the object and we thought that since constituencies do not have public administrative structures on their own and it is rather the districts that have them, but to also accommodate the constituency-based funds, that was why we introduced “constituency” or “district” and I thought --
Could you clarify by telling us the fund which is constituency specific that you refer to?
Mr Speaker, the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Project. Clause 19 but we are talking specifically about subclause (b) which says: “The fund of the Authority shall include -- (b)“moneys from the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Project” which in street parlance, we say one Constituency, US$1 million.
Mr Speaker, just as he said, if you look at the funds of the Authority, subclause (b) would relate to funds earmarked for constituency development. But if you go to subclause (e), rents and royalties accruing to the Authority from property ” Usually, rents would be charged at the district level but that is the rate. If the Assembly has to exact any taxes and so on, because Mr Speaker, at the heart of this dilemma was the fact that if we should include “district”, there may ensue some schism between the district authorities and the authorities to be created under the Northern Development Authority scheme which is why as I said, upon reflection, I thought that we could even do away with the clause (2). This is because after all, the Constitution in article 36 (2) (d) talks about the regions and improving the conditions of life in the areas within the regions just to ensure equity in development. So, we do not necessarily have to talk about Constituencies and districts, but we recognise that for reasons of maybe practicalities, it may become necessary for them in dealing with Regional Administrations, District Assemblies and perhaps unit committees. We do not have to stipulate this, otherwise we may have to bring in Regional Coordinating Councils as well which I believe is not necessary. So, Mr Speaker, I think for reasons of preventing problems at initial stages, let us deal with the zone that straggles the regions. As I indicated, and Mr Speaker, you added more meat when you said it would be much more elegant if we said private sector investment rather than just merely saying private investment. Private sector investment to achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in every part of the Northern Development zone.
Yes, Hon Kpodo?
Thank you Mr Speaker. I want to go with the Hon Majority Leader on the removal of “district” from that clause. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill clearly focuses on constituencies and with the establishment of the Authority, it is not envisaged that funds would be kept in some constituency offices. The Authority is going to establish its structures and if for instance, in the Northern Development Authority, we want to do some projects in Mr Second Deputy Speaker's constituency, the funds would be managed from the Authority's offices and not from the constituency office or the district office. That is why it is not necessary to bring in districts. This is because when the districts find their names there, they might begin to ask that their structures are used to disburse funds for the Authority. So, there is no need to bring in the districts because the emphasis is on the constituencies. Even though the Hon Majority Leader is proposing that we remove ‘constituency', I think removing it or leaving it there, does no harm to the Bill. Except that the Northern Development Authority Zone has been defined. All the constituencies in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions come under that Authority. So, even if we take it off, it does not harm the Bill and if we include it, we still know that it is referring to all those constituencies in those three regions.
But to put in district, we might give cause to district administrations to begin to demand that this constituency is here, we are doing this, so give us the funds to do it. But I know that the funds should be disbursed from the Authority's office. Thank you Mr Speaker.
Hon Chairman of the Committee, clarification.
Mr Speaker, I think we have reached a consensus on this and—
Just clarification from you. What is the institutional framework you envisaged? Is the Authority going to establish, apart from departments of the Authority, other such structures at the districts or constituencies as we may want to term it? Would there be other structures or coordination and the rest with the existing public sector structures that we know?
Mr Speaker, I am reliably informed that they are not going to use the existing public structures. And that, the Board has been given power in the Bill to establish their own structures.
Going through the Bill, the only structures they mentioned were departments of the Authority. They have not gone beyond that. Is it the case that we want to establish another bureaucratic structure from the Authority down to the unit level? This is because we are talking about poverty—
May I refer Mr Speaker to clause 10, and if I may read; “The Board may establish Committees consisting of members of the Board or non-members both to perform a function of the Board.” We had also added another thing there, that when we get there “ then clause 17 also talks about departments of the Authority as you rightly said. Clause 17 (1) says; “The Board may, on the recommendation of the Chief Executive Officer, establish departments of the Authority that are necessary for the effective performance of the functions of the Authority.” So, Mr Speaker, it is not the existing public structures that they are going to use because the Board had actually been given the power and these departments are going to be established. That is why I would succumb to the proposal that the amendment of the ‘district' should fall. Because the constituency is not causing any mischief to the proposal that has been made, then we maintain that. So, if the amendment falls, I think that could be better for us as a way forward.
The concept is not clear. What we refer to as sub-committees of the Board are; Finance Administration subcommittee, Legal, Operations, et cetera. Those are the subcommittees of the Board. When you talk about departments, you are talking about Finance Department, Administration Department, Employment or whatever. Is it going to establish offices at the district level so that the coordination can move beyond the Authority level? This is because all that they are talking about in clause 10 are within the Authority. Like the existing one we have now, they have not established structures at the beneficiary level. So, if you are doing coordination, then you are dealing with the existing structures: Regional Coordinating Councils, District Assemblies and the rest. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, not necessarily so. This is because—
The coordination with which unit?
Mr Speaker, new structures could ensue because the Functions of the Authority as covered by clause 3 provides; “For the realisation of the short-term and long-term plans, the Authority shall— (a) design a comprehensive development strategy. (b) establish structures and institutions for the effective implementation of the comprehensive development strategy.” So, it is possible for new structures to be established pursuant to the achievement of the object of the Authority.
Well, that is why I asked the question whether they envisaged the establishment of additional structures beyond departments. If that is so, there must be an indication in the Bill outside the ones dealing with only departments and Committees. That is the amplification of clause 3 (c), so that we know that there is a basis when they are establishing it. They cannot only hung on their functions. Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, to assist you further, I am sure what the Hon Chairman is attempting to do. If you read clause 3 (m) it states: “co-operate with key statutory institutions including the National Development Planning Commission, Ministries, Departments, Agencies, District Assemblies and other entities…” There is the provision for it. You do not need to make this reference, it is provided in the same Bill.
I propose we go step by step. Now, there is some clarity being thrown and so I intend to put in the proposed amendment by the Hon Majority Leader, that there is no need to start recapturing constituencies or districts at this level. I would like to read it : “The objects of the Authority are to (c) co-ordinate development activities in the Northern Development Zone with the aim of ensuring that… (ii) private investment achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in every part of the
Yes, Mr Speaker.
There is a further proposal on elegance, that we should not repeat “Northern Development Zone” but replace it with “the Zone”. We know the zone we are talking about. The amendment would then be to: (i) insert “sector” after “private” or before “investment”. Secondly, delete “each constituency” and insert “every part of the zone”. The new rendition would read: “The objects of the Authority are to -- (c) co-ordinate development activities in the Northern Development Zone with the aim of ensuring that (ii) private sector investments achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in every part of the zone.”
Hon Member, do you want to arrest the proposed amendment? What is your reason?
I was wondering if in the north especially, there are many --
Hon Member, when you finish wondering, you could come back. You said you were wondering.
Yes, Mr Speaker. There are many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the north but we are laying emphasis on the private sector. So, what would happen to the NGOs who are also participants?
We are not laying emphasis on the private sector. I told you that when you finish wondering, you could come back. We are very clear in our minds and are not wondering. Question put and agreed to.
We are still on clause 2. There is a second proposed amendment by the Hon Chairman. Since you are the Chairman and you put in an earlier amendment, I did not hear you withdraw it. This is because one amendment which we have all accepted has somehow overruled yours. Procedurally, you would have to withdraw your earlier amendment.
Mr Speaker, I so withdraw.
Thank you very much. Please, move on. Because I was a chairman for many years --
Especially in my Committee as well --
I have moved ahead. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, clause 2 -- paragraph (d), line 1, delete “formulate and” “(d) implement initiatives towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of vulnerable groups in the Northern Development Zone.”
Mr Speaker, I beg to oppose the amendment. At best, even if he wants a substitution for “formulate”, he should go for “develop”. So, it would read: “to develop and implement initiatives”. However, to just say “implement initiatives”, no. The initiatives are not standing by on the streets so that the Ministers would just get them and come and implement. So, he should leave it as it is or at best substitute “formulate” with “develop”. We expect that the Hon Minister through the agencies would develop and implement initiatives. For instance, to give meaning to one village, one dam, you must develop the concept. What size would it be and at what point would you want to undertake this exercise? Hon Chairman, as for doing away with the word “formulate” completely, I beg to disagree with you. Maybe, we could substitute “formulate” with “develop” and leave it as it is. The Chairman is sitting right beside the Hon Minister for Special Development Initiatives. She would develop the initiatives and bring them for our implementation. We know her worry would be where to find money to implement the initiatives.
Mr Speaker, I beg to support the view of the Hon Minority Leader and also ask the Hon Chairman of Committee to tell us the rationale behind his amendment, so that we could follow.
Mr Speaker, if my memory serves me right, I joined a bit late in the day. I thought the concern of the Committee at the time was whether or not the Authority could directly involve itself in the implementation of policies. However, they could formulate plans or develop plans. As to whether they may have to get themselves directly involved in the implementation is what the Committee was concerned about which was a dilemma for the Committee. Mr Speaker, I thought that, rather, the development or formulation of the initiatives — If we go to clause 2(a), it says, and I beg to quote: “accelerate economic and social development in the Northern Development Zone through strategic direction in the planning and prioritisation of development projects.” Mr Speaker, that is indeed formulating; leading and guiding them. So certainly, the formulation or development of the initiatives cannot be left out. I guess it is rather the implementation. Are they going to be involved in direct implementation? If they are, then we better leave it. If they are not meant to do the implementation then we can say, “formulate and facilitate the implemen- tation of initiatives”.
If we like it that way. Otherwise, then we better leave it as it stands. The formulation of the policy or the strategic initiative is key to the Authority — And so, “formulate and implement initiatives”. These initiatives are restrictive —That is gender based initiatives — Empowering women and the vulnerable, et cetera. Perhaps, in that regard, we would even have to leave the, “formulation and implementation”. Hon Chairman, I believe it is right that we maintain it. The amendment should fall and fall heavily.
Since we have the Hon Deputy Minister around — or the Deputy Minister is not here? — The Hon Minister is not available or he has no deputy? Sorry — Hon Minister, let us listen to you. This is because you have to guide us. It is a matter of policy and concept so that we know which direction to chart. Definitely, when you use the word, “formulate”, you talk about policies. But when you use “initiate” — we do not formulate initiatives. We formulate policies. What is it about? Would they be involved in the implementation of whatever — whether they are policies or initiatives?
Mr Speaker, yes.
This yes — It is in respect of which one? Would they be involved in the implementation of policies and initiatives?
Mr Speaker, yes. As far as the issue of gender is involved.
And so it is only the gender. But are the vulnerable group not involved?
Mr Speaker, they are all involved.
Hon Minister, we got into this quagmire because we had a challenge as to whether meso level institutions can formulate policy. That was the real challenge we faced as a committee; can such institutions formulate, and particularly when there are ministries responsible for those policies. The Authorities fall outside those ministries. For example, if it is gender, there is the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection that has a statutory responsibility for formulation of policies for — Mr Speaker, this was the confusion. But we can abandon it if the Hon Minster so feels.
What I get from the House is that, we are to delete, “formulate” and insert “develop and implement initiatives”. When you say, “formulate”, we do not formulate initiatives. We formulate policies and develop initiatives — [Pause.] Let us listen to the Hon Chairman first. Maybe, he has something to clarify. We are also establishing a corporate body.
Mr Speaker, except that I was not sure of the difference between, “formulate” and “develop”. I would have thought that if the amendment would fall for us to have, “formulate and implement” — This is because if the understanding had been clearer here, then we maintain that. Mr Speaker, like the Hon Ranking Member for the Committee said, we thought that the initiatives would have been developed by another ministry, and therefore it would be a duplication of functions if we gave that formulation right or duty to this ministry. But it is clear, and so if it is, “develop and formulate”, I do not see the difference. If there is, then we have to look at the two words and use the right one. But if the amendment would fall, then we would have it as, clause 2 (d), “formulate and implement initiatives towards achieving gender equality…”.
We are now in the field of semantics.
Mr Speaker, as much as I agree that the word, “develop” best suits, I also, want to raise an issue about the word “implement” here — In that, when we toured the Northern region, the stakeholders raised the concern about the Authority being an implementer — This is because, they pointed to the fact that the implementation role of some previous Authorities became their Achilles heel. And so I was thinking that the implementation role of the Authority — Should it be something that we should maintain? In view of the fact that the people themselves who are stakeholders and have had direct experiences think that the Authority having the implementation role would create a problem. And they were talking about facilitation; that the Authority should facilitate activities and processes instead of being the direct implementer. I believe that is a matter that we need to aver our minds to, as we are considering the Bill in detail.
On whom lies the ultimate responsibility? Is it on the Authority or on other structures? This is because we cannot just leave what has been entrusted in you to others to implement without you being part of the implementation. Who are we going to hold responsible if there is any failure?
Mr Speaker, I note that the Hon Chairman was demonstrating some difficulty with, “formulate” and “develop”. Mr Speaker, there is enormous interest in the development of the North, particularly by donors. And they would insist that you have costed projects of initiatives. I recall sometime in 2014, even in the United Kingdom (UK) when the Department for International Development (DFID) then warned the government of Ghana about the poor management status of the Savana Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and the fact that the UK government at the time was prepared to invest as much as 3 million pounds, but on condition that government reviewed the governance structure of SADA. Mr Speaker, so when you come to these issues, we are making a law for purposes of aiding the Hon Minister. How can one “formulate” an initiative? One can formulate a policy but cannot “formulate” an initiative; one can “develop” an initiative. For instance, today in Northern Ghana, we are talking about dams; tomorrow, we may talk about a new intervention. We would develop the concept of that intervention.
Anyway, if the Hon Chairman of the Committee is happy with “formulate”, abandon it and let us make progress. Mr Speaker, kindly put the Question on “formulate”; but I believe it is better if we say “develop and implement initiatives” because there would be many initiatives that would come. I heard the Hon Ranking Member talk about roads. Somewhere in this Bill, they say that this Authority is responsible to the Hon Minister. So, they expect that the Authority will play an implementation role. Mr Speaker, the Hon Chairman of the Committee should help us make progress; the words are “formulate” and “develop” -- he should choose one. But he should choose being guided by reference to -- Mr Speaker, thank you.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the suggestion coming from the Hon Minority Leader. I would want to draw the Hon Minority Leader's attention to the fact that it is not “develop” or “formulate” initiatives simpliciter. The phrase here is talking about “... towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of vulnerable groups in the Northern Development Zone”. To that extent, if the Hon Minority Leader's attention has been drawn to these things and he still thinks that “develop” is better than “formulate”, then I would be happy to hear the Hon Majority Leader.
Mr Speaker, there are two matters before us; the first one is whether the Authority can “formulate” and if you like “develop” an initiative and implement at the same time. At the base level of our national development, the bodies there are charged with that responsibility including even the Assemblies. The Assemblies can make laws and implement them; they “formulate plans and execute” and that is the language of article 245 -- Parliament shall, by law, prescribe the functions of District Assemblies which shall include — a) The formulation and execution of plans, programmes and strategies .... So, it is not inconsistent with the constitutional provision. The second one is semantics, really, whether it is “to formulate”, “to determine”, “to develop”. As far as I am concerned, there is not much distinction but I believe that in that case, we can do with “formulate”.
Mr Speaker, I beg to withdraw the amendment of clause 2 (iii).
Hon Members, the Chairman of the Committee has proposed to withdraw the amendment, I am sure with the indulgence of the House. Do you so indulge him? [Pause.] Clause 2 (d) still stands as “formulate and implement initiatives towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of vulnerable groups in the Northern Develop- ment Zone”. Hon Members, since we are masters of our own rules and procedures, my attention has been drawn to the fact that the State Property and Contract Act of 1960 is still part of our existing law. So, we So, the proposed amendment to clause 1, subclause 3 is: Insert after State Lands Act, 1962 (Act 125) the following: State Property and Contracts Act, 1960 (CA 6). So, the subclause would read as follows: “Where there is a hindrance to the acquisition of property, the property may be acquired for the Authority under the State Lands Act, 1962, (Act 125) or State Property and Contracts Act, 1960 (CA 6) and the cost shall be borne by the Authority”. Question put and amendment agreed to. Hon Members, I will now put the Question on the whole of clause 1 --
Bonsu — rose
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, amendments have been proffered at two places. So, you put the Question “as variously amended”.
So, the Hon Majority Leader would prefer that I add “as variously amended”? As amended would include “variously amended”. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I am not too sure. [Laughter.]
Well, the Speaker is sure. [Laughter.] But for the avoidance of doubt, let us add it. Question put and amendment agreed to. Clause 1 as variously amended ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Then, the Question on the whole of clause 2 is the same. Question put and amendment agreed to Clause 2 as variously amended ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3, but please, indication from Leadership. I do not want to famish you. When are we?
Mr Speaker, I heard you say that you do not want Hon Members -- and I do not want to do that either. I am grateful to Hon Members for what they have done. We have gone beyond 6.00 o'clock and I guess having set ourselves on this path, we can continue tomorrow and do a good job on this. As I said, what is outstanding is the Second Reading of the Coastal Belt Development Authority Bill, 2017, and the Hon Minister would do so tomorrow before we continue with the Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017. Once again Mr Speaker, I am grateful and where we are you may adjourn proceedings of the House until tomorrow at 12.00 noon.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, we are clearly in your hands and I do support the position for an adjournment, except to remind the Hon Majority Leader that tomorrow, he must endeavour to keep the morale of Hon Members high so that they stay through, up to this period in order that we can expedite action. Even though he said he does not want to contribute to what you are avoiding, today, Hon Members have demonstrated good commitment to work and you must encourage that. I see the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways today wants support to do the Suame roads.
Hon Members, the sense of the House is that we should take a bow.