VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, correction of the Votes and Proceedings dated 20th February, 2018?
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday, 20 th February, 2018.]
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Friday, 15th December, 2017.]
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Tuesday, 30th January, 2018.]
Hon Members, Statements -- There is a Statement which stands in the name of the Hon Minority Leader. A tribute to the late Mr K. B. Asante.
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader is unavailable at the moment. So, could we stand it down?
Thank you very much. Hon Members, at the Commencement of Public Business. Item numbered 4 -- Motion on the State of the Nation Address. Yes, Hon Kpodo?
[Resumption of debate from 16/02/ 2018.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the debate regarding the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President recently. Mr Speaker, I would want to refer to page 2, paragraph 4 of the President's Address where he stated that and with your permission, I beg to read: “We had inherited an economy that was in distress, choked by debt, and with microeconomic fundamentals in disarray.” Mr Speaker, to be very kind, these are rather unkind remarks, and such remarks are in respect of a strong and rather resilient economy bequeathed to the present Administration when the President took over. In fact, there are downright distortions. Mr Speaker, the debt stock in January, 2017, was GH¢122 billion. The govern- ment said that it would not borrow because the money was -- But as of the time of the Address, the President could report that our debt stock had risen to GH¢139 billion, just six months into the Administration of the current President.
Hon Member, the ruling is very clear, and you know it in advance. If you would want the Hon Minister for Finance to come to this House, including even a half-hour Motion, it is done through the usual Question time and all other opportunities available to Hon Members. Every Hon Member knows our rules and how to go about this, but if you would choose to just make a commentary, then you may do so.
Mr Speaker, I take your direction. Mr Speaker, I would want to emphasise again that because of the disputes in the debt figure, our debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is equally in dispute, and all of these must be brought to a close by the submission of this. Whatever means we would use to get the figures, we should be able to do that. Mr Speaker, there is one other big problem that this country is faced with now. The government introduced what we call the Earmarked Funds Capping Law, and that has, instead of capping the Funds, handicapped the institutions that benefit from these earmarked Funds. Mr Speaker, for instance, the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GETFund) was supposed to get GH¢1.48 billion, but this was capped to GH¢928 billion, taking away an amount of GH¢552.7 million from that Fund.
Mr Speaker, the Road Fund was supposed to get GH¢1.41billion, but it has been capped at GH¢884 million, taking away an amount of GH¢526 billion. The District Assembly's Common Fund was supposed to get GH¢2.7 billion, but it has been capped at GH¢1.8 billion, taking away an amount of GH¢877 million. Mr Speaker, the Health Fund was also supposed to take GH¢2.233 billion, but that has also been capped at GH¢1.814 billion, taking away an amount of GH¢490 million. These are the results of the earmarked funds. Over all, the statutory funds were handicapped by an amount of GH¢3.7 billion and that is why these institutions depending on the earmarked funds are unable to function properly. Mr Speaker, school building projects are on hold; an example is the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) in Ho. It is still as it was two years ago; nothing is happening there. Mr Speaker, the National Health Service providers are crying for payments. The Local Government units, including the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) are handicapped, and road contractors are also abandoning critical road projects. This is the true state of the affairs in our country. Mr Speaker, the President also said that he has reduced taxation. Indeed, when we look round, the reduction or the abolishing of taxes is a huge joke. We are rather in a reverse gear. Mr Speaker, when we cut off taxes on domestic air fares that are likely to generate only US$6 million and turn round and impose an African Union levy that is going to raise US$92 million, what then is the meaning of that? This is endgamous, and in fact, it amounts to a kind of cheating. Mr Speaker, the true state of affairs that we have again, is that, we are dis- membering Ministries. The Local Government and Rural Development Ministry has been dismembered. It is like a chicken ready to be fully dressed up. The wings have been cut off, the legs have been cut off and it is only the head that is left. Mr Speaker, we have taken the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources off, we have taken the Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development off, and we have also taken the Ministry of Regional Reorganisation and Development off. These are all work to be done by the Ministry of Local Government. The same thing goes for the Ministry of Transport. The Ministries of Railway Development and Aviation have all been taken off. So, it is just standing there. Mr Speaker, these are the reasons some of the Ministries are not functioning properly. This is because, as of now, we do not know whether the sanitation sector is under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development or the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources. So, I believe these rearrangements have affected the performances of the Ministries. What we have in the State of the Nation Address is a festival of promises. When we come to the Ministry of Roads and Highways, it is said in the Address that they are determined to find the needed resources to complete the Eastern Corridor Roads. They said that they were determined. Mr Speaker, when it comes to the Security Services, they say that they would give the police the resources to do their jobs. They also say that they would purchase drones and helicopters to assist the police. When it comes to the Ministry of Works and Housing, they said that discussions are on going with the Pensions Regulatory Authority. Finally, when we come to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, they said that they would equip the youth with skills that would enable them to be productive. Mr Speaker, so, this is the structure of the State of the Nation Address that was presented to the House. I do not think that that was helpful in anyway. I think we should be told that our textile industries are rather dying from twenty- five thousand— I have got the report in the Business and Financial Times here- Saving the Textile Industry -- in which it was reported that twenty-five thousand people used to be employed but now, it is two thousand. That is the state of our industries and we should be told why it is like that. Mr Speaker, so, I think that we deserve more from the President instead of the promises, which make it appears as if we are still running a campaign. The work on the Ho dual-carriage road from Sokode through the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) to the Aflao road has stopped. The contractor is not working. I would call on the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways to give attention to that road. This is because that would be the first dual-carriage road in the Ho Township. Mr Speaker, the Hohoe-Jasikan road is just a fifteen-minute drive, but now it takes one hour to ply it. These are the things that we expect attention should be given to, so that we could have a proper State of the Nation that benefits all of us. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity.
Hon Members, we have a delegation of the National Black Master of Business Administration (MBA) of America. It is a group of American businessmen with MBA degrees who are interested in investing in Africa. They are on a visit to Ghana; in fact, that is their pioneer visit upon the invitation of the Hon Dr Nii Okoe Vanderpuje. It is a huge delegation, which includes: 1. Jesse and Cheryl Tyson (President) 2. Bill and Beverly Parker 3. Deanna Hamilton 4. Paulina Johnson 5. Eric Harrison 6. Will and Meshonda Womble 7. Shaun and Tanya Davis Their period of stay is from the 18th to 23rd February, 2018. They will stay in our country for the period of 18th to 23rd February, 2018. And I have had the privilege to welcome them on your behalves already this morning giving them the fullest assurance that they are at the best destination for investment opportunities in Africa. Thank you very much. Please be seated. Hon Minister for Roads, your contribution?
[Continuation of debate from column 1358]
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for this unique opportunity being extended to me to join my Hon Colleagues who have earlier spoken before me. I hereby join them in thanking His Excellency, the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for his inspiring State of the Nation Address which he delivered to this august House on Thursday, 8th February, 2018. Mr Speaker, the President unambi- guously set out the tone for his Government's vision for the Road Sector. With your kind permission, I would want to quote him as contained in his speech on page 8, paragraph 5. The President did say: “We have to build the roads to open up and link up the various parts of the country.” Mr Speaker, it is absolutely clear and there is no doubt about it that roads in every sector constitute the pivot around which any country's development revolves. Mr President, therefore, could not have made a better opening statement. Mr Speaker, indeed, it is very sad to note that after sixty years of independence, which we attained in 1957, out of a total road network size of almost seventy-three thousand kilometres of our nation, 23 per cent is paved. The remaining 77 per cent continue to be unpaved and it is either at the gravel or earth stage. Mr Speaker, this constitutes 77 per cent. And what is even more serious is that, if we come to consider the condition mix of our roads, only 39 per cent out of this total kilometrage of almost seventy- three thousand of roads is considered to be good. Thirty-two per cent is considered to be fair and 29 per cent is considered to be poor. And if you put the ‘fair' and the ‘poor', which constitutes the undesirable portions of our roads, together, that amounts to 61 per cent. And Ghana has attained the age of sixty. Mr Speaker, again, the President in his Message to the nation, went further to highlight his Government's determination and vision to fix all roads. And he powerfully put it in a correct perspective. That was contained in paragraph 3, found on page 9 of his Message. And, Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I would want to quote: “There is a crying need for work to be done on all our roads. The Western Corridor, the Central Corridor, trunk roads, feeder roads, town roads around the country, all require urgent attention. We are determined to bring our road network to a befitting status. And this year, we shall witness much more activity on the roads.” Mr Speaker, I would again like to put it on record that the Government of His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo and for that matter, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) took over the administration of this nation with great challenges from the road sector. We took over the administration of this country when the nation was experienc- ing massive deterioration of roads across the nation, from north to south, east to west. The number of times my Hon Colleagues from this august House on both sides of the divide held conversations with me to attend to their roads testifies to the poor nature of roads handed over to H. E. the President's Administration in 2017. Mr Speaker, above all, Government took over a huge debt overhang in the road sector. As at 1st January, 2017, the Government of Ghana (GoG) owed contractors from GoG sources at the Ministry of Finance GH¢1.1 billion. As of 1st January, 2017, Ghana owed contractors in the Road Fund Sector, GH¢506 million. As of 1st January, 2017, the cost to complete amounted to GH¢12.8 billion. As if that was not enough, as of 1st January, 2017, the total commitment to the road sector amounted to GH¢17.8 billion. Mr Speaker, I stand here to offer my contribution to H. E. the President's State of the Nation Address, and all these records and figures are --
Hon Member, do you rise on a point of order or correction?
Mr Speaker, this is the Minister for Roads and Highways, so we need to take his statements seriously. He gave us two sets of figures. GH¢1.1 billion being certified certificates in the road sector, GoG and then GH¢506 million being indebtedness to the Road Fund. Then he came out with commitment of GH¢17 billion. I think that he has got the opportunity now to tell this country, what he meant when he said “commitment”. This is because GH¢1.6 billion and GH¢506 million are what government ought to pay contractors. That is certified work. The GH¢17 billion he talked about is not a demand from any contractor for the government to pay. So, it is just like saying we needed to build 1000 schools, then we costed the schools and said that it was the commitment we have been asked to pay. Mr Speaker, could he tell the country exactly the breakdown of that GH¢17 billion he talked about? This is because he is not an ordinary person but the Minister for Roads and Highways. This is so that we do not get the figures wrong.
Hon Minister, your Hon Colleague is essentially saying that your Statement is misleading. Could you please make yourself clearer to remove anything that could give any indication of misleading?
Mr Speaker, I do not see any ambiguity in the figures that I gave out to this august House. It is not lost on him that I am talking in my capacity as the sector Minister. I know what I am talking about. [Hear! Hear!]
I again said that at the same time, the Road Fund owed contractors GH¢506 million. I have also said that cost to complete -- If my Hon Colleague does not know what is meant by “cost to complete”, then it is his own problem. I said that cost to complete amounted to GH¢12.8 billion. I gave the explanation for the figure, that commitment is all the contracts awarded put together. Once they are contracts and duly executed by the employer, which is government, and the contractor, all the terms and conditions contained therein are obligatory and binding, unless steps are taken to set any of them aside legally. So, a commitment hangs on govern- ment, unless we take legal steps to set them aside. That commitment, put together across the nation, was GH¢17.8 billion. All these figures are available and of public record. Mr Speaker, this is a House of records and I know what I am talking about. I could defend these figures at any time.
Hon Minister, just a moment. Any point of order?
Rightly so, Mr Speaker. As a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, when we are bundling our figures, we should be able to come out clearly. If you add GH¢1.5 billion, GH¢506 million and cost to complete the projects, which comes up to the total commitment of government, it does not add up to GH¢17 billion. It comes to about GH¢14 billion and not GH¢17 billion as the Hon Minister said. If the Hon Minister could correct himself, that would be fine.
Hon Minister, proceed and conclude. [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, even though Government was determined to fix all roads, the critical situation that faced H. E. the President and Government was the fact that during this period, the Road Fund was not available. The difficulty in financing road sector projects was not due to the capping policy of government at all. Mr Speaker, the Road Fund, which was established in 1985 to fund all routine and periodic maintenance of our roads, is expected to accrue GH¢1.2 billion in a year. Mr Speaker, what was to be capped was just a tip of the iceberg — just 25 per cent. So, the fact that the government was unable to pay contractors was not because of the capping policy. For the past twelve months, the Government has not been able to pay contractors because we had no access to the Road Fund. The Road Fund had been mortgaged and used in November, 2016 to support a loan that the then Government took from UBA Bank. [Interruption.] So, we did not have access to that Fund. That is why for
Mr Speaker, in concluding, the Government, under the leadership of H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is struggling and putting together policies to fix all roads in this country, and it continues. We have started in earnest from last year and we have built a number of roads. I conclude that in the previous year, we embarked upon 685 road contract awards, amounting to 19,057 kilometres across the country. [Hear! Hear!]
Hon Member, I do not think you were heard. If you may please proceed. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, notwithstanding the greatest challenge for the Government to finance roads in this country as a result of the fact that the Road Fund was mortgaged to UBA Bank for a loan in 2017, my Ministry awarded trunk roads covering 19,057 kilometres across the nation. [Hear! Hear!] It covers trunk roads, feeder roads and urban roads. Most of these jobs have been completed. [Interruption.] That is why all the many potholes — Mr Agbodza — rose—
Hon Member, you know two Hon Members cannot stand on their feet at the same time.
Mr Speaker, that is why all the many potholes found across the nation have reduced. Mr Speaker, in conclusion, as the sector Minister for Roads and Highways I would want to express concern at the recent spate of accidents, which has attracted great concern from H. E. the President, for which reason he has even charged three Hon Ministers to put our heads together to bring this spate of accidents to an end. While finding solution to that, I would want to appeal to our countrymen and women, all motorists and all road users, to be very cautious while using the road. I would also want to affirm the determination of H. E. the President, as contained in his Address and to assure the people of this country that we are doubling up and the roads of this nation would be fixed for all of us, particularly for my Hon Colleagues at the other side.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion to thank the President for giving us the State of the Nation Address, which he delivered to this House on 8th February, 2018. Mr Speaker, I would like to dwell on the totality of governance as we expected the President to deliver to this nation. Mr Speaker, governance is an important ingredient that if ignored in any way in administering a nation, there is a problem. So, we expected key elements of governance to be mentioned in the delivery of the State of the Nation Address. Essentially, I would have wished to see the President come out in a very transparent manner to state areas of his Administration where he finds challenges and areas where there were easy hurdles to cross.
Mr Speaker, in talking about the totality of how he governs this nation, one thing stands out clearly. One needs to ensure that there is absolute security in this country for one to govern effectively. What do we see? Over the months and throughout the one year of his Administration, there have been areas of inadequacies in security. Criminals have become emboldened and they have attacked the police and civilians. Armed robbers, in daylight, have shown that they are no longer afraid of what happens to them if they come out to attack. That became a sore point in the Administration. We expected the President to have come out boldly to say this is an area they should have tackled effectively, but failed in that respect. But the President conveniently ignored that area. All that he mentioned was his determination to curb the Fulani herdsmen activity in Ghana, and to equip the Police; the number of vehicles he would give the Police and the equipment he would give them, so they can tackle crime and ensure that there is safety of the civilian, Mr Speaker, this is not enough. After one year of administration, we do not expect the President to continue to tell us that he would do this or that. We expected him to have come out to say what they had done, and what was left to be done. He did not show enough commitment to ensure that the security of this nation is taken care of. Vigilante groups are still all over, threatening Government officials and making it impossible for some admini- strators or Government officials, especially politicians, to be effective in the performance of their jobs. This is not good news for a country handed over to him in peace and with good clearance of security. Mr Speaker, but the most important aspect that I find very disturbing is about the economy. In economic governance, one would want to see transparency, ensure that there is no corruption in the system, and there is truthfulness about what happens. I wanted him to come to tell us that, for instance, they promised this or that about the economy; they promised to take the economy from one point to the other. In fact, the singsong about his promises has always been to move the economy away from borrowing to an economy that depends on its domestic resources, but that has not happened; no mention has been made about that. They are still promises; yet, taking a loan forms the basis of our ability to mobilise funding in this country. Mr Speaker, if we look at all that is mobilised domestically and all that is taken as loans, loans are still the major source of income in this country. This is not good news for us. So, our economic governance has a challenge. The most critical element which can be seen in every aspect of our lives, is the fact that, after one year, the ease of doing business in this country has dropped 12 points down the line. We left the economy with ease of doing business at 108. After one year, we are 12 points down. We are now at 120. Mr Speaker, this is not good news at all. In fact, the worst of it is that, there are some key areas that we have dropped. These areas deal with contractors -- we have dropped 14 points below. This means that if we deal with contractors and we would want to make sure that they do the right thing, we are short of effective administration in that area. Our governance in that area faulted 14 points. We have dropped four points in the payment of taxes; we have dropped 47 points in the registration of property; we have dropped four points in trading along our borders; we have dropped 11 points in getting credit for our businessmen; and we have dropped four points in our involvement in other activities that would enable businesses to strive. This is not good news at all. Mr Speaker, this is a Government that touts a lot about private sector involvement as well as; its ability to mobilise funding and create jobs. At the end of it, it is sad that even at the point of entry, where we can find the private sector's ease of doing business, it is at a loss. Again, there is growing unemployment. Mr Speaker, there is a professor who delivered a lecture at the University of Ghana -- Professor Evans Aggrey-Darko. He found out that in the last one year, there is more unemployment among the youth than ever. He characterised it as a security challenge. Mr Speaker, if we continue to create a situation where there is more unemploy- ment and less security in the country, one day, we would have a great problem confronting everybody. So, I would want to suggest that, essentially, it is important for the Government to come out clearly and let us know why we are not able to do the One District, One Factory when they promised every Ghanaian in the last State of the Nation Address that it would take off and that we would see factories in operation. There is not one single factory in operation. Mr Speaker, why do we not have the One Village, One Dam when in the last one year, they made a promise that there would be a dam for each village? There is not a single dam in existence. Mr Speaker, the transparency about it is that -- The President should have come here to tell us, in clear terms, that he failed in these areas and that is the true state of the nation. The true state of the nation is that we are in difficulty. The true state of the nation is that, we failed to reduce prices of fuel and that of imported products, and we are creating a situation where young people are unemployed. We need to put our acts together and ensure that we do well. If the Government does well, everybody becomes happy. At the moment, the future does not look very bright. We hope and pray that the promises made this time in the State of the Nation Address would be adhered to. At the end of the year, we would not question why the President did not equip the Police with vehicles as he said; why he did not modernise agriculture; and why he could not control the security situation as promised. Mr Speaker, this is important for us because every investor needs certainty. If one does not have certainty in an environment of investment, one is afraid to invest. I am happy that the investors who earlier came to watch us today are not here as I make my statement, to think that the environment is less friendly now than it was in the last Administration, so that we could have people come in to invest. Mr Speaker, I would hope that the President would take note of that and create better conditions for us to have investors come into this country to invest. [HAJIA MAHAMA]Mr Speaker: Thank you very much, Hon Pelpuo. Hon Minister for Local Government and Rural Development?
Mr Speaker, I beg to support the Motion on the floor and to thank H.E. the President for the Address ably delivered, and for his focus on supporting decentralisation and expanding local participation in our democracy. Mr Speaker, on page 8 of the State of the Nation Address, the President indicated that he was embarking on an ambitious decentralisation exercise, and a critical step to this end is the direct election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs). Mr Speaker, I would want to sincerely thank the President for this bold action. We have all been talking about the election of MMDCEs. In our Manifesto, we indicated that we would embark on the election of DCEs. The President has stated clearly that he was directing the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to work towards the election of MMDCEs. Definitely, first of all, we would have to work towards removing the hurdle in the form of the entrenched clause on non-partisanship of local government elections. The President has clearly indicated that MMDCEs should be elected on a partisan basis and this is really a very bold step, because it is an indication that the President is willing to give us some of his powers. Mr Speaker, we all know that appointing 216 MMDCEs is within the power and authority of the President. The President is willing to let it go. This would minimise the perception of winner-takes- all. This is because, definitely, we all know that at the end of the day, if MMDCEs are elected, some would be from different party persuasions. It would not be one party that would win all the MMDCE elections. So we should applaud our President for taking this bold step to share power -- this is power sharing -- and also for the bold step he has taken to ensure that our MMDCEs are accountable to the people. We do not want to have MMDCEs who would be feudal lords in our metropolis, municipalities and districts; we want MMDCEs who would allow full participation and be accountable to the citizens of this country. So, Mr Speaker, I believe in sending our message of appreciation to the President, this House should applaud him for this bold decision and direction that he has given for the election of MMDCEs on a partisan basis. I hope that this House would all join, so that we have a bipartisan approach in implementing the decision of the President. Mr Speaker, he indicated in his State of the Nation Address that he had spoken with the former Presidents and they support him in this. So it is my expectation that this House would support the President and the various amendments that have to be made to ensure that MMDCEs are elected, and to work in a bipartisan manner to promote the President's agenda. Mr Speaker, this morning, there was an allusion to the fact that MMDAs do not get the needed resources, and they suffer from lack of same. It may be because resources are never enough. But I would want to indicate that notwithstanding the capping of the District Assemblies Common Fund, the resources that go down to the MMDAs, especially, looking at the formulae that was approved by this House for 2017 -- As of 2016, the total amount that went directly to MMDAs was GH¢ 708,406,758.00, constituting 35.10 per cent. For the year 2017, as approved by this Honourable House, by the time we provide the fourth quarter the amount would be GH¢733,186,157, constituting 46.52 per cent of the amount that will go to MMDAs for the 2017 fiscal year. That is the amount that was indicated. Mr Speaker, so I refer to the Formula that was approved by this House and the Formula that was approved in the year 2016. So at the end of the day resources would be -- Mr Speaker, we all know about the District Development Facility that for three years nothing went to the Districts. For the year 2017, Government voted US$20 million, constituting GH¢87million to add to the donor support for the Districts. With this amount, some Districts would get in the neighbourhood of over GH¢1 million to support their services and infrastructural activities within the Districts. So it is not true that at this point in time, the MMDAs are any worse than they were when the District Assemblies Common Fund was 7.8 per cent. Mr Speaker, at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development we are refocusing our work to ensure the implementation of Government's flagship projects, including the One Village, One Dam; One District, One Factory; and Planting for Food and Jobs. We have even added more -- Planting for Export and Rural Development. We have gone further to do technical designs for 196 dam sites, and so as I speak, 196 dam sites have got their technical documents and designs ready for construction. Within the next one week, we will hear the Hon Minister for Special Initiatives contracting out these dams to be constructed soon. We would see these dams dotted all over the places. This is because the preparatory work has been done and the funds have been released. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is focused on a big change, and we are not just directing our District Assemblies to do the usual services. We are directing them to focus on local economic development, the policy in place, the initiatives and activities to ensure that these flagship projects are in place. We have prepared the Districts, through the District Center for Commerce, Agriculture and Technology, to have a mechanism for responding to these flagship programmes that are happening in the Districts. Mr Speaker, so the Districts are prepared. When our various Agencies go down to the Districts, they see that they are really prepared. We have a one-stop point to ensure that the implementation of these activities do take place. We recently launched the Land Use Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA). We have gone ahead to launch the regional authorities and we are currently launching the District Committees of LUSPA. The essence of this is to ensure that our Districts focus on spatial planning.
Hon Member, are you on your feet? You may proceed. Do you have any point of order or correction?
Mr Speaker, I beg to indicate that the Hon Member is misleading the House. I worked as a financial consultant for GSOP -
Hon Member, what are you speaking to?
Mr Speaker, she is misleading the House.
Is the Hon Minister for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development misleading the House? Please, proceed.
Mr Speaker, yes. This is because I worked as a financial consultant on GSOP. All those dam projects she mentioned were identified long before the year 2016 with an additional funding from the World Bank which has just ended. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member should not mislead the House. Hajia Mahama: Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague just wants to announce that he
Order! Hajia Mahama: Mr Speaker, he is misleading the House in the sense that what GSOP did, we called them dug outs and earth dams. We are talking about proper One Village, One Dam to support agricultural activities in our communities. [Hear! Hear!] That is what we are talking about. We are not talking about dug-outs for watering animals; we are talking about constructing dams for agricultural purposes. Definitely, we will add some dug-outs for watering animals because that is also important. The World Bank programme is continuous, and we have even gone ahead to work on the second phase for GSOP. The moneys I am talking about -- [Interruption] That is not the third phase. Mr Speaker, the GSOP funding which he talked about is different from the funding for the construction of the dams. The construction of the dam's money was approved by this House through the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives. So we are talking about two different things. He should not compare different things; he should compare apples to apples, but not mangoes.
Hon Member, do you stand on a point of correction or order?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member of Parliament and Minister for Local Government and Rural Development is misleading the House. Mr Speaker, she has stated that GSOP does not undertake the construction of dams, but just dug-outs. That is seriously misleading. I have had the opportunity to serve this country as the Hon Minister for Local Government and Rural Development before. The reverse mission, the first of its kind in this country, to Washington DC to have a meeting with the World Banks for US$50 million additional funds to undertake projects under GSOP was taken and approved. Mr Speaker, under that project, dams were provided for. Even before that one, dams had been done. So she is seriously misleading the House when she says otherwise.
Hon Member, you will appreciate that this objection is very similar to the previous one. Incidentally, when the Hon Minister was also then responding, there was a lot of background interruptions. I will ask that everyone holds his or her peace for the Hon Minister to explain for the records. The Hon Member who said “wrong information” may speak. I have given you the chance. This is the way you want us to conduct affairs here. Hon Member, I gave you every opportunity to object, but then others interrupted. So when you finish your interruptions, I would proceed. Please you may go on. Hon Members, we cannot go on like this.
Mr Speaker, to be honest with you, I did not interrupt. So, you accused me falsely.
Hon Member, please, what did you say?
Mr Speaker, I said that I am not the one who interrupted.
No, I have not said that it is you. I know the Hon Member; and he knows himself. As the Rt Hon Speaker, I know when to mention names; but I would not do so precipitately. We cannot interrupt an Hon Member who is on his or her feet, and then prevent that person from being heard. This is all I am saying. I allowed silence for the point to be made. In fact, if it is done and you are not satisfied -- Hon Members, you must have realised by now that I am very careful and serious about points of corrections and points of facts. I would give you another opportunity when I feel that it is necessary, but please let us have decorum. Hon Minister, you may speak. Hajia Mahama: Mr Speaker, under the GSOP, earth dams are described as such in the document. Earth dams were constructed under the GSOP, and it is called Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW). Mr Speaker, this means hiring and paying people to help in digging and constructing dams.
Hon Kobena Woyome?
Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Motion captured as item 4 on the Order Paper. Mr Speaker, I would want to speak on an aspect that requires a bit of a background to it. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government imple- mented key interventions in the area of youth development, which constitutes the key foundation for youth development in Ghana. Key among this include, the National Youth Policy, 2010. Mr Speaker, this policy provides a comprehensive framework within which all stakeholders in the youth sector work to improve the lives of young people. Secondly, the National Youth Policy Implementation Plan -- an implementation plan was also completed and launched in 2015 to kickstart the full implementation of the policy. Thirdly, the National Youth Authority Act, 2016 (Act 939) was obviously passed to enhance the powers and functions of the National Youth Authority to effectively address youth development issues. Mr Speaker, among the significant provisions in the Act, the following are supposed to be achieved: (i) Enhance the mandate and structure of the National Youth Authority; and (ii) Adequate representation of the youth in the decision making process at the national, regional and district levels through represen-tations for the Ghana Youth Federation on the Board of the National Youth Authority. Mr Speaker, the Regional and District Youth Committees are yet to be formed after one year of this Government's work, but we did not hear anything to that effect to enhance the work and participation of the youth at the grassroot to filter into the works of the National Youth Authority. Mr Speaker, nothing has been done and His Excellency the President has not told us anything to that effect. Mr Speaker, on the next point, the law also gave five per cent of the District Assemblies Common Fund. In 2017, the allocation to the National Youth Authority came to a total of about GH¢78,797,000. It would interest all of us that in the State of the Nation Address, which was ably delivered by His Excellency the President, we were not told much about the use of the Fund by the Authority to improve the lots of the youth. Mr Speaker, going forward, it is not the only youth programme in the system. Through Act 887, we have the establishment of the National Youth Employment Agency which has the mandate to address the youth unemployment issues with a proper institutional framework. Mr Speaker, again, this law allows 10 per cent of the District Assemblies Common Fund to be allocated to the Agency; and there are other funding sources. Mr Speaker, let me just limit myself to the allocation from the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF). In the year 2017, 10 per cent of that, amounting to GH¢594,000 -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, here too, not much was heard. It would interest all of us to know that so much is happening in that sector, so far as the NYA is concerned. For about one year, I have had a load of questions that agitate the minds of a lot of people in that sector. The governance structure has totally been tampered with and so much has gone on that we need to bring to the front burner. Mr Speaker, it must be noted that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government gave young people high hopes to provide
Hon Member, do you stand on a point of order or correction?
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, it is rightly so. Mr Speaker, fortunately the Hon Member is a Member of the Minority Caucus. The Ghana Black Stars played some three matches and never won. We drew with Uganda in Tamale under terrible conditions and we lost to Egypt. So how could we have qualified? He took the Ghana Black Stars to Tamale with no bonus and with so much confusion in the camp and we failed to qualify. They even reduced the bonus and fought the Ghana Football Association. So how could we have qualified? Mr Speaker, this Government would ensure that in the year 2022, we put the right measures in place to qualify. Mr Speaker, I just want to put it on record and remind my good Brother on the other Side of the House to appreciate that, even under their Government, four matches were played and only one was won. If they had won all, we would have qualified. All I wanted is that, to appreciate the urgency, it should have featured in the State of the Nation's Address. He should understand the fact that football has become the passion of the people, and in that respect, he should have told us what
Once the person on his or her feet has taken his or her chair, no one stands for correction or for point of order any longer.
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion that this Honourable House thanks H. E. the President for the Message on the State of the Nation, which he delivered to Parliament on Thursday, 8th February, 2018. Mr Speaker, the President, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was in this august House last year, on 21st February, and that was his first State of the Nation's Address which he delivered. Mr Speaker, it was barely five weeks after he had been sworn in as the President of the Republic. His delivery was spectacular and he touched on major issues at the time. The President's understanding of the major issues, the problems and the challenges that Ghanaians were going through was so enormous and the solutions that he proffered at that time to deal with those issues were very good and we are good and we are getting results as a nation. Mr Speaker, on that occasion, the President also re-echoed his commitment and promises which he made to Ghanaians during the 2016 campaign. Notable among the promises is the Free Senior High School (SHS) Policy which he has delivered. He also promised to reduce taxes, which he has done. He also promised Ghanaians that he would do everything possible to make Ghanaians enjoy reliable and stable power supply, which he has also delivered. And we were all witnesses to this particular commitment which was made by the President. Mr Speaker, in 2017, this is what H. E. the President, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo Addo said about the Energy Sector, and with your permission, I quote: “Mr Speaker, probably, the most difficult problem, that has dogged this nation in the past five years has been in the energy sector. This has caused havoc in small, medium and large enterprises. It has disrupted families and businesses and brought many organisations to their knees…” We have inherited a heavily indebted energy sector with the net debt reaching US$2.4 billion as at December, 2016. I have to point out the alarming fact that US$800 million of this debt is owed to local banks, which threatens their stability and that of the whole financial sector. Indeed, the huge indebtedness of the energy sector constitutes the single major hurdle to Ghanaians enjoying reliable and affordable electricity supply. This makes it very difficult to start or run a business here and be competitive. The cost of energy destroys businesses, large and small. It is the bane of the vulcaniser, the tailor, the dressmaker and the hairdresser as well as, the carpenter and wayside fitting mechanic. It destroys jobs; it compounds poverty. The current state of the energy situation in our country is unsatisfactory. The problems are enormous, but we must and we will confront them. I am proposing a number of policy interventions.
“We will improve on transparency in tariff setting and introduce new tariff policy that will reclassify consumer categories in order to protect lifeline and strategic industrial consumers. We will also reduce significantly, some of the levies and taxes on the tariffs.” Mr Speaker, after a year, H.E. the President came to this House to deliver his Message on the State of the Nation for the second time, and with your permission, I quote again what the President said about the energy sector in the 2018 State of the Nation Address: “Mr Speaker, there is relief in some areas and I refer specifically to the spectacular improvement in our power supply problems. A lot of hard work has gone into easing the intolerable debt situation” --
Hon Members, the Second Deputy Speaker would take the Chair.
MR SECOND DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Member, please, continue.
Mr Speaker, “… that threatens to paralyse the energy industry. We still have problems with the cost of power, and we are working hard to put Ghana at a competitive advantage. We intend to find private sector operators to buy into the state owned thermal plants, and inject the capital needed to bring power tariffs down for both domestic and commercial consumers. The most reliable and ultimately the cheapest answer to our power needs, lies with renewable energy sources. We shall promote and enthusiastically encourage investment and use of renewable energy sources. I am sure that the House shares my relief that dumsor is no longer part of our everyday lexicon. Long may it stay so, as we applaud the efforts of our tireless Minister, Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko”. Mr Speaker, this is the true state of the nation. Whereas two years ago, in 2016, we were experiencing so much of dumsor, in 2017, the President reported that dumsor would be a thing of the past and that Government is working so hard to continue with the measures that it had taken to make this happen.
Hon Member, your Colleague on the other side is on his feet. We would like to hear what the issue is. Yes, Hon Member?
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, indeed, we still have power outages in this country, even today, so he should be factual in his presentation. He cannot run away from the fact that dumsor did not exist by the time we handed over, and we are experiencing dumsor today under the NPP Government. They have not done anything to improve the situation. Even the debt is increasing, so can he tell us what they have actually done to improve the energy supply in this country?
Hon Member, your Colleague tried to draw attention to when dumsor came to an end. I did not hear you give us the time it came to an end, but the impression was created that it was during the time of His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. That is why he raised the objection. What do you say to that?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague, maybe, after a year of stable and reliable power supply, has forgotten that we were in dumsor for five years. Most jobs were lost. Families were disrupted because of dumsor --
Hon Member, tell us when it came to an end, if at all it did. That is the issue.
Mr Speaker, in 2017 we never experienced dumsor -- [Hear! Hear!] -- That is why I am happy that the promise that was made by His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo during the 2016 election campaign, that when he is given the mandate to rule, he would make sure that dumsor would become a thing of the past -- In 2017, there was no dumsor, and that is a fact [Hear! Hear!]
Hon Member, please, the verdict is outside there. The people know, so let us go on.
Mr Speaker, this debt overhang at the Ministry, the energy sector, which translates into billions of dollars, indeed US$2.4 billion, is a serious challenge, to the extent that if nothing was done about it, we do not know what would have happened to our energy sector and the financial institutions which supported Government to do this financing. I am happy that when this House enacted the Energy Sector Levies Act, Government took advantage of that and secured funding to pay some of the arrears, which has given some relief to financial institutions, producers of power and the managers of the energy sector. This is good news that Ghanaians should be happy about, that the President is reporting on the --
Hon Member, you may conclude now.
Mr Speaker, I am sorry, I am the Chairman of the Mines and Energy Committee --
I am aware of that, I have the directives here. You have twelve minutes. You are already beyond twelve minutes because of the interjections; that is why I have allowed you.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, a very quick one, and I would be done. Mr Speaker, we are also happy, on behalf of Government and the President, that because of the transparency that we are introducing into our oil and gas sector, we have attracted one of the giants of the international oil and gas players, Exxon Mobil. Government has signed an Agreement with them and it would definitely come to this House. I am aware that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the NDC, I am aware, but what did they do? Do they want me to say what happened?
Hon Member, your time is up.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
We may now listen to Hon Dr Zanetor Agyeman- Rawlings.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Motion moved and seconded by two Members of the House on the Message of the State of the Nation delivered by His Excellency the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on 8th February, 2018 to the House of Parliament. Mr Speaker, the Sustainable Develop- ment Goals (SDG) are based on a core of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection, which are to be achieved by the year 2030. The world is at a tipping point with regard to what can only be described as an abusive and exploitative relationship between man and the environment. The President was announced as the co-chair of the SDG advocate by the UN Secretary General last year, in 2017, and I
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, this is a House of facts. My Hon Colleague just showed us a picture of a swarmped drain in Accra with a lot of filth in it. All I am asking is that we would like to have the proof that this was taken a few days ago. There is no proof. There is no indication on the image to show that this is a picture that was taken a few days ago. In fact, I would respectfully request that my Hon Colleague tables this picture so that we would see its authenticity.
Hon Member, this is not a point of order. Please, you may continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. And for the record, this is Adabraka on the morning of the rain last week, Tuesday.
Mr Speaker, having been selected as the co-chair of the SDG advocates, I expected to hear updates with regard to the environment that would have included SDGs 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 regarding the environment and its inter-relatedness with our own lifestyles.
SPACE FOR PICTURE - PAGE
Thank you. Hon Members, we may now listen to Hon O. B. Amoah, the Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development. Deputy Minister for Local Govern- ment and Rural Development (Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah(MP): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Motion that this Honourable House thanks the President on the State of the Nation Address, which he delivered to Parliament on Thursday, 8th February, 2018. Mr Speaker, the President in his Message on the State of the Nation, touched on very critical issues concerning the Local Government sector. Indeed, before the President even delivered his Message, he had fulfilled the constitutional mandate under article 36 (5) of the Constitution, and he had submitted to this House the coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies, 2017 - 2024, which is subtitled, “An Agenda for Jobs, Creating Prosperity and Equal Opportunity for All.” Mr Speaker, on page 95 of that document, it talks about accelerating and sustaining decentralisation, which involves deepening political and administrative decentralisation, streng- thening the sub districts, improving administrative decentralisation, improving decentralise planning, strengthening fiscal decentralisation and improving popular participation. Mr Speaker, I would want to dwell on urbanisation. The NPP Government, just within a year, has made various efforts to improve urbanisation. As the President said in his Address, we have to improve on urbanisation, so that migration from the rural to the few urban areas would be addressed. Indeed, the Ministry, as of the end of 2017, had disbursed an amount of GH¢95 million to 46 MMDAs for the implementa- tion of projects under the Urban Development Grant. The funds have been used to improve infrastructure stock and improved municipal service provisions in the Assemblies. Mr Speaker, as we speak, we have concluded a programme for US$100 million for secondary cities. These cities would be based in the urban centres, especially the Municipal Assemblies to improve services in the urban areas. The Metropolitan Assemblies have their own programme. Specifically, we would talk about urban management and infrastructural delivery benchmarks, where we expect urban public investment management, urban planning and service delivery, urban economic development and competitiveness, sustainable urban systems and urban infrastructural delivery. If we are able to achieve that, it would go a long way in developing the country as the President has provided. The President also mentioned the fact that we would need to deepen democracy. As has been mentioned already, when it comes to decentralisation, this year would be 30 years. Since 1988, we have practised decentralisation in this particular form. Various governments have played their part and also promised that we have to deepen decentralisation to the extent that- - If we go around the world, only a few countries still decide that when it comes to the local governance level, it should be non-partisan. Mr Speaker, we spent so much money on the Constitution Review Commission to be able to sensitise Ghanaians and also get ideas from them on how the local governance system should be run. Mr Speaker, the Report of the Commission is so ambiguous that Ghanaians are now ready for elections at the local governance level. Indeed, the past Government, per its White Paper attempted to implement this, but it was
Hon Member, your Hon Colleague opposite is on his feet. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member just said that the previous Government was not bold enough, but he also admitted that the same Government was bold enough to initiate a review for decentralisation. It came out with the White Paper. Mr Speaker, this process went on for over two years. It went on boldly for two years. The White Paper was a follow up, that is why this Government is also following it up. Governance is a continuous process. The Hon Member said that the previous Government was not bold enough; he should withdraw and he should accept --
Hon Member, you are out of order. That is his opinion. Yes, Hon O. B. Amoah, continue.
Hon Member, you should not make any commentary on what he said. This is because I have already ruled him out of order.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, as I was saying, the White Paper could not endorse the findings of the Commission to the extent that we should allow partisan politics at the local level. Mr Speaker, the White Paper rather expected the President, who is the Chief Executive of the land, to nominate five persons out of whom three would be voted on. And I am saying that this President, in his State of the Nation Address, said that he has even consulted past Presidents, and they have all agreed, that the time is now for us to go this full hog; and it is bold. Mr Speaker, it is bold in the sense that this is a President who wants to share power. This is because we must admit that if we do partisan elections in all the 216 plus districts and the 38 newly created ones, no one party can win all those places. It would mean that at the local level, we would have somebody who would run the district, who may not belong to the ruling Government, and this is a very bold step in deepening democracy. Mr Speaker, if for nothing at all, if one stays in the Minority and says that he can run Ghana better, then he should first run the district, so that we see whether indeed, when the whole of Ghana is given to him, he can run it better. Mr Speaker, in the same way, if one is in government, one should know how --
Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague and very good friend is grossly misleading the House. He says that the President is someone who would want to share power. Mr Speaker, what can be more sharing than giving resources to the decentralised bodies? They are the ones who would want to take them to the middle, coastal and northern authorities. Mr Speaker, for them to say that they plan to build toilets for them -- I would want to ask, what can be more sharing than giving them the power to decide what they would need, rather than taking the money from them and deciding for them? Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is grossly misleading the House, and he must not go on that tangent.
Hon Deputy Minority Chief Whip, when it is your turn to make your contribution, then you can say what you -- It is not a point of order. Yes, Hon O. B. Amoah?
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, there cannot be a point of order on a point of order. Please I do not need your information.
Mr Speaker, I believe my Hon Colleague would want to alert you that when Mr Speaker was in the Chair, he said that as much as possible, we should reduce the points of order and unfortunately, the two points of order have been ruled out of order. So, probably, as we go on, this would be clearer.
Hon O. B. Amoah, I am guided by the Standing Orders of this House. I practise the conventions of Parliament. I had no such directive from Mr Speaker, and so I would go on accordingly. I myself I am not interested in too many points of order. If it is relevant, then I would allow it, but I have to listen to the person first to know whether the point of order is relevant or not. Hon Member, you should go on. I am now the Speaker in the Chair.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I would go on by saying that beyond power sharing, the most important reason we should endorse partisan politics at the local level is the fact that it would serve as training grounds. It would also bring political parties to be part of democracy and governance at the local level. Mr Speaker, this false idea of non- partisanship at local level would be erased because we all know that when it comes to the District Assembly elections, we pretend that it is non-partisan, but the parties end up backing their perceived candidates. The performance of political parties at the local level would come out as well as whether it is easy being able to run a system, or when one is given the opportunity at the local level, whether one would be able to run it. Mr Speaker, all possible opportunities would then be given for parties to participate in decision making. This is because parties would have fielded their candidates. Of course, if there are no parties, individuals could even stand. Mr Speaker, therefore, we as a Government, as the President has put it --
Hon Members, please allow him to make his submission. When it is your turn, you can do so. What is the point of order?
Mr Speaker, I come under Standing Order 95.
“It shall be out of order to anticipate a Bill by discussion of a motion dealing with the subject matter of the Bill on a day prior to that appointed for the consideration of that Bill.” Mr Speaker, there is nothing before this House to discuss whether we can elect District Chief Executives on partisan basis. There is no such Bill in this House. The Hon Member keeps on talking about power sharing and other things --
Hon Member, he has not anticipated any Bill. He is talking about a policy of Government. Hon Members, kindly read the Message from the President. What the President gave is skeletal and the Hon Member is adding flesh to that. He is permitted to do so.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I would like to refer Hon Members to page 8 of the Address of the President. The President stated on page 8 that he is recommending that a referendum should be held to coincide with the next District Assembly level elections in September, 2019, and to save cost, we should allow the referendum to coincide with the Assembly elections. He also said that he expects all Hon Members to support this because it would push our democracy forward. That is the source of my contribution today. Mr Speaker, beyond that, I believe we should all build consensus to let this work. We should all build consensus, that for the first time, we agree that democracy through elections should be from the bottom to the top and that our democracy should not be from the top to the bottom; that you elect the President on partisan basis; that you elect a Member of Parliament on partisan basis. The Member of Parliament belongs to the Assembly, the President who is elected on partisan basis appoints 30 per cent of the Members of the Assembly and then we pretend that when it comes to the local and district levels, we should leave it for political parties not to have any say. I think that, going forward, we should know the benefit of this and then we all get involved. Of course, there would be challenges ahead. There are challenges that -- First, we should think of the cost. This would not be a cheap exercise. Secondly, we should also think of the convenience, and thirdly, we should consider the critical areas on how to gather the support of the general masses to buy into this for us to achieve the constitutional requirement of 40 per cent turn out and 75 per cent approval for us to be able to remove article 55 of the Constitution. Mr Speaker, in our consultation process, Hon Members of Parliament would be heavily involved. We believe that if we involve all of us in this -- and all of us should buy into it -- it would push our democracy forward. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would want to conclude by reiterating why we are all into this. We should know that, first, this is to deepen and consolidate decentralisation and local governance at the local level. It is imperative that we take bold and pragmatic steps to afford all possible opportunities to the people and to the political parties to participate in local governance by sponsoring candidates for elections in the districts. Our appreciation of the significance of providing the platform for individuals or sponsored candidates of political parties to freely participate in district level election should galvanise us to build a strong coalition.
We now have the Hon A. B. A. Fuseini.
Mr Speaker, let me thank you hippopotamously for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. Mr Speaker, if you cure a monkey of its toothache, it would visit your corn farm. Mr Speaker —
Hon Member, what did you say?
Mr Speaker, I said, if you cure a monkey of its toothache, it would visit your corn farm. This is because when the monkey had toothache, it could not eat corn. So, if you cure it, it is your farm that it would visit. Mr Speaker, I am saying so with your indulgence —
How would you know that the monkey has toothache? -- [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, there are local doctors who can diagnose that. -- [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I am saying this and craving your indulgence to take this opportunity to show some solidarity with our nurses. Mr Speaker, a few days ago, our nurses were “tear-gassed” and brutalised from the Ministry of Health for going there not for any criminal conduct. They only went there to demand for jobs, which they were appropriately promised. Mr Speaker, that demand sprang from their patronage of the New Patriotic Party in the last elections as that formed part of the campaign and the brigade for change. Today, Mr Speaker, when the creditor shows his face, I am sure the unwilling debtor would put forth -- Today, they are there to ask, that the promise that was made should be made good and that has not been done.
Mr Speaker, I am just taking that opportunity—
Your Hon Colleague opposite is on his feet. Yes, Hon Member for Effutu?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague alleges in his submission that some nurses were brutalised at the Ministry of Health. This is a country where human rights are respected, I just would want to crave your indulgence to invite the Hon Member to provide further details of this matter to enable all of us to appreciate the matter he is raising as part of his submission. Mr Speaker, brutalising nurses at the Ministry by whom? Is it the Police or officers at the Ministry? And they were also “tear-gassed” as he said. But I am more interested in the brutalising of nurses.
Hon Member, what is your objection to that? That he should add further and better particulars?
Mr Speaker, my objection is anchored on the fact that the allegation in itself has no specific fact to support same.
Hon Members, we are on the floor of Parliament, we are not in the court of law so relate your objection to any rule that has been breached, and then I would be in the position to give you a ruling. In the meantime, the Hon Member may continue.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I am aware that an old lady is uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb. So, I have no doubt regarding this. But Mr Speaker—
Hon Member, you are aware that what?
That an old lady is uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.
An old lady? What about an old man?
Mr Speaker, for the purposes of this discussion, I want to restrict it to the old lady. --[Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I refer you to page 4 of the State of the Nation Address. Mr Speaker, it is said that when a landlord has eloquently spoken about the story of his house, you do not ask the caretaker for a confirmation.
“I know that when it comes to the economy, many of us have very low tolerance for what we consider as boring figures and we do not see that they affect the reality of our everyday lives.” Mr Speaker, this is the President of the Republic saying that not only are the figures boring, but those figures are irrelevant to the lives of our people. That is why he has created a lot of confusion even regarding figures.
Mr Speaker, I am aware that in the State of the Nation Address —
Yes, Hon Member for Ledzokuku?
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With your permission Standing Order 93 (2) says: “It shall be out of order to use offensive, abusive, insulting, blasphemous or unbecoming words or to impute improper motives to any other Member or to make personal allusions.” Mr Speaker, when His Excellency the President said figures might be boring, and that some even argue that we do not see the reality of these figures in our lives, he was not saying that they do not matter or they are not real. The point he made, he is misconstruing and attributing something which is wrong to the President. The President said that inasmuch as others claim we do not see the reality in our lives, there is a way it translates into our lives. Mr Speaker, he is out of order for imputing improper motives.
Hon Member, you are rather out of order. So, Hon Alhassan, please continue.
Mr Speaker, information has been put out by the Hon Minister for Agriculture, indicating that 745,000 jobs have been created as a result of the implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs Scheme. I was happy that during the State of the Nation Address, H. E. the President conveniently run away from that. This is because I am sure the Hon Minister must have been counting army worms.
Which page is that?
Mr Speaker, page 12 of the State of the Nation Address. On the eve of H. E. the President's Address, a large number of Ghanaians were on the streets of Accra, protesting against unprecedented increases in fuel prices and general hardships. That is the true state of the nation. Mr Speaker, I hold in my hand, the Manifesto of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in which the President, in the preface, outlined the hardships he said Ghanaians were undergoing. He gave indication on the immediate steps he would take to ensure that he would ameliorate the suffering of Ghanaians.
Yes, Hon Member for Effutu?
Mr Speaker, you earlier granted me leave to make specific reference to a provision in our rule's book.
Hon Member, I never granted you leave.
Mr Speaker, if I may recall, you upheld that I anchor my objection on the Standing Orders, while the debate continued and then I would come back. I am accordingly going by your ruling. If you do not recollect, I am fine and I would resume my seat. However, you said that I should --
I recollect vividly what happened and never granted you leave. I drew your attention to the fact that when you raise a point of order, you have to anchor it on the Standing Orders of the House. I did not grant you any leave to come back and try to rectify an error that you committed earlier. So, if you are coming back, draw my attention to the rules that grant you that opportunity to come back. Come back properly through the door and not through the window. Go on, Hon Member.
Mr Speaker, in obedience to your ruling, I rise on a point of order in respect of a statement made by my respected Colleague, alleging that nurses were brutalised at the Ministry of Health. I make reference to Standing Order 93 (2) of the Standing Orders. My issue is, that statement amounts to a personal allusion not grounded on fact. He made a personal allusion to an event that has no record of occurring and it is a serious matter. That is why I am of the view that same be retracted because there is not such issue of brutalisation of nurses. My Hon Colleague did not make reference to a date or specific individuals who were brutalised. He did not provide any evidence. All he said was that nurses were brutalised at the Ministry of Health. This is a serious matter which could amount to nothing less than personal allusions. Mr Speaker, I submit to your superior knowledge of the rules, the law and the matters that we are discussing. In any event, the matter is not relevant to the matter before the House which is being debated -- the issue of brutalisation of nurses that the rules frown upon.
Hon Member, I have taken note of the objection and so I would add a few minutes to your submission. Truly, this again is not a point of order. Your reference to personal allusions does not apply. I would honourably submit that you try and do a research on that particular phrase which says it shall be out of order to make personal allusions. See the references to what they meant by personal allusions. So, you are out of order.
Mr Speaker, there can be no doubt about the fact that today, all strata of the Ghanaian society are suffering as a result of the unprecedented increases in fuel prices and the incompetent manner in which the economy has been managed. Every strata of the Ghanaian society today is suffering. Trotro drivers, taxi drivers, businessmen, teachers, nurses and even MPs in this House are suffering. [Interruption] My very good Friend, Hon Afenyo-Markin is suffering but he would not admit it. Mr Speaker, I can say without any iota of contradiction --
Hon Member, once you have mentioned him, he has the opportunity to react. Hon Member for Effutu?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Friend said he is not suffering, yet he said I am suffering. He is not suffering but he knows I am suffering. He should humbly withdraw that.
Actually, what he said was that even Hon Members are suffering and he is part of “Hon Members”. However, he zoned in and mentioned you in particular that you are suffering.
Mr Speaker, he does not speak for me. He does not know my personal circumstances. If he is suffering and in pain, he should speak for himself. He should not narrow in on me. He should withdraw that. If he wants to make a general statement --
Actually, I agree with you because you are not suffering. So if he is suffering, it is his business.
Mr Speaker, he made reference to you the Chair, because you are a Member of the House.
Mr Speaker, he said you are suffering. Do you agree to the fact that you are suffering? He said all Hon Members. [Laughter.]
Even the courts have taken judicial notice of my suffering. So we can go on. Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, one other important area that came up and which was conspicuously missing from H. E. the President's presentation was the issue of political vigilantism.
Hon Member for Effutu, in your submission, you never even denied that you were suffering -- You never specifically stated that you were not suffering. You kept on referring to other people, including myself and not yourself. So why are you agitated on your seat? Hon Member, please, continue.
Mr Speaker, I alluded to the fact that, Ghanaians were waiting with bated breath to hear H.E the President say something about political vigilantism -- the cancer that has crept into our political lexicon and posed a veritable threat to the lives of millions of our people across the country where hoodlums, party vigilantes run amok, take the law in their own hands and inflict pain and hardship on innocent law abiding Ghanaians. There was no slightest mention about that. Mr Speaker, it is on record that, the latest one which happened in the Upper West Region, for which the President had to even suspend the Hon Regional Minister -- I was looking at pictures of the effects of political vigilantism -- not even on members of other political parties but on New Patriotic Party (NPP) members. When I saw “Abronye DCE'', I initially mistook him for an “Egyptian Mummy'' -- [Laughter.] -- He was in bandages from his head to his feet. He had been beaten into pulp by no mean a people than the same NPP vigilantes. If they could get feathers to pluck on a tortoise what would they do when they get a fowl? -- [Laughter.] -- It is a very seriously development. Mr Speaker, I remember, even no mean personality than Hon Members of Parliament. The latest was Hon Eric Opoku, who had vigilantes visit him in his house. This is a very serious matter that occupies the membership of this House. Mr Speaker, I also did not hear any mention of the National Identification Card. As an Hon Ranking Member of the Committee on Communications, for that matter, we were in this House when we were told that the card that was issued to the President was the only card --
Hon Member, the Hon Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development is on his feet.
Mr Speaker, my good Friend and mate at the University of Ghana, Alhaji A. B. A. Fuseini, has misled this House. He has made a categorical statement that the President did not touch on vigilantism. Maybe, it is the word that he wanted to see in the State of the Nation Address. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would want to quote the last paragraph of page 14 of the State of the Nation Address: “Mr Speaker, the safety and security of our people are at the heart of all that we do. Ghanaian citizens have a right to expect to go about their daily lives in an atmosphere of peace. A Ghanaian has the right to expect that those who break the law must be subjected to the sanctions laid down under the law. The police, the prosecution services and the judiciary owe it to all of us to make us feel and be safe. I do not need to repeat that crime wears no political colours, and I am certain that message has gone down to all.'' Mr Speaker, the President touched on this and so, for my Hon Colleague to make a statement that the President did not mention it and that he does not feel safe -- Mr Speaker, I believe that the Hon Member is misleading this House. A reference has been made, so he should accept it and retract what he said about the President not mentioning security and safety in our communities.
Hon Member, the reference you just made was about the general safety and security of the country. It did not talk about political vigilantism. There was no mention of political vigilantism; it talked about safety and security and that crime has no political colour -- It did not talk about political vigilantism. Hon Member, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, I talked about the National Identification Card which this Government started so loudly and the President launched with pomp and pageantry and we were all assured that by the end of 2017, we would possess it as Ghanaians. Mr Speaker, with the notable exception of the President -- We indicated here the other time that not even the Vice President has got the card. Mr Speaker, with all due respect, not even you have the card. No Hon Member of Parliament has got the card -- nobody else -- yet, substantial responses have been expended on this matter. Mr Speaker, I would want to touch a little on the discussion which went on in respect of the Ministry of Roads and Highway. I would want to say without hesitation that, the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways who is an Hon Colleague in this House -- I am sure that all of us who have encountered him know that he has the desire to do a good job and to ensure that something positive would happen in the road sector. But the Hon Minister himself has his hands tied by his own Government.
Hon Member, you have two more minutes, but the Hon Minister for Works and Housing is on his feet.
Mr Speaker, I have not been in this House for too long, but the small education I got from you for the past eight years is that Mr Speaker is not drawn into any debate. Mr Speaker, it seems to me that my Hon Colleague is virtually making matters referable to you; which is not right. This personal allusion and a ‘'great man in the Chair'' is unparliamentary -- and he kept on saying ‘'even you, Mr Speaker''. The Hon Speaker is not drawn into any debate. Mr Speaker, he should try and come to terms with the rules of engagement; if not, some of us would call him aside and talk about rules of discipline. Mr Speaker, I am grateful to you.
Thank you very much, Hon Minister.
Mr Speaker, I wanted to indicate that if every Hon Member of Parliament in this House was asked what his or her priorities were, undoubtedly it would be about roads. So the road sector is a very important part. But part of the things that have hindered the Ministry -- When the NDC was in Government, the Road Fund was free and so the Hon Minister had a larger pool of resources to deal with it. But in this particular dispensation, the Road Fund is capped. So, significant quantum of resources are taken away from the Ministry. Mr Speaker, if there is one other Agency that would need sufficient funds to undergo road development across the country -- this is because, as I speak, a lot of the roads have been abandoned for lack of funds -- the eastern corridor and other ones are examples. I believe that if we had sufficient pool of funds the Hon Minister would work for the completion of that project.
Hon A. B. A. Fuseini, yes, you are supporting what the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways said.
Mr Speaker, I said that, part of the problem of lack of funds is from the actions of his own government, where the government itself has undertaken an indiscriminate raid on Statutory Funds. That is part of the problem. That was why I said that they should free those funds and allow the Hon Minister to have unfettered access to them so that he could continue to do more in addition to securing some other funding. If there is one Ministry that needs a Bond, it is the Ministry of Roads and Highways and not these other bonds that have been contracted for no purpose. Mr Speaker, I would want to touch on peace keeping. Mr Speaker, in the President's State of the Nation Address, he alluded to the welfare and attempts to increase the Peace Keeping Fund. Since the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government came into power, they have not increased the Peace Keeping Fund by even US$1. Indeed, I hold the Manifesto of the NPP with me here. On page 150, it states that no increase has occurred. All the increases to the current US$35 occurred under President Mills. After President Kufour had increased it to US$27, the rest came from the NDC. They attributed it to the fact that President Mahama did not do anything, but only increased it by US$1.
“After announcing a US$1 increase by President Mahama, it was rejected by the Military. Pressure was then brought to bear and Mahama was forced to increase it by another US$4 to bring it up to US$35.” Mr Speaker, as we currently speak, it is still US$35; not a dollar has been added to it. So, that increment came from the Mahama Administration and not this Government. So, they should do the proper thing and give the appropriate credit. Mr Speaker, we were promised a plethora of things —
Hon Member, conclude.
These include One Village, One Dam; and One District, One Factory. I listened to the Hon Minister for Local Government and Rural Development say that they are in the process of doing these. It is only a lazy man who, when he or she is unable to carry his or her head load, blames his head pad. This is a Government that has continued, when the mandate has been given to them to implement things, say “they would do” and “they would be doing”. Ghanaians are interested in knowing what they have done. Mr Speaker, we were told last year, when GH¢400 million was allocated for this flagship project — for the dams to be constructed. Later, we were told that because it was in the rainy season — Are we still in the rainy season? Indeed, we have now gone into the dry season, and we are getting to another rainy season. They would soon come back to tell us that we are entering another rainy season and so, on that score, they cannot construct dams to ameliorate the sufferings of our people. Mr Speaker, this is a promise-happy government. They should not forget that they are no longer on the campaign trail, and that they have been given the mandate to steer the affairs of this country, so they should tell Ghanaians what they are doing, and stop giving more promises. Mr Speaker, I would want to say without any outa of hesitation that, the promise by H. E. the President that equal opportunities would be given to Ghanaians must not only be seen to be done, but must actually be done. On that score, statements that have been made by some of his appointees that tendered on bigotry did not only divide Ghanaians, but projected some Ghanaians as first class and second class citizens. But Mr President has not acted to discipline them. I am here referring to Mr Ayisi Boateng on the statement that he made —
Hon Member, your time is up.
Mr Ayisi Boateng said he was there to protect some Ghanaians and leave others. I am sure that does not go well for a nation that we want to unite for progress. [Hear! Hear!]
It is now the time of Hon Kwame Asafu-Adjei.
Mr Speaker, thank you.
I would like to associate myself with the Motion that this Honourable House thanks H. E. the President for the Message of the State of the Nation, which was delivered to Parliament on Thursday, 8th February, 2018. Mr Speaker, I would like to rely on the following documents; the State of the Ghanaian Economy in 2015, and the Message of the State of the Nation by H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, delivered on Tuesday, 21st February, 2017, et cetera. Mr Speaker, agriculture continues to be a key sector economy accounting for 19.6 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016. Agriculture remains largely rain-fed and employs rudimentary technology to produce 80 per cent of total output. Mr Speaker, the sector employs almost half of our national labour force, who are predominantly engaged in small-holder agriculture. Production of crops by small holders has increased in recent years due to expansion in the land under crop production, but still characterised by low productivity. The agricultural sector comprises five sub-sectors, namely crop, livestock, fisheries, forestry and logging. The Ministry of Agriculture has the mandate to develop three of the five sub-sectors, which are crops, livestock ,and recently, cocoa. The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development is responsible for fisheries, and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is responsible for Forestry and logging. The Ministry of Agriculture is the lead agency and focal point for agriculture. Mr Speaker, it is important for me to make reference to the Address by H. E. the President in 2017. With your permission I refer to page 6, paragraph 2, and this is what the President said: “Mr Speaker, I believe the starting point in turning round our fortunes must be with agriculture. Unfortunately, the state of agriculture in our country right now is not good. Farmers are left on their own. It is not surprising, therefore, that food prices are high and we are having to import almost everything we eat, including vegetables from our Sahelian neighbours. And yet, agriculture provides the best opportunity to use modern methods to change the lives of many, within the shortest possible time.” We have to irrigate our lands and equip farmers with the skills needed to make farming a well-paying business. We aim to popularise farming by encouraging people to take it up as a full or part time activity. A National Campaign, “PLANTING FOR FOOD AND JOBS”…” Mr Speaker, the President has a dream to take this country to the top of the mountains, and to develop agriculture. I would provide figures to support that. Mr Speaker, in looking at the Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the 2018 Financial year, the indicators are there for everybody to see. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to read page 15 of the State of the Nation Address: Table 1. Agricultural Growth Performance (percent). SPACE FOR TABLE 1 - PAGE 6 - 1.30 P.M. Mr Speaker, for this country to become a middle income group like the Asian tigers, we have to work our way to record six per cent growth rate continuously for the next five years. Mr Speaker, I would also like to mention that in the vegetable sector -- I am reading from the Ghanaian Times -- “EU Lifts Ban on Export of Vegetable Crops.” During the 2013/2014 season, the NDC Government had the opportunity to negotiate with the Governments of the European Union (EU) countries for Ghanaian farmers to export vegetables to EU countries. Unfor-tunately, they did absolutely nothing. Mr Speaker, I have in my hand what the Hon Minister for Agriculture did only last year. He has been able to negotiate with the EU countries — Some Hon Members — rose —
Hon Member, your Colleagues are on their feet. Let me listen to them. [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, this is a House of records. My Hon Colleague has read some documents, but we do not know where those documents came from. He has churned out a lot of figures, which we could not attest to. We would want to plead with our Hon Colleague if he could table the document before us, so that we could verify the source of the document.
Hon Member, kindly just mention the source, then you may continue.
I am most grateful, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, what you have in your hands is not a copy of the Ghanaian Times. [Laughter.] You have a photocopy of the Ghanaian Times. Which date is it?
Mr Speaker, yes, it is. September 7 —
Hon Member, I was surprised you stated that what the Ministry did last year was in your hands. I was surprised that all that the Ministry did last year was able to be held in your hands.
Mr Speaker, I quoted the document, which is the 2017 Budget Statement of the Ghanaian economy. That was what I said.
No, I am not talking about that one. At that time, you showed me the other paper.
Mr Speaker, this has to do with vegetables.
Yes, and all that they did last year are in your hands.
Mr Speaker, should I continue? [Laughter.]
Hon Member, we just want the source. Get us the source and continue.
Mr Speaker, I have already given you the source.
What is the source?
It is from a copy of the Ghanaian Times. [Interruption] I have already given the date; but if you want it, I would repeat it. I said, “September 7, 2017”. [Interruption.] — What is wrong with you? Mr Speaker, last year --
Hon Member, you know our rules. You know the Standing Orders of this House, and whether that source is authoritative or not. You also know that the Standing Orders is definitely against reading Newspapers on the floor of the House. Even what you have is not the Newspaper. It is just a photocopy of a document you are referring to as the Ghanaian Times. So, just go on and leave that one out because that is not authoritative enough. You may continue.
Mr Speaker, I still maintain that, the Hon Minister for Agriculture was able to negotiate with the EU to lift the ban on importation of vegetables by Ghanaian farmers this year. This country would profit immensely by our ability to export vegetables to the EU countries, which would generate an income of GH¢16 million every year to this country. Mr Speaker, last year, one subject that became problematic in this country was the issue of subsidies. Agriculture has proved itself as an effective means of poverty alleviation, wealth generation and social and economic regeneration. The developmental history of the developed nations of the world attests to this reality. A careful analysis of the advent of farm subsidies in the United States of America (USA) in the mid-1930s showed that farm subventions were major component poverty reduction strategies, for a society that was then 60 per cent rural, most of whom were poor. The developmental history of the most advanced countries of Europe demonstrates similar strategies and tools to overcome the poverty that pervaded Europe after the World War II (WWII). These two societies not only used such tools to alleviate poverty, but to build a capital base and generate wealth which has served as a consumption base for higher levels of productivity. Mr Speaker, I believe in Governments giving subsidies to farmers, especially fertiliser. In fact, my Hon friends on the other side of this House made noise on the issue of fertiliser subsides. With your permission I would like to quote from page 122 of the State of the Ghanaian Economy in 2015 by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER): “Cocoa Production The free fertilizer application (Hi- tech) programme continued during the 2014/2015 cocoa year, yet production decreased by as much as 17.4 per cent (or by about 156,000 tonnes), the biggest drop in more than a decade. (Table 5.8). While Ghana's production experienced negative growth, Cote d'Ivoire's increased by approximately 2 per cent and 3 per cent in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, respectively”. Mr Speaker, this is very interesting to read. “Among the causes of this drop are reported implementation challenges regarding the Hi-tech programme, with political patronage affecting distribution of inputs at both district and community levels.” Mr Speaker, even though my Hon Friends from the other side of the House gave free fertiliser to farmers, in the same year while the growth in cocoa at Cote D' Ivoire increased, that of Ghana decreased. It is because we are managing the economy well that the NPP Government decided to provide half of the subsidy to Ghanaian farmers; yet, productivity is increasing. Mr Speaker, another area of concern has to do with the poultry industry. I have in my hand here a release by the Ghana National Association of Poultry Farmers on Local Poultry Goods for Health dated 12th May, 2017 and titled; Payment of Avian Influenza Bird Flu Compensation.
“We write on behalf of the poultry farmers as the apex body of the industry on the above subject. At a meeting in Accra in May, 2015, the association called on Government to pay compensation to farmers whose birds were destroyed because of affected Avian Influenza (bird flu) of which the government agree to. Parliament therefore approved eleven million Ghana Cedis (GH¢11m) for compensation and combating the outbreak in the country. Twenty seven farmers across the country whose farms were affected by the outbreak were paid compensation to the tune of one million and one hundred Ghana cedis (GH¢1.1m), of which the association applauded the Government for the kind gesture. However, it has come to the notice of the association --”
Hon Member, conclude.
Hon Member, your time is up. We will now have to listen to Hon Edward Bawa.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for an opportunity to also contribute to the Motion that was moved by the Hon Member of Parliament for Adentan and seconded by the Hon Member for South Dayi. Mr Speaker, before I continue with exactly what I would want to say, I need to make this statement. I think that if there is one horse that has been over flogged, it is this whole idea of who ended dumsor? I would want to resist the temptation of having to go back to that debate. Mr Speaker, I am excited that you indicated that the jury is out there. The more interesting part of this story is that the President presented his message on the State of the Nation --
Hon Member, once you have invited them, I will have to give them the opportunity to mention one policy. You have invited them to mention one policy, so I will give them opportunity to mention just one policy.
Mr Speaker, no, I talked of the Hon Minister and not them.
Hon Member, you did not mention the Hon Minister. You invited your Hon Colleagues on the opposite side who talked about having stopped dumsor, and you wanted them to mention, at least, one policy. So, I will give the opportunity to the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee.
Mr Speaker, if my Hon Colleague on the opposite side cares to know, we always argued that dumsor was a financing problem and not a generation problem. We always argued and still do that dumsor was a financing problem because we had enough installed generation capacity. So it never was a generation problem.
Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee, is the policy prudent management? [Laughter.] Is that what you are saying?
Mr Speaker, under the NDC, we could not buy crude oil to run our thermal plants. It is not only the crude that is coming in, there is an exchange rate component to all of this. Now, we have enough to import crude, and the exchange rate has stabilised. Therefore, the financing problem that gave in to dumsor is no more. So if we have prudent managers of the economy, then this comes as a by-product. That is where we are now.
Well, Hon Member, you may continue and stop inviting your Hon Colleagues.
Mr Speaker, I realised that after almost two minutes, no quality statement was indicated in this. To a more direct issue, the President presented the State of the Nation Address to Parliament on 8th February, 2018. Meanwhile, on 7th February, 2018, we had Ghanaians on the streets of Accra demonstrating because of high fuel prices. That was the “true State of the Nation Address” that we needed to hear. They argue on the fact that in the year 2015, when the country decided to impose the Special Petroleum Tax, it was based on certain conditions. One was that, our benchmark price that we had given for crude oil in the 2015 Budget Statement was US$60 per barrel. Crude oil prices had collapsed to about US$30 per barrel. So, on that basis, we would have had a financing gap when it came to petroleum revenues. So, it made sense to find other alternative ways to block that budget deficit that was going to be created. Therefore, we created the Special Petroleum Tax. Mr Speaker, when this tax was introduced and brought to Parliament, the then Minority walked out of Parliament. Indeed, Hon (Dr) Assibey-Yeboah -- and I am inviting him on that -- described this on air that it was criminal to have introduced this particular tax. Today, as we speak, if we look at crude oil prices, which is US$60 per barrel above what Government itself had budgeted for in the 2018 Budget Statement indicated and that they expected that, at least, we should have US$57 per barrel per crude oil. Mr Speaker, on the basis of this, if with all these agitations and the promise to Ghanaians that they would ensure that if they came into office they would take off that particular tax -- In elections, if one goes to the electorate to tell them that one will do so and so, and they vote for the person, it is only fair that he or she abides by the social contract between him or her and the electorate. They voted for them to take off this tax, but they have not taken it off. The sad part of it is the Price Stabilisation Levy (PSL). If we look at the PSL, as we speak, if we go to the fuel pumps and buy a liter of petrol, we could pay GH¢0.12 pesewas. If we buy a liter of diesel, we would pay GH¢0.10 pesewas. If we buy liquefied petroleum gas, we would pay GH¢0.10 pesewas. This is a levy that has been taxed with the hope that --
Hon Member, just a minute. Having regard to the state of Business in the House, I direct that Sitting be held outside the prescribed period. You may now continue.
Mr Speaker, the purpose of this particular levy is to ensure that any time the factors that influence the increase of export prices change, this tax will cushion Ghanaians. As we speak, we still pay these particular prices. Meanwhile, prices are still going up; we still pay GH¢0.10 peswas per diesel, and GH¢0.12 pesewas per liter of petrol. We still have this situation.
Hon Member, please, your Hon Colleagues is on his feet.
Mr Speaker, this House is a House of records and facts. My Hon Colleague just misinformed the House by saying that a barrel of oil costs US$60 on the market. A barrel of oil is not US$60; it is US$73. [Interruption.] He never quoted his source, and it is the same source we are both using. Mr Speaker, we are using the same source, but the crude oil price is US$73. As we speak, in the last 24 hours -- brent crude. So, US$60 is not the figure. Mr Speaker, he is trying to mislead the House. He can google and check.
Yes, Hon Member, he just corrected your figure. A barrel of crude oil is now US$73 and not US$60.
Mr Speaker, I think, maybe, he did not get what I said. Mr Speaker, I said that in 2015 the benchmark crude price that we gave per dollar in the Budget Statement was US$60. So, if I am issued a statement that I said US$60, it was for 2015. Mr Speaker, but he should not worry because the most important thing is that, he should not debate the price. All that Ghanaians are saying is that, they should remove the Special Petroleum Tax, not to reduce it from 15 per cent to 13 per cent. Mr Speaker, the second issue that I intend to talk about has to do with the restructuring of the Volta River Authority (VRA). Mr Speaker, we would recall that,
Hon Member, the Hon Majority Leader is on his feet.
Mr Speaker, it is important that we do not compare apples with oranges. At the point of exit of the NDC in 2016, the price of crude oil was US$42 per barrel; but today; it is US$73 per barrel and not US$60. So, let us not compare apples with oranges.
Mr Speaker, let me explain the logic of my argument. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, I hope you are taking note of the heckling and the time that they have taken to interrupt, so that I could make my point.
Hon Member, go on.
Mr Speaker, the reason for the introduction of the Special Petroleum Tax was to augment the shortfall as a result of the collapse of the international prices of crude oil; but today, crude oil prices are up. Mr Speaker, that is the logic I am making. It is simple and short. Mr Speaker, the other point I would want to talk about has to do with the restructuring of the Volta River Authority (VRA). The President has given a hint that they would tap into private sector equity and expertise to enhance the efficiency of VRA. Mr Speaker, but it is important to note clearly that, if we look at the intention behind it -- We would remember that in 1997, we started a project known as the Power Sector Reform Project. Under that particular project, the intention was to ensure that we bring efficiency within the power sector to be able to deliver power at a reliable and high quality state. On the basis of that, we introduced this particular reform. Under VRA structures, one of the things that we indicated that we would do was to create a single statutory authority to retain custody on behalf of Government for all the hydroelectric assets including the Bui generating station and future ones. Secondly, the most important part the President spoke about was for the Ghana Thermal Power Company Limited to own and manage the thermal assets in partnership with the private sector, with VRA having a controlling stake. Mr Speaker, all that we are indicating - - and if we listen to the senior staff of VRA, they are agitating because the intention of the Government is to sell out the whole Thermal Company of VRA. Mr Speaker, there are various reasons for that but because of the fact that this involves capital intensive outlay, we may have Ghanaians who would not have controlling assets, and it would be only the Government that could have the financial muscle to deal with that. Mr Speaker, let us ensure that if we are selling parts of the assets of VRA, it should be done with the hope that the Government would have, at least, 51 per cent of the shareholding structure of the Thermal Company. Mr Speaker, the other point I would want to talk about is when the President indicated clearly that, he had come here to give a healthy slate in terms of how his officers had performed in fighting corruption, and he mentioned Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST). Mr Speaker, we all know in this House that, - - the Hon Minister for Energy came here, and I asked a Question about the status of that particular investigation. The Hon Minister indicated to us that, they had given us a Report, and it has exonerated everybody who was accused in the allegation. He promised Parliament in October that he would present the Report of the BOST investigation to Parliament through the Committee on Mines and Energy, but as we speak today, we do not have that Report. Mr Speaker, to be able to ensure transparency in some of these allegations and how they are dealt with, it is only fair that if Ghanaians have called for an investigation, then they should make the Report available to everybody, so that we would know that they are fighting corruption. The other point the President made had to do with premix fuel and he indicated that the premix fuel challenges --
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing Order 93 (4) provides that, the speech of an Hon Member must have reference to the subject matter under discussion. Mr Speaker, we are debating the Motion on the State of the Nation Address, but the issue of the Report on BOST and its availability to the House is not part of the State of the Nation Address. Assuming the Report is even not available, this is not the right forum to remind Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, he is using
the wrong forum to discuss the issue. If he is really interested in the BOST Report then this debate is not the avenue to demand for that Report. Mr Speaker, so under Standing Order 93 (4), his speech must have reference to the subject matter under discussion. Mr Speaker, thank you very much.
Hon Member, the issue that he raised was on the fight against corruption, and he cited the case of BOST as one. If you read paragraph 2 of page 17, there is copious reference to that, and that is what he referred to. So his submission is very relevant to the topic under discussion.
Mr Speaker, I believe that my senior Brother and Vice President of the Republic of Ghana's advice that people do not read should be directed to my Hon Brother, Dr Boye. He does not read.
Hon Member, that is definitely not a proper reference. Please go on with your submission and --
Mr Speaker, I withdraw humbly and I apologise. Mr Speaker, the next point that I would want to talk about has to do with when he said that the Hon Minister for Finance had been cleared on the US$2.25 billion bond. Mr Speaker, could you imagine that the Hon Minister for Finance, who is under investigation and is in the middle of this argument, is not excited about the findings of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ)? He has contemplated to challenge this in court because it was clearly stated that he had exposed himself, he was in a position that could lead him into a conflict of interest and that laws in this country have been broken. Meanwhile, the President, who tries to fight corruption came here and indicated to all of us that, the Hon Minister is clean and he is a national asset.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, it is important that Hon Members speak to facts in this House. The CHRAJ Report never indicted the Hon Minister for Finance. The report spoke about possibilities; potential conflict of interest. Mr Speaker, what the Hon Member said on the Floor of the House is at complete variance with what the Report said. He should not attempt any embellishment of the CHRAJ Report because it never said what he has said. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member should be factual.
Hon Majority Leader, his contribution is on the Statement at page 17 of the President's message, where he mentioned a number of people including the Hon Minister for Finance. Hon Members, I quote: “… they have all been investigated, and no evidence has been adduced to suggest any act of corruption, conflict of interest or wrongdoing.” That is what he referred to, and so he said that if we use the word “wrongdoing”. For example, he made reference to issues that he thought were wrongdoing by the Hon Minister for Finance. That is his opinion.
No. Mr Speaker, with respect, this is not a matter of his opinion; he subscribes something to the CHRAJ Report. I said to him that it is incorrect. He paraphrased the CHRAJ Report and said they sought to indict the Hon Minister. And I said that they stated issues relating to potential conflict of interests. They never indicted the Hon Minister. That is the issue I raised, so it is not about the Report.
Well, I did not hear the word “indict”. Hon Member, did you say that?
Mr Speaker, I did not say that; I did not use the word “indict”. I said he had placed himself in a potential conflict of interest situation. That is the point I made, and I went further to say that according to the CHRAJ Report, there were certain laws in the country that had been broken. I indicated that, and the fact that he contemplates to challenge this. So if the man who is in the centre of this whole controversy is not excited about the Report, and H. E. the President comes to the people of Ghana through Parliament to indicate that the man is clean and that he is an asset to the nation, this is in contradiction to the actions of the Hon Minister for Finance. That was the point I made.
I do not know that yet. And on the basis of this, he even talked about situations where there were a bit of -- You know what I mean; corruption is not just exchange of hands. When one decides to even appoint people to positions just based on the fact that they are related to him, in itself, it is a form of corruption. So, on the basis of that, if the President comes here and indicates that as of November, there was no diversion of premix fuel, this cannot be a statement of fact. Mr Speaker, the last point I would want to make has to do with the strategy in dealing with the debt of the Energy Sector.
Hon Majority Leader?
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I have two issues. The first one is that, for my Hon Colleague, whenever there is any interruption, you stop the time. Now, it is 14 minutes and eleven seconds, but we agreed on the time for Hon Members. I do not know whether you have varied it because anytime anybody has interjected, as I am doing now, -- he has stopped it -- It is 14 minutes, eleven seconds. Mr Speaker, I just would want to know whether you have varied it. This is because, I know with certain people, when they do not have times allocated to them, they start to protest and make wild gesticulations. I know the Hon Member is not a Leader or Minister and yet he has spoken for 14 minutes. If the Hon Speaker has varied it, so be it. I have nothing against it. I just would want to say that if people have time added on, just like nobody disputes it and disagrees violently with the Chair, if an Hon Member is allotted, maybe, 10 minutes and he speaks for nine minutes, there should be no case and indeed, no cause if he violently agrees with the Chair. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague should listen to himself, and the Hansard would be available to prove that he made this statement about him just because he is related to him. The Hansard would bear us out. If he did not hear, he should say he did not hear, but that is what he said; and I heard him. I am sure I do not have anything wrong with my ears. Mr Speaker, so, I just wanted to guide my Hon Colleague that he should be careful the way he is going.
Hon Majority Leader, I have on a paper the guide as to the time allocation per an Hon Member. I have that guide, but I exercise my discretion and I add on to Hon Members when there is too much point of orders. So I wrote his submissions and I looked at the time myself. I have done that for other Hon Members, and so to be fair to him, I decided to add on to him, particularly as you yourself became part of the Hon Members who raised a point of order. That is why I have given him up to that time. Now, you see that time is running. It is more than 14 minutes, and he has not yet concluded, but he would conclude soon. On your second point, you are right.
You have raised two issues; I just would want to respond to them before you come back. On the second point, you are right because I also heard him loud and clear that the appointment was made on the basis of the fact that the person was related to the Minister. Hon Member, that is actually what you stated, and so you might have to take note of that. It could be that it was a consideration but it was not on the basis of that. So, let me finish with the Hon Majority Leader. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, it could be that it was a legitimate slip. That is why I said to him that he should watch it. And for those of them who said he did not say so, it is regrettable because it is exactly what he said. People should not learn to bear false witnesses. [Laughter.]
Hon Majority Leader, he was in full flight. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I agree. It could be a legitimate slip, but for him to say that he did not say so, I believe it is regrettable. Mr Speaker, having said so, I am on my feet now. I have been watching this; I have been watching the radar, it is still 14 minutes and 11 seconds, so you have not added on when anybody comes in to intervene. So, I am watching.
Hon Majority Leader, I added on to his time. The time allocated to him is eight minutes; that was my advice, but I added on to the eight minutes. So he is above eight minutes; it is not you adding on to his time. This is because, when you do that, you disorient the person, and the person starts to repeat what he has said early on before going to the next point. That is why I did so. But Hon Members, you may now conclude.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In conclusion, I might want to just highlight something which was said on page 30 of the 2017 Budget Statement, paragraph 132. The Hon Minister for Finance said and I beg to quote: “Mr Speaker, you may recall that this august House enacted the Energy Sector Levy Act, 2015 (Act 899). The main objective of the Act was to consolidate existing Energy Sector levies to ensure efficient utilisation of the proceeds generating from the levies.” Then he goes on in paragraph 135: “Mr Speaker, a total amount of GH¢3,256,090,000 was programmed to be collected as total Energy Sector Levy for the year 2016. Actual collection was GH¢3,298,094,000.” Mr Speaker, then he goes on to paragraph 137 to indicate clearly how these moneys were allocated and used in retiring debt in the Energy Sector. Mr Speaker, if we have a situation like this and H. E. the President, in trying to tell us how he has helped us in dealing with the Energy Sector challenges, goes to say that they have devised a strategy in resolving the issue of the Energy Sector debt, when his own Minister for Finance in 2017 acknowledged the words his predecessor said, that there was an umbrella and a strategy that was established to deal with this, he simply had to give credit where it is due. There is nothing wrong if you inherit good policies and acknowledge them. But when they are inherited and re-christened like what they did at the Ridge Hospital and say that it is their project, for God's sake, it is not right.
We now have one last person to listen to. That is Hon Mireku Duker.
Mr Speaker, I rise to join the Hon Member who moved the Motion and my Hon Colleagues who earlier contributed to thank H. E. the President of the Republic for the message of hope -- [Interruption.]
Hon Member, before you continue - Yes, Hon Agbodza?
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. Article 102, quorum in Parliament: “A quorum of Parliament, apart from the person presiding…” --
Hon Member, there is no article 102 in the Standing Orders of Parliament -- [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I said in the 1992 Constitution -- [Laughter.]
Hon Member, please, advise yourself. [Laughter.] Yes, Hon Duker, continue.
Mr Speaker, I am up to also add my voice to thank H. E. the President for the message of hope delivered to the people of Ghana on the 8th of February, 2018. Indeed, the President deserves commendation. Why do I say so? This morning, the President was vindicated. We acknowledged here on the Floor of the House, a delegation from the United States of America who trouped into the country to invest, and the number that we acknowledged here is one of the best that we have ever witnessed in this nation. It tells us the confidence that investors have gotten in the area of energy, and I have no doubt that these investors would do more in the energy sector. Mr Speaker, we would ensure the sustainability of the power sector. The ratification by this House, the Framework Agreement on the establishment on the international Solar Alliance has provided the necessary impetus for us to assess the renewable energy credit facility of US$ 2 billion. This would enhance, deepen and add more power source to the national power generation index. Mr Speaker, as I speak, we have organised -- Plans are far advanced and there is a petroleum Taskforce to have a Western Regional petroleum hub where refineries would be established; more investors would be brought on board and the youth would get more jobs to do. Indeed, this Government is on the right path in ensuring that we give Ghanaians affordable energy and sustainable power. Mr Speaker, Mr Bawa made allusion to the fact that -- [Interruption] -- I called him “Mr Bawa” because he is a friend. I know that we normally call him “Honourable” but he is a friend and I mostly address him as such. Mr Speaker, I do not sometimes get the argument where we compare the crude we get from the upstream and that of what we import. Mr Speaker, during the NDC tenure as a government, the world price was hovering around $30 per barrel, yet they imposed more tax. They padded. We have not added anything at all though the world price now hovers around $70 per barrel. So sometimes, I do not get the argument.
I can see the Hon Deputy Minority Whip on his feet.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, ordinarily, you know I would not interrupt my Hon Colleague, but he said the PIAC Report always say that we have consistently misapplied the resources. I think he should withdraw that and proceed because it is not a fact. If it is a fact, he must quote that portion and proceed. If not, he should withdraw it and proceed. That is my view. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, are you doubting the authenticity of that statement? If so, say so.
Precisely so, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, you are asked to produce evidence to support that statement.
Mr Speaker, with humility and all due respect, these reports that I made mention of have been given to this august House yearly. Hon Members have them and they know that PIAC's yearly report indicates how we do misapply the oil revenue. Sometimes where and when they are for specific use, they do misapply them. Even the 2014 Report clearly indicated that. So, Mr Speaker, they have them and he is aware of the fact.
Hon Member, are you referring to the 2013 and 2014 PIAC Reports?
Rightly so, Mr Speaker.
This is because you used the word, “consistently” and they want you to refer to the specific report.
Rightly so, Mr Speaker. They are available for their perusal.
The two years?
Mr Speaker, the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Reports.
Three good years. So Hon Deputy Minority Whip, are you satisfied?
Mr Speaker, I would want him to quote specifically which page of the PIAC Report it was stated that we have consistently misapplied the oil resources. If not, he should withdraw.
Hon Member, I am of the view that Hon Members cannot carry all documents to this House, so if there is a reference to a specific report, it is for us to crosscheck
Mr Speaker, I move on to the fire ravaging albatross that taunts and haunts us. The President has indicated his zeal and willingness to resolve this. The National Petroleum Authority (NPA), as I speak with you, has laid down relevant measures to curb this menace. Mr Speaker, we would introduce what we call the gas re-circulation model, where consumers would no longer visit filling stations with their cylinders, but they would go for them already filled from bottling centres. Mr Speaker, in doing so, we will also consider affordability with respect to consumers, and we know this would curb the ravaging of fire yearly. Mr Speaker, as part of their corporate social responsibility, this time round, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) would institute competent and innovative ways to use such resources; and they have introduced education and training. They would also emphasise on economic empowerment, environmental and social amenities.
Hon Member, your Hon Friend, Mr Bawa is on his feet.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague talked about a work plan of GNPC that, as we speak, is still under consideration with the Committee. We have not approved it let alone recommend it to the House to give its approval. So, if the Hon Member says that GNPC intends to do corporate social responsibility and they intend to do “a”, “b” and “z”, when even at the Committee level, we have not sorted the problems out, he cannot use that as a reference document on the Floor of the House and say this is what GNPC would do, when he knows that we have not approved it. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, he simply said that the GNPC intends to do that. That is an intention, and you cannot prevent him from referring to that intention. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, besides, the allocation to GNPC is predicated on the work programme that they submit to us. Mr Speaker, this House has always insisted that the work programme should come to this House before the Budget. They have never done that. It is important that -- Maybe, I thought that my Hon Colleague would relate to that -- that we should urge them to bring the work programme for us to approve of same before the budget is debated and approved for them, otherwise it would amount to putting the cart before the horse. I agree with that, but to say that because the Committee has not dealt with it, he cannot mention it, I believe certainly that is incongruous. What then did he approve for them as a budget? Mr Speaker, I do not want this from him because he ought -- This House ought to have done that, and we have always urged that they should submit the work programmes early for us to approve of them, and then the budget would follow. They have not done right. I think this is even the first time they have brought it early. But going forward, we should urge them to submit the work programme before the budget comes to this House. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, you may continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, as I indicated earlier, the education and training aspect of the corporate social responsibility would concentrate on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; what we have tagged as “STEM”. Mr Speaker, we are also thinking of sustainable livelihood, how we can provide sustainable livelihood. In this situation, the resources that we derive under GNPC would be put into judicious use. Mr Speaker, as I turn to mining, His Excellency the President has formed the Inter-Ministerial Committee that would see to the formation and coalition of all concessions in terms of small scale mining. Currently, the secretariat has the database where they can monitor and regularise the sector. Mr Speaker, apart from that, the government is also in tune with the Multi- lateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP), where small scale mining would be regulated. The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has now done a bit of research on how best we can apply prudent ways of mining. With these measures, I believe very soon, the small scale mining sector that people have complained about would be put to rest, and far advanced measures applied to ensure its regularisation. Mr Speaker, we have competent men in the affairs of this nation with respect to energy and mining, and Ghanaians must have the true confidence and faith that, going forward, Ghana would be a place to live. Mr Speaker, on this note, I thank you for the audience.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. I think that is the end of the debate on the Message of the State of the Nation for today. We would now move to the next item, subject to the guidance of the Hon Majority Leader. So Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, we would deal with item listed 7 -- the Motion on Taxation (Use of Fiscal Electronic Device) Bill, 2017.
The item numbered 7, Minister for Finance? Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Mr Speaker, as I sat here, I listened to the debate and I went through the Bill. In fact, it is Second Reading as the Hon Majority Leader said. It is a Report of the Committee on Finance. I have checked behind me and there are only two Hon Members; in front of me, we have only four Hon Members, six out of the 25. But beyond that, at the Second Reading, we need very serious debate on these principles, because the Bill is very crucial. It talks about the use of electronic devices. I have gone through it. Even if my mother who, excuse me to say, has not been to school before goes to buy something and she is given a receipt which is understated, she could be imprisoned for that. So we need to do serious debate on this Bill, and if you look at the time, it is past 2 o'clock, almost 3 o'clock. Even those of us here, the number is just about 50. If we want to do serious debate to enrich this, the Hon Majority Leader has always been complaining about the quality of debates. I would want the debate on this particular Bill to be very rich. We sat here and it was distributed to us, so if we have the time to read through, make serious consultation, connect to our constituencies through the telephone that this is the law that the Government is bringing -- my constituency is not even 100 per cent covered by electricity. Some parts of my constituency are not covered. All those areas would be part of this debate. It needs serious input. We cannot just say that at the Second Reading Stage, we would just come and read, one or two people would debate, then we put the Question. Hon Majority Leader, with due respect, I want all of us to make a very serious input. I am not against it. Today and tomorrow are almost the same, but we need one-on-one consultation with certain specific industrial players. This reminds me of one of us who was a business player. On this occasion, he would make serious input on this. Mr Speaker, with this appeal, I believe my Senior Colleague and the Hon Leader of the House would bear with me, so that early tomorrow morning, We could vary the order of the Business for us to take it and pass it. Today, we have got about eight people who have debated. If we would want to continue with it, we would still be here at 4 o'clock. It is already past 2 o'clock. That is my plea.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, what my Hon Colleague is attempting to do --
What your Hon Colleague attempted to do?
Mr Speaker, indeed, he has attempted to do that. It is a pre-emptive strike. The issue is not before us, and I would plead with him to bear with us. If the Motion is moved and we would need to have much more time to exhaust it, why not? At this stage, it is for the principles. Mr Speaker, a seasoned journalist has a way of putting it. They call it premature something -- [Interruption] -- [An Hon Member: Egya…!] -- Mr Speaker, I do not know. “Egya” is fire. [Laughter.] I do not know what the Hon Member is talking about. Mr Speaker, I would plead with my Hon Colleagues to let us listen, and if we have to continue tomorrow, why not? Nobody says that we should foreclose it once the Motion is moved. We should allow for the Motion to be moved and seconded and we could continue tomorrow, so that it would be before us.
Mr Speaker, with that, I have no objection. If we move the Motion and it is seconded then we would postpone the Question, so that tomorrow we could continue with the debate. This is because, I would want the whole House to make very serious inputs into the Bill.
Well, the Hon Minister for Finance should move the Motion. When it is seconded, we would take one or two contributions and then adjourn to continue with the debate tomorrow. Yes, Hon Minister for Finance?
Mr Speaker, if I may seek your leave and the indulgence of my Hon Colleagues to allow the Hon Deputy Minister to -- [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is with the President at the International Conference Centre to deal with the introduction of a single currency for the West African subregion. I believe we know that Finance Ministers from the sub- region have arrived in the country to deal with that. They would observe where we are to see whether it is possible for some countries, particularly, Nigeria and Ghana to trigger the implementation. It used to be The Gambia, which has now slipped. So, they are considering this matter. That is why the Hon Minister for Finance is not with us. It is a very important matter for this country and the entire subregion, which is the introduction of the Eco. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Mr Speaker, I have no problem. My good friend, Hon Kwaku A. Kwarteng should take note.
Yes, Hon Deputy Minister for Finance.
BILLS -- SECOND READING
Yes, Hon Chairman of the Committee on Finance?
Mr Speaker, I associate myself with the Motion and in so doing, I present the Committee's Report. Introduction The Taxation (Use of Fiscal Electronic Device) Bill, 2017 was presented to Parliament and read the first time on Tuesday 31st October, 2017. The Bill was subsequently referred to the Finance Committee for consideration and report in accordance with the 1992 Constitution and Orders 125 and 169 of the Standing Orders of the House. A Deputy Minister for Finance, Hon Kwaku Kwarteng, the Commissioner- General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Mr Kofi Nti and officials from the Ministry of Finance, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Attorney General's Department attended upon and assisted the Committee in its deliberations on the Bill. The Committee is grateful to the Hon Deputy Minister and the officials from the Ministry of Finance, the GRA and the Attorney-General's Department for attending upon the Committee. References The Committee referred to the following documents inter alia during its deliberations on the Bill: a. The Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992. b. The Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana. c. Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792). d. Ghana Revenue Authority Act, 2009 (Act 791). e. Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (921) f. Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870) as amended. g. Revenue Administration Act, 2016 (Act 915). Background The Government of Ghana loses substantial revenue through unreported income and sales, particularly, perpetrated by taxable persons under the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870). This revenue loss significantly affects Value Added Tax revenues as declared to the Ghana Revenue Authority. In view of the revenue loss and as part of Government's efforts to address the phenomenon, the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Revenue Authority have decided to introduce the use of Fiscal Electronic Device (FED). The Fiscal Electronic Device (FED) is an invoicing system to be used by specified taxable persons under the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870) and other taxable persons to be determined by the Minister for Finance. Pureose of the Bill The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the mandatory use of Fiscal Electronic Device by a specified category of taxable persons at each point of sale on the premises of the taxable persons. The mandatory use of the Fiscal Electronic Device is to maximise revenue collection, minimise the incidence of revenue suppression, and obtain an accurate record of the volume of sales of each taxable person. Contents of the Bill The Bill is divided into a total of 39 clauses and six schedules. Clauses 1 and 2 deal with the purpose and application of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to maximise revenue collection whilst minimising the incidence of revenue suppression. The Bill is also to help obtain an accurate record of the volume of sales of each taxable person. The Bill applies to a taxable person under the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870) and any other person whom the Minister may, on the recommendation of the Board of GRA, by legislative instrument, prescribe. Clauses 3 -15 provide for the obligation of applicable taxable persons to use the Fiscal Electronic Device. The clauses also provide for the conditions for the use of the Fiscal Electronic Device. Matters covered in these clauses include activation of the FED, obligation to put the FED to appropriate use, issuance of fiscal receipt, records to be kept by users of the Device, errors in issuance of fiscal receipt, return of goods sold, truncated use of the FED as well as a duty to report a change in business location. Clauses 16 - 24 deal with the supply of Fiscal Electronic Devices and require- ments for such supply including qualifications to be a FED supplier and the licensing of a person to be a FED supplier. Clauses 25 and 26 make provisions for Fiscal Electronic Device Manufacturer. A person qualifies to be selected as a manufacturer of a FED if that person satisfies the requirements stipulated in the Fourth Schedule. The GRA shall select a FED manufacturer in accordance with the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663). Clauses 27 and 28 are on communication service provider and the obligations of that provider. The GRA is empowered for purposes of this law to enter into an agreement with a communication service provider for the provision of communica- tion services between installed FEDs and the Fiscal Electronic Data Management System (FEDMS) or the backend system of the authority. The communication service provider is obligated to ensure that the service provided accords with the terms agreed on between that provider and the Authority, and particularly, to provide a dedicated and uninterrupted transmission service between each installed FED and the Fiscal Electronic Data Management System (FEDMS). Clauses 29-39 contain miscellaneous provisions. The Ghana Revenue Authority is mandated to establish a technical committee for the purpose of licensing suppliers of FEDs. This technical committee shall comprise representatives of the following institutions: 1. The Ministry of Finance; 2. The Ghana Revenue Authority; 3. The National Information Tech- nology Agency (NITA); 4. The Ghana Standards Authority; 5. The Attorney General's Depart-ment; and 6. Ministry of Trade and Industry. An obligation is also placed on a person who purchases goods or procures services from an applicable taxable person to collect a fiscal receipt for the transaction. Under clause 31, the receipt number of each fiscal receipt issued to a customer may be used by that customer to enter a lottery draw organized by the Authority in collaboration with the National Lottery Authority. The Commissioner-General is empowered under clause 32 to issue administrative directives for the implementation of the Act when passed. Per clause 33, a person commits a criminal offence when he or she tampers with or deliberately damages a FED. The Minister responsible for finance is empowered in clause 35 to make Regulations by legislative instrument for the efficient and effective implementation of the Act and to amend the schedules, except the Sixth Schedule. Clause 36 provides for the interpreta- tion of the key terms used in the Bill unless the context of a particular term otherwise requires. Clauses 37 and 38 provide for consequential amendments and transional provisions respectively. Under clause 39, the Minister is empowered to determine the date of commencement of the Act (when passed) by a notice published in the Gazette and in at least two daily newspapers of national circulation. The Bill further contains six schedules. First Schedule specifies the persons to whom the Bill applies. Second Schedule provides for the contents of a fiscal receipt. Third Schedule specifies the qualifica- tions to be licensed as a Fiscal Electronic Device Supplier. Fourth Schedule specifies the qualifications of a manufacturer of Fiscal Electronic Device. Fifth Schedule is on the composition of the Fiscal Electronic Device Technical Committee created under clause 29. Sixth Schedule provides for conse- quential amendments to some existing law. Observations Fiscal Impact The Committee was informed that the revenue that will accrue to the State from the implementation of this policy is expected, in the first year, to range between twenty per cent and thirty per cent (20%-30%) of the current Value Added Tax revenue. Obligation to Use Device The Committee observed that the Bill makes it obligatory for all persons to whom the Bill applies to use an approved Fiscal Electronic Device (FED) and to keep another as a back-up at each sales location of that person as determined by the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority. A person who fails to do so commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than five hundred penalty units and not more than two thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than four years, or to both the fine and the imprisonment. Fiscal Receipt The Committee noted that a taxable person to whom the Bill applies is obligated to use a FED for all transactions from the moment the FED is activated and shall issue a fiscal receipt to each customer to whom a sale is made or a service is provided. The Bill makes it an offence for a person to issue a fiscal receipt which displays a sum which is lesser than the sum actually paid for the goods/service. Lottery with Fiscal Receipts The Committee was further informed that the receipt number of each fiscal receipt issued to a customer may be used by that customer to enter a lottery draw that may be organized by the Ghana Revenue Authority in collaboration with the National Lottery Authority. The Committee noted that this forms part of measures to ensure customer insistence on the fiscal receipt. Return of Goods Sold The Committee observed that where an applicable taxable person operates a policy of allowing customers to return goods purchased from that person for refund of the money paid, that person shall, on the return of the goods, issue to the customer a certified refund receipt in accordance with the instructions of the Commissioner-General.
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Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion. Indeed, I wish to signal my support for this Bill. Mr Speaker, the Bill intends to bring cashnalisation into the determination of sales by most of our enterprises. We have the sole proprietors, we have the companies and we have the hotels and the restaurants, many of which do not declare their total revenue for given periods. It makes computation of tax liability in respect of these enterprises very difficult. Mr Speaker, indeed, it has become the practice that instead of taxing people based on their real revenue and incomes, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) just applies standard assessments, and in spite of the differences between the volumes of sales from one company and the other, they intend to pay the same thing, and they never go back to declare their full revenues or incomes for proper tax liability to be levied upon them. Mr Speaker, in many of our shops or retail outlets, they cannot even distin- guish between the Business Operating Permit (BOP) and income tax. When they are approached on whether they have paid their income tax, they would say that they have paid the Assembly, but mostly, it is the BOP which they might have paid. They however take that to be the total tax liability that they are due to pay in a given period. If we would want to rely on that, then our revenues would continue to be very low. Mr Speaker, I remember that in 2013, when I first entered Parliament, I called for a computerisation of our sales and purchasing records, and it has taken up until now to do it, but it is better late than never. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is interrupting me, although he is not using his microphone.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the Floor. In so doing, I would just want to say that the government promised the people of Ghana to help protect the national purse. I believe that the introduction of these devices would help to close that loophole and the leakages that we have in our tax system. Mr Speaker, as we all know, our inability to collect enough revenue from our taxation affects our ability to do a lot of the developmental things that we would need to undertake. So, I believe that this Bill, if approved, is going to improve on our revenue collection and help us undertake all the projects that we have to deal with. Mr Speaker, I believe that some of the benefits, apart from this Bill going to improve on revenue, are that it would minimise leakages and the under-reporting of tax revenue, and enhance, as my Hon Friend alluded to, job creation. This is because people would have been engaged to monitor. Mr Speaker, if we look at the Report, I understand that revenue is anticipated to increase between 20 and 30 per cent, if this Bill is passed. One aspect that I would want to point out is the fact that for the first two years, these devices are going to be provided for free, and I believe that should also encourage people to use these devices. Mr Speaker, one other point I believe we should note, as well as a few others, is the fact that even though the government, with the introduction of these devices, is trying to improve revenue, the fight to close the leakages in our tax system cannot be done alone by the government. We would all have to get involved. Mr Speaker, if one buys anything from a store or any taxable entity that is using these devices, one must demand his or her receipt, so that one can be a good citizen and not a spectator. Mr Speaker, I believe that if we insist on getting our receipts when we buy things, we would be able to help to improve the collection of taxes. I also believe that the GRA and the authorities involved should undertake massive public education. This is because the object and the aims of this Bill are very good to improve revenue collection, but if the people are not properly educated, then we may face some challenges. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to support the Motion on the floor of the House. Mr Speaker, I think all of us are praying that one day, we would have a society in which any transaction that one intends to undertake, one would not have to carry bulky sums of money to any shop or to any place that one wants to transact business. So, when we talk about cashless society, this is one of the drivers that we could undertake to achieve that. Mr Speaker, but inasmuch as we want to have a cashless society, we need to also give a broader consultation and educate the masses to appreciate the kind of devices that we are deploying so that compliance level would be very good for us. This is because we are targeting selected taxable persons. So, Mr Speaker, if I walk to Accra Mall to buy something, I should insist that I am given a receipt. If you read clause 30 of the Bill, it says I should keep the receipt so that in case I am met outside by a taskforce officer, I would be in a position to produce the receipt. If I fail to produce the receipt, I could be surcharged or imprisoned for that. Mr Speaker, how could I be under such a compulsion that having procured something from a shop, I should keep the receipt with me? I decide to keep or not keep my receipt. It is my own problem. So, these are some of the things we are trying to deal with so that people would not be treated unfairly under this regime. I come from a community where there is no electricity, and where these devices have not been deployed. So, if I do not have the proper education, I go to shop “A”, they are using the manual system, I walk to shop “B” it is automated and I have to insist on the receipt. Sometimes I would be confused as to where to pick the manual and the automated receipts. This is because we are migrating from a manual environment to an automated environment and there should be proper consultation so that people would be educated and know what they are supposed to do. We should not be talking of revenue without looking at the other leg of the society. Are we giving enough education? Even in the Report, it says the government of the day would provide five of the devices to whoever has been registered. Beyond five, you have to procure it or pay for it. So, if I have about 25 outlets, it means that I would take five devices for free and pay for the rest of the 20. The question is, at what cost? Who is doing real time monitoring to make sure that at every point in time, at the click of a button, I can monitor whatever is going on at every location? If there is no proper audit tray inbuilt in the devices, at end of the day, we would work in vain. So, we should ask the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to put in place an audit tray, monitor the system so that there would be value for money in whatever we are doing. This is because the initial procurement would be borne by the government. So, if there is no monitoring and we are not getting value for money, we would start the implementation, we would hit a snag, and at the end of the day, we would not achieve the intended purpose. Let us broaden the education and get many people on board. So it does not matter if one works within the manual environment or in the automated
Let me listen to —
Mr Speaker, the Motion is essentially about introducing fiscal electronic device for the collection of revenue for government. The success of this programme would depend on how reliable the available communication systems would be. In the Bill, there is a provision for the GRA to engage a service provider that would dedicate a line for the successful implementation of this Project. I think that is a good thing that the framers of this Bill have considered and that essentially would be the fundamental reason the process would succeed or fail. Mr Speaker, in looking also at the qualifications to be licensed as fiscal electronics device supplier, the Third Schedule provides and I beg to quote section A which says that: “A person qualifies to be licensed as a fiscal electronics device supplier if that person, among others, is a corporate body with at least 60 per cent Ghanaian ownership.” Mr Speaker, it is also very interesting to note that this whole process is going to allow Ghanaian companies to participate in the supply of these point of sale devices for the collection of taxes to improve on Government revenues. There is a third element of the Bill which I would like to draw the attention of the House to, that this Bill provides sufficient sanctions for non-compliance or non- usage of the approved devices for the sale of their goods and services. The sanctions could range between penalties or imprisonment or a combina- tion of penalties and imprisonment. I think that if the Bill is passed and these sanctions are applied, it would encourage people to stay away from the use of unauthorised devices to capture the sales and revenues that are attributable to government. Mr Speaker, I would like to end by saying that this is the way to go. If Government has to improve on revenue mobilisation and collection -- The evidence at the Tema Port is also worth noting; because of the automation of the processes at the Tema Port, Government is able to minimise the leakages in revenue and also improve upon the collections at the ports. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would like to encourage Hon Members to support the Motion that this Bill be passed into law. I thank you so much for the opportunity.
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I beg to support the Motion for the passage of this Bill. But Mr Speaker, just as other Hon Colleagues have said, anytime I arrive home at Adaklu- Kodiabe, my phone tells me, “welcome to Togo”. Mr Speaker, I shudder to think that the young man who sells me some provisions at my village is likely to be prosecuted because he cannot effectively use this device in my village since there is no telephone connectivity. This Bill is tells us that there has to be a connection between the local device and a remote server somewhere controlled by the GRA. Mr Speaker, this is a very laudable idea; most advanced countries have improved on the services to the extent that you actually could use your plastic card to buy a vehicle or a house if you have enough money in your account from wherever you save your money. There is nothing wrong with it. Mr Speaker, in a country where we are still working on how to extend electricity to every part, where telephone connectivity is still a problem -- Now Government would supply them with the first five devices which is good. However, the vendors would have to pay for the use of data to be able to connect to the server. I am not sure whether in the interaction between the Ministry and stakeholders, this issue came up. Mr Speaker, there is also an issue that needs to be discussed in this country. Data is a big issue in this country. A couple of times, we have heard of how some unscrupulous people in this world have created an unenviable profession for themselves by hacking into systems to steal money and other things. Whichever way the Ministry wants to do this, we hope that they do not hook us all onto a centralised database and allow people to tap into it to have access to others' bank details. What we are basically saying is that whenever I want to use a local device and produce my bank card, details would be downloaded on there. Somebody who is capable of hacking could tap into it and have my bank details to do something else. So, I want the Ministry to take note of that as well.
Well, it is a problem that Hon Members did not get time to read the Bill. There are clauses on transition, but we understand. You have drawn our attention to it so that we could work on those clauses. Deputy Minister for Information (Mr Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah) (MP): Mr Speaker, I would like to quickly respond to a few issues that have been raised by Hon Colleagues as we debate the Second Reading of the Bill. First is the issue of electricity penetration. There are some parts of the country that do not have electricity and would therefore, have difficulty in using it. Interestingly, in those same parts of the country, telephones are being used that are able to signal that you are welcome to Togo. What it suggests is that people have means of charging these devices in those areas. However, the devices as envisaged by the Ministry are to not to be rolled out entirely for everybody per se. They are to be rolled out for “VATable” persons. There is a threshold for VAT, and as the Ministry explained, they would initially start with large supermarkets and continuously roll down to these “VATable” persons. A person who has not been literally signed on by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) as a taxable person in this enterprise would not have any liabilities that are imposed on that person. The other matter is the obligation to retain receipts, failure for which could attract some sanctions. Again, at discussions at Committee level, there were suggestions and amendments which I believe at the Consideration Stage would be dealt with. Therefore, the fears in that area would be assuaged.
That is not in the proposals you have made. Look at the Report, the clauses that you proposed for amendment do not include the subclause that you referred to. So the Committee should please take note of that.
Mr Speaker, noted. There are three other matters that I would like to bring to the attention of the House as we read this Bill a Second time. Tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio essentially tells us how much of economic activity is being captured by the tax authorities. In Ghana, we average between 16 per cent and 17 per cent of GDP which is what is being taxed. We are advised by the Ministry of Finance that for lower middle income countries of our stature, we should tax between 20 per cent and 22 per cent of our GDP. We should be able to capture tax between 20 per cent and 22 per cent as tax. If we are doing 16 per cent to 17 per cent, obviously, it suggests that we are under-collecting. We are under-collecting because there are many instances where people under-declare, particularly in the sales regime. People keep different sets of books, one for the taxman and another for their own profit and loss account. What this particular law would do is that it would give the taxman an opportunity to see into the sales in real time as they are being made, therefore, whatever tax obligation is occasioned. It is my belief that if we are successful in this enterprise, we would contribute significantly in closing the tax to GDP gap that we have in this country. Mr Speaker, the other thing that I find very interesting is the fact that the State, even as we roll this out, is not pushing the entire obligation on these taxable persons to acquire their own machines for use. Paragraph 66 talks about the fact that the State would start off by providing, at least, up to five devices to persons who are brought within this programme. Subsequently, persons would be required to purchase. There are many parts of our national lives where the State imposes an obligation on us and we are required to pay for the particular item that is required. Whether it is our driving licence, passport et cetera, or not, the State would impose an obligation but we would have to pay for it. Even in this instance, the State in the first two years would buy these devices. I think that it is a laudable approach that the State should be encouraged on. Finally, Mr Speaker, you would notice that in an --
Hon Member, are you aware that the person would have to apply with the prescribed fees before they would be given the devices? They would not just be supplied.
Mr Speaker, I am sure that the Hon Minister would respond to some of these things in her closing comments. Even if I were to admit without agreeing to that, the mere fact that the State is taking the cost of those machines that would be supplied is a big relief to persons who would be brought into this enterprise. I believe that the State should, therefore, be encouraged for that purpose. Mr Speaker, my final point is that in an attempt to get compliance, you would notice the use of the carrot-and-stick approach in this particular Bill. I would draw the attention of the House to paragraphs 6 (2) and 6 (4) of your Committee's Report. Paragraph 6 (2) talks about the fact that there is an obligation to use the device and failure to do so would attract some sanctions. Paragraph 6 (4) talks about the fact that the receipt numbers are also being programmed to be incentivised by GRA through a lottery.
Mr Speaker, somebody asked if I have electricity in Navrongo? We are not talking about electricity. We are talking about physical electronic device to monitor sales and other activities that would be linked directly to the server at the GRA. This would help us automatically know how much sales are going on. If we do not do that and just walk to the merchant or anybody who does business and would want him or her to declare how much he or she earns, it would be difficult. Mr Speaker, there are challenges in implementation and like all challenges -- [interruption.] Currently, we know that there is some resistance to the tax stamp and I listened to some of the arguments that were made. On the surface of the argument, one would believe that it is the business people who have a case, but when it is explained by the technical people, we again see -- Mr Speaker, in the Report, it would be realised that to even encourage people to go by it, they should make sure that whatever they purchase is passed through the device. They are encouraged to hold the receipt and put it into a system which is like lotto; they would want to get people interested in making sure one would go through that. Mr Speaker, one of the things we should do with this particular Bill after it is passed is to engage the business community a lot and let people understand. During the consideration by the committee ommunity, some Hon Members linked it up with lotto. One Hon Member mentioned that if he operates a banker-to-banker lotto and he is asked to have this device, how would he do it in the rural area? Mr Speaker, more importantly, some people are concerned and this is where I would ask the Committee to explain, detailing that it is not a mechanism to tax mobile money transfer. This is something that would help revenue generation the more one gets the sales through. Mr Speaker, the other issue that has to be resolved is that, after GRA has supplied the five devices and the other business person is to procure, as it has already been indicated, is it not a cost to business? Yes it is, but it would also help the business to monitor the sales. This is because if the sales is allowed to be done manually, one's own sales person could do tricks -- But once this is through a device, all these things would be monitored closely. Mr Speaker, in any case, this is a very good thing; it would send us into modern era. If one goes to many developed countries, one cannot do business unless one has this device and he or she is closely monitored. Mr Speaker, those who would object to it would be those who would not want to pay accurately how much they generate in terms of sales and how much they make as income. Mr Speaker, I would want to urge all Hon Members to support this Motion so that we would be up to date with what we do in business.
Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Mr Speaker, I beg to contribute to the Motion. Mr Speaker, the Bill in its current form, I know, would go through Consideration Stage [Interruption] - But because we are debating the principles, I would just want certain things to be cleared. Mr Speaker, I heard the Hon Deputy Minister for Information say that the specific concerns that I raised earlier had been addressed, and to be precise, from clauses 29 up to 39. We all know the country we are talking about. Ghana is not 100 per cent, universally covered by electricity or mobile phone network. Mr Speaker, universal access is a problem. There are so many areas and the Hon Minister said they even have a means of charging their mobile phones. Yes, even in my farm, my labourers have a way of charging their phones, but at certain times, they would have to bring it to the house, charge it and use it for a number of days and bring it back to charge. Mr Speaker, it is a fact that in terms of mobile phone network coverage, Ghana is not 100 per cent covered. In terms of electricity, Ghana is not 100 per cent covered. In terms of education; literacy rate, it is not everybody who can read and write. Mr Speaker, when we read clause 30, it is the obligation of the purchaser to collect receipt. Clause 30 (2) says, a purchaser of goods or services under subsection 1 who accepts a receipt displaying a sum lesser than the sum actually paid for the purchase commits an offence. Mr Speaker, these are some of the concerns that I have. Should my mother, who cannot read and write, buy something and is issued with a receipt which she cannot read and the amount she paid is understated on the receipt and it would be said that she has committed an offence -- Is that what is meant? Mr Speaker, Regulation 35 says, the Minister may, on the recommendation of the Board, by legislative instrument, make Regulations for the efficient and effective implementation of this this Act and in particular to amend the Schedules except the Sixth Schedule. Mr Speaker, I know after the passage of the Bill there may be Regulations and I want certain things to be cleared. After the passage of this Bill, would we tax mobile money? I would want clarity on this issue. After the passage of the Bill, if somebody sends money by electronic means which includes those in the rural areas, the people in the remotest part of my area where because of mobile money services financially they are included in the saving or banking sector, would they be included in those who would be taxed? The Government should be bold and clear on this. Mr Speaker, if we set this clarity, then everybody would be clear in his or her mind that we would just use electronic means of collecting receipts and buying
I think we would give opportunity to the Hon Deputy Minister for Finance to wind up.
Mr Speaker, thank you. On behalf of the Ministry, I have noted the various points that have been made, and we would definitely take them into account as we roll out this important national initiative. Mr Speaker, but with your permission, I would like to clear a few things. First, this is not a payment platform. It is not as though we are creating a platform where money in the account of a person can be accessed through the use of Mobile Money or through a cart system. That is not what we are doing. So, the fears of Hon Ibrahim Ahmed could be assuaged because we have no intention of doing any such thing. Also, if there is the need to come to this House to implement any tax on Mobile Money — At the moment, there is even no VAT on Mobile Money fees. The Government has not made any such decision, and I would like to assure the House that the passage of this law in no way would lead to the charging of any kind of tax on Mobile Money. Mr Speaker, the point sounded on security precaution is a legitimate one; and I have taken note of it. My understanding is that if people sell and we keep the data in a server at the Tax Authority, then that server has to be secured because by getting into it, one could tamper with the records of various retailors and that may well impact their tax liabilities. So, we have taken note of that. It has come up in the discussions both at the Telcos level and at the level of the Committee, and we are committed to keeping that safe. We have the record. The banking system is able to provide that kind of security. There is no reason why we should worry that we cannot do that on this occasion. Mr Speaker, the concern about taxing everybody — I believe Hon Kojo Oppong- Nkrumah has addressed it. It is not every taxable person that is “VATable”; it is not every product that has a VAT on it, and for which, the retailers would have to account for this VAT. So, we should not worry. For our rural folks, one would realise that most rural retailers deal in goods that are not “VATable”. Many of them are not VAT registered retailers and therefore, there is really no worry. I have to make the point that if there is a connectivity problem and if for any reason a device cannot connect with the server, it does not become a headache for the retailer. It is the headache of the Authority. It is the responsibility of the Authority to monitor transactions that go on at the point of sale. So, if connectivity is down, it is the Authority that has to worry. We would take steps to ensure that we are able to get connectivity to as many of the places to which we would deploy this. In any event, we also have to admit that we cannot say that because Ghana does not have connectivity across the country, we are unable to roll out an important intervention like this. We would proceed; we would seek as we go on to get connectivity and power across the entire country. Other countries have done it and Ghana can also do it. Mr Speaker, the retailers who would be supplied with the initial five devices, would they have to apply? Yes, they would have to apply. Would they have to pay? No, they would not have to pay. In fact, we operate on the principle that the devices are owned by the Ghana Revenue Authority, so that they could come to that device at any time and do whatever they want with it for the purpose of protecting the public purse. Mr Speaker, on understatement of transaction values, the objective in that provision is to make sure -- [Interruption.] -- Here, let us remember that we are also dealing with large buyers who are buying from large retailers. The provision says if one understates the revenue, it is an offence. We want to avoid the situation where a seller understates the value of a transaction for the purposes of escaping tax. It is important that we do that. For instance, in those extreme cases where an illiterate mother in the rural area, assuming she has to collect such a receipt, is not able to read the transaction value of a retailer that has understated the transaction -- I believe if the matter were to go to court, the full circumstances of that particular incident would be evaluated by the court. We definitely need such a
provision in the law to ensure that those who think that they would beat the system by understating transaction values and paying less tax know that we would punish them if we find out.
Hon Members, I would want to put the Question because I believe the debate has been thorough and complete. In view of the concerns that have been raised, I believe Hon Members need to carefully consider the provisions of the Bill for thorough scrutiny at the Consideration Stage. There are issues of security and others that we need to look at. The Memorandum is clear as to what the Bill is meant to achieve, and the persons — It is stated there, “Specified Category of Taxable Persons”. So, it is not general — It is not to be applied to everybody. We still need to look at the provisions where — [Interruption.] -- Particularly, with the criminalisation of some conducts of purchasers or the taxable persons, we need to look at those provisions carefully. Question put and Motion agreed to. The Taxation (Use of Fiscal Electronic Device) Bill, 2017, was accordingly read a Second time.
Mr Speaker, I want to thank Hon Members for their endurance. The other Motion, Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Bill, 2017, would not be done today. We would rather do a Second Reading of that tomorrow. So, Mr Speaker, where we have travelled to, I guess we can take an adjournment and continue tomorrow, except to sound a warning because my Hon Colleague, the first Deputy Minority Whip, Hon Ahmed, raised a matter that is very important. I believe there is a distinction. He really talked to the gifts system, which is completely different from what we are doing right now. He came up with a precaution that we need to be cautious about; the issues relating to intero- perability, and whether to create a platform to disable the Telecommunication Companies (Telcos) from engaging in banking activities, which is very relevant. I believe he was about mixing that up with what we are doing, but it is a very serious matter that he has raised.