VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 on the Order Paper -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings and the Official Report. We have Votes and Proceedings dated Wednesday, 7th June, 2017.
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 7th June, 2017.]
Hon Members, item numbered 3 -- Statements. I have admitted two Statements on health to be made by two Hon Members. The first one is by Hon Frank Annoh- Dompreh, Hon Member of Parliament for Nsawam/Adoagyiri and it is on time for the establishment of a health and safety authority in the Republic. The second Statement stands in the name of Hon (Dr) Clement A. Apaak, Member of Parliament for Builsa South.
Hon Apaak is not in the Chamber?
Mr Speaker, he has not yet arrived in the Chamber.
Very well. We would wait on this for the time being, so that we could take the two Statements on health together. There is another Statement by Hon Dr Bernice Adiku Heloo, Member for Hohoe and Hon Kwadwo Nyanpon Aboagye, Member for Biakoye, calling for peace in the protracted Alavanyo-Nkonya conflict. Dr Heloo?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to make this joint Statement by myself and Hon Kwadwo Nyanpon Aboagye, Member for Biakoye, on the protracted conflict between the people of Alavanyo and Nkonya. Mr Speaker, the Alavanyo-Nkonya conflict which started violently somewhere in 1923, has grown and expanded dangerously above the survival of the people of Alavanyo and Nkonya. The conflict threatens our national security, development and pride. We, therefore, call on the whole nation to unite above tribe, political party and language, to support the people of Alavanyo and Nkonya for a sustainable peace and development. Mr Speaker, the Alavanyo-Nkonya conflict which has claimed many lives on both sides, has lasted for so long and continues to have a toll on both government revenue and development in the area. Mr Speaker, the cost of maintaining relative peace in the area by keeping both military and police presence is rather high. These resources could be channelled into development projects in the area. Mr Speaker, we mourn the deaths of those who were killed, especially those killed recently: They include: The young man killed in Alavanyo on 21st January, 2017 t h e two men killed on 19th April, 2017 in Nkonya-Ahenkro the little girl killed in Nkonya-Tayi on 21st April, 2017 the little boy killed in Alavanyo- Deme on 11th May, 2017; and the woman killed in Alavanyo Kpeme on 20th May, 2017. Mr Speaker, we deeply share in the pain and extend our condolences to the affected families and friends of the victims.We urge the chiefs, queen mothers, religious leaders and elders to continue tirelessly in their efforts to keep the peace in their communities. We also sympathise with all those who have been maimed, but survived and hope that they will soon be well. We wish to use this opportunity to call on the parties to this conflict to give peace a chance. Mr Speaker, while we work together to find a lasting peace to the area, we humbly call on all those planning retaliation in rival communities to think of the devastating effects their acts might cause to future generations and have a change of heart and choose the path of peace. Mr Speaker, the people of Alavanyo- Nkonya have suffered for so long under the century old conflict. The conflict has affected their economic and social lives. Formal education and healthcare have suffered considerably. Pregnant women and children have to travel miles before accessing healthcare. Schools have been closed down and the senior high schools continue to record low enrolment. Mr Speaker, coupled with the above negative effects of the conflict, there is a sharp rise in migration, number of orphans, illiteracy and unemployment. We urge people standing in the way of peace to place the general interest of the people and Ghana above their parochial interests and give way for a lasting peace. Mr Speaker, there have been several attempts in the past to ensure that lasting peace is brought to the area such as the imposition of curfew which continues to exist, keeping military and police personnel in the area, getting the paramount chiefs to visit each other in their palaces and football matches between the two parties. Mr Speaker, we would like to also recommend that in addition to the above efforts, the disputed area should be turned into an industrial complex as soon as possible to avert further clashes. As we wish the people of Alavanyo and Nkonya a lasting peace, we cannot forget to remind them that the two parties are fundamental in ensuring that peace prevails in the area. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity.
Hon Member, thank you very much for this brilliant Statement. Yes, Hon Ntoso?
Mr Speaker, thank you. Mr Speaker, I rise to comment on the Statement made by Hon Dr (Mrs) Bernice A. Heloo, the Member of Parliament for Hohoe. Mr Speaker, there has been a vicious cycle of the conflict between the Nkonyas and Alavanyos, but there was a peace accord that was signed on 21st September, 2015, which broke this conflict cycle. I would want to expatiate on the efforts that have been made in bringing peace to Nkonya and Alavanyo. In 2015, while the world was celebrating World Day for Peace, the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) went there with peace flags and gave one to the people of Alavanyo and another to the people of Nkonya. Mr Speaker, it would interest you to note, that, a lot of people signed the peace flags. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to show to Hon Members the number of people who signed; so many people signed these peace flags. Mr Speaker, this is the peace flag from Alavanyo and it is “Exhibit One”. Mr Speaker, this is the second one that was signed by the people of Nkonya and it included all the chiefs and elders, to show that they are in agreement that peace must prevail in Nkonya and Alavanyo. Mr Speaker, this is “Exhibit Two”. Mr Speaker, I am doing this so that Hon Members would know that we have worked tirelessly to bring peace to Nkonya and Alavanyo. So, we do not have to be reinventing the wheel. Mr Speaker, on 21st September, 2015, when the people signed the peace accord, the chiefs and the people danced Borborbor and hugged each other. Mr Speaker, the peace accord was called the mother of all peace accords. This was because there were previous ones that were signed, but the youth in the area said that they were not involved in the earlier peace accords that were signed. So, this time round, a citizen from Nkonya, the Chief Executive Officer of CLED-B Consult hired buses which brought the elders and youth from Nkonya and Alavanyo to Kpando, which was a neutral ground. So, if previous peace accords have been signed and the one signed on the 21st of September, 2015 was called the mother of all peace accords, then, Mr Speaker, we should hold the people who signed the peace accord to it, otherwise, we would keep on reinventing the wheel. Mr Speaker, I am not saying that the chiefs are happy with what is happening; they are not happy about it. We should hold them to the peace accord that they have signed. By doing that, they would take the peace accord seriously.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to make a few comments on the Statement made by the Hon Member of Parliament for Hohoe. Mr Speaker, for most of us, all we have known about Nkonya and Alavanyo is this conflict. If we know how long this conflict had lasted, we would realise that almost every citizen of these communities had witnessed conflict with each other in their entire life. Mr Speaker, last weekend, I was with a friend from this area and he received a call, and he told me that they have asked every household to contribute towards this conflict. So, they had called him for his contribution. If we look at it critically, the people are seriously preparing to prolong the conflict. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement called on Government to continue to take policemen and military men there. Mr Speaker, yes, that is important. Governments would continue to do their part to bring peace, but real peace must come from the people themselves. We can take military presence there and all that, but if the people of Nkonya and Alavanyo are not ready to give peace a chance, nothing can happen. Mr Speaker, they must learn that this conflict is not winnable. For the number of years that they have been fighting, the conflict can never be won by either side. If one group succeeds in wiping away the entire members of the other community, they have not won. Mr Speaker, today, we understand that they have moved beyond the conflict area. People are fighting to avenge the deaths of family members who were killed in one way or the other. Mr Speaker, the only way that this conflict would end would be for the people themselves to say that it is enough; they do not want to continue with it. The people of Nkonya and Alavanyo should know that Ghana is a peaceful country and we are tired of hearing about conflict between them every now and then.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, we have seen the effect and cost of this conflict in Nkonya and Alavanyo on the people and the nation over the years. As expensive as it is, as condemnable as it is, we should not lose sight of the very thing that the people are fighting over. They are fighting over land, and in my view, we need to begin to think about how we can ensure that there is rapprochement, that is, there is an agreement. Mr Speaker, we would expect that there are elders and chiefs who know the history and know who owns what. It is important to engage all of these people and ensure that the historians and the chiefs are given advice, in order that we would have an amicable solution to the problem in Alavanyo and Nkonya. Mr Speaker, it is not the only area where we have had issues over land. There are pockets of conflicts across the country in relation to land disputes. I would suggest that in the absence of an agreement between warring factions, Government may step in and take over those lands and probably use them for projects that will be mutually beneficial to all the people who are in conflict. This is because if they are failing to agree; if both groups are claiming ownership of the land and they cannot sit and agree on who owns the land or who should get what share of the land, then Government in averting the conflict could consider taking over the land in order that we would not have these problems across the country. Mr Speaker, truly as a country, we are stronger together and weaker apart. This is one thing that everyone should keep at the back of their minds and work towards ensuring lasting peace in these conflict areas.
The final contribution.
Mr Speaker, I am the Hon Member of Parliament representing the Nkonya side of the conflict. The statement was jointly drafted by us and our views are expressed in the Statement. Mr Speaker, we have observed that the conflict is over farm lands; the people are basically farmers. But it has gone into the realm of retaliatory killings. Somebody loses a brother or a mother and he is not ready to forgive whatever the settlement is. That is why some of these things are going on. Mr Speaker, so, it is important that we are able to engage the people and let them understand that nobody wins a war. All the world wars which have engulfed the whole earth, people still came into an agreement and signed, that from this day they will not fight. That is what has helped us with the world wars, and it has to happen with this one too. This is because nobody would ever win the war. Apart from that, because of what is happening, the communities are separated. The road linking the two places, which I use several times, even when I was working as an engineer, nobody goes on the route, except the military. If we are able
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this very important Statement. Mr Speaker, I happened to be part of two delegations that visited the areas in the past. I did not get any impression that the people of Alavanyo and Nkonya were not interested in living side by side in peace. Indeed, they all acknowledged the fact that nobody is capable of winning this conflict and indeed, nobody has ever won this conflict. I agree with the Hon Member who made the Statement, that the effect of this unfortunate situation has led to a situation where development in the area is not going on the way it should. However, Mr Speaker, I would want us to have a look at this. Do we really have any evidence or do the security agencies have any evidence to suggest that the recent spate of killings are masterminded by people from one community against the other? I doubt it. Is this not possibly an act of criminality being perpetuated by some people who should be investigated? This is because I have spoken to the chiefs of these areas personally and I do not see that level of vengeance in any of them any longer. They want to go on, so, I would want the security agencies to take a critical look at that. Mr Speaker, Hon Aboagye made a suggestion. If you were to try to go from Alavanyo to Nkonya, the road is almost an abandoned road. Mr Speaker, because of the nature of the situation, nobody would want to travel between the two towns. So, I would suggest that, maybe, the Government could take a look at it and say that they would build the road between Alavanyo and Nkonya and name it a peace highway and let us see whether that would improve the interconnectivity between the two towns. Mr Speaker, I am also happy the Hon Minister for Defence has taken up the suggestion that had been made many years ago, that the Government should take over the lands because, if you know these two communities, they have vast lands available. So, it is interesting that everybody is fighting over a small piece of land when the vast majority of the lands around them is still not in use. So, if the military would take over and use it for a purpose, that would be helpful. Mr Speaker, it would interest you to note that there is a very specialised craftsmanship in that community that some of us suggested some time ago. I remember the first gun I ever saw in my life, which belonged to my grandfather, was made in one of those communities. And I have been asking; if the military were to take over and do what they do in other countries, where the arms industry is owned by other countries, could we not have the situation where the military would take over and give training to those people, so that we would have an industry that is built around that? Mr Speaker, indeed, Ghanaian security forces buy arms from somewhere. It is created by other people, so, if we have craftsmanship in this country, who says that if they manufacture arms in Ghana, it would lead to more conflict? Mr Speaker, I would urge the Hon Minister for Defence to consider this. Alavanyo and Nkonya are very good in gun manufacturing, at least, the ones we use to hunt in our villages, they can manufacture. So, the military could consider that. I am completely against anybody who says that if we encourage them to produce arms, it would lead to a bigger conflict. It is not true, because any time Ghana Military buys ammunition, they buy from another country and that does not necessarily lead to more conflicts in those countries. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would urge the security agencies to investigate this. Do we really have evidence that, when we see somebody dead on the streets of Nkonya today, that person might have been murdered by somebody from Alavanyo or vice versa? We have land disputes across this country. In fact, there is probably land dispute in Osu, but that does not lead to people killing each other every day. There is land dispute everywhere, but maybe somebody is taking undue advantage of this situation and committing crimes. Let us not look at this situation as a conflict between Alavanyo and Nkonya, because, speaking to the elders in those
Mr Speaker, I would not be tempted to draw the Speaker into the debate. Many of us, and even our parents, were not born. This tells us the seriousness that we need to attach to a matter of this sort. Mr Speaker, what is most scary for me is that, if we do not take care, as a country, we might possibly have people going behind it, and we might have the incidence or the generation of some terrorists also taking advantage of it. We know what happened in our neighbouring country Nigeria; Boko Haram. If we take these things lightly, anybody at all, any criminal or terrorist can take advantage of the situation and explode it, and it might not only affect the people of Alavanyo or the Volta Region. They would have similar groups everywhere, and they would be perpetrating that criminal act. Mr Speaker, as we plead with them to stop the violence, the killing and the conflict, if they themselves come to the realisation that this is a stopping point for them, then all efforts can complement that realisation, but until they come to that realisation, all efforts would be made to subdue the situation but not actually uproot the cause of those conflicts. Mr Speaker, I would also encourage the Ministry of the Interior-- we have heard from the Hon Minister for Defence -- to intensify efforts in those areas, so that our mothers can trade, our children can go to school, our mothers can live comfortably and their lives would not be shortened by one criminal just because of this conflict. Mr Speaker, on this note, I would commend all Hon Members who have spoken, for their direction and condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in this rather inhumane manner. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, per article 89(2) (a) of the Constitution, the President is required to effect the appointments specified thereunder, in consultation with Parliament. Hon Members, I direct that any Hon Member who has any concerns or objection regarding the appointments, directs such concerns through the Leader of the Caucus to my Office, on, or before the close of day, to enable us communicate to His Excellency expeditiously. Thank you. Hon Members, there is a Statement on the retirement of Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana by the Hon Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. Yes, Hon Majority Leader? Retirement of Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana
Mr Speaker, permit me to make a Statement on the retirement of the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, whose term of office ends today, indeed, midnight of today, 8th of June, 2017. Mr Speaker, as Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood leaves office, it is only appropriate that we commend her for her immense contributions to Ghana's justice delivery system for which she would forever be remembered. Mr Speaker, Mrs Georgina Wood, whom we celebrate today, was born in June 1947 and had her secondary education at Wesley Girls' High School. She proceeded to the University of Ghana for her first degree (L.L.B. Hons.) and then to the Ghana School of Law. Upon her completion of the Ghana School of Law in 1970, Mrs Wood served as a Public Prosecutor of the Ghana Police Service from 1971 to 1973. Thereafter, she joined the Judiciary and was appointed to the Bench as a Magistrate of the District Court in 1973. Mrs Wood rose through the ranks of the court system culminating in her appointment to the highest judicial office in year 2007 as the 24th Chief Justice and the first woman to head the Judiciary in the history of Ghana. Since her assumption of office as the Chief Justice, she has sworn in four Presidents represented in three persons. They are the late President John Evans Atta-Mills, 7th January, 2009; the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama upon the transition of President Evans Atta-Mills on 24th July, 2012, and President-elect John Dramani Mahama, on 7th January, 2013, and then President- elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on 7th January, 2017 . Mr Speaker, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood's enviable successes in Ghana's judicial reform over the past 10 years cannot be overemphasised. As the first female Chief Justice of Ghana, Mrs Wood, under her leadership, ensured that judicial independence was underpinned with the core values of integrity, transparency, impartiality, among others. In a bid to decongest the courts and to encourage settlement of cases out of court, she vigorously championed and promoted Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This has improved access to justice and made ADR one of the pillars of qualitative justice in the country.
The Hon Minority Leader would respond and there would be contributions.
Mr Speaker, let me thank you for the opportunity and extend same to the Hon Majority Leader for the Statement on the retirement of Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, 2007 to 2017, for her contribution to the administration of justice, the development of the law in Ghana and her contribution in ensuring that the rule of law is upheld and respected at all times. Mr Speaker, few days ago, the Leadership joined you at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Accra at a Thanksgiving Service as the country sees to the solemn exit of probably one of Ghana's longest serving Chief Justice -- Ten (10) years -- with only a few days to go as the head of the judicial organ of State. Mr Speaker, Her Ladyship, Justice Georgina Theodora Wood is a woman of all political seasons. When I say all political seasons, she has seen it all. She was Chief Justice under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) when President Kufuor appointed her and then transiting through President Mills to President John Dramani Mahama and now to President Nana Akufo-Addo. Mr Speaker, she is noted for her agile wit and incisive intellect. For those who know her, it is her famous interruptions of questions when she wants further clarity on any matter that appears before her as a judge. Many will celebrate her lucid judgment on many other cases. She notably, Mr Speaker, as the country celebrates her, as the Hon Majority Leader said, reforms of the judicial organ of State particularly the “Justice for All” and the fact that, remand prisoners were held for longer periods without going through proper trial. Our Constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial and the right to respect accused persons until they are proven guilty. I believe she gave meaning to major judicial reforms. Mr Speaker, when it comes to elections, apart from the fact that she helped produce an Election Manual which guarded the conduct of our elections, and I believe also contributed to how credible and fair the election processes are, she also was very firm in the decisions that she took. Mr Speaker, as the country celebrates her exit and immeasurable contribution to the development of law in our country, it is also important that we recognise what she has done for extending the right to vote to prisoners. Hitherto, prisoners had no right to vote, until a matter was brought before her, that the Supreme Court ruled that it was important that that right was extended to them. I know that she attended the uniquely blessed Wesley Girls High School and also graduated from the University of Ghana and played the role of Justice of the Supreme Court of The Gambia before being the Chief Justice of Ghana in 2007. Mr Speaker, today as we speak, the judicial organ of State is bequeathed with one of the most modern facilities of a 42-
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to say a few words in honour of the retiring Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood. Mr Speaker, at my first encounter with the retiring Chief Justice, she was called Justice Georgina Lutterodt, then sitting at the High Court. I was a young practitioner in Koforidua and a magistrate had been disciplined. I believed that the process for disciplining the magistrate was wrong. So, I brought an application of certiorari to quash the decision of the then Chief Justice. The matter was put before Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood and it was heard in Chambers. Mr Speaker, I learnt a few lessons for myself in that appearance. Eventually, it was ruled against me but, in the end, I learnt a few lessons for myself as a lawyer coming up. Subsequently, I appeared before her at the Court of Appeal. It was a matter on what we call today galamsey mining. Some people's farms had been destroyed and the mining company had refused to pay compensation because, they said that they were teak trees, which had a long lifespan. After a long argument, I lost this case too. Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood was the one who ruled in my favour. And her ruling was instructive about how public office holders must deal with peasant farmers, and what they have invested in. Mr Speaker, I see Mrs Theodora Wood also as an example of learning on the job and rising through the ranks. Very few people or lawyers have started as Magistrates and risen all the way up to the Supreme Court and even become Chief Justices. It is a major achievement, it is an example for young people to be focused on a career. If one decides that one wants to be on the Bench, no matter where one starts from, one should just work assiduously, learn on the job, after all, in this profession, it is said that the life of the law is experience and not logic. So, the longer one stays on the Bench, the more experienced one becomes and the more competent one would deliver one's service. Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood's obsession with fighting corruption was manifested in the way she handled the Aremeyaw's Tape and the fallouts from that. I recall that in 2015 when the tape had been published, she addressed the Ghana Bar Conference and she was emphatic that Ghanaians should have faith in her; that what had been published and the evidence
Thank you very much, Mr First Deputy Speaker. There will be two contributions from each side of the House. Please be brief. Hon Ayariga?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute. Mr Speaker, I would like to join my Hon Colleagues to commend the outgone Chief Justice, Justice Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, in assessing the performance of the Chief Justice --
In fact, she is outgone having left twelve midnight. As at now, she is at home, I can tell you authoritatively -- [Laughter] -- with family and friends enjoying her retirement. Please, go on.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. In assessing Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, it is important to situate her era. She took over at the time when Ghana was consolidating her democracy and had an urgent need to build democratic institutions, a democratic culture and a democratic way of life founded on the rule of law. And this, of course, created an enormous challenge for a new Chief Justice. But Mr Speaker, she rose up to the challenge and as has already been mentioned, developed several institutions and systems to respond to the situation and to help Ghana to consolidate her democracy. So, today, if we are enjoying our democracy, and are the pride of Africa and the envy of many, it is also partly due to her exceptional leadership as a Chief Justice. Mr Speaker, the development of the infrastructure for the delivery of the rule of law, the building of more courtrooms, the modernisation of courtrooms, the processes and systems for the delivery of justice and the effort to extend justice to all, have already been well articulated by Hon Colleagues and do not need to be repeated. All these help to consolidate democracy and strengthen the rule of law. Her era also marked a period when Ghana was going through economic transformation. That economic trans-
Hon Member, wind up.
With this specialisation, it was easy for the commercial sectors to have matters resolved expeditiously to support private businesses. Let me conclude on the note that in spite of all these achievements, a lot still remains to be done. This morning, we had a Statement on conflicts across the country that had led to loss of lives. This week, we have been worried about mob justice and how the debate has turned on the level of public confidence in the administration of justice and rule of law in our country.
Thank you very much.
Not from the front bench. This is for the simple reason that this is a Leadership Statement.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to identify myself with the Statement ably made by the Hon Majority Leader on the floor of the House. I take the opportunity to wish Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood a happy 70th birthday anniversary and wish her well in her new life on retirement. Mr Speaker, I have seen the impressive Curriculum Vitae (CV) of the former Chief Justice and to add anything would be to give more weight to what has already been captured on paper. It would be no doubt to say that, the outgoing Chief Justice of Ghana was a trailblazer. In fact, she could walk with the likes of Annie Ruth Jiagge who was the first female industrialist. I even shudder to add that, she would walk with persons like the great Yaa Asantewaa who defied all odds to take up the fight against the British imperialists. The former Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood took up the mantle of leadership at a time that Ghana was consolidating her democracy and was still in a transition. There were many challenges, and as Chief Justice, evidenced by the Curriculum Vitae (CV) she produced, any time she saw challenges, she worked to overcome them within the Judicial Service. When we were confronted with election petitions and did not know what to do and which processes to take to court, she worked to provide light on how to expeditiously deal with these matters as they came before the courts.
Thank you, Hon Member. I would take the last contribution and since there is no Hon Member standing on the Majority side, I would call from the front bench as said otherwise.
Thank you very much, Hon Deputy Majority Leader. Hon Members, we shall vary the Business for the day slightly. We would take item numbered 4 on the Order Paper -- Presentation of Papers and the Hon First Deputy Speaker would come and conclude with the Statements. Item numbered 4 (a) by the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee? -- [Pause] --
Mr Speaker, I was indicating to you that the Report is not ready. I did not bow.
Hon Members, item numbered 4 (b) on the Order Paper by the Hon Chairman of the Committee? Hon Members, the Hon Chairman is not here.
Mr Speaker, my information is that the committee is still working on a draft of the two reports. So, we may stand them down. We could lay them if they are ready in good time before we adjourn. Other than that, we would stand them down for the time being.
Hon Members, item 5 — Motions.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 80 (1) which require that no Motion shall be debated until at least forty-eight hours have elapsed between the date on which notice of the Motion is given and the date on which the Motion is moved, the Motion for the adoption of the Report of the five- member Ad-Hoc Committee on the investigation of the effects of sand winning in the country may be moved today.
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly.
Hon Members, item numbered 6. Report of the Ad hoc Committee on the investigation of effects of sand- winning in the country
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House adopts the Report of the five-member Ad- Hoc Committee on the investigation of the effects of sand-winning in the country. Mr Speaker, I seek your leave to effect some amendments to the title of the Report. It should rather read: “Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the investiga- tion of the effects of sand-winning in the country.” Mr Speaker, the Hon Member of Parliament for Nsawam-Adoagyiri Constituency, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, on Wednesday, 15th February, 2017, made a Statement on the floor of Parliament in which he drew the attention of the House to the adverse effects of sand-winning operations in the country, particularly its potential threat to food security. The Statement also called on the House to take the necessary steps to arrest the situation. In view of the ensuing sentiments and concerns expressed by Hon Members, the Rt Hon Speaker constituted a five-member Ad-hoc Committee -- the list attached as appendix I. The Committee was to conduct an inquiry into the matter and report to the House pursuant to article 103(1) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 191 of the Standing Orders of Parliament. Terms of reference The Terms of Reference for the Committee were to: a. examine the adequacy of the existing legal framework regula- ting sand-winning in the country b. assess the capacity and effectiveness of the existing institutions responsible for regulating sand winning in the country c. assess the impact of sand winning in the country; and d. make recommendations to the House on the way forward. Methodology The Committee adopted the following methodology in its inquiry: a. Reviewed the legal framework regulating sand winning in the country b. Engaged stakeholders including Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Water Resources Commission, Ministry of the Interior, farmers, traditional authorities, Sand and Stone Contractors and Tipper Truck Owners' Associations, selected District Assemblies and the Ghana Police Service and other Security Officers at the District level to understand their challenges; and c. Carried out field visits to sand winning prevalent areas in the Central, Eastern, Greater Accra and Volta Regions to ascertain the extent of the degradation and the impacts; Acknowledgement The Committee is grateful to the Inspector-General of Police, the officials of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Minerals Commission, Water Resources Commission, Ministry of the Interior, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Coordinating Directors of Awutu Senya East and West in the Central Region, Ga West and South in the Greater Accra Regions, Ayensuano and Nsawam in the Eastern Region and North Tongu in the Volta Region as well as the chiefs and people of these communities for their diverse support and openness during the engagement and field visits. Reference documents The Committee made reference to the underlisted documents during the inquiry: a. The 1992 Constitution b. Standing Orders of the House c. Minerals Commission Act, 1993 (Act 450) d. Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) e. Environmental Protection Act, 1994 (Act 490) f. Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (LI 1652) g. Water Resources Commission Act, 1996 (Act 522) h. Forestry Commission Act, 1999 (Act 571); and i. Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936) Observations Existing legal framework The Committee noted that article 268 of the 1992 Constitution and section 5(4) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act,
Hon Member, if you would kindly let the Hansard capture the entire report and then highlight the various points and conclude.
Mr Speaker, I take a cue as such. The Committee also observed that the Minerals Commission has granted rights to individuals to win sand contrary to section 10 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act, 703). Section 10 of Act 703 states that, “unless otherwise provided in this Act, a mineral right shall not be granted to a person unless the person is a body incorporated under the Companies Code 1963 (Act 179), under the Incorporated Private Partnerships Act 1962 (Act 152) or under an enactment in force”. The practice of granting rights to individuals made it difficult to track contractors in the event of failure to reclaim the land after winning the sand. It was also noted that under Schedule 2 (11) (c) of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652), it is mandatory for any entity undertaking sand-winning to secure environmental permit from the EPA. However, the Committee gathered that more than 85 per cent of the sand winners were operating without environmental permits and without restraint by the EPA. The Officials of the EPA attributed the widespread illegal operations to low penalty regime for offenders. The prescribed penalty for sand winning offences under Regulation 29 of the L.I. 1652 is two hundred Ghana cedis (GH¢ 200). Another important observation made by the Committee was the cumbersome procedure and the duration within which a prospective sand winner has to go through to secure a licence to operate. It was noted that under section 12 and 13(1) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) and Regulations 7(3), 13(1) and 16(3) of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652), maximum duration for the issuance of licence is about eleven (11) months. The Committee however gathered that in practice, it tales over two (2) years to acquire a licence. As a result of the cumbersome procedure, applicants who were impatient usually entered the concessions without licence to win sand illegally. It must be emphasised that unlike other mining ventures, which takes reasonable period to exhaust the mineral potential of the area, sand winning can take just a week to exhaust the sand deposit covering an area of about 25 acres. Therefore, impatient applicants can enter the concessions illegally and exhaust the sand deposit within a short period. Also, section 83 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) specifies the qualification for small scale mining operations in the country. Under the said section, only citizens of Ghana, who have attained the age of 18 and registered with the Minerals Commission qualify to be issued a small-scale licence to operate. Regrettably, the Committee observed that certain companies owned and operated by other nationals were winning sand in the Volta river. Further inquiry by the Committee revealed that the District Assembly as well as the Police were fully aware of their operations but failed to halt them. It was further noted that the heavy-duty trucks operated by the said companies had damaged the road network within the areas of their operations. The Committee noted that Regulation 23 of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652) requires mining companies including sand winners to post a reclamation bond as part of their reclamation plan when securing an environmental permit. The Committee observed that this provision was not being enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, no funding mechanism existed to support reclamation efforts either by District Assemblies or EPA whenever an entity failed to do so. The Committee also observed some irregularities in the use of mineral rights. It was noted that mineral rights granted for particular concessions were used at different sites and also transferred from one company to another in breach of the law. Sections 13(1) and (14) (1) of Act 703 provide that mineral rights shall be limited to the specific area upon which the right was granted and that such right shall not in whole or in part be transferred without the prior approval in writing by the Minister. The Committee further observed some irregularities in the publication of notices in respect of application for a mineral right. Section 13(2) of Act 703 and Regulation 16(3) of L.I. 1652 require the Minister responsible for Mining and the Environmental Protection Agency to give sufficient notice to the chiefs and the allodial title holders of a mining right being considered in relation to their land. The Committee observed that such notices are mostly placed at the offices of the District Assemblies far away from the residents of the affected communities. The effect is that the affected com- munities, in particular farmers, are not properly informed to enable them prepare adequately to vacate their lands for such operations to take place or demand reasonable compensation as provided under section 94 of Act, 703. Roles, functions and challenges of the regulatory institutions Minerals Commission Section 2 of Act 450 mandates the Minerals Commission to regulate and manage the utilisation of mineral resources in the country, including monitoring the implementation of laid down policies of the Government on minerals. The Committee however found that the Commission has not performed its responsibilities under the law satisfactorily. The inquiry revealed that about eighty- five per cent (85%) of sand winners are operating illegally. The Commission attributed this state of affairs to inadequate staff, logistics and lack of cooperation from other relevant regulatory bodies. The officials of the Commission further explained that the illegal sand winners operate at night and are usually armed with
deadly weapons, thereby making it difficult for the Commission to apprehend them. It was also noted that, although taskforces have been established by some District Assemblies to assist the Commission to combat the menace, most of them are not functional due to logistical constraints. Environmental Protection Agency The EPA is mandated under the Environmental Protection Act, 1994 (Act 490) to implement policies and programmes that ensure environmental sustainability. Section 2 of Act 490 mandates the EPA to, among others, prescribe standards and guidelines on any form of land use likely to affect the environment; liaise with the District Assemblies and other institutions to protect the environment; and pursue educational programmes and awareness creation on the environment and its importance to the economic and social life of the country. The Committee observed that the EPA has also not lived up to its expectation as provided by Act 490. For instance, the level of the community awareness regarding the procedure for licence acquisition for sand winning was observed to be very low. Similarly, some of the sand winners who have acquired licence did not follow the guidelines provided by the EPA. An engagement with the EPA revealed that the staff strength compared to the enormity of the task on the ground -- especially with the upsurge of galamsey operations in the country -- is far too low to adequately combat the menace. The Eastern Regional EPA Director, for instance, informed the Committee that only four officers were serving the entire Eastern Region thereby making it extremely difficult for the Agency to undertake any effective monitoring exercise. District Assemblies The Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936), specifically section 12(3)(a) places the overall development of the districts, including sustainable use of land at the bosom of the Assemblies. The Committee gathered that the District Assemblies are mostly interested in the revenue accruing from sand winning operations at the expense of the degradation of the environment. For instance, the Committee observed that fees ranging from 10 Ghana cedis to 20 Ghana cedis per truck of sand were being collected at revenue check-points even though the Assemblies were fully aware that the practice was illegal. Security Agencies The Committee noted that some of the police personnel were not abreast of the legal framework regulating sand winning in the country. As a result, reported cases were not given the needed attention. The above notwithstanding, the Committee observed that some district police offices lacked the necessary logistics to clamp down on the activities of illegal sand winners. The Ayensuano District Police Commander, for instance, informed the Committee that his Office did not have even a single vehicle, and in some cases, he had to use his old personal vehicle for official purposes. Water Resources Commission Section 2 of Water Resources Commission Act, 1996 (Act 522) places the regulation, management and utilisation of water resources in the hands of the Water Resources Commission. Section 24 has prescribed sanctions for any person who interferes, pollutes or alters the flow of water beyond the level prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency. In spite of these vital roles and the powers conferred on the Water Resources Commission, the Committee observed that many companies, including those owned by foreigners, were destroying some water resources through their sand winning operations with impunity. The Commission attributed its ineffectiveness to human resource constraints. The Commission informed the Committee that its total staff strength nationwide is only forty (40) thereby making it extremely difficult to undertake any meaningful monitoring exercise. The Commission also indicated that it has no dedicated Inspectorate Division to undertake routine monitoring of the activities of permit holders. Traditional authorities The role of the traditional authorities in regulating and managing sand winning operations in the country has been identified in two fronts -- First the traditional authorities as custodians of lands and second, traditional authorities as avenues for publicising notices of pending applications for grant of rights for sand winning operations (section 13(2) of Act 703). The inquiry revealed that some of the traditional authorities have misconstrued the conferment of ownership of the land to include ownership of minerals found on their lands. This has led to some traditional authorities signing contracts with some sand winners without recourse to the regulatory institutions such as EPA and Minerals Commission. Regarding their involvement in the twenty-one-day mandatory publication of notices of grant of rights, the traditional authorities disclosed that in most cases, they were not informed about companies applying for concessions. Hence, they are unable to monitor and support the District Assemblies and other relevant State regulatory institutions to ensure the land is reclaimed and to clamp down on operations of the illegal sand winners. Coordination and cooperation among the stakeholders Effective coordination and cooperation among State regulatory institutions such as the Minerals Commission, EPA, Water Resources Commission, Security Officers and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies are critical to ensuring that the right processes and procedures are followed and complied with by the prospective sand winners. The Committee however gathered that the coordination among these state institutions was very poor. For instance, the coordination among the EPA, Water Resource Commission and Minerals Commission ended just after issuing the licences to a sand winner and no mechanism exists to collaborate with the District Assemblies and the Security Officers to monitor the operations of the sand winners. The Committee observed that the lack of such collaboration had brought about a blame game -- each of the institutions accused the other for the upsurge of the menace. Impact of sand winning Destruction of arable lands, food and cash crop The Committee observed that the activities of the illegal sand winners had destroyed large tracts of arable lands and cash crops which could have otherwise contributed to food security and also earned the country some foreign exchange (Fig 1. & 2). SPACE FOR PICTURES - PAGE 12 - 1.45 P.M.
Recommendations The Committee recommends the following: As part of measures to fully implement the provisions of article 240 (2) (b) of the 1992 Constitution, the Minister responsible for mining should submit to Parliament, a Bill to amend the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), to provide for a more decentralised system of licence acquisition for sand winning. This will make the licence acquisition easier and avert undue delays which compel applicants to undertake illegal operations. It will also enable the District Assemblies to assume ultimate responsibility of ensuring the reclamation of the land after sand winning. This will also avert the current blame games amongst the regulatory institutions. An amendment to section 5 (5) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act, 703), to exempt all contracts relating to sand winning from Parliamentary ratification in line with article 268 (2) of the 1992 Constitution. This would facilitate the acquisition of licence for sand winning operations. The establishment of a Taskforce consisting of the Security Officers, representatives from the District Assemblies, EPA, Minerals Commission and, where applicable, Water Resources Commission at all the Districts where sand winning operations are more prevalent. The Taskforce should adequately be resourced to effectively carry out its mandate. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General's Department should hold capacity building workshops for security officers and Magistrates at the district level where sand winning is more endemic on the legal framework regulating sand winning in the country. The Minerals Commission, Environ- mental Protection Agency and Water Resources Commission should facilitate the prosecution of all persons involved in the illegal activity of sand winning. District Assemblies, the Minerals Commission and EPA should adequately inform the communities where application for concessions to win sand are being considered to enable the affected farmers negotiate for compensations in line with section 94 of Act 703. In this regard, suitable communication systems such as community hearings should be employed to complement the 21-day mandatory publication. The police should be given a list of the companies issued with sand winning licences within their respective districts to enable them identify illegal operators within their respective jurisdictions. The cadastral map of areas leased out for concessions at the district level should also be properly displayed at vantage places including the police offices. The establishment of regional and district offices for Environmental Protection Agency as provided for under section 11 of Act 490 to enhance their capacity to protect the environment for sustainable development. Opportunity should also be given to EPA to recruit additional staff to augment the current staff strength to enable the Agency effectively confront the upsurge of illegal mining operations in the country such as galamsey and sand winning. Considering the differences in requirements for sand winning in water as opposed to land, the Committee recommends that as a matter of urgency, the Water Resources Commission should collaborate with EPA to develop unique guidelines for sand winning in water bodies. The EPA and the Water Resource Commission should intensify their efforts at awareness creation and education on issues affecting the environment including illegal sand winning. As a matter of priority, the Water Resource Commission should be given the opportunity to recruit additional staff to augment the current forty (40) staff serving the entire nation. The Commission must also establish its Inspectorate Division to ensure effective monitoring of the country's water resources. Conclusion The threat to the socio-economic development of the country as a result of widespread illegal sand winning operations cannot be overemphasised. People are being trapped to death in the pits created by sand winning operators; arable lands and cash crops are being destroyed; water bodies are being polluted and water courses are being altered posing threats to human and aquatic life. There is also an upsurge of conflicts within communities in which they operate. Moreover, the existing legal frameworks, particularly the licensing process which can travel up to a period of about two (2) years are not business friendly to prospective sand winners. In order to arrest the current spate of environmental degradation emanating from illegal sand winning and achieve sustainable land use such that the needs of the present can be met without compromising the needs of the future, the Committee strongly suggests effective implementation of its recommendations. The Committee accordingly urges the House to adopt its Report and urge the affected institutions to furnish the House with status reports on the implementation of the recommendations after six months. Respectfully submitted. SPACE FOR APPENDIX I - PAGE 19 - 1.45 P.M.
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Hon Members, Mr First Deputy Speaker to take the Chair.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Member for Odododiodioo?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I am the Hon Member for Ablekuma South.
Hon Member for Ablekuma South? Thank you.
Mr Speaker, the Committee has further made other recommendations which we believe if adopted by this House, will greatly bring changes into our environment. Mr Speaker, on that note, I beg to second the Motion. Thank you. Question proposed.
Very well. I thought the Hon Member for Ablekuma South would have loved to make some comments. Hon Member, if you would want to, you have the floor.
Mr Speaker, it was indeed with great concern that we committed ourselves as a Committee to travel the length and breadth of this country to see the dangers on the ground as reported here by Hon Members of this House. In the Eastern, Volta, Greater Accra and Central Regions -- the story was all the same. Especially in the Volta Region, the destruction of the Volta Lake by foreigners winning sand even in the Volta Lake was not a good sight to see. Mr Speaker, along the coast of the Greater Accra Region, the story is no different. Farms receive great destruction at night and at dawn; it is devastation. The police is no match to the sophisticated ammunition carried by sand winners. The District Assemblies throughout the country do not have the requisite state-of-the-art capabilities to handle this situation. It would take the establishment of a strong task force in this country assisted by all the necessary agencies to really bring this situation under control. Mr Speaker, it is the hope of our Committee that these recommendations, as presented in our Report, be looked at in this House that, maybe for once, we would be able to bring this situation under control. Thank you.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to the Report of the Committee. Mr Speaker, if you turn to paragraph 6.21 of the Report, they are very clear that 85 per cent of sand winners are doing so illegally. When you also turn to the recommendations, the Committee insists that we try to do a lot of things around the district assembly. I believe that if you look at what has happened in this country over a long period of time, it shows that we are not really taking good care of our environment. Mr Speaker, secondly, because of centralisation, everything seems to be in Accra. But as I have already said in this House, Accra can never save this country. It is imperative as a country that we decentralise properly. This business of having task forces will not solve any problem. They are only nine day wonders. But if we are able to give the responsibility to the assemblies, make sure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Minerals Commission among others have offices under the assembly and are being directed by the district assembly and the District Chief Executive, I believe that when there is a problem, we can hold somebody accountable. Mr Speaker, when I was doing my studies at the University of Cape Coast, we had the opportunity of looking along the coast of Central Region. We realised that all parts of the coast that we had good management of the environment were actually privately owned. Unfortunately, in areas we expected to be public spaces we came to realise that they were destroyed. This is the tragedy of the commons -- everybody thinks it is for him and nobody really keeps an eye on those places. Mr Speaker, I believe that since we have seen that management of the environment, not only for sand winning but even for galamsey and others is becoming a problem, this is the best time for us to take a strong decision to invest a lot of powers in the district assemblies to manage them. Mr Speaker for a very long time , the chiefs do not get revenues from the State. Whatever they even get is earned at the levels of the paramountcy. Therefore when they see these opportunities, thinking that they are the custodians of the land, some of them also take advantage of the situation and encourage people to win sand as quickly as possible. As the Report said, sometimes, instead of winning just the surface and keeping it for reclamation, they go beyond that. They destroy everything including the surface soil that can be used for planting. We would realise that at the end to the day, nobody keeps monitoring these things. So, we would want to make sure we protect the environment from sand winning. We should not set up any task force. We should rather give the powers to the district assemblies so that they can manage them. When they manage them, they would take full responsibility for the revenues and make sure that what has to be sent to Accra is sent, and what has to be kept in the Assembly is kept. Then going forward, we would not have to go and look for any scapegoat. We should look for the scapegoat either in the Chief Executive or the Assembly itself and sort matters out there. Otherwise, we would expect somebody else to take the action but nobody will do so. This is because, if the Assemblies do not earn the revenues that come from the sand winning, I do not believe we would expect them to spend their scarce resources to mobilise vehicles and police to go and chase people around.
Hon Member, the Report says that the Assemblies have mounted barriers and they are taking moneys. So, they are actually earning something.
Mr Speaker, that is for business operating permits, it is not for the licence. The Assemblies have to make something small from any business that is done in their districts. They do not really make the proper revenue from the business. This is because if they pay everything to the Minerals Commission or the Administration of Stool Lands, it does not come to the Assemblies. What comes to them is very small. So, that is for the business operating permit. Whether the work they do is illegal or legal, they would collect it. [Interruption.] Yes. So, we need to make sure that the Assemblies are responsible for these things. Otherwise, Mr Speaker, we would talk every time and these taskforces would not solve the problem. Taskforces go for two weeks and if the Assemblies do not have the moneys to continue, they would stop. So, I believe that it is time we involved the Assemblies properly in land management issues and even make them the one-stop shop for issuing licences for such things through their sub-metros. It would help us, other than always complaining and getting the environment devastated. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to the Motion. Thank you.
Hon former Minister for Youth and Sports?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion. Mr Speaker, first of all, I congratulate the Committee for a good work done, especially the scope of the Report, the methodologies that they used and the recommendations that they have made. Mr Speaker, my contribution is just to add a little value to the recommendations of the Committee. Last year, 2016, this august House passed a very important Bill called the Land Use and Spatial Planning Bill, 2016 into law. It is this law that has come to revolutionise planning at the district level. This is why I appreciate the contribution of my Hon Colleague, the Deputy Minister for Aviation that it is time we let this law work. This is because it is this law that provides for the sustainable development of lands and human settlements through a decentralised planning system. I was a member of the Committee that worked on this Bill together with my Colleague, Hon Ayariga. You would find that most of the ingredients for solving this problem are contained in this law. What I believe we would want to achieve is for sand winning to go on because it is important for the civil works industry but it must be controlled. So, it must start with identification of areas within each district where sand winning can take place and how it should take place and under what control. So, Mr Speaker, I believe that it is for the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to do this identification through land use planning and seek the necessary certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources and others, and then work within their laws to allocate portions of this identified areas to contractors who want to win sand in these areas. When I looked at the reference documents, I realised that the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act had not been referred to. So I would urge that if it is not too late a second look be taken at this law because it would contribute immensely to the recommendations of the Committee. I would also want to amplify the recommendation on sand winning on the beaches. Sand winning on the marine beaches is very disastrous because it lowers the level of the sandbar and that has been the main cause of flooding of coastal communities during high tidal movements and storms. I believe that we would need to highlight these also, so that the coastal communities in Ghana would desist from sand winning. So, the District Assemblies should not site sand winning along the beaches. In my Constituency, for example, we have a lot of sand in the Keta Lagoon which has not been tapped at all. Keta Lagoon can provide sand for the whole of this country for any civil construction work but it has not been touched at all. If the Assemblies around the lagoons are encouraged, they can win sand for civil works throughout the whole southern sector of this country. With these few comments, I would like to congratulate the Committee again --
Hon Member, would you consider setting up an enterprise for winning the sand in the lagoon and bagging it? That is one such serious business I believe that -- Elsewhere, we do not buy sand in truckloads. It is bagged so that if one needs only a bucketful to work, one does not have to buy a whole truckload. Maybe, you would want to consider that as a business.
Indeed, Mr Speaker, it would fit into the One District, One Factory project -- [Laughter.] It is an issue I have been thinking about all along. With your added recommendation, I believe you have already put me in the business line. So, I would want to thank you sincerely, for the recommendation and also for the opportunity to contribute to this Motion.
Hon Member, you are also a member of the Committee. Let us discuss your Report. Yes, Hon Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would want to say that the Report that your Committee has presented today is a very excellent one and also to say that sand winning is galamsey. I thought they would have added that aspect to your Report. This is because galamsey is illegal mining and sand winning involves mining. So, what they are doing is illegal mining of sand, which is galamsey. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, as we all know, dealing with galamsey is not an easy job at all. They mentioned issues about the institutions that have been set up to deal with and regulate sand winning as not being proactive and effective in handling those responsibilities. It is right. The Minerals Commission, as set up now, lacks the requisite staff and human resource capacity to handle these illegalities. Mr Speaker, we have said it in an unending manner and I know most Hon Members have heard it. The fact is that we only have 12 district mining offices across the country.
Mr Speaker, in these offices, we have only one mining inspector and a secretary. How would they monitor and regulate all these areas? Mr Speaker, we have seen that; and based on that we are looking at the way forward, which is to increase the staffing levels of the Minerals Commission. Very soon, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources would come out with a recruitment drive to recruit mining engineers and mining geologists across the country to monitor and help the Minerals Commission in carrying out these responsibilities. Mr Speaker, the same issue affects the Environmental Protection Agency as well. The District Assemblies have already been mandated to do this job. District Assemblies are supposed to set up District Mining Committees. Mr Speaker, we should ask ourselves; have they done that? They are not doing that. The Hon Member who presented the Committee's Report, Hon Annoh- Dompreh is right. Their interest is only in the revenue aspect. So, they would set up road blocks and barriers, and issue out receipts without even going to check and find out where the sand was winned from. Mr Speaker, this is a problem. The way forward is just what Hon Humado said. We need to identify particular river beds and lagoons that need disilting. Mr Speaker, years back, during the era of former President John Agyekum Kufuor, when we started the construction of the Affordable Housing Flats at Borteyman, the downstream of River Densu was dredged, and all the sand that was used in putting up the housing units came from the dredged river. Mr Speaker, so, if it is done properly and researched as a project, it is possible we could get all our sand out of dredging; but that should engineer dredging and not what happens now. This is because now they do not use any technology to actually identify portions of the river that need dredging. They just do it wholesale. As a result, it would affect fish stocks as well. Mr Speaker, the Ministry would look at your suggestion of taking up the dredging issue as a commercial entity and invite some investors to take it up and also partner with Hon Humado, since he is from that area and he could help us identify the areas to explore as part of our One District, One Factory industrialisation concept. Mr Speaker, on this note, I would end by saying that we should congratulate Hon Annoh-Dompreh and the Committee for a good job done. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon former Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, I would give you the last -- Now, Hon Fuseini?
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this important Motion on the floor of the House. I congratulate the Hon Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee and all the Hon Members for a good work done. Mr Speaker, indeed, having worked at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and crossed over to the Ministry of Roads and Highways, I see the importance of curtailing or regulating sand winning in this country in ways that could be beneficial to the overall development of this country. Mr Speaker, you have made allusions as to how regulating it could even benefit communities and districts in this country. Mr Speaker, we seemed to talk about the symptoms and not the cause. The cause of sand winning is that people who win sand do not feel that they are under any obligation to obtain permits for those activities. They drive their vehicles to areas where they have gravel and win the gravel with impunity and careless abandon. They are not educated by the Environmental Protection Agency law, that any activity, that impacts the environment ought to be permitted. They do not know that. So, we see deep gullies and large swaths of land that have been degraded by reason of sand winning, which thus deprives farmers from putting those lands to commercial use. We see gravel and laterite winned with careless abandon, which now threatened the construction of roads in this country; where sub-base materials and base materials are now running out of short supply because we have failed, refused or neglected to regulate how we win this natural resource. Mr Speaker, clearly, something ought to be done. The Hon Member who read the Report and the Committee so formed has given an indication. Mr Speaker, we should avert our minds to article 268 (2). That would begin -- or probably remedy this problem. Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I read: “Parliament may, by resolution supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament, exempt from the provisions of clause (1)…”. Mr Speaker, clause (1) requires that all transactions in connection with natural resources ought to be ratified by Parliament. So far as we have not exempted them, sand winning must come before this Parliament for ratification because it is a mineral. When we resolve to exempt from the provisions of clause (1) of this article, any particular class of transactions, contracts or undertakings, we could then properly locate sand winning within the District Assemblies and give them the power to regulate the activities of sand winners. Mr Speaker, we know that wherever land is found in this country, it has an owner. It is because land is found in the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembly jurisdictions, the District Chief Executives (DCEs) and the Assemblies should have the primary responsibility of controlling how those lands are utilised. When we give the District Assemblies those responsibilities, they would not take commercial business fees. They would actually regulate the exploitation of that resource. It is because we have not exempted these classes of transactions or activities from article 268 (1), that they feel incapacitated. So, they resort to taking only business transaction fees. That is why Mr Speaker, you could see and agree with the Hon Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural
Resources that even in areas where dredging is taking place on the Pra River, some Assemblies have unconsciously gone to navigate those dredges and taken business transaction fees from those dredges, giving legitimacy to an illegitimate activity. Mr Speaker, my prayer is to commend the Committee for a good work done and to invite this House and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to look at the possibility of bringing a Bill to this House to exempt certain classes of transactions and then properly locating those classes within the MMDA's.
Hon Andy Appiah-Kubi, do you still want to contribute?
Mr Speaker, yes and thank you very much for the opportunity. As an Hon Member of the Committee and working on the subject matter, I realised that we need to first and foremost look at our laws and bring about harmony between the laws regarding land use. Mr Speaker, though I know that laws grow by way of interpretation, it is also a fact that interpretation is also limited by the text of the law itself. Therefore, in some cases the law itself ought to be amended to find use during the periods of its growth. Therefore, I support the idea that most of our laws on land use ought to be looked at again and amended, particularly in supporting the submission of the former Hon Minister for Lands and Natural Resources that article 2 ought to be applied. But before such a thing could be done, I presume that we need a Motion in the House for the matter to be debated and for the Resolution to be so passed, albeit that this Fourth Republican Parliament put it on their agenda to admit Private Member's Bill save that we have not seen such an opportunity being exploited. I hope this is a beautiful opportunity for the House to exercise that right to pave the way for other Private Member's Bill to be put before the House. This is an urgent matter that requires an urgent attention and prompt action. Mr Speaker, the definition of mineral itself comes into focus and indeed our engagement with traditional authorities gave us the indication that they do not even understand where their authority ends or where their authority could have effect. Indeed, they seemed to think that while it is not gold or diamond, they have the jurisdiction to supervise its mining and therefore enter into all kinds of work contracts with contractors or miners, be it sand, alluvial gold or whatever. Mr Speaker, so, they are engaged in unlawful contracts all over the place from our interaction with them. Therefore, it requires public education to bring to their attention that minerals are not only gold and diamond but also include sand and stones and therefore, they do not have jurisdiction to supervise or engage in any such contracts. Indeed, some of the contracts that we saw between the traditional authorities and the mineral miners projected was that they thought that because they owned the land the land comes with whatever is underneath the land. That is the presumption under which they go into such contracts. Indeed, the ownership is only on the land surface and not in the land thereunder. So, it is important to bring this realisation home to them. Mr Speaker, I am not sure that the Committee's work seeks to bring to the fore that mining is illegal but we are saying that mining ought to be done legally within the law. This is all that we are saying. If we do this within the law, then the applications to the authorities giving the licence would include the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) plans that would also include the mitigation strategies. Therefore the monitoring authorities would hold such applicants to performance under the applications that they submit. In most of the cases that we investigated, applications for sand winning were also done verbally and not on any application for one to be able to hold the applicant to any performance standard. There is a total mess in this area because of the lack of understanding of the expectations and the extent of the law. Education is key here so that the lands on which the sand and stones are mined would be recovered. This is because the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) would also require that they recover all such lands as they mine whatever resource. Mr Speaker, it is also clear that most of the institutions that are mandated to manage the land sector are not adequately resourced in terms of human capacity --
Hon Member, the Report covers all that. So, if you would restrict yourself to some Government sector --
Mr Speaker, I am getting home. There have been complaints of lack of a couple of factors and therefore, in terms of human capacity, they do not have the resources, although there is massive unemployment in the areas that they cover. So, we cannot even understand why we do not have men to monitor while men are ready to do the monitoring.
Mr Speaker, to bring my submission to a close, I would want to urge on the House that all the recommendations that they bring before the House, let us also check them to see to their implementation accordingly. I have been in this House not long enough, but at least, I have seen some Papers laid, Statements read, Recommendations made and Orders given by the House but I have not seen any end result of these Recommendations and Orders of this House. Mr Speaker, I think to encourage Hon Members of the House to continue to do the investigation and submit the Report to the House for your Orders thereof, let us see actions in what we have done so that we would be motivated to do more. Mr Speaker, I rest my case.
Hon Member, you are the Executive, right? [Laughter] -- The instructions are to the Executives so --
Mr Speaker, on this occasion, I am speaking as an Hon Member of Parliament. [Laughter.]
Kindly carry this over to your Hon Minister that when we direct, they should comply. The last contribution would come from Hon Mahama Ayariga.
Mr Speaker, let me also join Hon Colleagues to commend the Committee for a very diligent work and exhaustive recommendations which I believe, if we implement would go a long way to deal with the problem of sand winning. Mr Speaker, sand winning per se is desirable but it is when it is done at the wrong place with negative environmental consequences that engineers a problem for us. As we develop our communities, we definitely need sand. We award road contracts and they need sand for their jobs, people are building homes to provide housing. -- Sand is needed. We cannot do without sand and people would have to win the sand to provide it to contractors and the communities. Mr Speaker, Hon Clement Humado alluded to some work that is going on in the area of developing a framework for land use and spatial development. Within every District, there would definitely be the need for sand -- If there is sand, there is definitely the need to win the sand for development in the District. Within the new framework of land use and spatial development, the Assemblies could determine where they should harvest these resources for the development of their communities. So, I would want to just restrict myself to one recommendation which had been made and it is the component that deals with education. If the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources could educate the leadership of the district assemblies and provide them with the resources to be able to ascertain the parts of their geographical jurisdiction where sand is available in commercial quantities to be winned, and then provide them with the technical support regarding how to engineer those places. This is because whether we like it or not, they would win the sand for development in the area because development is desirable. Mr Speaker, what is needed is the technical support to engineer the winning process and to make sure that they re- claim the area after they have winned the sand. Mr Speaker, on that note, I would want to support the exhaustive recom- mendations that have been made, but to highlight the importance of the assemblies being given technical support by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to be able to determine areas that have adequate commercial quantities of sand and also to provide them with technical abilities to win those sands, engineer them well and reclaim them thereafter. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee that was set up to investigate the effects of sand winning in the country. Mr Speaker, I beg to refer you to page 16 of the Report and to also extend commendation to the Annoh-Dompreh Committee, the other Hon Members and the clerk to the Committee for doing a thorough and diligent work and more importantly, reporting timeously to Parliament with some recommendations. Mr Speaker, I also agree with the last Hon Member who spoke that even as we discuss sand winning, it is important that we situate it and not bastardise the act of sand winning but rather its consequence and implications on the environment. All the houses that we see being built or under construction depend on sand and many other things depend on it. So, the problem is the environmental impact and consequences of it not being done well is what our concern is. Mr Speaker, I also recognised that it has become a source of economic engagement for many persons who need to be supported to do it, but to do it well. Mr Speaker, as I commend the Committee, my concerns are in two-fold; one is to refer you to page 4 of your Committee's Report and I pray that you would have the patience to tolerate me because I would want to go on a certain tangent. Mr Speaker, there are issues with Roles, Functions and Challenges of Regulatory Institutions as part of the Committee's Report -- For instance, on the issue of the Minerals Commission, the Committee said: “The Committee however found that the Commission has not performed its responsibility under the law satisfactorily.” The Minerals Commission which is an institution of government is not living up to expectation and it is not performing its functions satisfactorily; so, how do we marry this observation with the recommendations of the Committee? Mr Speaker, I would repeat same for the next regulatory institution -- the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr Speaker, I beg to read what your Committee said: “The Committee observed that the EPA has also not lived up to its expectation as provided by Act 490.” Mr Speaker, here is another laxity of an institution of State not living up to expectation and not doing what they have been mandated to do. I would also come to the next paragraph which is on District assemblies and I beg with your kind permission to read what your Committee said: “The Committee gathered that the District Assemblies are mostly interested in the revenue accruing from sand winning operations at the expense of the degradation of the environment.” So, the District Assemblies which are supposed to lead the process to protect and safeguard the environment are not interested. Mr Speaker, I am just referring to the Annoh-Dompreh Committee's book of lamentation to lament the weakness of government institutions not living up to their role, and that should be what Parliament should be doing when we look at the appropriation of Budget Estimates. Mr Speaker, role performances must be assessed by Hon Members of Parliament at the Committee level. So, when EPA comes and says that they want budgetary allocation for 2018, we would look at what they did in respect of sand winning and many other activities that the law requires them to do. So it should not just be numbers where they want budgetary allocation of “X” amount and then we would give them “Z” amount. We should tie it into some performances that we expect these institutions to do. Mr Speaker, that notwithstanding, I am excited about the timeous nature this Committee has reported to plenary and I hope that we would look at the far- reaching recommendations. Mr Speaker, when the Hon Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources was on the floor, I almost threw my hands in despair; I recalled my position as a
young Hon Minister on the floor of the House. Mr Speaker, while he was speaking, he had to combine two roles; he is an Hon Member of Parliament and an Hon Deputy Minister of a Ministry. He cannot be throwing the issue at Minerals Commission, he would have to tell us what the Minerals Commission would do and the leadership that he would provide as a Hon Deputy Minister for the Minerals Commission to be able to live up to policy and to its role. Mr Speaker, but not for him to also come and bemoan and also throw his hands and say, “enko yie” to wit “it is not going right” and so what? As Hon Deputy Minister, we expect that he would tell us that he is working to get the Minerals Commission fully complemented with adequate staff and resources in order that they would be able to respond to these issues. Mr Speaker, I beg to conclude with what my Hon Colleague made reference to and I recall that that is your passion. Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I beg to read article 268 (1) of the Constitution which with your permission reads: “Any transaction, contract or undertaking involving the grant of a right or concession by or on behalf of any person including the Government of Ghana, to any other person or body of persons howsoever described, for the exploitation of any mineral, water or other natural resource of Ghana …” Mr Speaker, so, I add sand as an extension of other resources. “… made or entered into after the coming into force of this Constitution shall be subject to ratification by Parliament.” Mr Speaker, since when has Parliament been given the opportunity to even go into matters of sand winning and some mineral resources? Again, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources -- as well as the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation -- must come back to Parliament for us to be able to do justice and ratify. Mr Speaker, we should blame ourselves -- I am sure that since 1993, Parliament has slept on this power which is vested in it -- we are not interested. We see concessions being granted to persons to go into forest; I am sure that even from what we are reading, from many other parts of the country, they go into the forest. Who issues the licences and does it have Parliamentary ratification or not and without this that would not be a full contract? Yet it is being implemented and it is causing environmental degradation and Parliament would in itself say that go and set up a Committee to come and advise us. Parliament must wake up and make sure that the mandate that we are clothed with would be exercised for the good of the environment of Ghana and our society. Mr Speaker, I thank you and once again I commend the Committee for the work. Mr Speaker, I hope that when you are directing, you would observe what is attributed to each of the regulatory institutions so that we would formally communicate to those institutions that this is what Parliament expects them to do in order for us to deal with the growing problem of sand winning in our country. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I also beg to add my voice in support of the Report of the Ad- Hoc Committee that we appointed to investigate the effects of sand winning in the country. Mr Speaker, in commending the Committee for a very exhaustive and thorough job done, just to reiterate the point that has been made by the Hon Member for Tamale Central and re-echoed by the Hon Minority Leader. Mr Speaker, sand winning is not regulated, and it is causing much devastation and degradation to the lands of the Republic. As you know, the Constitution provides in article 257 (6), and with your indulgence, I read: “Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon any land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water courses throughout Ghana …” . I guess, maybe, in critically looking at it, we rather should have said “water bodies throughout Ghana” and not “water courses throughout Ghana”. This is because, it would then mean that if one should mine in a lagoon or a lake, it is not a water course. So, perhaps, in a future amendment, we should even look at that. So, Mr Speaker, “… water courses throughout Ghana, the exclusive economic zone and any area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic of Ghana and shall be vested in the President on behalf of, and in trust for the people of Ghana.” So, what is sand? The Hon Deputy Minister was indicating to us that by their definition, sand is a mineral. In that case, it is a mineral in its natural case. If indeed that is the case, then it should be guided by the article 268 (1) that the --
Hon Majority Leader, that definition was given by the Mines and Minerals Act. Sand is defined as a mineral.
Mr Speaker, I agree. I am saying that he was drawing attention to that fact. That means it should be regulated by article 268 (1), and article 268 (1) as has been said for the umpteenth time then reads with your kind permission I quote: “(1) Any transaction, contract or undertaking involving the grant of a right or concession by or on behalf of any person including the Government of Ghana, to any other person or body of persons howsoever described, for the exploitation of any mineral, [including sand] water or other natural resource of Ghana made or entered into after the coming into force of this Constitution shall be subject to ratification by the Parliament.” Mr Speaker, we have not ever done this, and the exemption rule is provided for under 268 (2), which says: “Parliament may, by resolution supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds the of all the members of Parliament, exempt from the provisions of clause (1) of this article any particular class of transactions, contract or undertakings.” Mr Speaker, we are dealing with galamsey operations, and we come to realise that galamsey is on the upsurge because Parliament has decided to restrict itself in the grant of concession to the big
time operators. On the medium scale operators and the small scale operators, Parliament has not exercised its authority in compliance with articles 268 (1) and 268 (2). So that is where the problem is. Mr Speaker, indeed, if we look at the operations of the Lands Commission, which I believe should guide the Minerals Commission in the operations of sand winners, article 258 of the Constitution is instructive. What they should be doing, just as the Lands Commission is charged to do in the Constitution, that is if we run through article 258 (1) (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e), we would be regulating the issue of sand winning to ensure that there is proper land use. That is not what we are doing. And that indeed is telling how come there is this haphazard development and exploitation of sand. Mr Speaker, in Nigeria, for purposes of making blocks, they do not allow sand to be winned from the land. One must do it in the lagoon or the alluvial sand in the river beds. That is what they do. Here, we allow for any kind of sand winning and all manner of people are feeding on that and land guards have assumed control because there is a vacuum. Mr Speaker, so arising out of this Report that the Committee has submitted to us, I believe the necessary directives, going forward, should be made so that from now on, Parliament would assert its authority and the proper thing would be done as far as sand winning is concerned. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity. Question put and Motion agreed to.
I would want to direct that the Hon Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation would four weeks from today, appear before the House and tell the House how he intends to regulate, using the constitutional provisions and all the laws from mines and spatial planning and land use, mineral extraction and all exploitations of mineral resources. Hon Majority Leader, the Hon Speaker admitted some Statements. There are three of them. I would want to be guided by the sense of the House through the Leaders.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, if we could take any Statement, I would urge that the Statement is made by the presenter with no comment, and then we could deal with the outstanding Motion, which stands in the name of the Hon Minority Leader. If that is acceptable, we could do it. Other than that, perhaps, we might stand the Statements down and do them subsequently. Mr Speaker, I have to leave for another appointment outside the House, and I am supposed to be there before 3.00 pm. It is already a few minutes to 3.00 pm. Mr Speaker, if we have to deal with the Motion by the Hon Minority Leader, it requires some time. At least, he would require five minutes to state his case. So, I would say that perhaps, you should give priority to the Hon Minority Leader's Motion, and we could adjourn.
Very well, item numbered 7 - Motion.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move that, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 80 (1) which require that no Motion shall be debated until at least forty-eight hours have elapsed between the date on which notice of the Motion is given and the date on which the Motion is moved, the Motion that this Honourable House call on the Minister responsible for Finance to implement the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act, 2017, (Act 948) and suspend the advert in the media suspending the implementation of Act 948 may be moved today.
Yes, Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee?
Mr Speaker, I was trying to catch your eye when the Hon Minority Leader was on his feet. I wanted to raise preliminary objection about the urgency in suspending the Standing Orders to move this procedural Motion. What is the urgency? Mr Speaker, I would have thought the Motion would be advertised, and then we come after the mandatory 48 hours -- Why are we suspending the Standing Order?
Regrettably, you did not catch my eye, and I have allowed the Motion. So, we would take the division. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly
Hon Minority Leader, now, you might move your Motion. Implementation of Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act and suspension of adverts in the Media
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House calls on the Minister responsible for Finance to implement the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act, 2017, (Act 948) and suspend the advert in the media suspending the implementation of Act 948. Mr Speaker, in doing so, let me share with you a paper from the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Domestic Tax Revenue Division, with the heading: “Postpone- ment of Date for Implementation of VAT Flat Rate Scheme (VFRS)”, and it is issued by the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority. Mr Speaker, for my emphasis, it says that:
SPACE FOR advert - PAGE 1 - 2.55 P.M. Mr Speaker, first of all --
Hon Member, can you table the document from which you quoted?
Yes Mr Speaker, I will table the full newspaper, since this is just a photocopy arising out of an advertiser's announcement paid for by the GRA on this matter. Mr Speaker, in doing so, it is to refer you to article 106 of the Constitution. Article 106 (1) provides that: with your permmission I quote: “The power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by Parliament and assented to by the President.” Mr Speaker, we were in this House in April when the Hon Minister for Finance introduced what was called the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2017. This august House subsequently subjected the Bill to the proper processes of legislative scrutiny and passed it into law. Mr Speaker, I am holding a copy of Act 948, assented to by the President as reported in the Gazette of 5th April, 2017. On 5th April, 2017, the President gave assent to it, and we now have Act 948. Mr Speaker, the date of gazette notification is 7th April, 2017, so if even the GRA and for that matter the Ministry of Finance wanted space and time for the implementation of this important revenue measure, they had the month of May to do that. Now, we are in the month of June and it is being deferred. Mr Speaker, I used to be a student of economics, and Adam Smith in his book, The “Wealth of Nations” emphasised what he called the canons and principles of taxation. One of the major canons and principles of taxation is certainty; that you must be definite of the amount to pay, when to pay and where to pay, as a principle of taxation. This publication is only going to create confusion in the minds of the Ghanaian public and among businesses, wholesalers and retailers. In one breadth, 17.5 per cent, in another breadth 3 per cent flat rate. Mr Speaker, it is even contemptible of this House, that an institution such as GRA and Minister for Finance would set aside an Act of Parliament and just make an announcement that they are suspending this tax payment. Mr Speaker, another principle of taxation is convenience -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, even in the Suame area, this economics of certainty as to when spare parts dealers should know how much to pay is certain. Let me just refer to the Act, Act 948, section 3 of Act 870 amended, and it says “substitution”. It provides this; with your indulgence I read; “A taxable person who is a retailer or wholesaler of goods shall account for the Value Added Tax payable under this section at a flat rate of three per cent calculated on the value of the taxable supply.” So, Mr Speaker, my Motion is to call on the Hon Minister to arrest this contemptible action of the GRA and to stop the confusion in the minds of Ghanaian wholesalers and retailers as to what tax rate to pay. I know Government is struggling for fiscal space, but even in looking for that space, there must be discipline, and the GRA must give reason why they should not be brought here to explain why they are not in contempt of Parliament. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, can you quote what you said for the education of the House?
Mr Speaker, in one breadth, if we look at column 5007 it reads: “Mr Speaker, secondly, it was interesting when the Bill proposed that the retailer and the wholesaler are going to be exempted. This is because we were told in Committee that the intent of this amendment is to make the taxpaying system very simple.” I beg to differ because the retailer and the wholesaler cannot be lumped together. They can say that the retailer is part of the informal sector, but I disagree that the wholesaler is part of the informal sector. The wholesaler can never be part of the informal sector. Mr Speaker, clearly, I tried to look at best practices across the globe. Nowhere in the world, when concessions are given to retailers, do they not extend those concessions to wholesalers and possibly manufacturers. This is far- fetched, because clearly, what this means is that we are exempting the wholesaler, who ideally is outside the informal sector, from keeping records.” Mr Speaker, I warned them.
Mr Speaker, globally, this is never done anywhere.
Is that the warning?
Yes, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, I told them that I differ. Mr Speaker, today we are witnessing a situation where the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), because they have identified some difficulties in implementing this tax, are extending the date. Mr Speaker, if they would really want to do that, then I ask the Hon Minister responsible for Finance to come properly. They should come properly and amend the law because this cannot be done through the back door. This is a tax policy, it is a major taxation, and they cannot play with taxation the way they are doing. Mr Speaker, it is not the way to do it. They cannot change the tax policy using advertisements in the media. They cannot do that. It has never been done anywhere. Mr Speaker, I would therefore want to ask the Hon Minister for Finance to come properly through a Bill. They cannot ask the President to assent to a Bill, and ask the Ghana Revenue Authority to defer the taxation. It is never done. They should tell us if there has been one precedent ever. Mr Speaker, thank you very much.
I observed that the alleged warning was a statement of self-utilisation.
Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee, you would get the opportunity to contribute and respond to him, but for now, kindly allow me to give the chance to the Hon Deputy Minister, then you would get your opportunity.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I beg to oppose the Motion, and I do so because this Motion is not needed, and even if it was carried, it would not have any consequence. Mr Speaker, we are in a hurry to implement the amendment we brought, which this House graciously passed. The implementation of a tax Act, and the implementation of any law that relates to taxation starts with the issue of what is called the Practice Notes -- the administrative directives on the basis of which the revenue officers in the fields would go and collect the tax.
Hon Minister, are you referring to any specific Constitutional provision or any law which says that once Parliament has passed the law, some administrative instruction must be given before it is implementable? I would want to be guided. That is an argument you are making, so, I am asking you whether there is any constitutional provision that requires that once Parliament has passed any Act, some administrative direction is required before the law is implemented.
Mr Speaker, before I even refer to the regulatory administrative requirement here, until those directives are given to the people who would go to the field and collect the taxes, it is obvious that they cannot collect the taxes. Mr Speaker, the GRA would need to communicate the new ways of implementing the tax to their officers on the ground, who actually go to the tax payers to collect the tax, and it has been so for all the tax laws that this Parliament has passed. Mr Speaker, we are in a hurry, and we proceeded to direct the GRA to immediately implement this law. In response, the GRA issued those administrative directives, which are called Practice Notes. Mr Speaker, when the tax officers went to the tax payers to collect the taxes, the tax payers raised concerns about conflicts in the way the tax officers were administering the new tax measure and the tax measure itself. This is to say that the tax payers complained that the GRA officers were not implementing the measure as they understood it from the law. So they petitioned the Ministry of Finance. Mr Speaker, we have had engagements with the tax payers involved, and we have had engagements with the GRA, and it came to our notice that indeed, the tax payers' concerns needed more attention. To do that, we advised the GRA to withdraw the Practice Notes. This is so that we could resolve the misunder- standing for them to proceed with the implementation as has started already.
Minority side, Order! Everybody listened to you in silence, and so you should please listen to him.
Mr Speaker, I have seen the advertisement, and I am clear in my mind that the advertisement is an error. Nobody, not even the Ministry of Finance has the authority to suspend a law that has been passed by this House, and therefore, the Motion that suggests that the Ministry of Finance and the GRA have suspended the implementation must not be carried because the preparation and issues, and in fact the communication of these Practice Notes are part of the implementation, and we are doing so. Mr Speaker, therefore, for them to bring a Motion to this House that suggests that somehow we have halted the implementation as though we have asked that nobody should issue Practice Notes and nobody should correct it, is wrong, and that is why I invite this House to vote against this Motion. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Hon Yieleh Chireh?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, in making laws in this House, those who know particularly about tax laws also know that because of the problems of implementation, normally, one would provide a date of transition where the tax would be effective, and it is indicated in the law that the Minister responsible would name that date, but this is not the case. Mr Speaker, they were in a hurry and did not want to listen, and today they are saying that Practice Notes should override the laws of Ghana passed by Parliament. That one is not right. That was what the Hon Minister said and turned round -- otherwise, he should not be opposing this Motion. He should have been fully supporting the Motion, and drawing attention to the error. Mr Speaker, but for the Hon Minister to say that he is opposed to the Motion which is to enforce the laws we have passed is something I would want to say no to. I am fighting because I am also in a hurry not to be passing laws that are not effective. Mr Speaker, importantly, I believe that this Motion should be fully supported and those of them who bring laws, who know that there would be difficulties in implementation -- we must also add that into the law itself for transition and education, for people to know, because people have to be seen to be following and going according to the law. So, in my view, this Motion is proper and it should be supported. Mr Speaker, if in any way, the Ministry thinks that they would still need it, then they could come back to the House, and come and do an emergency one day passage to allow for the transition, and not to use a Practice Note. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Members, I would allow one more, and then come to the Leader. Hon Chairman of the Committee, if you would want to contribute, then I would give you the chance. If I give it to the Hon Member for Suhum, then you would have lost it, but because you are the Hon Chairman, I am giving you the notice first.
Mr Speaker, because the Hon Member is in his fourth term and he is in the front bench -- [Laughter.]
Hon Member, you notice that we are way beyond the time we agreed with those working on our House, so please let us manage the time well.
Hon Member, if I give him the chance, I would not give it back to you. I would just want that to be clear. If you defer to him --
Mr Speaker, this is just a point of information to him. It is a point of information so if he wants to, then I would come in.
Mr Speaker, I am indifferent because as the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance indicated, if this Motion is carried, nothing would actually happen differently from what is -- Mr Speaker, we should note that GRA faces administrative challenges in implementing laws passed by this House. Mr Speaker, many a time, it is difficult for GRA to prepare all the instructions that they would need to give to their men on the ground. This is because when Bills come here, they change a lot. So, they cannot envisage the final form of a Bill in order to pass on instructions to their men. As a matter of fact, Mr Speaker, Acts pertaining to customs laws are not effected until tariff orders are issued.
Hon Member for Suhum, do you have a point of order?
Exactly so, Mr Speaker, it is a point of information. Mr Speaker, to further strengthen the position that the Hon Chairman of the Committee made, a lot of Hon Ministers and Ministries go through this challenge.
That is why I actually expected the Hon Minority Leader to have gone through a different approach of inviting the Hon Minister here through a Question and Answer session to find out what challenges he is encountering. Mr Speaker, I have in my hand, Legislative Instrument (L.I.) 2006 of 2011 signed by the then Hon Minister for Communications and now Hon Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu. Mr Speaker, this L.I., which governs the registration of SIM cards in Ghana, came into force in November, 2011, and it was supposed to be in force for the registration to happen for 30 days. When the Hon Minister started the implementation, he realised that there were major challenges with the implementation and had cause, without recourse to this House, to extend the implementation period for over one year. Mr Speaker, that is not the only instance in question. When the Hon Minister came to this House in 2009 to seek leave and for us to amend the Electronic Communications Act for telecommunication companies to start paying a fee of 19 cents per minute, he could not enforce that law for four years and had to come back in 2013 --
Hon Member for Suhum, I like the suggestions you are giving but are you suggesting that the LI allowed 30 days for registration?
The transition period said 30 days, Mr Speaker.
What happened after the 30 days? Was it legal?
That is the question I expected the Hon Minister --
I just want your view.
Clearly, there were no provisions beyond the 30 days but he used his office --
So he did an illegal act?
Precisely, Mr Speaker.
And you took no action in the House?
Mr Speaker, it is with the current happenings that this thought occurred to me to look into the action of the previous Hon Minister.
And you are suggesting that because they did an illegal act, we should continue?
I am not saying so.
Mr Speaker, my point is that this brings to the fore the challenges that the Executive have in implementation.
Your point is well made.
Mr Speaker -- [Interruption.]
Can I have order at the Leadership table, please? Hon Minority Leader, I will give you the last word, so, you can respond to him if you wish to but please continue.
Mr Speaker, I was making the point that as a matter of fact, Acts pertaining to Customs are not effected until tariff orders are issued. One could refer to tariff orders issued in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016. Mr Speaker, this challenge that GRA faces has happened many times in the past. Mr Speaker, when the Value Added Tax 2013 (Act 891) was passed in 2013, implementation was deferred by the Ministry of Finance under former President Mahama until January 2014. Mr Speaker, again, when the Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896) was passed, implementation of the one per cent on investment was first postponed and later stopped until the New Patriotic Party Government (NPP) came to amend the laws. Mr Speaker, again, when VAT was extended on financial services in Act 891, implementation was deferred because of confusion and agitations from the public. Mr Speaker, all of the above were done by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to ensure that stakeholders who assist in the collection of taxes would be educated and better informed to ensure that the right thing is done. As the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance indicated, GRA ordinarily would have to issue practice notes. All of us would agree that the language of the laws that come here is always heavy and we have tax officers at Elubo, Aflao and all over. Mr Speaker, GRA, as a matter of fact, would have to issue Practice Notes breaking some of these down so that there is no confusion in its implementation. So, I see no harm being done by GRA. Even if this Motion carries, are they going to force people to pay taxes on laws they do not understand? So, until such time that they have well educated the public and their own tax officers who do the collection understand the law, Mr Speaker, nothing would change. So if GRA says they need up to 1st July, 2017, to effect the collection, so be it. And so finally, I am opposed to this Motion.
Any more contributions from here? I would want to hear the -- In that case, Hon Minority Leader, I will hear you again before I hear the Hon Majority Leader.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity. I have listened with rapt attention to the attempts and comments made by the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance, supported by the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee. Mr Speaker, the threat emanated from somewhere and I am only responding to the threat. So, if you say no consequence on a tax policy which is creating confusion in the country between three per cent and 7.5 per cent VAT, we are told to fold our hands and watch on, we will not.
Therefore, the threat that whether the Motion is carried or not, if you want us to --
Hon Minority Leader, hold on.
Mr Speaker, I urge the Hon Minority Leader not to take the comments by the Hon Deputy Minister and the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee wrongly. My understanding of the --
I will come to your own comments -- [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, my understanding of the points they made is the fact that, this House has enacted an Act and so, if the implementation of the force carried in the Act has a challenge, of what consequence would there be an order through a Motion? That is the import of the comments that they are making. That an Act of Parliament carries far severe consequences and sanctions than any order you can purport to get out of a Motion. So, please, do not misunderstand them. Thank you.
Hon Minority Leader, please, continue.
Mr Speaker, may I further now refer to article 11 of the Constitution on what you call the hierarchy of laws. I have seen my friend, the aspiring Deputy Majority Leader go -- [Laughter.] -- to the world of personal reference. And, Mr Speaker, in his personal reference -- I worked with him as Hon Ranking Member of Committee on Communications and he knows that as a Minister, I do not micromanage, I do policy. Mr Speaker, the SIM registration he referred to is here, I am quoting LI 2006; the directive to postpone or to add was not vested in the Minister and he is aware of it. Therefore, he just chose to mislead the Ghanaian public and then impugn my integrity for nothing. The directive is here, under a headnote in the Act. It reads, Directives; “The Authority may issue directives pursuant to the Act or matters related to the registration of the subscriber identity module.” I am not the authority, I have never been the authority and I shall not be. Therefore, if he says directives were issued, I am challenging him to produce directives issued and signed by me. The law vested it in an Authority, I am not an Authority. Mr Speaker, so, I take serious objection to him attempting to impugn my role as a Minister. He knows that SIM registration was a fine introduction to fight crime. And even the reference he made to 30 days, he knows that even today, he would be looking for a new SIM card, and he must register that new SIM card. Therefore, he knows why registration must be extended. Mr Speaker, I thought that -- my mother says that the reason why the monkey -- [Interruptions.] -- what is your problem?
What did your mother say? Tell us. [Laughter.]
Hon Minority Leader, please continue.
Mr Speaker, my mother said that --[Laughter.] -- I should be mindful what I say in the morning, that I may be reminded in the evening of my own words. Therefore, let them be guided. Mr Speaker, we have raised this issue precisely because of article 11 of the Constitution, that an advertisement in a newspaper cannot be superior to an Act of Parliament. If the Hon Minister has difficulty with administrative procedure -- and let him be reminded that we are following him now in his public life. The administrative procedure was advertised. The GRA published when it would take effect. This is a comeback advert. I will produce both. GRA is an agency under his watch.
Hon Minority Leader, this time, I am talking to you as a lawyer, what is the effect of that advertisement on the operation of the law?
Mr Speaker, its effect on the law? It is in contempt of the law -- [Laughter] -- it is disrespecting it and therefore, in contempt of Parliament. I may refer you to constitutional provisions on contempt. Mr Speaker, the more worrying problem --
What I am asking is, does it have the authority to suspend operation of the law?
That is what it is seeking to achieve.
Does it have that effect?
Wholesalers and retailers who do not know the law like you, are likely to be carried away by it and therefore, it has the effect. Mr Speaker, you are talking to retailers and wholesalers of this country, he should admit that -- now, I can borrow his word, that is an error. Have you consulted well with GRA that this is an error? Mr Speaker, all we are saying is that three per cent VAT for 30 days would not bring the same returns as 17.5 per cent VAT for 30 days. They should come back and make full disclosures. Mr Speaker, we are helping the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance, but if he chooses to say no consequence, we can live in a world where Motions and Bills would have no consequences.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much. Before making my own contribution, I think it is important to let the Hon Ranking Member on the Finance Committee know that as an Hon Member in this House, he cannot warn any Hon Member of the House. Mr Speaker, a warning is a threat and our Standing Orders frown on that and it is a breach of privilege for him to warn Hon Members in this House. Our Orders are very clear, Standing Order 30 would indicate to him;
Can the Hon Majority Leader address the Chair and leave out the Hon Second Deputy Speaker?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Second Deputy Speaker should know better. Mr Speaker, my understanding of what the Hon Mr Deputy Minister said, that he opposes the Motion, is that he believes the vehicle chosen by the Hon Minority Leader would not attain any effect within the context of his rendition. This is to the extent that, if maybe, he asked a Question, we would have engendered the Hon Minister to be here and respond to what happened. He chose the vehicle of a Motion and said that it is not of any effect in the context. Mr Speaker, that is my understanding of it. This is because, in addressing the Motion, he questions why the Hon Minister did what he did. Yet, in this case, he told the Hon Member for Suhum that he cannot bring that example, because he should know that as a Minister then, he was not micromanaging the National Communications Authority (NCA), and that it was the NCA that was responsible. So, how then does he bring the Hon Minister in his Motion? We should be consistent. That is not to say that if anything wrong has been done, we must condone it. What is wrong is wrong. Mr Speaker, the 1992 Constitution in article 106(11) provides, and with your indulgence, I read: “Without prejudice to the power of Parliament to postpone the operation of a law, a bill shall not become law until it has been duly passed and assented to in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and shall not come into force unless it has been published in the Gazette.” So, it is Parliament that has that inherent power to postpone the operation of a law. It is also fortified by Standing Order 134(5) which provides: “Without prejudice to the power of Parliament to postpone the operation of a law, a Bill shall not become law until it has been duly passed and assented to in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and shall not come into force unless it has been published in the Gazette.” So, it is a rehash of article 106 (11). Mr Speaker, I agree that it is only Parliament that is vested with that authority to postpone the operations of any law that Parliament passes and is duly assented by the President. The Hon Minister talked to issues of operationalising any Bill. Is the operationalisation automatically triggered by the assent of the President? That is the issue the Hon Minister alluded to, that in getting it implemented on the ground, some administrative measures have to be taken. That is what we witnessed under the previous administration with respect to the Regulation he quoted. That is the Subscribers Identity Module Operation Regulation, 2011. The NCA, and not the Minister, as he said, had a problem with operationalising it immediately, even though we had given ourselves a transitional period of 30 days. Yet, they did not come back to Parliament. We must as a House address it. Is there any automaticity in rolling out the implementation of any Act? In India for instance, we know that averagely, it takes more than 200 days for any law to be operationalised even after Parliament has passed it and has been assented by the Prime Minister. So, as a House, we should come to some determination on this matter. I also recollect that in the case of payments to the Youth Employment Authority (YEA) at the time the same Hon Minority Leader shifted from the Ministry of Communication to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, and they were to have been paid from the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF), there was a problem. At his instance, a letter was written to them, that they should suspend it until further notice. It did not come back to -- the payment to the YEA. I am not too sure that the Hon Minority Leader has all of a sudden become too old to remember. [Laughter.] There are genuine difficulties and we should attend to them. If in any event there are problems, they should revert to Parliament and I agree. They should revert to Parliament, that in implementing the Act, there are problems for us to perhaps, go back into what ought to be done. Let nobody say that it has not happened. [Interruption.] I should end here? Mr Speaker, the Hon Member for Bodi says I should end. We should be consistent. The principle is understood and where to take it -- I believe in the current circumstances, we could ask the relevant Minister and in this case the Minister for Finance, to ensure that the proper thing is done. If there are any difficulties, they should come back to Parliament. That should be how the House should stand in this matter. Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity --
Hon Majority Leader, do not sit down. I want to ask you a question. If any member affected by the amendment insisted that he wanted to pay the three per cent as in the law, would this notice bar him from paying what the law says he should rather than that?
Mr Speaker, the issue at the heart of the Motion that was introduced by the Hon Minority Leader is that there may appear to be some confusion. He said we should ensure that we are all put in the same jacket to avoid the seeming confusion that may ensue. As I said, if there is any problem in implementing the law, from now on, even though under his watch, this nation witnessed the same thing, we are saying that we should learn useful lessons. If there are problems, we should let the implementing authority revert to Parliament for Parliament to address those challenges, moving forward. Mr Speaker, that is what I would say for now.
Hon Second Deputy Speaker, I want your attention. Does an advert suggesting the suspension of a Bill passed, assented to by the President and gazetted have any effect on the implementation of the Act?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, the Hon Second Deputy Speaker --
Hon Majority Leader, I did not recognise you. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, the Hon Second Deputy Speaker knows that people talk by even gestures and body language. So, when I attributed something to him that he has said, he talked to me by body language. [Laughter.]
It is only the two of them that understand the body language of each other [Laughter.] Hon Majority Leader and Hon Minority Leader, do you think it is necessary to put a vote on this matter after this discussion?
Mr Speaker, this House is governed by rules and the rules are the Standing Orders of Parliament. We are also governed by the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Mr Speaker, I am open to good counsel but it should not be an imposition. As Hon Members of Parliament, it lies within us to choose the instrument within the Standing Orders on how to come on an issue. Therefore, with this question of Motion, I would listen to good counsel. Mr Speaker, when I say it, the Hon Majority Leader would say “my mother”. [Laughter.] -- My mother said that I should never share things that I say in confidence with others publicly. Mr Speaker, it is not to come and score any point but it is just to tell the Hon Minister for Finance that we follow every step they take in raising revenue, whether they would do it in accordance with the law or not, or whether they have what the Hon Second Deputy Speaker said. When I said contemptible, when the question was posed it was an affront to the dignity and authority of Parliament. Mr Speaker, the Hon Majority Leader knows that yesterday, I had wanted to bring the newspaper and to say that “Mr Speaker, you see”? I would listen to your counsel too on this matter. Mr Speaker, I would want to emphasise that we should not personalise the issue as was said, that Hon Haruna Iddrisu, who was the former Hon Minister for Youth and Employment -- and another Hon Member also used the Ministry of Communication as an example. It should not be personalised. Mr Speaker, in many legislations there are transitional provisions to provide for some days to anticipate public education and the effectiveness of the legislation. They should not come here and compare their emergency hurried Bill to those other Bills which came with transition. Mr Speaker, we just came out of Government five months ago and we know what fiscal means -- and I know what three and 17.5 per cent VAT mean to the Republic. The basket would not come the same -- one would be weightier than the other. The Hon Minister may keep his eye
on the weightier basket, because 17.5 per cent would bring in more. But we would want to say that he should sanitise -- Hon Opare-Ansah and a lot of Hon Members know that. To sanitise even the regulator, they know what I did.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader, we know he always has a pocket full of assorted weapons and he decides to dish out any as and when he deems appropriate. So at any point, he would say, “this man knows” and he is dragging me into some issue that I cannot even remember. Mr Speaker, because the Hon Minority Leader treads the same path as the Hon Ranking Member for Finance, it is important to establish that no person can rush anything through Parliament, unless the parliamentary committee so determines and that is provided for under Standing Order 119. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader and I have had a lot of discussions and Mr Speaker, I believe where we are now is what to do. I have agreed that we should determine for ourselves what to do now that we have recognised an impropriety which is not on the part of the Hon Minister for Finance. We all do know it was on the part of GRA because of their own implementation challenges. Mr Speaker, so what do we do as a House to confront that? I believe that should be our concern and that was why in winding up, I said we await your directive because I do not believe it is a matter that maybe, you may necessarily even have to put a Question on. But a Motion requires some determination and so, maybe after putting the Question, you may want to issue further directives as to the way forward and I believe that is how it should be. This is because a Motion by its character is for Parliament to request a body or Parliament or any individual to take some action. Not until we agree on it, which would come in the form of a Question which would be agreed to by the House, no further directives could be given. Mr Speaker, you may put the Question and after, issue the appropriate and relevant directives. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Hon Members, I direct that the Leadership of the House, working in consultation with the Leadership of the Finance Committee, to engage the GRA and guide them on the import of a law that has been passed and what step they can take, if they would need time for implementation. The complaint is about a statement issued by a sub-agency of the Ministry of Finance and, so, the Hon Minister for Finance may be brought in to participate in the discussion. Hon Members, that brings us to the end of proceedings for today. I have been advised that after adjournment there is a meeting of the Committee of the Whole. The House is adjourned till Friday, 9th June, 2017, at 12.00 noon.
The House was adjourned at 3.55 p.m. till Friday, 9th June, 2017, at 12.00 noon.