MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 on the Order Paper -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 18th October, 2017.
Hon Majority Leader, we are at Question time now. We have a number of Questions programmed to be answered.
Mr Speaker, my attention has been drawn to the fact that the Hon Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation is programmed to attend another function around 1.30 p.m. So, if you may, we would amend the order of Business and allow the Hon Minister to respond to the Question that has been filed by Hon Ras Mubarak in order for him to be able to leave early.
Very well. Question starred 161, standing in the name of Hon Ras Mubarak.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT,
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND
Hon Minister, you may now answer the Question. Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng): Mr Speaker, I would like to thank you for the privilege to appear before this Honourable House to answer this Question. The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) is working with its agencies including the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI) at Ghana Atomic Energy Commission to develop the requisite infrastructure for space science and technology. GSSTI co-ordinates all national space programmes. Mr Speaker, permit me to give some background information about GhanaSat - 1 GhanaSat-1 GhanaSat-1 was developed by three students from All Nations University College in partnership with their Japanese counterparts at Kyushu Institute of Technology (KIT) in Japan. Japan's national space agency, JAXA, provided the bulk of the resources and training to develop the satellite. GhanaSat-1 was given to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on 9 th February, 2017. JAXA passed GhanaSat-1 on to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 12th February, 2017. It was delivered to NASA's International Space Station (ISS) in June, 2017 on a SpaceX rocket that took off from Pad 39a at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, USA. From the ISS, it was released into space from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on the International Space Station on 7th July, 2017. The satellite cost about $500,000 to manufacture and launch. The GhanaSat-1 has two missions: Firstly, the on-board cameras will take detailed pictures of the coastlines of Ghana. Secondly, there is an educational piece that has the objective of integrating satellite technology into high school curriculum. The team in Koforidua is looking to develop a GhanaSat-2, with high resolution cameras, that could monitor things such as illegal mining, water use, and deforestation in the country. Development of Space Programme In August, this year, Ghana completed the conversion of the 32-metre Intelsat telecommunications Satellite Earth Station at Kuntunse into a functioning radio astronomy telescope. Ghana thus became the first partner country of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) Network (AVN). The radio telescope in Kuntunse is enabling Ghanaian Astronomers to receive information from distant bodies in the universe that will help us understand the birth and formation of stars, the death of stars and the general structure of the universe. Most of the information that will be obtained by this radio telescope may be exotic to many ordinary people but we will all be educated to appreciate how small, fragile and unique our planet earth is in the universe and it is our sacred duty to take good care of it. This should translate into how we manage our biodiversity, including our river bodies, land, and forests with all its biodiversity. The facility in Kuntunse provides avenue for Ghanaian scientists and engineers to pursue careers in new technologies and innovations, including communication satellite technology, remote sensing and computer engineering. In the medium-term, the Ministry has planned to establish a satellite ground receiving station to receive satellite information and data for natural resource development, environmental monitoring and for the security of the country. Mr Speaker, in general, the Ministry is working on some key initiatives that will support the introduction of new technologies and innovations in our Research and Development (R&D) institutions including universities such as:
Mr Speaker, could the Hon Minister tell the House how much is available in cash support to such institutions, and has the Ministry given the All Nations University any of such cash support?
Mr Speaker, the Ministry was not informed at the outset of that project. We got to know when the satellite was launched. We had not budgeted for any such help for any university, but as and when we have resources and we get a request, we would consider it.
Mr Speaker, has the Ministry engaged the All Nations University and any other university in the country that are undertaking projects towards science, innovation and technology?
Mr Speaker, indeed, I had a very long conversation in my office with the Chancellor of the university, Dr Donkor. I have also met some officials of the university and I have been there on two occasions as a guest speaker and to also encourage the Space Science Unit. Incidentally, the head of that Unit is the son of one of my classmates so I personally have key interest in seeing to it that they get on well. Mr Speaker, so we are in touch with them.
Hon Ras Mubarak, your last supplementary question.
Mr Speaker, would the Hon Minister give the House a word of re-assurance that the budget for his Ministry in November would have room and provision for institutions that are researching and doing the right things in the areas of innovation, science and technology? [Interruption.]
On a point of Order. Mr Speaker, I heard my Hon Friend say distinctly “the Rt Hon Minister.” Mr Speaker, the Rt Hon Minister? [Laughter.] He is an Hon Minister not the Rt Hon Minister. So, he should direct the question to the proper place. [Laughter.]
Hon Minister, I have recognised you, so, kindly answer the question.
Mr Speaker, in my Ministry, there are several research institutions including the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which also has 13 institutions. So, in our budget, we ask for funds for research and we hope that we would get enough so that we could help not only our institutions but other universities that we work with. Mr Speaker, two years ago we were able to set up a technology transfer unit in three universities; the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the University of Ghana, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and the Ghana Technology University. So, the sciences are there, and as and when we get resources, we stretch to help all universities that are engaged in serious research.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister said he hopes that he would get the resources. The question actually was whether he made provision in the 2018 Budget for research for those institutions, and he said he hopes. So, I would want to find out from the Hon Minister whether we should take the hope to be the assurance that money would be made available for those institutions in the 2018 Budget.
Hon Leader, I believe the hope is quoted out of context. He said he hopes to get enough funds. He has requested in the Budget for funds to support all research institutions, and he hopes to get enough funds. Whatever he gets, he would stretch to cover all. I believe your Question is already answered. If you would want to ask another question.
Mr Speaker, I rise to seek further clarification from the Hon Minister for Environmental, Science, Technology and Innovation. From the Answer provided in the last paragraph on page 16 of the Order Paper, the Hon
“Mr Speaker, in general, the Ministry is working on some key initiatives that will support the introduction of new technologies and innovations in our Research and Development (R&D) institutions including universities such as: Establishing a National High Performance Computing Centre; Establishing technology incubation centres; Establishing a Technology Commercialisation Unit; Establishing the National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) fund to support R&D as well as innovation; and et cetera.” The Hon Minister does not provide timelines. I rise to find out when he hopes to roll out all of these laudable initiatives he is proposing to this House. Do we have some timelines?
Mr Speaker, I would like to ask for clarity. What Ghana stands to pride itself with is if for example, the training was done in partnership with Japan? The satellite was launched outside of Ghana, the financing was also made out of funds from outside Ghana, yet we say that it is made in Ghana. I would like to know what exactly our three students did that merit this description that it was made in Ghana.
I am not clear. Hon Minister, are you clear with the question?
Yes, Mr Speaker.
Very well. Then, you might answer.
Mr Speaker, building and launching a satellite is a very complex issue. Even the developed nations had to come together to do that. The Satellite GhanaSat-1 was designed and built by three Ghanaian students from the All Nations University, together with their counterparts in Japan. They received technical support and funding from the Japan Space Agency. As we know, one might be able to build a satellite, but to get it into space, he would need a rocket. That was why although the Japanese built it, they could not even launch it in Japan. So, the Japanese Space Agency handed the satellite over to the National Aeronautics and space Administration (NASA). In July this year, NASA launched the satellite using a SpaceX rocket on launch Pad 37a, and that rocket, GhanaSat-1, to the international Space Station that is floating 400,000 km above us. It stayed there for one month. And in July, the satellite was launched from the International Space Station into its orbit. So, this is a very complex issue that Ghana alone cannot accomplish. Therefore, the end result is that, where the satellite is, it is going to take pictures of the coastlines of Ghana, and that is what we stand to gain. The next satellite which is being developed is GhanaSat-2 and it would have other features that would expand its scope of work.
Mr Speaker, as part of the Answer provided in the last paragraph of page 17; establishment of foundries and CNC machine shops? May I know what the CNC is and its usage?
Mr Speaker, I am sorry for those abbreviations, but CNC means “Computer Numerical Control.” Mr Speaker, with that, if one has an engine and he wants to do reverse engineering, he would dismantle the parts, take each part, measure the coordinates and he could feed it into the computer and get a Computer -Aided Design (CAD). And when he designs it, he could do computer-aided manufacturing; that is CAM. After that, we can also use the computer to simulate its functions. So CNC means using computer to design or manufacture something and then you can use the same computer to simulate its function. It makes things very easy for us.
I will give the last one to you and I would bring the curtains down.
Mr Speaker, in the Hon Minister's Answer, he mentioned a number of wonderful initiatives that the Ministry is undertaking to support the introduction of new technologies and innovations and those are listed on pages 16 and 17. I just would want to find out if the Hon Minister could give an idea of cost implications for any of these, especially the first one; establishing of a National High Performance Computing Centre, since he mentioned that a lot has been done in this regard.
Mr Speaker, certainly, there are cost implications, but in the case of the high performance computing, we are going to get the system as a donation from our partners in the square Kilometre array (SKA). Mr Speaker, you may recall that in August, we transformed the communica- tions satellite at Kuntunse into a radio astronomy telescope and with that, we need a high performance computing system to be able to analyse the signals that would be received from space.
Do you have any idea of the cost of the rest?
It will come in modules but the cost would run into millions. The good thing is that we are not going to pay.
Hon Minister, thank you for attending upon the House to answer Questions. Now you are discharged. Is the Ministry of Finance ready? We would take the Ministry for Aviation first. That is a short one. Question starred 162 for the Hon Minister for Aviation, standing in the name of Hon Kwame Governs Agbodza, the Hon Member for Adaklu.
MINISTRY OF AVIATION
Mr Speaker, the Ho Project is being constructed by Amandi Holdings Limited and the Consultant is Amalgamated Design. It is a Design and Build (EPC CONTRACT) Project and the contract sum is US$25,001,889.0. The initial contract period was fifteen (15) months with three (3) months for design and twelve (12) months for construction. This was revised to eighteen (18) months with three (3) months for design and fifteen (15) months for construction. The contract was expected to start on 3rd August, 2015, but was revised to 18th September, 2015. The initial completion date was 4th November, 2016, and the date was revised to 18th March, 2017. The Ministry engaged the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) and the consultants on 26th September, 2017, to brief the Ministry on the progress of work. At the meeting, it was relayed that the contractor had requested for an extension of the completion date to March, 2018, as a result of delays in payments. As at August, 2017, the overall project completion was 88.49 per cent. The value of work certified to date is US$19,700,000.00 and payments have been executed. There is no outstanding payment. The Project is expected to be completed by March, 2018, pending a request for extension as submitted by the contractors for the consideration of the consultants and GACL. There has been the reported challenge of Fulani herdsmen cutting the perimeter fence wall for their animals to graze on the greenfield.
Mr Speaker, if the Answer suggests that there is no outstanding payment to the contractor, on what basis did the contractor ask for almost a whole year extension of time? As far as I am concerned, when contractors do not have problem with payment and it is not about the weather or any significant issue, they should be on site working. So, I would want to know if the Hon Minister is aware of any reason for that lengthy period of extension of time requested by the contractor.
Mr Speaker, the delay is mainly due to the rains. During the rainy season, they could not work so there was a delay of 70 days. That is why it pushed it back. Also, there was a delay in the procurement plan. They had to order for the goods and install them. So, these are the two main reasons.
Mr Speaker, in this country, we know it rains within certain periods of time. So, when we draw our construction period, we should include them. I am aware that the critical part of the work is the runway. That was completed last year. So, I would want to know if the terminal building construction is the one that suffers the delay due to the rain.
Ask a question.
Mr Speaker, can you rescue me from the rowdy crowd?
You are still on your feet; you have not fallen down yet, so, kindly ask your Question.
Mr Speaker, I just want to know from the Hon Minister how, a programme was drawn up which included rainy season for construction. Is it a normal practice that contractors would come back and say that building projects have been suspended because of the rain? [Interruption.] Part of that airport is in my constituency and we are still building other things including schools even in the rain. So, I would want to know which particular situation necessitated the stoppage of the work due to rains.
Hon Majority Leader, do you have any --
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member knows the conditions for Questions. Indeed, Standing Order 67 (1) (b) provides; “Questions must comply with the following:- (b) a Question shall not contain any arguments, expression of opinion, inferences, imputations, epithets or controversial, ironical or offensive expressions or hypothetical cases;” Mr Speaker, you called on the Hon Member to ask a simple question, but he keeps on running commentaries as to his own experiences and so on and so forth.
Hon Member, the answer was that the reason for the delay was rains. What do you further want to find out on that ?
Mr Speaker, I am not sure what particular commentary I have made that is not relevant for which the Hon Majority Leader is intimidating me.
Would you respond to my direction?
Yes, Mr Speaker, we have different people making up Parliament. If an Hon Minister provides an answer that we know has got something to—
Hon Member, I asked you to ask your specific question, which you want a clarification on.
Mr Speaker, could I ask the Hon Minister if it is a normal practice at the Ministry to extend the completion dates of projects based on rainfall?
Mr Speaker, if the contractor says that the rains prevented him from working, I would not doubt him. This is because, Mr Speaker, as we well know, building takes various processses — we have people here; some are architects and contractors. I believe if we have an open building, we cannot definitely work inside of the building. This could be one of the reasons. Mr Speaker, added to that, there are very sensitive machinery that they needed to install which could not have been done during the rainy season. All these accounted for the delay. So, it is a force majeure. I do not believe it is the fault of the contractor. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Yes, Hon Member, you have one more opportunity.
Mr Speaker, in the Hon Minister's Answer, she said they have been informed about some challenges with Fulani herdsmen. Could she tell me what steps are being taken to protect the site such that these Fulani herdsmen do not damage the investment?
Mr Speaker, I just had the Report on the 16th September, 2017. So, we have asked the contractors to put in place security men to ward off the menace of the Fulani herdsmen. Mr Speaker, I believe we all should take -- once the Hon Member is aware, I think the community also should police the area on behalf of all of us. This is because we cannot spend money doing projects for Fulani herdsmen to use their cutlasses to cut in and cause this havoc.
Mr Speaker, in the response of the Hon Minister, she said there was an extension as a result of delays in payments. I would like to find out from her what is the main source of funding the project, and is it very well assured such that there would no longer be delays in payments to the contractor?
Mr Speaker, the project is an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) project in my Answer, I stated that as I stand here, there is no outstanding payments. So, there would not be any problem with the payments. It is an EPC contract, so the contractors sought for the funding.
Mr Speaker, from the Hon Minister's Answer, she said the contractor had requested for extension of time. Could she make available to this House the new work plan for that request the contractor has made?
Mr Speaker, they have given us March, 2018, and I believe, per the discussions we had, their request for extension has not been approved yet. It is receiving attention from the GACL, the Ministry and all stakeholders.
Mr Speaker, in the Hon Minister's Answer, as of August, 2017, all outstanding payments have been made. Could I find out from the Hon Minister if the contractor is on site as of today?
Mr Speaker, yes, they are.
Mr Speaker, my knowledge is that the contractor is on site. So, with this information, I would cross- check.
Mr Speaker, I want to ask our hardworking Hon Minister what plans the Ministry has to ensure that this particular project, the Ho Airport project, does not become a white elephant?
Mr Speaker, I believe the Hon Member could elaborate a bit on the white elephant concept.
Hon Minister, he wants to find out what plans you have to ensure that it is completed on schedule.
Mr Speaker, I believe the Hon Member wants to find out what would become of the Project after completion. Mr Speaker, being the progressive Ministry that we are, we have thought out of the box to make good use of this special project. We have proposed, and we are in the process of talking to investors, that we would also add a training school for pilots and crew members. We have done our research and found out that Ghana has a shortage in these various professions, so we would use that as an additional project to make very good use of the Project.
Once I am at Leadership, I am bringing it to an end. I gave you the opportunity. If you would not take it --
Mr Speaker, I just want to thank the Hon Minister that the Project is on course, and that the new
Mr Speaker, we are praying for the Project to be completed, then it would be handed over and commissioned. For our first flight, we would invite the Hon Member to be on it.
Thank you, Hon Minister for attending upon the House to answer Questions. You are discharged. Hon Majority Leader, are we ready to take the next line of Questions?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister for Finance --
Very well. Question numbered 71, on the Order Paper standing in the name of Hon Kobena Mensah Woyome, the Hon Member of Parliament for South Tongu.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member for South Tongu is on official assignment to India, and has requested that I ask the Question on his behalf.
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
Mr Speaker, respectfully, the Hon Minister for Finance is engaged in some other very serious matters and has requested the Hon Deputy Minister to respond to the Questions on his behalf.
Mr Speaker, I am happy the Hon Minority Chief Whip admitted that Hon Ministers for Finance are usually very busy. That is not to excuse for the Hon Minister if he has nothing doing. However, he is now engaged in pre-budget meetings. Mr Speaker, , I do not know the position of the Minority the application that I made. In any event, just as he said he wanted to put it on record, I also want to establish that for him to have said that the Hon Minister had for nine months not been in this House was factually incorrect. [Interruption.] Let him check his records. He was requested to come and respond to issues relating to the Bond. That was a Question. My Hon Colleagues would have to know what a Question is. Could I read what a Question is? I beg to quote Standing Order 7: “question” except in respect of the question time or period; and a question of privileges means a proposal presented to Parliament or a Committee thereof by the Speaker or Chairman for consideration and decision or disposal in some manner;” So, if we called an Hon Minister to come and respond to a matter, it is a Question. It is in Standing Order 7 of our Standing Orders. Hon Members should try and educate themselves on this. Clearly, what he said was factually incorrect. Thank you very much.
Hon Members, we have so much behind us and I would want to bring this discussion to a close. The Hon Minority Leader did not object to the Deputy Minister for Finance standing in for the Hon Minister. Yesterday and two days ago, the issue was that if the Hon Ministers were busy, they had Deputies. So, we are glad that the Deputies are here. I have granted the application for the Hon Deputy Minister to respond. So, please answer the Question.
Hon Avedzi, we have brought down the curtain on this matter. Hon Deputy Minister, please, come and answer the Questions. Deputy Minister for Finance (Mr Kwaku A. Kwarteng)(MP)(on behalf of the Minister for Finance):Mr Speaker, E- zwich is a Biometric (fingerprint-based) Smartcard payment system with various functionalities including the following, among others: Cash Withdrawal Balance Enquiry Sale (Purchase) Transfers (various forms; card-to- account, card-to-card, card-to- person, etc.) It also has as part of the solution, a Salary and Wage processing application system which is the primary tool for distributing funds to potential beneficiaries. This solution has been
Mr Speaker, I would like to find out from the Hon Deputy Minister whether with the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS) systems, one could use the same e-Zwich number to transfer money to more than one beneficiary.
Mr Speaker, this is a technical question that would involve inquiry with the managers and technical people managing the system before I can provide an answer.
Mr Speaker, I take it that the Hon Deputy Minister would come back to inform the House about operations; whether one could transfer money from an e-Zwich number to other numbers. Mr Speaker, the second question is to find out whether there has been any overpayment from the system to the beneficiaries in 2016.
Mr Speaker, not as far as I know. Nothing has been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Finance to this effect. But I believe we would be happy to ask that question specifically to the YEA, so that we would be able to provide a more certain response to this question.
Mr Speaker, no further question.
Very well. There being no further Questions, the next Question is in the name of Hon Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, Member of Parliament for Akatsi North. GETFund 2016 Release of Disbursement Q.127. Mr Peter Nortsu-Kotoe asked the Minister for Finance when the Ministry would release the sum of ninety- four million, five hundred and fifty-four thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine Ghana cedis and ninety-three pesewas (GH¢94,554,979.93) as disbursement arrears for November and December 2016 to the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund).
Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Finance released an amount of GH¢102,132,177.03 as disbursements into the GETFund for the months of November and December 2016, as per this Ministry's letters dated 4th march, 2017, and 10th August, 2017 respectively, to Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD) for payment. The breakdown is as follows: Disbursement for November, 2016 -- 84,183,538.52 Disbursement for December, 2016 -- 17,948,638.51 Total -- 102,132,177.03 Our checks from the CAGD shows that the total GH¢102,132,177.03 has been paid to GETFUND on 10th April, 2017, and 27th September, 2017, respectively
Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minister in his Answer said that, the last payment was in September, 2017. Per the GETFund Act, they are expected to pay 30 days after moneys have been received on behalf of the Fund. Mr Speaker, could the Hon Deputy Minister tell us why it took them over nine months to remit this sum of money to the GETFund?
Mr Speaker, as a Ministry, our aim is to release these amounts as required by law. There are times when as a result of fiscal constraints, we are not able to do so. I fully appreciate the spirit of the question of my Hon Colleague, and we would aim to ensure that this is not repeated in the future.
Mr Speaker, in the Answer provided by the Hon Deputy Minister, he mentioned that GH¢102,132,177.03 was the total amount released. In the Budget statement for 2017, per what was given to the Committee on Education, the Ministry owed GH¢94,554,979.93. What brought about the difference?
Hon Minister, he said you have overpaid them. Why?
Mr Speaker, these amounts are percentages of the taxes we collect. At the time the Ministry of Finance appeared before the Committee he referred to, the year had not ended. So, the figures would have been provisional. What I have presented to the House are the figures as we have right now.
Mr Speaker, I know very well that the Budget Statement was presented this year, and by 31st December, 2016, the year had ended. I am sure they knew the figures before they appeared at the Committee to tell us what they were
Hon Member, but that was the answer he gave you; that at the time they gave you the figures, they had not finished compilation. When they finished, they used the actual figures to pay you. You are lucky they are not underpaying you. They have paid you the exact amount, which is in excess of what they had told you that they would pay you. So, I do not think there is a need for a further question on that. If you have any other question, please ask.
Mr Speaker, thank you for your intervention. I am alright.
Very well. The next Question to the Hon Deputy Minister is Question 171 standing in the name of the Hon Member for Adaklu, Hon Kwame Governs Agbodza. Lost revenue after abolishing of VAT on domestic airline tickets and its Economic Impact Q.171. Mr Kwame Governs Agbodza asked the Minister for Finance how much revenue had been lost so far since the abolishing of VAT on airline tickets (domestic) and what the economic impact is since the introduction of this tax relief. Deputy Minister for Finance (Mr Kwaku Agyeman Kwarteng)(MP): Mr Speaker, in the first nine months (that is from January to September) of 2016, the number of passengers that used our domestic airlines was 146,831. In the first nine months of 2017, the number of passengers that have used domestic airlines has increased to 184,772. This represents an increase of about 26 per cent. In view of the fact that the abolishing of the VAT on domestic airline fares was implemented from the beginning of the 2nd quarter of 2017, the assessment over a twelve-month period will show even better results. The revenue impact of this increase in passenger numbers will have to be assessed from, at least, the following: 1. Changes in the corporate income tax payments (resulting from the increased passenger numbers) of the domestic airlines; 2. Changes in their overall VAT returns; 3. Changes in personal income tax of employees if additional staff have been recruited or if existing staff are working more hours as a result of the increased passenger numbers. 4. Changes in the tax payments of businesses whose economic activities may have been impacted positively by the reduced cost of air transportation, and 5. Changes in the tax payments of economic actors whose economic activities are impacted by the operations of airlines. To evaluate the extent of these revenue changes will require more time, more resources, and more detailed assessment of many economic actors whose businesses relate directly or indirectly to the operations of our domestic airlines. Further, the tax measure would have to be implemented over a longer period before a fair and helpful assessment of its revenue impact can be made. Government is however pleased that the public has responded favourably to the removal of the contribution of VAT to the price buildup of domestic air fares. The expansion in the economic activities of the airlines resulting from the higher passenger numbers (and the potential for job creation) is exactly what Government intended to achieve.
Mr Speaker, in the first paragraph of the Hon Deputy Minister's Answer, he acknowledged the fact that the passenger number of 146,831 was up to September, 2016. His Answer says that the new figure, which is 184,772, is indeed a figure from October last year through to the first nine months. Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minister tells us that since the Budget Statement came in March this year, considering the nine months he talked about, it is unlikely that it is only the removal of the VAT that accounted for the increase in the numbers. The Budget started in March, and since he used nine months from the beginning of the year, could he tell us that it is possible that this increase is not entirely due to the removal of the VAT? If he has got any other figure that he can quantitatively give me, I would be happy to get that.
Hon Member, when you say “it is possible”, you are asking for an opinion, and it is not an admissible question. Please ask another question.
Mr Speaker, could the Hon Deputy Minister tell me that the increase in the number of passengers from January till the nine months he quoted is entirely due to the removal of the VAT on domestic air tickets?
Mr Speaker, the Question was to assess the revenue impact of a policy measure. We had a clear intention, as Government, why that policy was implemented; the outcome is favourable. The question of whether this would have happened if the policy measure had not been implemented is what we may want to conduct some more studies into. When we set out to implement this policy, we hoped for this outcome; we are pleased at it. Could there have been other factors? Maybe; but we are just pleased that we have achieved the outcomes we set out to achieve. Some Hon Members — rose --
Mr Speaker, I am conscious of how many slots I have. Mr Speaker, if the Hon Minister turns to the penultimate paragraph, he would notice that it reads: “Further, the tax measure would have to be implemented over a longer period before a fair and helpful assessment of its revenue impact can be made”.
Hon Member, please, ask your Question.
— rose --
Mr Speaker, the Hon “Minority” Leader would never allow me. Anytime I get up, he is up with me. I am sitting now, so he can talk.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I guess my Hon Colleague must be educated that I ceased to be the Hon Minority Leader more than nine months ago. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I guess the issue with my Hon Colleague is that the rules are clear about how to ask a question -- that is all. So why is it that it is only Hon Agbodza, whenever he gets up? Before the Hon Member builds his predicate, he constructs ladders to mount his simple question on. He should ask the simple question. The rules are there for him to apply himself to -- that is all that we demand of him.
Mr Speaker, I take cognisance of what the Hon Majority Leader said. Mr Speaker, I doubt if there is anybody in this House who does not understand this when the Hon Deputy Minister said, “for the first nine months” there is an end result that was realised. The same Hon Deputy Minister said that we have not gone through enough phases for us to have conclusive assessment. The Hon Majority Leader said that it is not enough for me to make reference to the Hon Deputy Minister's own Answer before I ask my question -- I do not understand. Mr Speaker, those who have been making derogatory comments in the background, it is not very Parliamentary. Mr Speaker, could the Hon Deputy Minister give us a time frame within which he expects that, there would be a full cycle for him to come and report to the House as to whether this impact was favourable or negative?
Mr Speaker, the simple answer is that we implement economic policies and we want to achieve the growth of your economy; we do not restrict ourselves to some particular time frame within which we would do an assessment of the policy. We continually review the policy; for instance, we had noticed that passenger numbers dwindled as a result of a policy. It would immediately be necessary to review the policy, to talk to the industry players, and see whether the policy itself has to be fine-tuned. But where the outcomes are favourable, one could choose anytime to do this. In fact, we would come to this House as Ministry of Finance to present the 2018 Budget Statement and there would be a report on the outcomes of the policies we have implemented so far. We could choose any timeframe and do it but I believe we should be glad that at least, for what we have seen so far, the outcomes are favourable. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague takes the view that it may be due to some other factors. That is all right. We thank God. The important thing is that the outcomes are favourable. I thank you very much.
Yes, Hon Isaac Adongo? Am I right?
Yes, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] I thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I would just want to ask the Hon Deputy Minister whether he is aware that over the last couple of years, it had been the case that passenger numbers have been rising even before we eliminated the Valued Added Tax (VAT)? Has he taken the trouble to check what the numbers have looked like in the past to come to the conclusion that this year is an exception.
Hon Deputy Minister, did you get the Question?
Mr Speaker, the suggestion by my Hon Colleague that these passenger numbers automatically rise is incorrect. In fact, in the first nine months of 2015, the figure we have here is 160,795. As fuel prices and taxes went up and the cost of fares went up in 2016, it dropped quite badly to about 120,202. As a result of the intervention, and perhaps I would like to grant that to my Hon Colleague that other factors playing, we are beginning to see a rise again. So, Mr Speaker, the suggestion that the numbers have always gone up is incorrect and I would want the records to take note of this.
Hon Member for Tamale North?
I thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I would also want to ask a question which is related to the passenger output. As somebody who has worked in that area before, the Minister's Answer in relation to numbers in 2015 cannot be correct. Indeed, it is not correct. Mr Speaker, sometimes, because of my knowledge in that industry --
Hon Member, kindly ask your question.
Thank you. Mr Speaker, in the Hon Minister's Answer, her talks about the increase from 146,831 to 184,772 representing 26 per cent of passengers between the years 2016 and 2017. He attributed that to the removal of Valued Added Tax (VAT) and other incentives. Mr Speaker, I would like to know how these reasons he has given resulted in a reduction in fares that passengers pay, which then can be attributed directly to the reason why the numbers have increased. Are passengers paying less now than they used to do? I thank you, Mr Speaker.
Yes, Hon Minister, are passengers paying less as a result of the removal of VAT?
Mr Speaker, after the implementation of the policy, our Revenue Policy Division actually went out to confirm that the reduction of the VAT rate had reflected in the fares, and the report we got was that it had.
Mr Speaker, I have in my hands here official figures from the Ghana Airport Company Limited. If we would correspond that they would give you the figures for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. They give figures for both domestic and international flights. For the 2015 figures, [Uproar.] -- Mr Speaker, we had 525,440 domestic passengers; for international, they gave the total figure as 1,667,675. So, if we are currently doing 184,772 and we claim that it is as a result of a removal of this tax component, will the Hon Minister agree that based on the figure from the Ghana Airports Company Limited, which is the official company that keeps these figures, we are rather seeing a retrogression in the usage in terms of the absolute figures? I thank you, Mr Speaker.
Very well. Hon Minister, I will leave you to answer the Question because the issues are very --
Mr Speaker, I have quoted the passenger numbers for 2015 which is 146,831 and we are talking about the first nine months and for 2017, it is 184,772. I am at a loss as to how anybody can look at this as a retrogression. It is rather an improvement. I thank you very much.
Hon Member for Yilo Krobo?
I thank you, Mr Speaker. In the Hon Minister's Answer to a Question earlier put to him, he said, figures received showed that fares have been reduced. May the Hon Minister inform this Honourable House the percentage of reduction per the statistics he received and the source of it?
Mr Speaker, I do not have those figures here with me. [Uproar.] The reduction of the contribution of VAT was 17.5 per cent of the face value of the fares. So Mr Speaker, for anybody to come back and ask what the percentage is, is to ask for information that is already available in public domain.
Yes, Hon Minority Chief Whip?
Hon Members, shall we have some order? The question which the Hon Minister was asked to answer was whether there have been any economic impact on the reduction in VAT or the removal of that VAT from the cost? He has come to us with figures from the period the VAT was removed. Somebody suggested that, the reduction happened before the VAT was removed and therefore, increase in passenger numbers happened before the VAT was removed but he says no, and that what he inherited from 2016 and the one year after shows an increment. Now, we are going back to say figures in 2016. If it is to proof that numbers had increased, then you have to give a whole litany before 2015. The 2016 is what is in the Answer. So I think that we should stay with the Question -- had there been a removal of VAT; has there been an impact? He says that yes, numbers have reduced. That is a fact. Is it not? Is anybody challenging that fact? As for its economic impact which one are you challenging? The figures in this document? The figures he put before us is here. Please, read your Answer. Hon Members, let us stay with this Question. If anybody wants to ask a further question showing that the figures are wrong, they should do so in any case, somebody picks a phone and says, “From what I have here” and he wants us to say that it is authentic but what the Hon Minister says is not authentic. [Interruption] -- Exactly the point I have made. If we are going to table a document which challenges the fact here, do so. If you want to table your iPad also, do so. [Laughter] -- Otherwise, it is just as good as what the Hon Minister said from his memory. So shall we stay with the Question, please?
Mr Speaker, I just would want to offer some information to my good friend, the Chief Whip. We both fly to Kumasi. It appears that somebody has been cheating him by charging him higher fares. So if he wants lower fares, he should see me.
Yes, Hon Minister, what is the source of the data you have provided in your Answer?
Mr Speaker, it is from the Ghana Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Aviation. Our staff did consultation with them. [Uproar.]
There is an authority called Ghana Civil Aviation Authority. So, he is not wrong.
Hon Minority Chief Whip, I would readily admit that as an Urgent Question whenever you file it. Thank you. We can bring a closure to this Question. I will come to Question numbered 172 on the Order Paper in the name of the Hon Member for Suaman, Mr S.M.E. K. Ackah. Ghana @ 60 Celebrations (Monies realised) Q.172. Mr Stephen M. E. K. Ackah asked the Minister for Finance how much had been realised so far from all sources towards the Ghana @ 60 Celebrations and how much moneys have been expended on each expenditure item.
Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Finance has made available to Parliament information relating to budget releases for the commemoration of Ghana's 60 th Anniversary. The fundraising for the Ghana@60 Secretariat and is being supervised by the Office of the Chief of Staff, and not the Ministry of Finance.
Mr Speaker, the first sentence of the Hon Minister's Answer testifies that, the Ministry made some releases towards the commemora- tion. My question is, why? I ask this because, on the 9th of February, when the President launched the logo for the celebration, he declared that, they would need about GH¢ 20 million to be funded from corporate Ghana, individuals and other benevolent benefactors and not from Government chest. So, if the Hon Minister is telling us that they have made releases towards it, then why did they release the money from Government chest when the President said no money should be released from there?
Mr Speaker, traditionally, monies are allocated for the commemoration of anniversaries. So for Ghana's 60th anniversary, some budget allocation was made. But Ghana @ 60 Secretariat is conducting a set of activities because 60 years is considered as a kind of milestone. Now the Secretariat responsible for that has been raising funds and as the President indicated, those funds do not come from the Budget. It is being handled by the Ghana @ 60 Secretariat. And as I indicated, they are supervised by the Office of the Chief of Staff.
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minister's last paragraph indicates that it is not the Ministry that supervised the fund raising activities. It is the Office of the Chief of Staff. As it is the Ministry for Finance that supervises generally the financial issues of the country, did the Secretariat contribute to the cost of the celebration?
I am sorry. I did not get the Question. Did the Secretariat do what?
Mr Speaker, I asked whether the office of the Chief of Staff supervising the Secretariat of the celebration offered any contribution to the general cost of the celebration. As an Hon Deputy Minister, is he aware?
Hon Member, if I understand, from the Answer offered so far, on the days we commemorate, there is a national budgetary part, and the Ghana @60 Secretariat also sets a number of activities which from my understanding is a whole year activity. [Interruption.] That is the Answer. So, it is improper to ask the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance to answer questions relating to the activities of another agency. You could ask the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs to answer that Question but certainly not the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your intervention. I would want to find out from the Hon Deputy Minister whether he is suggesting that the office of the Chief of Staff has no obligation to account for moneys that were raised in their fund raising activities to Ghanaians.
Yes, Hon Deputy Minister?
Mr Speaker, I am not suggesting any such thing. I believe the Chief of Staff, to the extent that these are moneys collected in the name of the State, has to account for the money.
Mr Speaker, may I then entreat the Hon Majority Leader and the Commander of Parliamentary Affairs, if I may put it that way, to entreat to Chief of Staff to come and render account to Ghanaians on whatever they rendered here since we would want accountability on whatever moneys they raised. They could convey that information to her.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is directing the question at the Hon Majority Leader. When he directs it appropriately, he would have an appropriate response.
Mr Speaker, I wanted to find out from the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance whether in the course of raising funds for the Ghana @ 60 celebrations, he is aware the regional committees raised any moneys and whether they were allowed the uses the moneys locally or they accounted for those moneys to the national secretariat.
Yes, Hon Minister, are you aware of regional committees raising funds and how they are accounting for them?
Mr Speaker, I cannot confirm or deny that. The Ministry of Finance did not go soliciting for funds. I heard that in his question. We did not do that. It was from the Budget that we made some allocations for the Ghana's 60 th Anniversary. I am not aware that the Ministry of Finance raised any funds in the manner he suggested.
Mr Speaker, from the Answer made available to us, and with your indulgence, I would want to quote one sentence, which is the last sentence: “The fundraising for the Ghana@60 activities is being done by the Ghana@60 Secretariat and is being supervised by the Office of the Chief of Staff, and not the Ministry of Finance.” Mr Speaker, why then did the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance come to this House to answer the Question?
Hon Member, the Hon Deputy Minister was invited by Parliament to come. That was why he came. Everybody has had the chance. Very well, Hon Adongo, I would give the last one to you and I would bring it to a close.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, the last time the Hon Deputy Minister was here on a similar subject, in response to a question asked by the Hon Suhuyini, he referred us to look into the Daily Graphic as his source. May I know whether today, we still have to go back to the Daily Graphic to get the source of his information?
I am not privy to what you are talking about, so maybe, he could answer.
Mr Speaker, I have never indicated that the allocations for expenditure in the national Budget is sourced from the Daily Graphic. How could anybody have said that? Mr Speaker, I find it very strange that the Hon Member would think of such a question that budgetary allocations by the Ministry of Finance would be sourced from the Daily Graphic. I believe he should re-examine the point of his question.
Hon Deputy Minority Leader, do you want to ask questions? Otherwise, I am bringing the curtains down.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minister indicated that the Office of the Chief of Staff supervises the Ghana @60 Secretariat in the fundraising. I would want to find out from the Hon Deputy Minister whether moneys raised on behalf of Government belongs to Government, and it is the Minister for Finance who is in charge of the finances of this country. Is there any measure or procedure for which the Office of the Chief of Staff would account for the funds raised for the Ghana @60 celebration to the Ministry of Finance.
I would disallow this question. The Auditor-General is the agent of Parliament. He audits and brings the report to Parliament. If you would want to raise another question.
Mr Speaker, if allocations are not made from the Budget, it would be difficult for the Auditor-General to audit that account.
That is not correct. The Auditor-General's report on the Ghana @50 celebration is available because moneys are raised in the name of the country.
Mr Speaker, the Ministry in charge of the finances of Government would not even know how much has been raised for the Auditor-General to audit before the information is provided to the Ministry of Finance. Mr Speaker, I beg to differ. The Ministry of Finance should have a procedure to know how much has been raised on behalf of Government. [Interruption.] I said; I beg to differ. I am not arguing with the Hon Speaker, but I am saying that the Ministry of Finance; the one in charge of the finances of Government must know how much has been raised on behalf of Government.
Hon Deputy Minister, the question has been disallowed. The answer has already been given. The Chief of Staff would provide accounts, but it would not come through the Ministry of Finance. It would be through the Auditor-General, and it would be intended for Parliament. Hon Majority Leader, any question from the Majority bench?
Mr Speaker, not really.
Very well. Hon Deputy Minister, we thank you for attending upon the House to answer Questions. You are discharged. Item number 4 -- Statements. I admitted a Statement to be made by the Hon Minister for Communications.
Mr Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to make a Statement on the Spectrum Audit and subsequent actions taken by the National Communications Authority (NCA), an agency under the Ministry of Com- munications. The NCA's mandate is drawn from the National Communications Authority Act, 2008 (Act 769), clause (2) which states: “The object of the Authority is to regulate the provision of communications services in the country”. It further states among others in clause 3, that the Authority shall: “(a) establish and monitor the implementation of national communications standards and ensure compliance accordingly; and (e) ensure fair competition amongst licencees, operators of communications networks and service providers of public communications.” Mr Speaker, clause 2(1) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) further mandates the NCA to regulate the radio spectrum designated or allocated for use by broadcasting organisations and providers of broadcasting services in accordance with the standards and requirements of the International Telecommunications Union and its Radio Regulations as agreed to or adopted by the Republic. These provisions give the NCA the clear mandate to manage spectrum and issue, suspend or revoke frequency authorisations and that is simply what they seek to do. Mr Speaker, permit me to emphasise that the NCA does NOT grant licences to radio stations. It does NOT regulate the media or exercise editorial control of FM stations either. The NCA is the legal custodian of Ghana's spectrum resources and grants AUTHORISATIONS to entities to use the spectrum under stated conditions. To illustrate this point, the NCA does not determine which car you buy or drive, where you go or what you do in that car. It does have a toll road though, so to drive
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Hon Sam George, I have offered you the opportunity to contribute to the Statement. Whether you want to pick it from your Statement or not, it is entirely up to you. But this is not to allow you to read your Statement. Leadership took a decision regarding the Statement at a pre-Meeting and that is why I am giving you the first option. So, please, go ahead and contribute.
Mr Speaker, it appears to me that the Hon Minister has made copious reference to points raised in my Statement and that is a cause of worry. However, in speaking to the points she has raised, I would ask the question that she provided answers to, and show how inadequate her answers have been. Mr Speaker, the National Communi- cations Authority (NCA) is without doubt, the sole regulator of the national finite resources which is the spectrum, and nobody has any question on our minds. However, the Hon Minister made reference to section 72 (1) (e) of Act 775 and Regulation 137 of LI 1991, and said that on the basis of that, we should be thankful to the NCA for having a cap of GH10, 000.00 per day as a pecuniary charge on any station that is found in default of renewing its license regulation. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is a seasoned lawyer and she must bear cognisance of the fact that, any Act passed by this House or any LI is subject to the 1992 Constitution. Article 174 (1)(2) of the 1992 Constitution states and with your permission, I read; “No taxation shall be imposed otherwise than by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament. (2) Where an Act, enacted in accordance with clause (1) of article, confers power on any person or authority to waive or vary a tax imposed by that Act, the exercise of the power of waiver or variation, in favour of any person or authority, shall be subject to the prior approval of Parliament by resolution.” I put it on record that that the NCA failed to come before this august House in 2015 to approve their Schedule of Penalties, and that the Schedule of Penalties as used by the NCA in imposing this charge, did not come before this august House of Parliament. As such, the NCA is carrying out and perpetuating an illegality, which this House must stop because we are vested with upholding the 1992 Constitution.
Hon Member, I want to understand you, which one is the NCA applying without coming to this House?
The schedule of penalties that they are using to impose the fines on the media houses.
The schedule to what?
Mr Speaker, it is the schedule of fees.
A schedule is often to either an LI or an Act.
This schedule was gazetted on the 25th of April, 2015, without coming before this august House. Any fees and charges must be approved by this House. Article 174 of the Constitution is clear on that. Mr Speaker, I would move further. All the five Presidents of this Fourth Republic, including our current President, have shown that -- Several Hon Members -- rose --
Hon Members, you would have the opportunity. Let him flow. Take note of the things you think are wrong.
Mr Speaker, all the five Presidents of this Fourth Republic, including the current President, H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, have all played a role in the entrenchment of the freedom of speech in this country. Under former President Rawlings, we saw the opening up and pluralisation of the media space in this country. Former President Kufuor came and entrenched the pluralisation of the media. Former President Mills continued, and Former President Mahama did same. President Akufo-Addo, then as a Lawyer, was one of the people who led for the pluralisation of media space in the Radio Eye case, where he was counsel for Dr Wireko Brobbey of Radio Eye. He ensured that media plurality was entrenched in our law books. Mr Speaker, let us put it on record because the Hon Minister spoke under oath in this House that she has been misinformed by the NCA. I have evidence to adduce that as of 4th October, 2017 when I tendered in my Statement, the NCA had still not published the new schedule of fees on its website. For the avoidance of any doubt, we cloned the website of the NCA on 4 th October, 2017, and we can tender it in as evidence if they so want. So, it must be put on record that it was only after my Statement was submitted, and on the 5th of October, 2017 that the NCA altered and published the new Schedule of Penalties. Let me make reference to the old Schedule of Penalties --
Hon Member, hold on. Did you submit your Statement to Mr Speaker?
Do you suggest that it was the Mr Speaker who gave your Statement to them --
Mr Speaker, I am not suggesting so. I am just making reference to the date. I submitted my Statement on the 4th --
That is the implication; it was only after your Statement -- [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, I have not said so. I am only giving a timeline. I submitted my Statement on the 4th of October, 2017. On the 5th of October, 2017, there was a change. As to how that change came about, I am in no positon to speak.
Hon Member, I think that this is a matter that we should take very seriously. If you are using dates, use them without referring to when you submitted your Statement --
I shall rephrase Mr Speaker.
This is because your Statement -- [Interruption.] The suggestions emanating from that -- Mr Speaker is not here, and I am sitting in his place, I take very seriously anything which impinges on his integrity or mine. So, if indeed that is the suggestion, then I would want us to take it further.
Mr Speaker, for the avoidance of any doubt, I am in no way implying that there is a correlation between Mr Speaker receiving my Statement and 24 hours later, the NCA changing their Schedule of Penalties. For the avoidance of any doubt, I am in no way implying so because I have no proof to that.
Speak on the microphone, so you are recorded. If you are that bold, speak to the microphone.
Mr Speaker, let us put on record again, another representation by the Hon Minister for Communication to this House, that the old Schedule of Penalties gave the NCA arbitrary powers. It is incorrect. The old Schedule of Penalties gave the NCA the power to impose two sanctions. One was financial and the other one which was any other punitive measure. In terms of finance, it gave a clear cut amount. It said, and I would read: “Contravening the obligations in a licence or authorisation, the penalty for this shall range between GH¢1,000.00 and GH¢2,000.00.” It did not even add per day. It was a flat rate and said: “The NCA could at its own discretion, add any other sanction” However, when it came to financial implications, it gave specific figures. That was the old schedule of penalties. Mr Speaker, let us put it on record that as representatives of the people, our interest in the NCA -- I serve as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, this is not necessarily giving power to them to excessively “monetise” free speech and go after community radio stations which are not supposed to be profitmaking --
Hon Member, when we are debating on Statements, we should avoid making controversial statements which would generate into a debate. This is important. Kindly explain what you mean by “moneytisation” of free speech.
Mr Speaker, I made that in reference to community day radio stations. Community day radio stations are granted licences because they are not to make profit. So, if a community based radio station has been granted a licence such that it should not make profit, how then do you expect them to pay of fee a GH¢10,000 a day when you have given them a licence by which they are not supposed to make any profit? Even with the large media houses, many of them are unable to even meet their overhead costs. That is why media houses many have gone into event management as a way of raising additional funds to pay their workers' salaries. Mr Speaker, this is what has informed a policy position by the predecessors of the Hon Minister, under former President Kufuor, former President Mills and former President Mahama, why they turned a blind eye to the renewal of the licence regulation. Let us put it on record that if the NCA has failed in carrying out their own mandate, they cannot turn around and be jury and judge in their own court. Why do I say so? These radio stations have flouted a licence regulation which spans a period of about five years for which they should have done a renewal. However, these radio stations have, on a yearly basis, been paying their annual subscription fees to the NCA and the NCA has been receiving them. If the NCA knew that these media houses had failed to renew their licences for five years or ten years and kept paying their yearly renewal fees, why did the NCA not refuse the yearly renewal and say that until you pay your licence regulation fees, you would not be given a yearly renewal? Mr Speaker, the only answer I can adduce is that, our former Presidents, President Mills, President Kufuor, President Mahama and President Rawlings all took a veiw that the media in this country is really under huge overhead costs. Many of our media houses even struggle to pay their workers. This is because they do not make profits. So why overburden them with an additional charge of a five yearly fee? If this Government has taken the position that it would want to enforce that five yearly fee, they can do that going forward. Mr Speaker, as I end, I would give a typical example of the arbitrariness that has been shown by the NCA in the application of its punitive actions. The Schedule of Penalties was gazetted on 25th April, 2015; but we see the NCA -- it must be put on record that the Gazette was not approved by this House. Even if we forget about that, Mr Speaker, you are a seasoned lawyer and you know, as well as many other lawyers in this Chamber that, the laws of Ghana prohibit a retrospective application of laws. We do not allow the retrospective application of laws, fees and charges in this country. Our laws are clear on that; yet, the NCA in a haste to be, for want of a better expression, draconian in the application of its punitive measures, they went as far as 2008 to apply fees and charges that were only gazetted on 25th April, 2015. Mr Speaker, there are people from your constituency and region, and people who are in our constituencies who we represent here as Members of Parliament, whose livelihoods would be taken away from them. If as Members of Parliament, we sit back and do not stand up to the NCA and say to them that there are rules in this country, and that they must bring their fees and charges before the august House of Parliament and they cannot apply their fees and charges retrospectively — [Hear! Hear!] — Until we do that, we are not serving our people right. Mr Speaker, I speak for the people of Ningo-Prampram, and they gave me a message, and their message to the NCA and the Hon Minister for Communications is simple; she should task the NCA to review its KPIs for the multinational telcos. The NCA uses a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of 2G network to determine performance of the telcos, when the world today has moved to 4G and some are going into 5G. Mr Speaker, when we do any compliance audit of telcos at NCA they pass because they are using 2G, when they should rather be using 4G standard for them and letting them fail. This is what has occasioned the poor quality of call services and poor data network. There are parts of Ningo-Prampram that one cannot make phone calls when one stands. People have to climb trees or stand on top of their houses to get signal, and yet MTN, Vodafone and Tigo keep
Hon Member, Kokofu is part of my constituency — [Laughter.] — What football do we play at Kokofu?
Mr Speaker, I use Kokofu with your permission. Mr Speaker, we must do what is right and what is just if Ghana would work. Mr Speaker, I am an engineer by profession. A machine can work either in forward or reverse gear. So, if the Hon Minister suggests that Ghana is working, it could be working in a reverse gear — [Hear! Hear!] — So, we need to be very careful about the gear Ghana is working in. But we cannot sit here as representatives of the people and be told that Ghana is working in a reverse gear and we say Hear! Hear! when our people and their livelihoods are challenged. The NCA should take a cue from its sister company in Nigeria. We are fighting SIM boxing. What did they do in Nigeria? They charged MTN US$2 billion as punitive measures — [Interruption] — because it is a multinational and it is not Ghanaians that would suffer. Ghanaians do not produce SIM cards. And so the Hon Minister should focus on getting the NCA to bring us punitive measures that we would approve. Mr Speaker, it is on record that SIM box fraudsters are arrested and they have 30,000 SIM cards from one Telecom Company. How did they get it? Yet we are not finding those telcos but we want to kill Ghanaian businesses.
Hon Member, I ruled earlier when he wanted to intervene that we should allow the debate to flow. Take note of anything you think you wish to.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement that has been made by the Hon Minister. Mr Speaker, indeed, we have heard a lot after the Statement made by the Hon Minister. The issue of revocation of licenses has become thorny in recent times because the NCA is issuing instructions to radio stations to cease operation on account of non-compliance with provisions of legislation enacted by this House. Mr Speaker, I have personally sighted one such communication and this relates to a radio station in the Brong Ahafo Region. Indeed, I was writing a response to the NCA in my office when I heard that this Statement was being made and I ran to listen and to contribute to the Statement. Mr Speaker, the grounds on which the licence is being revoked is that in the process of renewing their licence -- a frequency allocation that they have -- they did not provide all the documentation needed for the processing of their renewal, even though they had provided some documentation and had, in fact, made payments; I have receipts of the payments that had been made. Mr Speaker, if one looks at the Act that regulates the sector, clearly, there is an obligation to annually renew and to pay renewal fees. But there is also an obligation on the NCA not to be overzealous in the enforcement of the law. Mr Speaker, overzealousness in the enforcement of the law is an instance where a station has applied for renewal, made the payments and submitted documents short of maybe one or two documents and on account of that omission, the NCA writes to indicate to them that they would terminate the frequency. Mr Speaker, we can see clearly from the number of reported cases some fear, which in my opinion, is well founded, that these administrative mechanisms are being used to clamp down on certain radio stations -- [Uproar] -- indirectly clamping down on freedom of expression. [Uproar.] Mr Speaker, of course, I would not excuse failure to comply with Regulations, but if for so many years these stations have been operated and there are lapses in compliance with their authorisation, regulations and requirements, and the NCA wants to ensure that they in compliance, they should please give them some transition period during which we would insist that they all make efforts to comply with the authorisations that they have and publicise these. The NCA should engage in public education, so that they would all sit up and comply. But to use non-compliance dating back to several years as a reason to impose on radio stations in communities millions of Ghana cedis today -- Mr Speaker, there are many of these radio stations that were permitted to operate just so that there would be facilities for public education in those communities. It is not because, these stations are indeed viable, in terms of the market. They are not viable where they are. Indeed, Mr Speaker, some of the charges that by law we are exacting on them, but for reasons of prestige, many of them may not need to pay because they really will not be able to make the income which will enable them to pay their workers, those charges, and still be viable. So, Mr Speaker, my plea to the Hon Minister for Communications and to the NCA is that, we in this House cannot renege on our commitment to the rule of law and to our commitment to support Ministries and Agencies to enforce the law and to ensure compliance with the law. Radio stations, by their nature, are very important instruments for socio-economic development. Therefore, let us not engage in actions that would kill them. Let us rather support them. It is not for nothing that in enacting the law, there was a proposal to set up an investment fund, so that we could support these establishments. Mr Speaker, but the truth of the matter is that this would not go well for freedom of expression in this country. We are free to express ourselves, but we need the infrastructure on which to ensure that our expression is amplified. That is the essence of the frequency. Mr Speaker, I will make a quick point and end. I believe that there are two issues involved here; the authorisation and licensing of equipment and then also, the frequency itself. I see that the haste to terminate and cease a frequency should be done carefully. For the equipment, when one has the frequency and the renewal is not done clearly, one cannot operate it anyway. So, when it comes to the frequencies, I would urge the Hon Minister that she does not hasten to cease a frequency. She can stop them from operating and insist that they renew their licences; but she should not be in a hurry to terminate the frequency allocation that has been made. So, my plea is tha,t the frequency allocations should please not be terminated. They can go ahead to stop them from operating until they renew their licences, so that we can have the moneys that we need. But they should not be in a hurry to confiscate the frequencies so that you could reallocate them to certain persons. Who are those persons? [Uproar] Who are those they want to reallocate those frequencies to? Do we know those persons? Is there some motivation? Mr Speaker, on that note, let me also urge the owners of radio stations, those who have applied for frequencies and have been allocated, and those who have applied for licences and have been granted to also be compliant. They should comply with the terms and conditions for the allocations that have been made, so that we do not have the unfortunate situation where the Ministry of Communications and NCA may be compelled to take these measures which are unpleasant. For this reason, we appeal that they should freeze the seizures, give them space to comply with the law and, if they like, in future, if there are new frequencies, they can also allocate to those that they want to allocate to. I thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Hon Deputy Minister? Deputy Minister for Communications (Mr George Nenyi K. Andah)(MP): I thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity. I would like to commend the Hon Minister for Communications for such a brilliant speech and for the firm position that she has taken to protect the rule of law and to protect right being right in Ghana. I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the Acting Director-General of the NCA and the Board for being firm and working without fear or favour. Mr Speaker, I would establish a number of facts that indeed, all of us in this House do recognise the position that the NCA is mandated to manage and issue authorisations for the use of spectrum in Ghana. Mr Speaker, I would like to further confirm and establish the fact that all of us in this House do recognise the fact that the NCA has a mandate to punish wrongdoing as far as the utilisation of national spectrum is concerned. Mr Speaker, earlier this year, I had the opportunity to lead the NCA to meet the PAC, which is chaired by the Hon Deputy Minority Leader. It was a great learning experience for me with the direction that he had given us on how to manage the national resources. He made it clear that he was not happy with the way that certain resources were not managed properly as far as the usage of national spectrum was concerned. Mr Speaker, the NCA is working with the rule of law. If we would recall, the NCA have - and the Hon Minister did make that statement that, in March this year, the NCA did publish in the national dailies their intention to carry out an audit of national spectrum as far as radio operators were concerned. Indeed, the NCA followed up with letters to each of these radio houses, and they went ahead and carried out their audit. Mr Speaker, in June and July this year, those media houses that were found not to be in compliant were written to. There are over 500 authorisations that have been issued in this country for individuals and entities to operate radio stations. Mr Speaker, out of the 500, 131 were found to be deficient in their operations. There are another 300 and more that are doing well. So, I would have expected that, as legislators in this House, we would have commended those individuals and entities that are complying with the law and encourage them to continue doing the right thing. Mr Speaker, but on the flipside, I have realised that our Hon Friends on the other side are focusing heavily on those that have rather gone against the law, and I find it to be a big matter of concern. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister had in two sections of her Statement said that any entity that feels aggrieved by the position that the NCA has taken should petition the NCA. Again, the Hon Minister has said that when she receives these petitions, she would look at them. Mr Speaker, I do not see why, as legislators, we are not pushing for those who have breached the law to do the right thing. We do not expect that the Ministry of Communications, under the Hon Minister, would rather go and overturn the penalties that the NCA has put up when the people are clearly doing wrong and going against the rule of law. As legislators, I believe that we should all protect the rule of law in this country. When people took part in galamsey and His Excellency the President took a firm decision to fight galamsey, there were others who said that it was a wrong decision. He stood by it and we all know what the benefits are. Recently in the petroleum industry, His Excellency the President and Cabinet have taken a firm decision, and I am 100 per cent convinced that my boss has taken the right decision as far as protecting the rule of law and sanitising the industry is concerned.
Who is your boss?
My boss is Hon Ursula Owusu-Ekuful. Whether they like it or not, she is my proud boss. Mr Speaker, it is interesting to note that we would commend the NCA or even suggest to the NCA to apply extremely punitive sanctions on international investors who are operating in the country, but on the flip side, we say that others who are not abiding by the rule of law should be given a tap on the back. The law is the law. We would make sure that the right thing is done, and I would repeat that the Hon Minister, in her Statement, has made it clear that if they feel aggrieved, then they should please petition the NCA. On a case-by-case basis, she would review the situation. Mr Speaker, thank you for your attention.
No, the Hon Ranking Member.
Is he the Hon Ranking Member of the Committee on Communications?
All right. Otherwise, I thought that he had made all the statement in public, so, I was actually going to ignore him; but I would give him the chance.
Hon Member, I hope you would not use a bulldozer to kill it. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, this is why our elders say that when somebody releases bad air on a person and he is overzealous to retaliate, he would bring out the real thing. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, embodied in this particular matter are the issues that are paramount to even Hon Members of Parliament here; the issue of the retroactive effect of laws. This House should be the last body to countenance retroactivities of laws. Mr Speaker, Hon Members who earlier spoke to this issue have pointed out that the gazette to this law came as late as April, 2015. If we go back and look at the sanctions applied by the NCA, some of them go years back. So, we ask, on what authority quo warranto were these actions taken? Mr Speaker, this House is the only authority, under the Constitution of this Republic, that could impose and sanction levies. Unless it does so by delegated authorities, no other body has that right. We were told that some of these gazettes and the fee fixing have not come for this Honourable House to give the sanctions and approval for such fees and levies. So, on what authority --
Hon Member, we are Hon Members of Parliament. The laws are made by us; there are Hon Colleagues here who are lawyers. Let us be guided by the laws we have made by ourselves. I am sure that before the press conference and the Statement, you may have referred to the specific laws. The part relating to administrative penalty, as authorised by this House, was signed by the then Hon Minister. It is a pity he is not here. That is Regulation 182 of L.I. 1719:
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for your guidance. I would not be in a hurry to advertise my ignorance of the law, but I know that a Legislative Instrument (L.I.), no matter how strong it is, is inferior to the Constitution of this Republic. No matter So, Mr Speaker, the other issue I would want to bring to the fore is that we are talking about very important lives of the good people of this country. Could we imagine when we wake up one morning and people who have been speaking on 131 radio stations suddenly have no voice? Suddenly, they cannot find any way to express their opinions about the happenings in the country. We may have shut a very important avenue of expression. Where would they go and express those opinions? Mr Speaker, what happens to our right of freedom of expression, especially for our democracy? That is a very dangerous gunpowder cap. It is important that no matter what happens, we should still try to explore the avenues of free speech even as we try to legalise and ensure enforcement of our laws. The right to freedom of expression should not under any circumstance be monetised to a point where on the basis of monetary fallibilities, we would shut down radio stations and prevent millions of the good people of this country from having the right to freedom of expression. They are still struggling to create jobs, they are going to throw many more people onto the streets. Mr Speaker, we are talking about the situation where on a very conservative basis, if we take an average, the minimum that a radio station employs is close to 50 persons or more. That is the minimum. Some employ hundreds. So, we are talking in excess of 5,000 to 6,000 people who, in the event of such a closure, would run the high risk of losing their jobs. Mr Speaker, we know that for every person currently working now, there are hundreds of people who are dependent on that person as a bread winner. Mr Speaker, these are indigenous Ghanaian entities. I have heard references made to the telecommunications companies (telcos). Mr Speaker, I have been here long enough to know that there have even been times when sanctions have been relaxed on telcos that make billions of Ghana cedis in a year. Mr Speaker, many of these radio stations are struggling. Some of them cannot even pay their workers on a monthly basis. They cannot even break even. They are not profit-oriented institutions. We have had situations where telcos, which makes billions of cedis, sometimes when they are faced with sanctions, are given a long period of time to make good to show that there is flexibility to allow them to exist and not to kill them. Mr Speaker, that was why I said that if the original idea of NCA was not to kill these radio stations, which I would want to believe is the case, why would they not make that satisfactory arrangement with them to reach an amicable settlement, so that they can survive and the freedom of expression of people would continue to thrive, and the laws of this country would be complied with? Mr Speaker, if the agenda is not to kill or get these radio stations out of existence, can we not allow these satisfactory arrangements to go on? That is why I would use this opportunity to make a plea to the Hon Minister. I would want to believe that the Hon Minister would listen, and be motivated toward ensuring that under her watch, history one day would record that when she was in the very difficult situation such as this, she allowed good sense to prevail; she allowed the ultimate national interest to prevail [Hear! Hear!] and she allowed the survival and thriving of the media to prevail over monetary considerations. This is so that it would go down as one of the interventions that were made to ensure that our democratic dispensation, anchored on the unfettered access of our people to the media and to the right of freedom of expression, would endure, and employment creation would even go ahead.
The Minority has had two bites. Let me get somebody else. Let me give it to the Hon Member for Bantama.
Mr Speaker, I rise to commend the Hon Minister for the Statement that she has made on enforcing compliance with the law. Mr Speaker, I believe the time is “now o'clock”. For far too long, we have not enforced our laws, and for that reason, in some cases, we lose lives. Mr Speaker, I would like to support the Hon Minister's
position that I and my Government would diligently serve the people of Ghana by enforcing the laws. Mr Speaker, no one in this House is against freedom of speech, but the rule of law must take its course. Mr Speaker, it is important for us to understand that Ghana, in fact, is not probably at a point where we can allow things to go the way they went the last eight years. Mr Speaker, in fact, Ghana is working again. For that reason, for anybody to attempt to justify the non-compliance of the law is quite unfortunate, sad and unacceptable. Mr Speaker, for anybody to assert that enforcement of our laws is the monetisation of freedom of speech is quite unfortunate, and it should be condemned in no uncertain terms. Mr Speaker, we all know the role of the media, and we respect the fact that they are probably the fourth arm of Government, but that is not to say that their activities cannot be regulated. Mr Speaker, some media operators operate the media or radio stations for profit. So, the question of sustainability, in my view, is out of the equation; except as the Hon Minister indicated, that community-based radio stations that are meant to educate and inform the citizenry would be treated with some leniency. I believe, there is room for them to go and get some leniency. Mr Speaker, some of our Hon Friends argue that there is retroactive application of the law. If they have any case and justification, Mr Speaker, I believe they can bring it on and it would be corrected. Mr Speaker, some people argue that laws are made to be broken, but they forget the fact that when they breach laws, there are consequences. Those who choose to breach laws must be prepared to face the consequences thereof. Mr Speaker, it is important to know that all of us, as a people, would like to be probably in the United State of America (US), the United Kingdom (UK) or some developed countries. It is not wrong; but in those countries, Mr Speaker, one does not beg for offending the law. Mr Speaker, we cannot expect to have our cake and eat it. As Bob Marley said, “everybody wants to go to Heaven but none wants to die”, If we do not die, if we do not enforce the law, Mr Speaker, it is going to hurt. Mr Speaker, to a large extent, some of the beautiful cultures we have in this country affect us because we have seen instances where people had gone against the law, but leaders begged for forgiveness instead of enforcing the law. Mr Speaker, what would be the essence of this august House if the laws we make are not enforced? It is so sad to see some of our Hon MPs defend non-compliance in arrogance, instead of humility. Mr Speaker, I believe that the time is “now o'clock” and we cannot go back; we must move forward. We believe that the Hon Minister has a big heart to consider those who would petition her to move the country forward. Mr Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity.
I would give one more opportunity each, and I would bring the curtain down. I will come to Leaders, but I would want your guidance. I have three of your people --
There is nobody called Radio Gold here. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for this opportunity to contribute to the Statement that has been made by the Hon Minister for Communications. Mr Speaker, I will start with your intervention at a point when it became necessary to refer to the legislation that has resulted in what is being discussed this afternoon. Mr Speaker, I admire your approach and I hope that our insistence on the application of the law is not the same as saying that a law as it exists, is a good one and will not frustrate the expression of people and the expansion of free speech. Mr Speaker, I think that we should all approach this issue dispassionately and as much as possible, find a solution to it especially because the President, His Excellency, Nana Akufo Addo has been touted for a very long time to be a champion of the media, and has worked in his past life to expand the frontiers of our democracy through free expression. It would therefore, be very sad that in history for it to be said that, under his Presidency, whatever the reason is, one hundred and thirty radio stations were shut down to deny people, who hitherto, had that platform to express themselves. It would be sad on his record and that is why I urge that we discuss this issue dispassionately. Mr Speaker, I also would want to make reference to the Hon Minister 's presentation when she made reference to the issue of radio eye and the judgement on it and how the learned Court in its ruling
The irony is that, that legislation was signed by an Hon Minister from the Side that is arguing against it now, not the other Side. The Nkrumah's case, the Convention People's Party (CPP), the Majority at the time, passed that Act and it was abused in all issues. So, the other Side rightly condemned it. In this case, the Legislative Instrument (LI) was signed by your Hon Deputy Minority Leader. So that is the irony. It is strange that those who proposed, led and signed it are the ones now condemning it.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the guidance. Unfortunately, I am unable to debate with you and I respect your position so, I would take your guidance and proceed. Mr Speaker, once again, it has to be emphasised that indeed, Parliaments all over the world do make bad laws. And when it comes to our attention that a law that is meant to regulate is turning out to be stifling and it is turning out to frustrate the process, we all have to come together to see how dispassionately we can address that problem. So again, I talk of the PDA. Mr Speaker, also, on our law books, we have the death sentence. Mr Speaker, it is not for nothing that no President, in the history of this country has ever signed the death warrant. Even though it remains on our law books, it is for a good reason. Mr Speaker, again, in one of the arguments my Hon Colleague spoke of how when the NCA appeared before the PAC, reference was made to charges that the NCA had not retrieved from 2010. Mr Speaker, that goes to confirm my position that it is for a good reason that no President has ever signed the death warrant. This is because the previous Administrations knew that they had to take these charges but perhaps, they did not take those charges not because they were unmindful of the law but because they appreciated the need for support for media pluralism more in this country. Mr Speaker, let nobody act like a champion in the application of a law that clearly is going to frustrate free expression and limit the channels of same, especially under a President, who in his past life, had always championed the expansion of the media. Mr Speaker, this is not only a local matter, I would make reference to a Report that was launched in September, 2011, by a very reputable international organi- sation known as Freedom House. Freedom House issued this special Report in September, 2011. Mr Speaker, in the introduction and with your permission, I would quote what it says about freedom of expression and the need to expand same. It thus states: “In some parts of the world, the threats to press freedom are explicit and often violent. Journalists are murdered or imprisoned, states maintain strict media monopolies, and domestic audiences are cut off from foreign news sources. Such unambiguously hostile conditions typically elicit strong responses from international advocacy groups and democracies that are committed to defending freedom of expression. However, in a much broader range of countries, governments are using the more subtle tools of media regulation to restrict press freedom, maintaining a veneer of legality and pluralism that is less likely to draw attention or criticism from abroad. Manipulation of the regulatory framework allows leaders to either tolerate or rein in influential news outlets depending on the political situation, and permits even d e m o c r a t i c a l l y - e l e c t e d governments to fortify themselves against future electoral competition. Mr Speaker, this special Report describes the primary types of media regulations that are used to restrict press freedom as: “1. Statutory controls on licencing and regulations”. Ghana therefore by this Report, simply qualifies as one of those countries where Government seems to use regulatory and licencinig reforms to clamp down on media freedoms. Mr Speaker, those are not my words. That research was not done by me. It was done by the Freedom House and launched. That finding is typical of what is being discussed here. That is why I call for a dispassionate approach on how together, we could rectify whatever anomaly has led to the closure of 130 platforms which people use to express themselves, which by effect, would limit the platforms available for people to express themselves. The Hon Minister in her presentation, talked about how preposterous or absurd, and those were her words, to link what is happening to political witch-hunting. It would also be interesting to find out why -- [Interruption] I just want to once again wrap up by calling for cool heads in this matter. I urge all radio stations that are affected to take the advantage which the Hon Minister has left open to petition. Political power is an interesting thing that I have observed. It is like a pendulum. People with the authority today must be reminded that those who had the authority yesterday do not have it today. Mr Speaker, on that note, I thank you for the opportunity.
Hon Deputy Minister, I would give you the last word before I come to the Leaders. Deputy Minister for Communications (Mr Vincent Sowah Odotei)(MP): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for giving me this opportunity. I rise to support the Statement ably made by my Hon Minister and all other Hon Colleagues who have supported this action by the NCA.
Hon Members, having regard to the time, I direct that we sit outside the normal time.
Mr Speaker, the issue at stake today is one about the action of the NCA, and not about ascribing any wrongdoing to H. E. the President, of violating the freedom of the citizenry in terms of speech. The issue is not about political witch-hunting, neither is it about the restriction of the freedom of speech or media pluralism in this country. That is very far from it. The issue at stake is about the rule of law. As rightly pointed out, the issue at stake is whether the NCA acted ultra vires, breached the laws passed by this noble House and acted out of its powers. That is the crux of the matter. Mr Speaker, as ably expressed by my Hon Minister, the NCA has been mandated by law to come out with sanctions in a manner it finds necessary. The NCA also has the power to regulate the finance spectrum and to ensure the promotion of competition in the media space apart from other things. What we are talking about is not about any individual being restricted from expressing his/her opinions or any individual speaking freely about what they think. The issue is about businesses which have been established or the channels individuals are going to use to express their views about issues concerning this country. Those businesses under the rule and under the conditions under which their licences were given to operate, must abide by those regulations and conditions under which the authorisations were given. That is the crux of the matter. Mr Speaker, as we speak, out of more than 500 radio stations, only 131 are being asked to comply with the provisions of the authorisations. All the others are still operating. If anyone in this country wants to express their views or say something, there are other channels which are open by all the others who are complying by the provisions and the terms of their licence. We have to ensure that we promote competition in this media space. How do we promote competition? By allowing others to comply and bear the cost of their licencing while others who do not comply by that -- We are more or less inadvertently, subsidising the operations of those who are not complying and bringing uncompetitive conditions to our media space. Mr Speaker, when you and I go to place adverts, is the airtime charged based on -- Do we deduct the licencing fee that those we are talking about today have not paid? I do not think that is the case. We cannot equate non-compliance and disorderliness in the medio space to the “monetisation” of freedom of speech. We were in this country when the non- enforcement of laws forced DKM to misappropriate people's lifetime savings which led to huge suffering and burdens on people. Mr Speaker, we cannot remain in the perceptual business as usual when people fail to comply with what they are supposed to. I keep hearing about community radio stations and other commercial radio stations. Mr Speaker, the conditions under which authorisations were given to community radio stations are different from the conditions under which other commercial radio stations were given. The community radio stations must comply with the provisions under which their licenses were given. The considerations for them not being purely commercial and the essence for which they were set up have been taken care of in the licensing provision which they were given. They must comply with that. Mr Speaker, it is extremely important that we understand that we cannot continue to allow businesses which were given conditions under which they must operate — one goes to the Registrar Generals Department and when one registers as a business, he or she must ensure to comply with the conditions before he or she continues to exist as a business. Mr Speaker, fortunately, the Hon Minister has opened a window of opportunity for those who feel that they have a case to make to come up with their petition, and she has assured this House that they are going to be considered on case by case basis. My expectation is that, any of those 131 radio stations that feel that they have a case must please petition the Hon Minister, and she has promised that their cases would be considered on a case-by- case basis. Mr Speaker, it is important to let this House know that at the time that the 131 radio stations are being asked to comply with their provisions, the NCA is continuing to issue authorisations to those who are legitimately willing to comply with the provisions as set out by law. So the issue about politicisation is untenable. Mr Speaker, the NCA is giving authorisations to those who have complied by the regulations set out by the law. Mr Speaker, it is important that those of us in this House encourage the citizenry, businesses and those who are taking advantage of licenses to comply with the provisions they have been given. It is one thing asking for the Hon Minister to tempter justice with mercy and another thing for people to continue to make the case that laws were made to be broken. Mr Speaker, we in this House must be heard, and in our posture and in everything that we do because we are in the business of passing laws. And so we are the first people to be at the forefront of ensuring that the laws that we pass here are complied with. Mr Speaker, we must not relegate this whole argument to any action by this Government, and H.E the President, or anyone to play political games with this. That is not the case at hand. Mr Speaker, despite the all the pledges we made to promote and create jobs, this government has demonstrated in less than one year and we are putting our moneys to where our campaign policies are. Mr Speaker, I can assure you that the licenses of those who comply and take advantage of the opportunity opened by the Hon Minister would be reissued to them, and those businesses would create the needed jobs which have been lost by others. Mr Speaker, as we speak, there are over 300 radio stations operating — those who have complied with their licensing regime. We must encourage them and those who, unfortunately are falling foul of their
Mr Speaker, I yield my slot to Hon Richard Quashigah, the Member of Parliament for Keta.
Mr Speaker, I thank you, and I thank the Hon Deputy Minority Leader for the opportunity to contribute to this Statement. Mr Speaker, it is untenable that this nation has come this far as a result of free unfettered media. Today, the democracy of Ghana is applauded worldwide, and largely, that can be attributed to the great and effective work that the media has done over the period, and again, that also can find expression in the document that governs this nation of ours, which is the Constitution of Ghana that we are all supposed to adhere to and abide by. Mr Speaker, for this reason, if there is any other law intended but would create a barrier or prevent the media from continuing to do what it is supposed to do, then obviously, our tomorrow is endangered. Mr Speaker, if by the event of some error, we have as a House or the Legislature passed any law that is not in consonance with the spirit and letter of this Constitution, then the proper thing would be for us to reflect and take a look at it again. Mr Speaker, the Constitution that we all abide by, in article 162 (3) expressly states and I beg to quote: “There shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media; and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a licence as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.”
“Subject to this Constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.” Mr Speaker, there may not be censorship in these matters that we are talking about, but again, clearly, it would appear that a certain regulation that this House has passed is intended, as it were, to indirectly muscle the media and free speech.
Hon Member, the Supreme Court has had the opportunity to interpret this part. Let us not go back to it. If anybody thinks that indeed, any part of this law contravenes that, we know the appropriate step. But otherwise, the Supreme Court has interpreted this way back in 2002. Let it not appear that Parliament made laws in 2015 that were unconstitutional. If it is so, let us use the Constitution. I have listened to the part about being harsh et cetera. We can review that, but as for unconstitutionality, let us please avoid that because we have gone past that long ago.
Mr Speaker, thank you for your guidance. Mr Speaker, in 2001, I encountered a Ghanaian legal luminary who gave me an informal education, and he said the Constitution of Ghana is the skeleton and spirit and the Acts of Parliament is the flesh and the two make up a living document. And this legal luminary told me this in his office at the time he was the Minister for Justice and the Attorney- General. He told me this in the presence of his then assistant, a young and budding lawyer, who today is the Hon Minister for Communications. I am talking about no other person than the man touted as the champion of free speech, His Excellency the President of Ghana today, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Mr Speaker, it was in relation to a story a journalist had then carried, laying emphasis on an Act of Parliament. He told me categorically that, that Act of Parliament could stand on its legs without it being consistent with a provision in the Constitution of Ghana. If there is any way in which the media cannot operate freely, there is the need for us to remove that impediment. I believe strongly that the Hon Minister for Communications is a person who has demonstrated over the period that she is a lover of free speech just as the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo who undoubtedly is a man who believes in free speech. Mr Speaker, if there is any situation that would prevent free speech, the President of Ghana must be very interested in it and so is the Hon Minister for Communications -- she must be expressly interested in it and must find ways of dealing with that. That is the reason I find it very refreshing in a press statement she gave to the effect that the punitive measures are harsh. It is this House that clothed the NCA with the authority of actually coming out with the fees and the licences that they issue. Again, talking about licences, I wonder if that is also not an infringement on what the Constitution itself says. This is because when it talks about no impediment, it also says that they should not be allowed to obtain any licence as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation. Mr Speaker, as a nation, clearly, there is the need for us to sit down and look at this. Are we probably not giving the NCA too much power than it deserves? Too much power that could create impediments in the way of free speech? We are talking of 131 radio stations and others may make it sound as though that is nothing because there are a lot more radio stations that are operating. How many people are we preventing from airing their views and opinions? That is why it is very pertinent and important that as a House, we all become interested in this. Mr Speaker, if we are not careful, it can politically be manipulated and twisted to the disadvantage of the generality of the Ghanaian people.
Hon Majority Leader, let us conclude this debate.
Mr Speaker, I was not really minded to make a contribution but I have been baited by the Hon Quashigah to make a few remarks. Mr Speaker, I must begin by thanking the Hon Minister responsible for Communications for coming to the House to clarify the situation relating to the spectrum audit that was carried out and the actions that have been taken by the NCA. Mr Speaker, I am worried about the path that we have taken on this matter today. Our Standing Orders are clear in Order 70 (2) that, when Ministers of State come to make Statements such as this, comments by Hon Members on it should not provoke debate. Unfortunately, what we have witnessed today is unfettered debate on the Statement that was made by the Hon Minister. I am worried by the example that we are setting for ourselves. Mr Speaker, I believe the issue before us is very simple; whether or not there is a breach of the law and indeed, we all acknowledge, except one person, that there is a breach of the law which indeed was designed and fashioned by this House. That is why I cannot understand the resort to dogmatism. I believe it is wrong to be very dogmatic about this, and this House should not encourage pandering to sentiments. We are not here for sentiments; we are here indeed to analyse the situation critically, whether or not there is a breach of the law, and if the sanctions applied merit the breach that has been committed. We need to come to a determination of whether the sanctions applied, which we have designed, needs to be revisited. That is the issue. We should not pretend that we are reinventing the wheel today. Attention has been drawn to the fact that this law was indeed appended to by the current Hon Minority Leader. I do not believe that it was wrongly perceived. I do not want to imagine that at all. But where it has led us, is it the right destination?
We must question whether it is the right destination or not, and nobody should be held blameable. Mr Speaker, when we lived under the criminal libel regime, people who made applications and sought cover under that regime were not blamed. The law existed for them to explore and exploit. When as a country, led by the current President, came to the realisation that the criminal libel laws were doing more harm than good to this country, we revisited some and indeed took them away. Former President Rawlings was not the one who crafted the criminal libel laws of this country. It had been here with us since independence. So, Mr Speaker, let us be factual. I heard somebody said that we are trying to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer. I do not want to believe that that person was quoting former President John Dramani Mahama. He said he was going to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer. Even when former President Kufuor appealed to him, he reiterated the point that, “Mr Kufuor, I am going to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer.” We are not revisiting that era. Mr Speaker, people applauded what was said by the then President -- and did I hear people say that the radio stations and television stations had complied largely with the terms and conditions? There were a few that they had not complied with. That might as well be, but what are we talking about? Mr Speaker, we are in this country when in 2016, some political parties complied basically with many of the laws regulating their activities. A few of them had not been complied with. The Electoral Commission sanctioned them. We hailed it that the Electoral Commission was living up to its billing. Mr Speaker, today, the same people are saying that we are not applying the rules rightly. If we are principled, we must be very consistent. Did I hear people say that, well it does not make sense to slap a fine of say GH¢1 million on a station and if it is unable to pay, we withdraw the frequency and then sell it at GH¢30,000? Mr Speaker, we must question the morality of it as a people. But is it not the case that people have gone outside, laboured, brought in vehicles and are unable to pay duties of GH¢80,000 and GH¢100,000, the State takes it away from them and sell and people in this House benefited. We did not complain. They did not complain. [Interruptions] -- Please, be principled. When they benefited, it was all right. Today, they are saying that it is not good. Let us be principled and consistent. Mr Speaker, yes, article 21 of the Constitution talks about freedom of the media and speech freedom of which was reinforced by article 162 (1) and (2) but we must be minded of the restrictions that are imposed by article 164. No country grants unfettered freedom of the media. No country on this earth does that. It is nowhere in the world. We must be consistent and principled. Mr Speaker, I agree with Hon Ayariga when he says to us that, perhaps, we must give some transition period and encourage people to pay the fines that have been imposed. To borrow his own words, we should not be overzealous. But if there is any cause for overzealousness, that was provided by this House. So, Mr Speaker, if we need to revisit the laws, let us do so as a collective. But the application of sanctions and compliance. Recently, what happened with the gas explosion, many people in this House were calling for the application and indeed, the enforcement of the rules and regulations relating to the siting of gas stations. In one breadth, we are urging the authorities to enforce compliance, when we think we have our backs to the wall, no, do not be too hard on us. Consistency and principles would stand us out as individuals and as a group. Mr Speaker, I heard somebody say that this House does not approve of any gazette notification. I do not know of any statute that compels approval from this House of gazette notification. Where from that? Indeed, sentiments can ferry people to some destinations that perhaps they do not want to go to. Mr Speaker, again, we are being told that, if those radio stations were non- compliant, then why were they taking fees and levies from them? A person builds a house and serves himself with electricity and water and at the end of every month, the Electricity Company of Ghana would visit you and take their rates from you and the Ghana Water Company would also do same. But to the extent that the person did not have the permit to build that House then the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) would tell the person that, he did not have any permit therefore, it is an unauthorised structure. The fact that Ghana Water Company and the Electricity Company of Ghana take their own rates and levies from the house owner would not legitimise that house. It is as crystal clear as that. Mr Speaker, with respect, it appears as an absurdity of the highest order, to have people who have contributed to making the law now refuse to subject themselves to the application of the law. It is an absurdity of the highest order. Mr Speaker, I heard my Hon Colleague, Hon A. B. Fuseini Alhassan, say that no matter how fat a leg is, it cannot compare itself with the thigh. Mr Speaker, but one question is, is the thigh not part of the leg? I thought that he was talking about the calf and not the leg. The thigh is certainly part of the leg. Mr Speaker, so, I believe that, we are all ad idem on the fact that what is being done now is not outside the law. If we agree that the law and the sanctions that the law imposes are harsh, then, let us say so and re-visit the law that we have made. Perhaps, we thought that we were aiming at some other radio stations but now, whatever the intention was, if we have to revisit the law, then let us do so as a collective entity. Mr Speaker, but let nobody blame the Hon Minister and let nobody blame the current President. We did it ourselves and so let us live up to our responsibilities. Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity granted.
Hon Members, practically, I think that everything has been said and the day is over. All of us are required to be at a place per a certain short period. Hon Minister, I would allow you five minutes to wind up.
Mr Speaker, thank you. Just to correct a few misconceptions that have come out in the debate. Firstly, I have never said anywhere that I was misinformed by the NCA as the Hon Member for Ningo-Prampram indicated. I have never also had sight of the Hon Member's Statement which he said he gave to Mr Speaker. But I have heard the various Press statements and comments made by Hon Members on the Minority Side of the House and those were the issues in the public domain that I responded to. I thought that that allusion was most unfortunate and the records needed to be set straight, and Mr Speaker, I thank you for drawing the Hon Member's attention to that. Each license issued by the NCA for the mobile network operators, be it a 2G, 3G or a 4G license contains within it the quality of standards, parameters and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that the companies are supposed to adhere to. So, it is incorrect for the Hon Member to have also said that, all the stations are being held to 2G KPIs. That is not the case. I also find it very interesting that Hon Members of Parliament, legislators, elected to come and pass laws for this country are advocating here that we could be selective in the application of our laws. I believe that the people who voted for us would take a very dim view of this attitude if we do not stand for the strict enforcement of the laws that we spent a lot of time and energy to pass, and which the good people of this country elected us to come and do. We are lawmakers and we are here to pass laws that we expect the Executive to enforce. So, how could we say that, we are just going through the motions of just passing laws which we do not expect people to obey? We might as well shut up shops and save the good people of this country the cost of maintaining Hon Members of Parliament because we would be shirking our duties and responsibilities to the people of this country. Mr Speaker, it is only in this country that an Hon Minister has to come to Parliament to defend the enforcement of laws. No other civilised democratic dispensation would subject any such Hon Minister to that. In any civilised dispensation, laws are expected to be obeyed as of right and it is taken as a matter of course. So, I find myself in a really weird position, urging Hon Members of Parliament to appreciate that we need to support and encourage agencies of State, which are about the business of enforcing the laws that we have freely passed. Mr Speaker, of course, those who are affected by the impact of these decisions would not like it, however, the same laws which gave them the power to operate indicated the conditions under which they have to operate. We cannot approbate and reprobate. So, if one would take the benefit of the law then, one should also take the sanctions that are prescribed by the law, and that is how the countries that are governed by the rule of law operate. Mr Speaker, may I dare say that, that is what makes the difference between humans and lower species. We decide that we would be governed by law and freely give up some of our freedom of actions for the greater good.
Hon Minister, your five minutes is exhausted. So, please, wind up.
Mr Speaker, let me wind up. To address this freedom of expression argument, I would just quote the decision of Sophia Akuffo, Justice of the Supreme Court, as she was then, but now the current Chief Justice, in the Republic vs Tommy Thompson Books Limited & others. In applying article 164 of the Constitution and relying on the Radio Eye case, she stated, and Mr Speaker, with your permission, I beg to quote: “Like other forms of liberty, completely unrestricted freedom of expression leads to infringement on the right of others and it has long been recognised that restraints on the liberty of utterance are necessary and inevitable. As this Court has held on numerous occasions, the nature and extent of the restraints to be imposed and the means by which they are enforced have been spelt out by the Constitution itself. The effects of article 164 of the Constitution is to place a limit on the constitutional rights and freedoms enumerated in articles 162 and 163 of the Constitution and this limit patently permits laws that are reasonably required.” Mr Speaker, no freedom of expression is being abused here. All stations that are in compliance with the law are allowed to operate freely. I was a founding director of Atlantis Radio station, and that station has been slapped with a penalty of GH¢60 million. I did not say because I was affiliated to that station, I would exempt it. So, a person might have affiliations and likeness for some of the stations that are affected, but our law must be no respecter of persons and must be applied without fear or favour, malice or ill will.
Hon Members, we have had an exhaustive discussion of the issue. There are a few observations from the Statement I would want to share. I hope that, somebody would say it happened that the NCA gave notice six months before it took action and published it. The NCA wrote to each of the affected agencies, and gave them the opportunity to rectify it. Out of about 531 registered radio stations, 131 were affected, constituting about 24.6 per cent. And those who are complying are about three times those who are not complying. I believe this should be sufficient to warn us that, those who wish to comply really had the opportunity to. Those who are affected must take the advantage of the review opportunity given by the Hon Minister to apply. A radio station in my constituency was affected. I have taken the lead to draft a petition and ask all the requirements and place them before the Hon Minister for
consideration. I was not requesting for a favour because I am a Deputy Speaker. I am using the law to help them get their rights back. The Hon Member for Tamale North, Mr Suhuyini Sayibu got up. He kept referring to people on death row. I am one of the persons who would never support the removal of death penalties. In my opinion, once a person has been found guilty of the offence, he should be punished accordingly. However, the right to sign or not to sign the death warrant by the President is also supported by law. So, it is not just that the President is bound to carry it out, once a person is sentenced to death. That decision is also given to him by law to either sign or not sign. Therefore, that in itself is also legal. Let me go to Public Business now. Hon Majority Leader, at the Commencement of Public Business, “ it is 5.00 p.m. already. Having regard to what responsibilities we have this evening, the House is in your hands.
Mr Speaker, indeed, because of the Questions and the Statement that we just covered, we could not get space to deal with Public Business. I believe the consideration of the Coastal Development Authority Bill, 2017, cannot continue today, in which case, I would strongly urge Hon Colleagues that, tomorrow we Sit at 10.00 a.m. to begin the Consideration stage of the Bill. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, respectfully, it is not arbitrary. The Hon Yieleh Chireh is shouting that it is arbitrary. I had some consultations with the Hon Deputy Minority Leader on account of what has transpired in the House today. So, tomorrow, we would sit at 10.00 a.m. and do our best and see whether we would be able to finish with the Consideration of the Coastal Development Authority Bill, 2017. Mr Speaker, subject to that, the time is past 5.00 p.m., and adjournment is in your bosom.
Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I did not move any Motion.
Hon Leader, I really wanted to hear you about the proposal that we would start Sitting at 10.00 a.m. instead of 12.00 noon.
You are not at the front bench, so I cannot recognise you. [Pause.] Now, you have become the available Leader. I would listen to you.
Mr Speaker, the suddenness of this decision is the problem. This is because, many Hon Members would not be aware that we are starting Sitting at 10.00 a.m. If we start promptly at 12.00 noon, and we have some motivation of lunch, we could Sit a little beyond and consider the Bill he is talking about. But if he suddenly says 12.00 noon, and now it is 10.00 a.m., and it is only at this closing hour that he is saying it is 10.00 a.m., how many people would be here. So, please, the Hon Leader should reconsider his proposal.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Yieleh Chireh has a point without doubt. But as I said, it was not decided on the spur of the moment. We had some discussions between the Hon Deputy Majority Leader and myself, given where we were going. And tomorrow is also Friday. We might need to close a bit early; earlier than maybe 5.00 p.m. or 6.00 p.m., which is why we are bringing it forward to 10.00 a.m., and it is for tomorrow. We may decide into next week to still Sit at 12.00 noon.
Mr Speaker, with this explanation, and tomorrow being Friday and I would also want to travel to my constituency. So, I have no objection.
The House was adjourned at 5.08 p.m. till Friday, 20th October, 2017, at 10.00 a.m.