How the AMERI Deal was Approved by Parliament

  1. 4th March 2015 : The memorandum on the AMERI contract is laid before Parliament by the Finance Minister Mr. Seth Terkper on behalf of the Power Minister. The infographic below summarises the contents of the memorandum:

  2. 4th March 2015: The Speaker refers the memorandum to the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy in accordance with Standing Order 194. Incidentally the Power Minister chaired this committee before he became a Minister. After Kwabena Donkor was appointed a Minister, Cletus Avoka took over chairmanship of the Committee. The Committee has 17 Members and per Standing Order 189 cannot have more than 25 members. 9 of the committee’s 17 members are from the ruling NDC and 8 from the opposition NPP . Standing Order 155 specifies that the composition of each committee must reflect “ different shades of opinion. ” Here’s a list of the committee members:

3.The next step in the contract approval process is for the relevant committee to scrutinise the contract. In scrutinising a contract or a bill, each Parliamentary Committee has the constitutional power to a) enforce the attendance of witnesses and examine them on oath, affirmation or otherwise; (b)compel production of documents; and (c) issue a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad

4. According to the “Votes and Proceedings” records of Parliament, the Committee on Mines and Energy met to scrutinise the AMERI Contract on only 3 occasions namely: A) 13th March at 11:30am - 2pm, B) 17th March : 12noon - 1:30 pm C) 18th March 12noon - 1:30pm. The meetings were chaired by Cletus Avoka. The following MPs and officials were present during those meetings.

The committee therefore scrutinised the AMERI contract for only 5 hours and 30 minutes in total.

5.19th March 2015 - The recommendations of the Committee, in the form of a report, are placed on the agenda of Parliament but are not discussed. Every committee must submit its recommendations to the entire House of Parliament in the form of a report, according to Standing Order 158.

6.20th March 2015 - The report of the committee is brought to Parliament’s attention by its Chairman. Cletus Avoka proposes that Parliament waive Standing Order 80 to allow a debate on the contract to be held immediately, instead of after 48 hours. He is seconded by the Ranking Member of the committee K.T Hammond.

Within a matter of minutes, Cletus Avoka also moves that the Committee on Mines and Energy’s report be adopted by Parliament. He is again seconded by K.T Hammond, albeit after noting for the record that:

" There has been some suggestions that the equipment in question is actually a second rate equipment. We sought assurances from the Hon Minister for Power and that the nation was not putting all this money in this venture for us to receive a second rate equipment. The Hon Minister was categorical that this is first rate brand new equipment and indeed, was quite happy that at the time of inspection, we can have some people to go and have a look at it and satisfy ourselves if this was the case. This is important because there has been a sort of talk and that this equipment is not really a brand new one. I thought this should be brought to the attention of the House. Mr Speaker, I think quite a lot has already been said by the Chairman and I do not intend to belabour the point."

7.With the secondment of K.T Hammond implying an agreement by both the Majority and Minority that the contract should be passed, the Speaker of Parliament asks Parliamentarians present whether they wish to adopt the committee’s report and thus approve the contract. There were 212 MPs present in Parliament on the day the Ameri deal was signed, 96 from the NPP , 112 from the NDC, 1 from the CPP and 3 independent MPs. This is a list of all the MPs who were present:

A majority of the MPs present respond “Aye” in the affirmative to the Speaker's question and the contract is approved WITHOUT ANY DEBATE.

Key Matters Arising from the AMERI deal scrutiny process

  1. How are the members of Parliamentary Committees selected?
    The process for approving contracts and bills is heavily reliant on the scrutiny of Parliament's select and standing committees. The Parliamentary Committee on Selection, consisting of the Speaker and not more than 19 other MPs is responsible for selecting the members, chairmen and vice-chairmen of all Parliamentary committees. Apart from the requirement to ensure committees "reflect the different shades of opinion in Parliament. In light of the poor scrutiny of the AMERI deal should the members of committees be selected based on their professional and technical skills? Some may argue that no particular technical skill or knowledge is required to spot the discrepancies in the AMERI deal, however with absence of a Parliamentary Budget office, MPs who do not know how to spot the mistakes in deals like AMERI may not be equipped to conduct the necessary due-diligence.

  2. Why are the votes of all MPs not recorded?
    Standing Order 112 gives the Speaker the discretion to record the votes of MPs on a motion either through a simple voice vote ( "Aye" for Yes and "Nay" for No ) or by ordering a headcount of the MPs present. If either the Speaker or a Member of Parliament believes the House has a divided opinion on any motion he or she can call for a headcount or for votes for or against the motion to be written down and counted by MPs designated as Tellers.

What this means is that most votes in Parliament are held without recording the individual votes of MPs. We hope the political consequences of this situation are now clear to MPs from the opposition NPP. If the individual votes of MPs were counted we could determine exactly which MPs supported and which opposed the AMERI contract. MPs could then use their voting records to show their support for or opposition to key bills which are either beneficial or detrimental to their constituents.

In the case of the AMERI deal, the use of a voice vote implies that almost all, if not all MPs present during the vote agreed that the AMERI contract should be approved.The opposition NPP can therefore not escape its share of the blame for the passage of this fishy contract.