Hon Members, there is a c o m m u n i c a t i o n d a t e d 3 1 st July, 2017, from the President.
Hon Members, we have a 15-Member delegation from the Gauteng Provincial Legislature of South Africa who are here to attend to governmental business. They are on a 5-day visit tour and accordingly hereby visit our Parliament. The Members present herein are: Mr Lesiba Lamola, Committee Coordinator Ms Molatelo Shikwane, Committee Coordinator Ms Nondumiso August, Committee Coordinator Ms Molatelo Shikwane, Committee Coordinator Hon Members, on your behalf, I wish them fruitful deliberations and a pleasant stay in the country.
VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, Correction of Votes and Proceedings dated Monday, 31st July, 2017. Pages 1…10 --
I am most grateful, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I rise to draw your attention to page 10, item (b), which is the laying of the Zongo Development Fund Bill, 2017. What was advertised on the Order Paper for yesterday which was laid was the Zongo and Inner City Development Fund Bill, 2017. So Mr Speaker, for the sake of consistency, I do not know which of them is correct. This is because I have noticed that we keep interchanging them.
Mr Speaker, I believe the Hon Member was not in the Chamber when the correction was effected. The Ministry is responsible for Zongo and Inner City Development, but the Fund is for Zongo development. So, it is Zongo Development Fund, 2017. That mistake was corrected yesterday. Mr Speaker, further to that, on the same page 10, after referring the Development Authority Bills to the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises for consideration and report, we joined the leaderships of the Committees of Finance, Poverty Reduction Strategy and Local Government Committees and Rural Development in all three meetings. It has been captured as leadership of the Finance Committee. The other committees, which are Poverty Reduction Strategy and Local Government and Rural Development are conspicuously missing. So, if the records could be corrected.
Thank you very much. Page 11-12 --
Hon Member, do you rise on a point of correction?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I was in the House yesterday, but I have been captured as absent on page 8, number 23.
Thank you. Pages 12…18. Hon Members, the Votes and Proceedings of Monday, 31st July, 2017, as corrected is hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings. Hon Members, Official Report of Wednesday, 26 th July, 2017. Any corrections?
I am most grateful, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, there are a few corrections that we need to make to the Official Report. Under column 2567, Hon Kwame Governs Agbodza, “Governs” is spelt without an ‘n'. Also, under Column 2569, “President John Mahama Basic School,” ‘Mahamma' has been spelt with ‘mm'. Could ‘Mahamma' be corrected, Mr Speaker? Then column 2572, we need to correct ‘Ledzekuku'. It has been spelt with an ‘e' instead of an ‘o' ‘Ledzokuku'.
Thank you very much, Hon Okudzeto Ablakwa for these most important corrections. Hon Members, the Official Report of Wednesday, 26th July, 2017, as corrected, is hereby adopted.
Hon Members, I will make a variation of the Order of Business. We will move on to item numbered 6 -- Presentation of Papers. Item numbered 6(a), by the Hon Minister for Finance?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister for Finance is engaged on an assignment of equal national importance, so he cannot be with us. I thought I saw the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance here, but she is not here now. In the circumstance, Mr Speaker, if you would indulge us, an Hon Minister may be appealed to, to stand in for the Hon Minister for Finance to lay the document. Mr Speaker, in that regard, the Hon Minister for Education could do that for us, subject to your indulgence and that of Hon Members.
Thank you very much.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Majority Leader has made an application for the Hon Minister for Education to stand in for the Hon Minister for Finance. Apart from the unsatisfactory explanation that the Hon Minister for Finance is not available, the Ministry of Finance has three Hon Deputy Ministers. Mr Speaker, there must be good reasons when the Hon Minister is not available that at least one of the Deputy Ministers can stand in his stead. We do not find his explanation satisfactory. But in order to allow for Business to proceed, and since it is about drugs or pharmaceuticals and Hon Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh has some understanding -- He is an Hon Member of Parliament and an Hon Minister, we can understand. But next time, it would not be just about the absence of the Hon Minister. Where are his three Hon Deputy Ministers? Mr Speaker, that is why His Excellency the President loaded it; three plus one -- four. Is none available to attend upon Parliament?
Mr Speaker, it is by the special indulgence of this House that Hon Deputy Ministers lay documents on behalf of Hon Ministers. Otherwise, as the Hon Minority Leader would know, Cabinet Minister who has the charge of the Hon Minister in the event of the unavailability of the Hon Minister could do that; but we have relaxed the rules. So, if my Hon Colleague would allow the Hon Minister. As for what he said, that the explanation I offered is unsatisfactory, it does not lie with him. I believe that the rest of them I spoke to understood and appreciated what I said.
Item numbered 6(b) on the Order Paper.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources is here with us. Subject to your indulgence and that of the House, she would lay the document on behalf of the substantive Hon Minister.
Mr Speaker, a while ago, the Hon Majority Leader, in his theorising who Hon Deputy Ministers are, just sought for me to see where to place them. We know for a fact and the law supports this, that Hon Deputy Ministers are not Hon Ministers of State. When he made the application for the Hon Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh to lay the paper, which you graciously considered, he said that we have relaxed the rules. Why does he want to relax the rules now? Is there no Cabinet Minister behind him? Hon Dan Botwe is here. So, he should walk on the same path that he charted three seconds ago. Hon Dan Botwe is an Hon Cabinet Minister. Why is he now making an application for an Hon Deputy Minister? Where is the Hon Minister for Lands and Natural Resources?
Mr Speaker, I spoke more than two minutes ago when I made this application. If we have an Hon Minority Leader whose reckoning of time is such that what I have done was just three seconds ago, I can understand his confusion. [Laughter.]
Hon Deputy Minister. By the Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources (Mrs Barbara Oteng- Gyasi on behalf of the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources) -- Timber Resource Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, 2017. Referred to the Subsidiary Legislation Committee.
Hon Members, item numbered 6(c) by the Hon Attorney- General and Minister for Justice. [Pause.] Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, you are very competent to lay all these as an Hon Minister who is fully vetted and approved by this Honourable House.
Mr Speaker, I was in consultation with the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee, so So I did not hear you call item numbered 6(c). So, I would make an application to lay the Paper on behalf of the Hon Minister, if you would indulge me.
Hon Majority Leader, you may so do. By the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs (Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (on behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice) -- Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (2013). Referred to the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
Mr Speaker, I appreciate your referral of the Marrakesh Treaty to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. If you may indulge my suggestion to include the Leadership of the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises. Mr Speaker, I worked on this as the Hon Minister for Employment and Labour Relations: that was why it was referred to in 2013. It is a matter that affects the blind and other category of persons. Ideally, one would have said that it should go to the Joint Committee -- the Leadership of the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises should join the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; that would be more useful. Also, the Leadership of the Foreign Affairs Committee may be included, since it is a Treaty under article 75 of the Constitution; if you may so direct.
Hon Majority Leader, any objection?
Mr Speaker, we dealt in sign language and I invited the Hon Minority Leader to include the Leadership of the Foreign Affairs Committee. So, Mr Speaker, we are ad idem on that.
Let us get the full complement of what we are adding.
Mr Speaker, we said to add the Leadership of the Committees on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises, and Foreign Affairs.
The Leadership of the Committees on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises, and Foreign Affairs are added accordingly. Item numbered 6(d) -- Hon Chairman of the Committee? By the Chairman of the Committee-- Report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Agreement between the Republic of Ghana and the United States of America on the Resettlement in Ghana of two (2) former detainees of the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al Dhuby.
Item numbered 6(e) by the Hon Chairman of the Committee. By the Chairman of the Committee -- Report of the Joint Committee on Finance and Foreign Affairs on the Protocol amending the Convention between the Republic of Ghana and the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on Income and on Capital Gains.
Hon Members, item numbered 6(f)? By the Chairman of the Committee -- (f) Report of the Finance Committee on the request for Tax Exemption Status for the Regional Training Centre for Law Enforcement Agencies under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America. (g) Report of the Joint Committee on Finance and Works and Housing on the Loan Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and the African Development Fund for an amount thirty-five million, nine hundred and fifty thousand Units of Account (UA35,950,000 (equivalent to US$48.85 million) to finance the Greater Accra Sustainable Sanitation and Livelihoods Improvement Pro- ject (GASSLIP).
Hon Members, item numbered 7-- Motion by the Hon Chairman of the Committee.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 80(1) which require that no Motion shall be debated until at least forty-eight hours have
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly.
Item numbered 8? Hon Chairman of the Committee? GoG/USA Agreement -- Resettlement in Ghana of Gitmo 2
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Agreement between the Republic of Ghana and the United States of America on the resettlement in Ghana of two (2) former detainees of the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al Dhuby. Introduction The eequest for ratification of the Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America on the resettlement in Ghana of two (2) former Guantanamo Bay detainees was presented to the House by the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs on Friday, 27th July 2017, in accordance with article 75(2) of the 1992 Constitution. Mr Speaker referred the request to the Foreign Affairs Committee for conside- ration and report in accordance with Order 183 of the Standing Orders of the House. Deliberations The Committee met and deliberated on the Agreement with the assistance of officials of the legal bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Committee is grateful to the Technical Officers for attending upon it. Reference The Committee referred to the following documents at its deliberations: i. The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana ii. The Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana and iii. The Note Verbale between the Government of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America on the resettlement in Ghana of two (2) former Guantanamo Bay detainees. Background The Government of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America entered into an agreement for the resettlement of Mahmud Umar Muhamm ad bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al Dhuby, detainees of Guantanamo Bay in 6th January, 2016. The United States of America (USA) Government submitted through its Embassy, a demarche on the resettlement of the above mentioned Guantanamo Bay detainees. Both detainees are Yemen; descendants, born in Saudi Arabia and were held for fourteen years at the facility without trial. The demarche was pursuant to the former President of America; President Obama's political ambition to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and based on that, the U. S. A. Government requested Ghana Government's support to achieve the objective. Successive negotiations were held between officials of the two countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Coordinating Council representing Ghana, while His Excellency Ambassador Gene Cretz, the Special Envoy for Guantanamo closure, and officials from the State Department in Washington represented the United States of America. Through the exchanges of U.S.A. Note Verbale No. 2015 -- 1422 dated 13th July 2015 and the Ghana answering Note Verbale No. SCR. GH/ USA/ RELS dated 17th August, 2015, the two countries outlined a framework and determined the arrangements for settlement of the matter concerned. The United States of America Government explained that the favourable consideration of the request by Ghana was considered a humanitarian gesture and further indicated Ghana's support was critical for closing down the facility. Following the resolution, in January 2016, the Government of Ghana accepted the transfer of the two Yemeni ex detainees from the United States Military Prison in Guantanamo Bay into the country for a period of two years, despite popular opposition in the country. Some Ghanaians, including civil society groups, called for their return, describing the agreement as secretive and un-constitutional. Following the agita- tions, in January 2016, Mrs Margaret Banful and Henry Nana Boakye, brought an action to the Supreme Court and challenged the constitutionality of the transfer of the two detainees, citing a violation of article 75 of the 1992 Constitution. On Thursday, June 22, 2017, the Supreme Court, by a majority decision declared the Agreement between the then Government of Ghana and the United States of America for the resettlement of the two Guantanamo Bay detainees brought into the Country as unconsti- tutional. The court ordered that Government must, within the three months, send the Agreement to Parliament for ratification or have the two detainees sent back to the United State of America. It is in this regard that the Government of Ghana submitted the document on the Agreement to the House for conside- ration and ratification in accordance with article 75 (2) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. Obligations of Ghana under the Agreement Ghana is committed to satisfying the stated obligations pursuant to the Agreements as follows: To receive Mahmud Umar Mu- hammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad salih Al-Dhuby;
Thank you very much. Any seconder?
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful. I rise to second the Motion ably moved by the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs that this House ratifies the Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America to continue to host the two former detainees of Guantanamo Bay who have been in this country since January 2016.
Hon Ranking Member, I was going to say this earlier, but I was just waiting to rely on the discretion of Hon Members. In the Report which was agreed on by consensus, I believed there was a lot of maturity, and there was no reference to controversial and internal issues. Hon Members, sometimes if we just wait and listen, we would be guided by some wisdom. Issues on foreign affairs are delicate. A situation might arise and one might not want to keep on raking it in, so that certain relations with other countries might remain as they are in order that something that might affect the rights of Ghanaians now resident in foreign countries or other Ghanaians who might intend to travel would not also be affected. Therefore, I would advise both sides of the House to avoid anything that might lead to further waging into controversial waters. Hon Ranking Member, on that note, if you might conclude. But if you would want us to start battering on regime issues in the way that would affect our foreign relations, I am responsible enough. I do not know what your difficulty is. Or does it not matter? Does it not matter that we show maturity and discretion? Please, I would advise both sides of the House that we should show discretion and maturity. Hon Member, please, conclude.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I wish to assure you that we all love our country, and we would all not do anything that would jeopardise our strategic foreign interests.
I would take one from each side of the House, and one from each side of Leadership. [Interruptions.] Go to various jurisdictions; when the Committee on Foreign Affairs has seriously considered certain matters indoors, comments in the House are guided accordingly. Hon Hammond?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, listening carefully to your guidance, I am not going to resurrect the entire caboodle of where --
Hon Hammond, if you do not want to resurrect anything, do not “de-surrect” anything.
Mr Speaker, I assure you that I would not “de-surrect” anything; just to make the point that this matter, as rightly stated by the Hon Ablakwa, has been debated on this floor before. It is just an aspect of it that I intend to raise with respect to some of the points that have been raised in the Report. Mr Speaker, in the conclusion, it is stated that the individuals involved have not been linked to any terrorist group anywhere that could be ascertained. When we debated this matter on the floor of the House, it became very clear that these gentlemen were not arrested at a tea party in Sogakofe. They were taken from a war theatre in Afghanistan. I find it strange the suggestion made --
Hon K. T. Hammond, we would not read into such areas of temptation.
Mr Speaker, I curtail myself on that. Mr Speaker, the next point I believe the Committee would have to look at is the fact that, point seven (7) states that the Government of Ghana has been advised by the Government of the United States of America, that these gentlemen did no wrong. They just arrested them and detained them without trial and in the process simply breached their human rights. That is in the Report and with your permission, I quote: “7.4 The Committee was informed that the Government of Ghana was informed by the government of the United States of America that no adverse findings were made linking the detainees to any terrorist group and as such, they were been held at Guantanamo Bay without trial thereby infringing on their fundamental right to free movement.” Mr Speaker, I am just cautious if that is the information the United States of America gave to the Republic of Ghana. Mr Speaker, I am quite happy because the last time we debated this matter, issues came up and some of us were of the view, a view adequately supported by yourself -- We thought that if only to enhance the integrity of the diplomatic relationship between the two States; the economic or friendly relationship, we are quite happy to take them.
The Hon Member who says another Hon Member is not making sense, sitting on his seat and shouting on the floor of Parliament, I do not want to insist that he should be dealt with. Please, let this not happen as a character of this Honourable House.
Mr Speaker, I am happy, at least, for the reason that has been indicated here that the United States Government thinks that Ghana is showing a humanitarian gesture, and it also reinforces the fact of our long standing relationship. Mr Speaker, for these reasons alone, some of us are happy that they see through the remaining five months of the two 2 years
Hon Member, we have not come to that.
Mr Speaker, have we not? Mr Speaker, that is really the point. The original agreement was for them to remain here for two years. We have just been told that out of the two years, they have done just about one and a half years already --
We are not dealing with the two years. When we come to the relevant bridges we shall cross them accordingly.
Mr Speaker, so be it. Essentially for me, the United States of America is our good friend, and we would want to maintain the cordial relationship, for that reason alone, I am happy that eventually the House has had the opportunity to ratify whatever Agreement has gone on before. Mr Speaker, if you had not ruled that we should not get into the nitty gritty and the whats and so on, a few more things would have been added. But we take instructions from the Speaker and we caution ourselves on what to say. Mr Speaker, for these reasons, these are the few words I intend to add.
Thank you very much. Hon Member?
Thank you very much Mr Speaker. I agree that this is a matter of very important implication for foreign relations, for which reason Mr Speaker may want to admonish us to be cautious. Mr Speaker, let us also be guided by Order 20 of our own Standing Orders
Order! Order! Order! Order from both sides of the House. Freedom of speech that would offend Ghana, I know would not be allowed in the House of Commons anyhow. Not anyhow, otherwise there would be nothing like international relations and the word “diplomacy” would not be in the books. The word “diplomacy” is delicate and should be handled well. I hope we would take a cue. If you want to have a different view, you may resume your seat. Hon Members, I do not like to discuss things in a way that would amount to debate. I like to caution, and the lawyers here would tell you, like the Hon Member speaking knows. We take a cue from the bench. Your child may go and do something which you would not necessarily approve, but you may want to settle in the aftermath. That child cannot go later and justify his or her action just because the family decided to let sleeping dogs lie and settle. This spirit of settlement is good in the family, in business and in public affairs. It is good all the time. Hon Member, that is my ruling. You may abide by it or you may continue to assume your seat, but I have a duty to direct this Honourable House.
Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I have not even gone to the substance of the Report yet. I was just touching on a procedural issue --
Hon Member, touch the substance -- [Laughter.]
Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, let me thank the Committee for the Report that they have produced recommending to this House the approval of the Agreement between the Go- vernment of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America so that we can keep the ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees for a given period of time, so that they can enjoy their basic fundamental freedom; freedoms that this country cherishes, freedoms that this country defends, and freedoms that this country upholds in very high regard. Mr Speaker, to be held without trial and due process for 14 years is clearly not something that we know about the place with where they were detained, as something that is consistent with their ethos and values. So, for them to decide to take them out of detention and find friendly countries that are willing to take them and keep them subject to good behaviour in a process ultimately leading to their liberation is something that we commend.
Hon Member, once more, the pursuit of granting something to a person out of right is totally different in both domestic and international law to speak about the magnanimity of the giver. Magnanimity is different from right, so we shall not go into those matters of whether a person deserves this or that. We in Ghana are being magnanimous and we would want to end it at that. Hon Member, do you want to pursue some other line of argument?
Yes, Mr Speaker.
Please do so.
Thank you Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I am on all fours with your position. I am saying that Ghana was magnanimous and it is consistent with our values to promote freedom, and receiving them and keeping them here gives them an opportunity to walk to freedom. That is why the Committee's recommendation for approval is commendable. Mr Speaker, the last thing that I would want to draw attention to, is our reading of the Supreme Court decision. The impression I get is that the Government is compelled, pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision, to bring this Agreement to Parliament. Mr Speaker, the Agreement was entered into by a previous Government, which is the Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), led by President John Dramani Mahama. Mr Speaker, the Agreement was not brought to this Parliament and there was a change in Government. Mr Speaker, a new Government came into being and that Government has two options, which is to agree or to disagree. They have the right to disagree with the Agreement or to reject the Agreement. They also have the right, if they choose, to bring the Agreement to Parliament for ratification.
Hon Member, maybe you were not in the House the last time. The first thing that was to be mandatorily done was to bring this to Parliament. The Supreme Court in its wisdom could have ended it there. Hon Members, it went on to say that if that is not done, some other consequences would be triggered. That which would be triggered by the doing or the non-doing of a court order is not necessarily part of the order that must be made in the first place. This is because, if one does not obey a court's order, it is considered as contempt. Hon Members, if one chooses not to obey the first portion of that judgement or ruling, there would be no contempt because, the court itself in its wisdom has given a consequence that would follow if one chose that first option or not. I believe that matter has been clearly explained and settled. Hon Minority Leadership, you may make your contribution.
Mr Speaker, to conclude, allow me to thank -- [Interruptions.]
Hon Member, if you would kindly withdraw that. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I withdraw. Mr Speaker, I am just acknowledging the benefits that we are deriving from your legal background.
Hon Member, you may please go on.
Mr Speaker, on this note, I conclude.
Hon Minority Leader- ship? Hon Minority Leader, the learned former Attorney-General is on his feet, so out of deference, please come after him.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, just to make the point that Hon Ayariga was saying, that a new government can decide whether to obey the contract or not to obey the contract because it had the choice is a very dangerous proposition. The Government had a choice either to take that contract entered into by the new Government or to decide not to even bring it to Parliament -- and so on, and so forth. Mr Speaker, a new government does not have the liberty to ignore things that previous governments have done. Of course, questions of fraud, misrepresenta- tion and so on, vitiates everything but that is not what we are talking about and therefore, it should not be said that in this Parliament, when another government comes, it can just decide out of some whimsical discretion that it thinks it can exercise, to ignore what the previous Government did, or to ignore the decisions of the Supreme Court. Mr Speaker, that is the point that I would want to make, thank you.
Yes, Hon Minority Leadership?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the Report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the request for ratification of the Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the Government of the United States of America on the resettlement in Ghana of two (2) former Guantanamo Bay detainees. Mr Speaker, it is significant to note that these two detainees arrived in Ghana on 6th January, 2016. It was then the view of the previous administration of President Mahama, supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Hannah Tetteh that this was a matter of exchange of diplomatic notes and not a matter of an Agreement or a Convention, to which the Government of Ghana has a security and exchange of information agreement with the United States of America. Mr Speaker, further to that, the United States of America grants assistance to the Government of Ghana as part of this arrangement. Mr Speaker, it is also important for us to note that at the time of these happenings, Ghana's interest in this increasingly inter-connected world, where leaders needed to take discrete decisions, our Supreme Court made a significant pronouncement. Mr Speaker, I would like to contribute to this debate on two levels. The first one is on the history of the Guantanamo Bay in 2002. Mr Speaker, indeed, the then Defence Minister for the United States of Amercia, Donald Rumsfeld said and I quote, that: “ the detention camp was for extraordinarily dangerous persons”, and for that matter, they did not want to subject them even to the Freedom of Information Act of the United States of America. Mr Speaker, it took a resilient and strong media of the United States of America to demand that, as the Hon Ayariga said, the treatment of these detainees who were about 245, later on 241, who were subsequently freed, was not consistent with the United States of America's values and ethos. Mr Speaker, as a democratic nation, we demonstrated respect to fundamental rights and freedoms because any person at that detention camp suffered what the Amnesty International describes as indefinite detention without trial. That is what it was known for. Mr Speaker, therefore subsequent to it, we have to have the releases, so that they could feed them --
Hon K. T. Hammond, do you rise on a point of order? If it is so, then you should be very clear because I like free flow of argument.
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague has not really taken the cue that you gave us. Some of us wanted to go by the history, but you ruled that we could not go back into the history in this discussion. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member took advantage of the fact that you were writing something for somebody to delve into the history of this matter, which you ruled that we should not do. Mr Speaker, I bring this to your attention, so that you may caution him.
Hon K. T. Hammond, let the Hon Leader flow freely and if you have a point, you should pass it on to your Hon Leader, who I know would also flow freely. Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, it is also important -- I note that you guided us, rightly so, because if we look at developments in Bamako, Ouagadougou, and La Cote d'Ivoire, thankfully, Ghana has not been a victim of it. We should thank our God, but we should be awake that we cannot at any time be a victim of this. Mr Speaker, allow me to come to article 75 on the succinct and lucid ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter. Mr Speaker, there are those who have chosen to interpret it as an indictment of the Executive. They should rightly construe it as a check on the Executive and a warning even to Parliament, that in our excesses, we should be minded that we are subject to judicial review in decisions that we take, which are inconsistent with the Constitution under article 2, which would be declared null and void.
Hon Minority Leader, are we disagreeing with the Supreme Court ruling?
I cannot, Mr Speaker.
Let us be clear. Are we disagreeing with the Supreme Court? Are we trying to interpret the ruling by what we are doing now, so that we are clear?
Mr Speaker, I cannot, but to respect it as it is captured in the Committee's Report. Mr Speaker, you can read your Committee's Report and reference is made to it. It means that as has been said, the options -- I am happy it has been brought because very soon, Parliament would go on recess. The Supreme Court in its ruling said that within three months. So, within three months, the Government of Ghana had one of two options. The options were that, if they did not believe in a friendly relationship with the United States of America; if they do not believe in humanitarianism and the exercise of compassion, they could decide that the Gitmo II should leave the shores of Ghana. But, we are a friendly country to the USA. Ghana is an integral part of the global counter terrorism strategy and we are working with the USA. They remain very supportive of our country in many other enterprises. Therefore, nobody should be engaged in any comment which would seek to jeopardise the strong bilateral relationship that has existed between Ghana and the United States of America. Mr Speaker, be assured that we would support the deepening and strengthening of that relationship, but that should not deny us an opportunity to question the United States of America if they do not respect fundamental human rights and freedoms with their several years and decades of democratic practice. We look up to the United States of America as an inspirer. Therefore, if they have indefinite detention without trial -- not in Ghana today. It cannot happen in Ghana today. Thanks to the 1992 Constitution, we cannot even in Ghana, within 48 hours arrest a person without subjecting him to a fair trial. It is a lesson to learn from the Supreme Court and this process that we must respect fundamental freedoms and human rights. Finally, humanitarianism and com- passion-- that is where we erred and the Supreme Court has rightly corrected it. If President Mahama erred, he erred on the side of compassion. He wanted to accommodate the Gitmo II in order to deepen the relationship between Ghana and the USA, and to demonstrate compassion. But there are those who interpreted it as an indictment on the Executive. No, that is why our Constitution, even with a hybrid system, is premised on some separation of powers, not absolute. But at least, the court has served that when Parliament or the Executive engage in actions, the Judiciary have the power to review, as they have appropriately done and said that in all these matters, treaties and conventions must necessarily-- as the Committee concluded in paragraph 7.0, “Purpose of the Agreement”, reference is made to article 75 of the Constitution which should require -- Mr Speaker, my worry is the compliance with the Supreme Court ruling. I beg to quote: “The Committee observed that the Agreement is submitted to the House in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling directing the Government of Ghana to obtain parliamentary ratification of the Agreement within three months …” So, we respect the Agreement. Let me thank the Committee for the work that has been done and to recommend that we learn our lessons going forward. The Executive must learn that whatever actions they are engaged in are subject to judicial review of those decisions, if those actions are not consistent with the tenets and provisions of the Constitutions. The United States of America must also learn one lesson that we learnt from them in democratic practice. Never again should they encourage indefinite detention without trial. That infringes on international humanitarian law and fundamental freedoms and human rights which are enshrined in the United States of America's Constitution. Therefore, if we are learning from them and we go to learn about the Guantanamo Bay as established in 2002, this country is likely to drift back into the dark days. We do not want that. We would want our democracy to evolve and grow. Therefore, the Government of United States of America must set good examples. I thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, let me also lend my voice in thanking the Committee for a good job done on the referral to them.
“A treaty, agreement or convention executed by or under the authority of the President shall be subject to ratification…”
I do not know why the Hon Minority has decided to get up. That is what I read, if he listened to the article 75(2) that I read. Mr Speaker, so it is very clear that this Parliament is being wise and we are taking a cue from what the Supreme Court has pronounced. It is for us as a House today, as representatives of the people of this country to say to Government that we are giving approval or not; the matter lies in our hands. If we decide that we are not ratifying it, Government will not have any option. So, it is for us to decide. It is not as if to say that Government had the option; Government did not. This is because we recognise that it is an Agreement, and if there is an Agreement, it should come to Parliament. That is what is being done. So, what is being said to us that we had the option, perhaps to deport them, Mr Speaker, is of no moment at all. Mr Speaker, really the Supreme Court recognises that what was done, the note verbale is an Agreement and that recognition necessarily means that it requires parliamentary approval. That is what we are doing today. So, that could not have preceded the Agreement being brought to Parliament. If we decide that we do not want it, then it goes. Mr Speaker, that is where we are and when we came to debating it, in the first place, there was certainly no clarity about the note verbale and nobody -- the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs will not let us know what was contained in it for strategic reasons or reason of national interest. That was what she said to us. But now we know. I guess it has been placed before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, so we know or we are supposed to know. Mr Speaker, going forward, what should concern us is what to do beyond January, 2018. We should not wait until we get to January and then begin to think about what to do following after that. We should not be taken by surprise. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should start the engagement immediately, for us to know whether or not they will continue their stay here. If they have to continue their stay here, what mechanisms do we have to resort to? If they cannot continue their stay here, we should start preparations on what to do with them after the expiry of that grace period of two years. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity granted.
Hon Minister, do you want to make --
Hon Members, item numbered 9 -- Resolution. Yes, Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs?
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly.
Urgent Motion, item listed 10. Hon K. T. Hammond?
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I have seen that you have moved to Motion numbered 10, which stands in the name of Hon K. T. Hammond, Member of Parliament (MP) for Adansi Asokwa. Even before he proceeds on the Motion, I would like to raise three preliminary issues. Firstly, I am holding the Supreme Court ruling of Ghana 2016, John Akparibo Ndebugre vrs the Attorney General and Aker ASA. I have looked at the Motion and it is a Motion that this House rescinds its decision to approve the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and Africa and Middle East Resources Investment Group Llc (Ameri Energy). Mr Speaker, it is the view of the Minority side that Parliament, in tolerating this, would veer to the realm of the Judiciary as was ruled in this case. With your indulgence, I quote Lord Justice Benin on this particular --
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, clearly, I do not know what the Hon Minority Leader is attempting to do. If a Motion has not been moved and seconded, there is nothing before us. He is anticipating what may be done. I do not know under which Order he is coming. [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader is not competent to comment on a Motion that has not been moved. It is not properly before this House. If it is moved and seconded, he can then offer his comments. We are not there yet. He should not be in a hurry. Clearly, he is out of order.
Hon Minority Leader, this is an anticipation. Shall we have the Motion properly before the House and then appropriate comments could be made? Order! Order! Hon K. T. Hammond, at this stage, I would want that you simply refer to the listing on the Order Paper for now. When it is seconded, I would ask for arguments to rule on or otherwise. We would want it to be properly before the House by way of a Motion, introduced and seconded, then I would know what other direction to take.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this House rescinds its decision to approve the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and Africa and Middle East Resources Investment Group Llc (Ameri Energy), for the installation of ten (10) GE TM2,500+ aero derivative gas turbines, operate, maintain, transfer and provision of support services that the House took on March, 20 2015, for reasons of gross misrepresentation.
Deputy Majority Leader (Ms Sarah A. Safo): Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion.
Hon Members, I asked the Hon Member to simply introduce the matter for the House to be seized of it, then we shall proceed accordingly. Parliament was advised by a Committee before taking a decision. Order! Order! Then we could decide on the matter in its entirety. In the process, the Committee might decide to invite the Hon Minister for Energy, the Ameri Company and all other officials or persons to the Committee for a full analysis and hearing of the matter. This would include, as we always do, contributions for members of the public. When that has been done by the Committee, then Parliament in plenary would consider the matter in its entirety. At that moment, any legal or other points that any Hon Member thinks fit to be raised may be so raised as part of the entire debate of this House. One thing that we must be mindful of is that Parliament is not bound by its predecessors. That is the ancient rule of parliamentary governance which we learnt from the British Constitution. Therefore, this is referred to the Committee on Mines and Energy for full consideration and report to the House. Hon Members, Order!
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, a Motion has been moved and seconded and in very novel circumstances, the Motion has been referred to a Committee without debate on it. Mr Speaker, we in the Minority Caucus have raised constitutional issues that relate to the admissibility of the Motion pursuant to Standing Order 93 (3). Mr Speaker, first of all we would have wished to know on which leg and Standing Order the Hon Member who moved the Motion made this application to this House. It is only in Standing Order 93 (3) that the word “rescission” is used and with your permission, I beg to quote: (3) “It shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific Question upon which the House has come to a conclusion during the current Session, except upon a substan- tive motion for rescission”. Mr Speaker, the 1992 Constitution is premised, even though hybrid, on the doctrine and principles, not sovereign of separation of powers. Mr Speaker, I cautioned and I would want if for the record that this Parliament should not veer into the realm of the judiciary. In the Motion that the Hon Member moved, he referred to misrepresentation. Mr Speaker, you are a respected lawyer -- the doctrine of privity of contract. A person who is not a party to a contract cannot suffer the burdens nor enjoy the benefits of that contract. The Parliament of Ghana is not a party to this contract. There is a contract in force and if one has any difficulty with the terms of it, the appropriate forum is the court which would question it whether on fraud or misrepresentation but not in Parliament. Mr Speaker, I would want to refer to the ruling of Justice Atuguba and Justice Benin in the Supreme Court, and with your permission, I would want to quote page 8 of the judgement. “It must be emphasised that when parliamentary approval is given under article 268 (1) the agreement in question remains an executive act and not the act of the legislature”. Mr Speaker, finally, we also as Minority caucus, would want to caution that this Parliament does not proceed so that tomorrow, any Hon Member of Parliament can pick a contractual Agreement and bring it here and say it should be rescinded. It would set a dangerous precedent for this country and for the Parliament of Ghana. Mr Speaker, I refer to Justice Date- Baah's Judgment.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, you clearly indicated to me -- [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, in my fifth term in this Parliament, I consider it pretty rich for those Hon Members on the other side of the aisle to ask me the Orders on which I proceed to raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, the point of order is that, you asked me specifically to restrict myself to the Motion and after it has been seconded, you would proceed to make some observations. Mr Speaker, I took it to mean that after you had made those pronouncements, that was your ruling and that the matter would be taken from there. But the Hon Minority Leader gets up and effectively anticipates the points that I would make in my Motion, which I have not been allowed to proceed with. Mr Speaker, I find that scandalous and a complete breach of all the rules of this House and I believe he is completely out of order and must so be cautioned.
Hon Members, all matters of law, all matters of privity of contracts, all information that should be conveyed to this House or to the Committee, whether by the President, the Executive or any other person is best determined by a Committee of this Honourable House. [Hear! Hear!] -- Parliaments do not determine such matters in plenary without Committee hearings to analyse the matter in one way or the other. The entire Committee result would appear before this Honourable House then if any Hon Member would propound the law, home and abroad, to privity of contract or otherwise, there would be plenty of time to do so for this Honourable House to take a decision. Hon Members, that ends this matter for now. It is referred to the Committee which would determine and report for this House to debate the matter.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the Finance Committee on the Annual Debt Management Report for the year 2016. Mr Speaker, in doing so I present your Committee's Report. Introduction The Annual Debt Management Report for the 2016 fiscal year was laid in the House on 2nd March, 2017, by the Minister for Finance, Hon Ken Ofori-Atta. The Report was subsequently referred to the Finance Committee for consideration and report, in accordance with article 103 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 169 of the Standing Orders of the House. This followed the presentation of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government for the 2017 Financial Year by the Minister for Finance, Hon Ken Ofori-Atta. The Committee met and considered the Report with the Chief Director and other officials from the Ministry of Finance. The Committee is grateful to the Chief Director and the other officials from the Ministry of Finance for attending upon the Committee. References The Committee referred to and was guided by the following documents inter alia during its deliberations on the Bill: The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana The Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792) The Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2017 Financial Year. Background Information Following the implementation of the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative which culminated in successfully reaching completion point in 2006, Ghana significantly reduced her debt burden to about 26 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since then, the country has witnessed a significant build up of debt, reaching the current level of 72.5 per cent of GDP in 2016. The Ministry of Finance presented this maiden Annual Debt Management Report (ADMR) to Parliament in accordance with section 72 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921). The Report aims at providing Parliament with details of the debt dynamics in 2016 and to also serve as a useful repository of information for students, academicians, researchers, civil society organisations, the media and the general public. Pursuant to section 72 of Act 921, the Report is required to include among others: Government borrowings and debt management operations Guarantee and lending activities of Government Debt management strategy and the rationale for the strategy List of outstanding Government debts List of outstanding Government guarantees, the amount and beneficiaries of the guarantees, and an assessment of the fiscal risk embedded in the guarantees; and List of lending operations, including outstanding amounts and benefi- ciaries of the loans and an assessment of the credit risk of the loans. Observations Public Debt of Ghana The Committee noted that the public debt of Ghana is defined to include all borrowings by the central Government and those guaranteed by Government for the benefit of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). The current primary law for debt management is the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921). Macroeconomic Developments in 2016 According to the January 2017 update of IMF's World Economic Outlook, world output in 2016 was estimated at 3.1 per cent, marginal dip from the 2015 outturn of 3.2 per cent. On a regional basis, growth in emerging markets and the developing countries remained unchanged from the 4.1 per cent in 2015 while that in advanced economies declined from 2.1 per cent in 2015 to 1.6 per cent in 2016. In Ghana, the growth for the year 2016 stood at 3.6 per cent. Monetary policy stance remained tight throughout 2016 in an effort by the Bank of Ghana to address inflationary pressures and exchange rate depreciation. The monetary policy rate stood at 26.0 per cent for the greater part of the year till a 50 basis point reduction to 25.5 per cent was announced by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in October, 2016. Inflation gradually eased from 17.7 per cent from end 2015 to 15.4 per cent at the end of 2016. The balance of payments position improved from a deficit of US$129 million (equivalent to 0.3 per cent of GDP) in 2015 to a surplus of US$247 million (equivalent of 0.6 per cent of GDP). Gross Foreign Assets were also said to have increased from US$5,884.70 million at the end of 2015 to US$6,161.80 million at the end of 2016. Government Borrowing/Financing Operations in 2016 Government's borrowing plan in 2016 was guided by the revised fiscal deficit target of 5.0 per cent of GDP (GH¢8,407.66 million). The Provisional outturn for 2016 was however 8.7 per cent of GDP (GH¢14,731.60 million), indicating a higher than expected budget deficit, both in nominal terms and in percentage of GDP. Total Public Debt of Ghana The gross public debt stock as at the end of 2016 stood at GH¢122,263.00 million (equivalent to US$29,227.15 million), an increase from the 2015 figure of GH¢100,234.90 (equivalent to US$26,403.30 million).
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion on the adoption of the Annual Debt Management Report as presented by the Hon Chairman of the Committee. Mr Speaker, in seconding the Motion, I would want to make a few observations. The first one is the unsustainable levels of debt which the previous government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) — Mr Speaker, we ended the year 2015 with a debt level of about a GH¢100 billion. In 2016, our debt levels rose to GH¢122 billion. Relative to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is a sum of the total productive activity within the economy for the year 2016, we finished with the ratio of 72.5 per cent. Mr Speaker, it is a known fact that every country that crosses beyond 70 per cent GDP ratio is unsustainable. Mr Speaker, in 2017, the Government of the New Patriotic Party led by H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo has a debt to GDP target of about 70 per cent. As a nation, we need to look at our borrowing and how we manage our debt. Management of our debt has become very careful, we would get to a stage where we would not be able to pay maturing debts and also be in default to our creditors. Mr Speaker, what we have experienced in 2017 is a rationalisation of the management of our debts. We have seen a lot of debt re-profiling and some increments in the level of debts due to maturing debts and additional interests that are due. Mr Speaker, I would urge the House to adopt this Report, but in winding up, I would want to urge that any new borrowings, like the Report said, should be channelled to more productive sectors of the economy. Also, we should move away from borrowing and expending on less important and unproductive ventures. Question proposed.
Hon Majority Leader, is there any contribution?
Mr Speaker, there is no contribution.
Thank you. Question put and Motion agreed to. Item numbered 2 on the Order Paper Addendum -- Hon Chairman of the Committee? Ascertainment of Parliamentary Ratification of Agreements and VAT Compliance
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the Finance Committee on the investigation to ascertain whether Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and Ghana Bauxite Company have had their mining Agreements ratified by Parliament of Ghana and whether the two companies are VAT compliant.
Hon Members, the Hon First Deputy Speaker would take the Chair. Hon Chairman of the Committee, you may continue.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER IN THE
Mr Speaker, in so doing, I would present your Committee's Report. Introduction Out of the deliberations of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Foreign Exchange Receipts and Payments for the year ended 2015 on the floor of the House on Thursday, 29th June, 2017, came the revelation that two companies, namely Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and Ghana Bauxite Company Limited, have been exempted from surrendering their foreign exchange earnings or retaining them outside the country as part of their mining Agreement. Mr Speaker referred this matter to the Finance Committee for consideration and report in accordance with the 1992 Constitution and the Standing Orders of the House. The Committee met with officials from the Ministry of Finance, Minerals Commission, Ghana Revenue Authority, Bank of Ghana, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) and the Ghana Bauxite Company. Documents Referred To The Committee referred to the following documents: 1. 1992 Constitution 2. Standing Orders of Parliament 3. 29th June, 2017, Hansard 4. Fiscal Agreement between the Government of Ghana and TBAC Limited and Ghana Bauxite Limited 5. Ghana Bauxite Company Limited Mining Lease 6. Correspondences between the Ministry of Finance and NGGL 7. Correspondence between the Ministry of Trade and Industry and NGGL 8. Correspondence between the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and NGGL 9. Investment Agreement between GoG and NGGL Purpose of the Referral The purpose of the referral was for the Committee to investigate the allegation and confirm whether: There is any Agreement between each of the companies and Government which has been ratified by Parliament The companies have not been registered to pay VAT and the basis for such non-registration. Observations Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) Investment Agreement with Government of Ghana In a response to whether there is an Agreement between Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and Government of Ghana which provided that the company can retain all its foreign receipts outside the country as of 2015, the company responded in the affirmative. It informed the Committee that it had an earlier Agreement with the Government of Ghana which provided that it was not required to surrender any receipts to the Bank of Ghana. The company stated that despite the non-surrender clause in the old Agreement, Newmont has been repa- triating over sixty 60 per cent of its receipts back to Ghana through local commercial banks. This repatriation is used to take care of its expenses in the country. The company said this position changed after the end of 2015. In November, 2015, the company had a revised investment Agreement with the Government of Ghana which requires that Newmont surrender thirty per cent (30 per cent) of its export proceeds to Bank of Ghana. This Agreement was ratified by Parliament and came into effect in December, 2015. Bank of Ghana confirmed the information given by Newmont, that under the old Agreement, the company was not required to surrender any percentage of export receipts to the Bank of Ghana. With regard to the revised Agreement, the Bank indicated that it was not aware of the new Agreement that reviewed the existing position. The Bank indicated that it would update its records accordingly and ensure that the company abides by the new terms in the revised agreement. The Minerals Commission confirmed that they were aware that under the old regime, Newmont was not to surrender any percentage to the Bank of Ghana. It was also aware that Newmont repatriates about sixty per cent of its receipts to the country. Presentation of Documents for Tax Exemption Responding to whether the company was exempt from the payment of taxes or not, Newmont answered in the affirmative and presented correspondence between itself and the Ministry of Trade and Industry as well as correspondence between the Ministry of Finance and itself.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. I beg to second the Motion that this Report be adopted by the House. In so doing, there are two very quick points that I would like to make. Paragraph 3 of page 2 talks about the fact that: “Bank of Ghana (BoG) confirmed the information given by Newmont” and goes on to say that “With regard to the revised Agreement, the Bank indicated that it was not aware of the new Agreement that reviewed that existing position.” Mr Speaker, when we move to the issue of Ghana Bauxite Company Limited, Parliament had also not necessarily been informed and the proper documents had not been tabled for the ratification to take place. What the Committee found at the end of the day was that, first, the needed collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana to properly inform the Bank of Ghana that this Agreement has been signed or amended could do with a lot of improvements. In addition to improving that collaboration so that the Bank of Ghana is aware in good time and can therefore perform its regulatory functions properly regarding whatever terms this new agreement holds, we also found that the Bank of Ghana itself could boost its supervisory mechanism when it comes to ensuring that even the returns that companies like these have to file, whether under old or new Agreements, are well received and looked into. Therefore, the Committee also sought to encourage the Ministry of Finance to improve its collaboration and encourage the Bank of Ghana to also strengthen its supervisory mechanism in these areas. Finally, Mr Speaker, reference also to inform Parliament and ensure that the necessary documentation is tabled in good time, we found that, there was a bit of a gap. Again, the Committee encourages the Ministry of Finance to do well to as quickly as possible, reference Parliament and make the necessary documents available so, that the kind of ratification which the Constitution envisages can be given in good time. With that said, Mr Speaker, I second the Motion for the adoption of this Report. Question proposed.
Well, Hon Members, if there are no contributions, then I will put the Question. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Hon Majority Leader, item numbered 3 is still pending. [Interruption.] Hon Members, item numbered 3; Motion. Hon Chairman of the Committee? Measures to Improve the Activities of Microfinance Companies and Check the Operations of Sham Companies in the Country
Mr Speaker, I beg to move that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the Finance Committee on the inquiry into measures put in place by the Bank of Ghana to improve the activities of microfinance companies and check the operations of sham companies in the country. In doing so, Mr Speaker, I present your Committee's Report. Introduction The Hon Member for Nkoranza South, Mr Charles Konadu-Yiadom, on 4th April, 2017, made a Statement on the socio- economic effects of sham microfinance companiesin the Brong Ahafo Region. The Statement attracted various commentaries from Members of Parliament who expressed concerns about the activities of micro finance companies in the country as a whole. Following the number of concerns raised, Mr Speaker referred the Statement to the Finance Committee for consideration and report in accordance with the 1992 Constitution and the Standing Orders of the House. The Committee met with the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Ernest Addison, and a technical team from the Bank of Ghana to consider the referral. Documents referred to The Committee made reference to the following documents: 1. 1992 Constitution 2. Standing Orders of Parliament 3. Banks and Specialised Deposit Taking Institutions Act, (Act 930) 4. 4th April, 2017, copy of the Hansard Purpose The purpose of the referral is to enquire into measures put in place by the Bank of Ghana to properly regulate the activities of microfinance companies and to check the operations of sham companies in the country. Observations Role of Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) in the country The Committee was informed that the micro finance institutions are the companies that provide financial services including loans, savings and insurance to the category of persons made up of poor entrepreneurs and small business owners who do not qualify for a loan from the traditional banks. Due to their nature of doing business, most market women and small-scale businesses prefer them to the traditional banks. They serve a wide range of customers, as their terms are very flexible. Microfinance has huge acceptance among the business community and as a result, their numbers have been growing. Currently, there are 568 licensed microfinance institutions in the country. These institutions have been categorised to reflect their capital requirement and scope of operation as follows: 485 Deposit-taking microfinance companies 71 Non-deposit taking money lending companies 12 Financial non-governmental organisations The technical team from BoG agreed with the Committee that there was the need to tighten supervision in order to protect the clients of the microfinance institutions who are usually from the lower income bracket. Tightening of existing rules governing the operations of microfinance The technical team indicated that following recent happenings in the micro- finance sector, BoG reviewed the operations of Micro Finance Companies (MFCs) in order to tighten supervision and re-position the companies. A new Business and Sanctions Rules has been developed to streamline their operations. The scope of MFCs activities have been clarified. The Rules have also introduced some changes as follows: The ceiling for deposits is limited to GH¢50,000 per depositor Lending to a client has also been limited to GH¢50,000 per client Capital requirements have been increased Reporting requirements have been strengthened MFCs are now encouraged to focus on providing financial services to people who are in the lower income bracket and small-scale entrepreneurs. The idea is to encourage these people to save and get small loans when required. Persons with much larger funds or financial requirements should rather resort to the traditional banks. The business rules also require the MFCs to have a public governance policy. under the governance policy. The MFCs are to establish a number of committees, including credit management committee, risk management committee and liquidity contingency committee, among others, and submit reports of these meetings to BoG. Other reports are also to be submitted by the companies to BoG. The MFCs have up to the end of April, 2018, to comply with the new guidelines. The Bank indicated that the measures were critical to prevent what happened in the recent past and protect the micro- finance operations. The bank is happy with compliance to the rules by the micro- finance companies. Responding to whether the MFCs were engaged during the consideration of the new rules, the technical team affirmed that the MFCs were involved in the drafting of the rules.
Sanctions In responding to the issue of sanctions, the Bank conceded that the previous regime was not punitive enough. The Bank has now introduced stiffer sanctions for the microfinance companies under the business rules. The rules have adequate and deterrent sanctions that the Bank is applying. Since the introduction of this measure, the Bank is recording higher compliance. As to what steps BoG takes when an unregistered micro finance company is discovered, the Bank said they report them to the Financial Intelligence Center and other law enforcement agencies for the appropriate action to be taken. Revision of capital requirements for MFCs As part of efforts to refocus MFCs, the Bank has revised the capital requirements of MFCs. The MFCs have been grouped into four and the capital requirements for each group is as follows: Tier 1 -- Savings and Loans companies and rural and community banks with a capital requirement of GH¢15,000,000 and GH¢1,000,000 respectively Tier 2 --Deposit taking micro finance companies with a capital requirement of Gh¢2,000,000 Tier 3 -- Non-deposit taking money lending companies and financial non- governmental organisations with capital requirements of GH¢2,000,000 and GH¢300,000 respectively Tier 4 -- Individual money lenders and susu collectors who are supervised by their umbrella associations under the supervision of Bank of Ghana without minimum capital requirements Licensing procedure Responding to the process for granting license, the Bank explained that to operate as a microfinance company, the Bank first conducts an appraisal of prescribed information and records. If satisfied, the bank would issue a provisional license on terms and conditions that the Bank considers appropriate. The Bank then issues a final approval and license to the applicant if it is satisfied with the organisational and infrastructural arrangements made and that the applicant has passed the BoG's “fit and proper” test and has complied with the terms and conditions stipulated in the provisional approval. The BoG has suspended the issuance of new licenses in order to sanitise the sector. Improved monitoring and supervision The Committee enquired whether BoG has improved upon its monitoring and supervision. It was explained that the Bank deploys a number of monitoring tools to monitor Micro Finance Companies and these have been strengthened. These are contained in the new Business Rules and Sanctions for the sector. One of the tools is “off-site review and analysis” where the BoG reviews weekly and monthly prudential returns submitted by the MFCs on liquidity, capital adequacy, profitability, depositor concentration, credit concentration and credit portfolio performance for early warning signals of distress and prompt corrective actions. Another tool is the “on- site examination”. Under this tool, the Bank undertakes on-site inspection to confirm the financial state of the MFCs. After the on-site examination, a report is prepared detailing the findings together with directives and recommendations for prompt corrective actions. BoG is further undertaking training for MFCs in these new rules to ensure compliance. As indicated above, sanctions are applied where there is non- compliance. Payment of outrageous profits Responding to what measures the Bank can put in place to prevent MFCs from advertising outrageous interest rates, the technical team explained that the market is liberalised and as such, BoG cannot control payment of interest rates by financial institutions in the country. However, the Bank has resorted to publishing information about MFCs in their annual reports as part of its public education. The information includes rates on deposits and lending rates. Further, when the Bank observes that the rates are high, it impresses on the MFCs to justify the rates. Where they are unable to do so, BoG prevails upon them to reduce their rates. Capping of loanable funds The Committee observed that loanable funds per client was capped at GH¢50,000 under the new rules. Some members of the Committee were of the opinion that since the MFCs have different equities, capping the loanable funds at GH¢50,000 per client might not augur well for some companies. It was explained that previously, the MFCs borrowed in relation to their equity. This created challenges as MFCs began to increase their capital, thereby attracting higher deposits. With the consent of the MFCs, the new policy is that the loanable fund to a client should be capped at GH¢50,000. This is to ensure that MFCs concentrate on their role as microfinance entities. Capping of non-cash equity of MFCs Another challenge that the Bank observed was that most of the distressed companies held a huge chunk of their equity in non-cash equivalent. Converting them into cash was a huge challenge for them. Going forward, and to ensure sanity in their activities, MFCs can only hold up to twenty five per cent cash equivalent as capital. This is to prevent MFCs from investing in non-cash assets and rather hold more cash to meet their cash demands timeously. Additional efforts to get rid of unlicensed MFCs In a response to what other steps the Bank is taking to address the issue of unlicensed MFCs, the technical team indicated that part of its efforts is to educate the public. In view of this, BoG has been conducting a number of public sensitisation throughout the country. A call center has been established to address the concerns of the public. Licensed MFCs now display approved logos at their premises which help to identify them from the unlicensed ones. As indicated earlier, BoG periodically publishes the list of all MFCs in good standing. The Bank is also seeking the
assistance of the law enforcement agencies to help arrest unlicensed companies. The Committee was assured that these measures are so far yielding positive results and that the Bank would continue to do more. Furthermore, Bank of Ghana has established the Other Financial Institutions Institutions Supervision Department (OFISD) to oversee the operations of the MFCs. BoG also indicated that from the information it now receives, it recently closed down three unlicensed micro finance entities operating in the country, namely Agro Development Fund Services Limited (ADF Services Ltd), Hebron Financial Investment Limited and Fast Loans Money Lending Limited. ADF Services is in court challenging its closure. Hebron Financial Investment Services has filed a complaint with CHRAJ, challenging its closure and the Ghana Police is assisting to locate the directors of Fast Loans Money Lending Limited. Establishment of a regulatory body Given the importance of the sector and the growing numbers of the micro finance companies, the Bank has engaged some stakeholders to discuss further ways of improving the sector. One of the suggestions is to establish a regulatory body to oversee the sector. The discussions are at their early stages and once they have been finalised, the Bill would be brought to the House for approval. Sham microfinance companies The Bank informed the Committee that it became aware of the operations of five companies, namely God Is Love Fan Club, Jaster Motors Investment Limited, Little Drops Helping Hand Association, Perfect Edge Group and Care for Humanity International Fan Club in 2015. The Bank said that they were unlicensed and operated illegally. As a result, they were reported to the Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) and their accounts were blocked. The Bank indicated that FIC later requested that their accounts be de- frozen to enable them pay their customers. The directors of these entities have been arraigned before the courts and the cases are pending. Measures to assist distressed MFCs On how to assist MFCs from becoming distressed, the Bank said with the submission of weekly and monthly reports, it is the hope that it would help identify and prevent companies from becoming distressed. The Bank is also encouraging mergers to help protect weak companies. Update on Diamond MicroFinance (DKM) The Committee inquired about DKM and what caused the company to undergo liquidation. The Bank, in its response, gave an update on DKM. It explained that DKM obtained a license on 25th October, 2013. Following reports from the general public as well as its on-site and off-site inspection, including additional reports from the Regional Manager in Sunyani, it came to the fore that the company had committed some regulatory and supervisory breaches that threatened the safety of customer's funds. It also triggered panic withdrawals from the banks and other deposit taking institutions in the country, especially Sunyani and its environs. In view of the above, the Bank decided to take a number of actions against DKM. First, BoG requested the Financial Intelligence Center to freeze the accounts of DKM. The Bank also imposed a ninety- day moratorium on the operations of DKM and appointed Lobban Hyde and Partners to audit the books of DKM to ascertain its assets and liabilities. After several opportunities given to the company to turn their operations around failed, the Bank revoked their license on 29th March, 2016. At a special meeting held by BoG, a road map for liquidation of DKM was approved and the Registrar-General appointed an official liquidator. So far, 62,304 depositors have submitted 93,413 claims totally GH¢540,621,416.00 to the official liquidator. Currently, 58,140 depositors have been validated amounting to GH¢502,120,644.00. The Committee enquired whether depositors of DKM have been paid. They explained that the liquidator is to realise the assets and pay off any outstanding liabilities. This process is ongoing and where some funds are available, depositors will be paid accordingly. They indicated that due to the absence of the liquidator, it was difficult for them to give specific details of the liquidation process, even though some payments have been made. Conclusion After careful deliberations, the Committee is of the view that the Bank of Ghana has adequately put in place the necessary measures to help sanitise the micro finance sector. The implementation of the Business Rules and the application of punitive sanctions have gone a long way to help weed out fraudulent companies in the sector. However, a lot is still required as these unlicensed companies operate in the rural areas where detection is very difficult until the harm or a client reports. The Committee therefore urges the Bank of Ghana to strengthen its public education. The established call center should be adequately advertised so that people can call in and provide information. The Committee also assures the House that, as the oversight Committee, it would continue to engage the Bank of Ghana to ensure that there is sanity in the sector. In furtherance of this, the Committee recommends to the House to adopt its Report on the Statement made by Hon Charles Konadu-Yiadom on the socio- economic effects of sham microfinance companies in the Brong Ahafo Region. Respectfully submitted.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to second the Motion on the Report of the Finance Committee on how the Bank of Ghana intends to better regulate the microfinance market or space. Mr Speaker, in seconding the Motion, I would want to make two observations. The likes of DKM and God is Love still thrive in our markets today, because there is a gap that needs to be filled. Mr Speaker, as long as the high street banks or the normal big banks that we have in this economy refuse to go down to meet the banking needs of the greater
Hon Member, hold on, I direct that, in view of the time, we Sit outside the normal prescribed time. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. What is happening is that, most of the regulating institutions which ask for reports— and their aim would be to look out for the micro finance companies to submit their reports on particular dates and not to worry about the contents of those reports. I am sure that if the reports of these companies were studied to ensure that they met the requirements as set out by the Bank of Ghana, we would not have issues springing up on us like what happened in the Brong Ahafo Region. Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I want to support the Motion but urge the Bank of Ghana to do more to regulate this market space. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Very well, maybe, no contributions. I see nobody standing to make a contribution, so I will put the Question. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Hon Members, we shall return to the original Order Paper and take Questions. First, the Urgent Question standing in the name of Hon Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, Hon Member for Akatsi North. Did he authorise anybody to ask the Question on his behalf? Very well. Question numbered 51 standing in the name of Mutawakilu Adam, Hon Member for Damongo? Question numbered 88 standing in the name of Hon Richard Mawuli Kwaku Quashigah, the Hon Member for Keta? Question numbered 89, also in the name of Hon Richard Mawuli Kwaku Quashigah of Keta Constituency? Question numbered 101 in the name of Hon Kwame Govers Agbodza, Hon Member for Adaklu? Question numbered 55 standing in the name of Hon Magnus Kofi Amoatey, Hon Member for Yilo Krobo? Question numbered 83, standing in the name of Hon Richard Acheampong, Hon Member for Bia East? Question numbered 84, standing in the name of Hon Laadi Ayii Ayamba, Hon Member for Pusiga? Question numbered 85, standing in the name of Hon Dr Sebastian Ngmenenso Sandaare, Hon Member for Daffiama/ Bussie/Isaa? Question numbered 86, standing in the name of Hon Kofi Okyere-Agyekum, Hon Member for Fanteakwa South?
Very well. It does appear that the Hon Members are not interested in the Questions. Therefore, the relevant processes may have to be applied to determine them. The next Question stands in the name of Hon Kofi Okyere-Agyekum of Fanteakwa South.
Mr Speaker, early on, the Hon Minister for Health was in the Chamber but because we had to vary a lot of our Business for today, he had to leave the premises. The Hon Deputy Minister for Health, Hon Kingsley Abogye-Gyedu is here to answer the Questions accordingly.
Yes, Hon Deputy Minister? Hon Member for Fanteakwa South, kindly ask your Question.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Mr Speaker, the Ministry has carried out a needs assessment and the plan is to construct a laboratory as well as an accident and emergency centre to complement the services being run by the facility. This is a priority of the Ministry and it will therefore be done as soon as the Ministry is able to secure funds for it.
Mr Speaker, I want to know from the Hon Minister, if
Mr Speaker, it is part of our preparations for the year 2018 Budget. We have earmarked it as part of the preparations and we are in the process of doing the costing. I would therefore, furnish this House -- or it would even be in the 2018 Budget, as soon as our Budget is ready for presentation.
Mr Speaker, I asked this same Question on the 16th June, 2015 and in the Answer to this same Question, the Ministry -- I concede that he was not the Hon Minister then, but with your permission, I would read: “…The Ministry would need to assess the Osino Health Centre in conjunction with the Ghana Health Service to determine what needs to be added on. This would primarily be determined also by the popula- tion growth and the patient attendance to date. This would be captured in our Capital Investment Plan for 2016-2017…” Mr Speaker, we are in 2017 and I would want to know how much was captured in the Capital Investment Plan for 2016 and 2017 for this particular project?
Mr Speaker, I believe that my Hon Colleague understands that there is a new Government in place, and to the best of my knowledge, I have not sighted any plan that was made by the previous Government. But I could assure the Hon Member that it is part of our plans to equip the hospital with the accident centre and the Laboratory, as I have already stated. That is why I am unable to tell the Hon Member what the cost is now because we are in the preparation of the 2018 Budget. So, I cannot speak to what the previous Government said to him regarding this same Question, but what I am confident about is that we have plans to equip the hospital with the facilities that I have already stated.
Mr Speaker, my understanding of his answer is that there were no funds made available by the previous Government for this project. Could he give me any timelines on when they would do this project?
Hon Member, he has given you timelines already. He said that it would be part of the 2018 Budget. That would be all. Question numbered 87 -- Hon Member for Fanteakwa South, this also stands in your name. State of new Eastern Regional Hospital 87. Mr Kofi Okyere-Agyekum asked the Minister for Health what was the state of the new Regional Hospital for the Eastern Region whose construction was expected to commence in 2013.
Mr Speaker, I wish to indicate that technical and financial proposals for the project were received from a prospective, investor for the new Eastern Regional Hospital. These proposals have been submitted to the Ministry of Finance for consideration. As soon as funds become available, construction of the Eastern Regional Hospital will commence.
Mr Speaker, I asked this same Question and it is in the Hansard of 18th February, 2016. In the Answer to the Question, the then Hon Deputy Minister said that -- In fact, the Answer then was almost the same as the current Answer.
“Mr Speaker, I wish to indicate that the technical and financial pro- posals were received from a prospective investor for the new Eastern Regional Hospital. These proposals were submitted to the Ministry of Finance. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Finance did not accept the terms on the basis of non-concessional facility. We are still exploring other sources of financing for the start of the new regional hospital.” Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister went on to answer that they were in talks with United States of America (USA) Exim Bank for this project. I would like to know the extent of these talks with the USA Exim Bank.
Hon Member, that Answer was provided by somebody other than this current Hon Minister. If you would relate the facts that you have there to this Answer. I think I would advise that you reframe your Question to make it practicable for the Hon Minister to respond.
Mr Speaker, I think that since the Ministry is a continuum and they are in talks with an investor, the Hon Minister would know something about what is going on. I would want to know if he is aware of this.
Hon Member, if you read the Answer, it looks like something else had happened - a proposal from a prospective investor had been referred to them and the Ministry had referred it to the Ministry of Finance. So, if you want to find out whether it is the same proposal which had earlier been rejected, then he would have a basis to answer. Hon Minister, is it the same proposal that had earlier been rejected by the Hon Minister for Finance as not being concessionary?
Mr Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, no. These are new proposals that we received. What I cannot speak to is whether they had submitted earlier proposals which were rejected. Mr Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, the USA Exim Guarantee is not part of the three proposals that we have submitted to the Ministry of Finance for consideration.
Mr Speaker, I would like to know who the new investors are.
Mr Speaker, with all due respect, I cannot recollect the three proposals that have been received, but if you give that directive I could bring the details to this House at a later date.
Very well. The Committee on Health would take note and find out these proposals and advise the House accordingly.
Mr Speaker, in the Budget Statement of 2014 under paragraph 723, the construction of a Regional Hospital for the Eastern Region as well as the Western Region was included.
I also noticed that in the Budget Statement of 2015, these two projects were taken out. Mr Speaker, I would like to know whether these projects have found expression again in the Budget Statement of 2017.
Mr Speaker, unless I did not hear him right, he was asking whether the construction of the Regional Hospital for Eastern Region had found expression in the 2017 Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, I believe that the 2017 Budget Statement was presented to this House but I do not recollect it being in --
Hon Minister, you have said that you are preparing for the 2018 Budget Statement and he wants to know whether you are considering the Regional Hospital for the Eastern Region in the 2018 Budget that you are preparing.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. I thought I heard 2017. Mr Speaker, the 2018 Budget Statement may include the Eastern Regional Hospital if the Ministry of Finance is able to conclude negotiations with the investors in time before the Budget Statement is finalised for presentation to this House. So, that depends on the speed of work of the Ministry of Finance.
Mr Speaker, thank you. I would like to know from the Hon Deputy Minister for Health, whether the proposal that the Ministry has is going to upgrade the existing facility at Koforidua or it is going to be a completely new hospital to be constructed for the Eastern Region.
Mr Speaker, I believe it is part of the proposals. Some of the investors would want to upgrade the existing hospital by adding new facilities and others would want to look at a new facility altogether. Mr Speaker, so, I am not able to confirm whether it would be a new one or an upgrade of the existing one until the Ministry of Finance concludes negotia- tions with the investors.
Very well. Hon Members, that brings us to the end of Question time. Hon Deputy Minister, thank you for attending upon the House to answer Questions. Hon Members, a new Order Paper headed as Addendum 2 has been distributed. Hon Majority Leader, are we ready to do the business on Order Paper Addendum 2?
Mr Speaker, that is so.
At the Commencement of Public Business -- Presentation of Papers by the Hon Minister for Finance.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, early on we entered the arena of Public Business and did some business. We just came back to deal with Questions and so it is a re-entry. This is not the Commencement of Public Business.
Very well. So, it is continuation of public business.
Mr Speaker, that is so.
Hon Majority Leader, is the Hon Minister in the House?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is not in the House and I beg to apply to do so on behalf of the Hon Minister. The Hon Minister is locked up in a meeting, and the Hon Deputies who came have had to join him. So, if you may indulge me and the House would afford me the opportunity, I would stand in for the Hon Minister and present the Papers on his behalf.
Very well. Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, you may lay the Paper on behalf of the Hon Minister for Finance.
Item numbered (ii) on the Order Paper Addendum 2. Hon Minister?
Mr Speaker, if I may apply for you to vary the referral. You have referred it to the Committee on Finance, but I do not know whether the Leadership or the entire membership of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs may have to be added. Mr Speaker, normally, that is what you would have done. The referral --
Normally referred to the leadership of the Committee or the entire Committee?
Mr Speaker, I am saying that it would be important to add the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs. Usually, that is what you would do, except that I do not know whether we would have to just add the leadership of that Committee to the Committee on Finance. Mr Speaker, so, just add the leadership of that Committee to the Committee on Finance.
Very well. I direct that the leadership of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs joins the Committee on Finance in the deliberations. Item numbered (ii) -- Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs? By the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs (Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu) (on behalf of the Minister for Finance.) (ii) Request for approval of waiver of Stamp Duty amounting to six million, five hundred thousand United States dollars (US$6,500,000) in respect of the Receivables-backed Trade Finance Facility for the purchase of cocoa in Ghana for the 2017/2018 Cocoa Season. Referred to the Committee on Finance to be assisted by the leadership of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs.
Hon Majority Leader, I believe we have exhausted the Business on the Order Paper for today. Am I right?
Mr Speaker, that is so. Mr Speaker, I guess we might take an adjournment, but before then, I will urge the Committees that have referrals and who are supposed to report to plenary tomorrow, in particular, the last Paper we laid, dealing with the COCOBOD loans -- Mr Speaker, we are supposed to have the Committee to consider the request and submit their Report to plenary for debate and possible approval by tomorrow before we adjourn. Since we do not intend to stay here for too long, tomorrow, we would require the Finance Committee in addition to Leadership of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs to join up with them and begin the consideration earliest, possibly this afternoon, upon adjournment to enable us do the consideration of their Report tomorrow before we adjourn sine die. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Very well. I would leave that to the Leadership of the House to manage that affairs. Hon Members, having exhausted the Business of the day, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow, 2nd August, 2017 at 10.00 a.m.
The House was adjourned at 2.28 p.m. till Wednesday, 2nd August, 2017 at 10.00 a.m.