This Week in Parliament [July 31 - Aug 2, 2017]

Highlights of what MPs discussed July 31 - Aug 2

  • Government mid-year budget review

The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta was in parliament this week to present the mid-year budget statement on government’s first six months of activities. He begun with a note of appreciation on behalf of the President for the support of MPs towards the management of the economy. He added that, it is time to begin the national conversation about values; responsibility to protect the public purse and that due to the implementation of prudent policies, the macroeconomic indicators for the first half of the year look good.

  • Bills in Parliament

On zongo development fund for inner city and zongo development, Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) indicated that the fund will affect the working of District Assemblies (DAs).

The Special Prosecutor bill which was read for the first time in Parliament, was referred to Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration.

Other bills that were also read for the first time in Parliament and referred to their appropriate institutions included the Northern development bill, Middle belt development bill and the Coastal belt development bill.

  • Gitmo Two detainees in Ghana

The chairperson of the committee on foreign affairs Frank Annor-Dompreh (MP, Nsawam- Adoagyiri) reported that the deadline presented to the committee to ratify the agreement which was ruled by the Supreme Court on June 2017, has elapsed. He added that the ratification was useful to activate Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (MP, North Tongu and Ranking member for Foreign Affairs Committee) said that the committee did not find any threat posed by the ex-gitmo detainees. He further asked what would happen after their two years stay in the country comes to an end in January 2018. He was of the view that if the agreement is ratified, then it would suggest that every memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the government of Ghana and other governments must subsequently come to Parliament for ratification with change of governments. To this, the Speaker admonished Parliamentarians on both sides to show maturity in discussing issues that bordered on Ghana's foreign relations.

Mahama Ayariga (MP, Bawku Central) said the current government has the right to agree or disagree with the arrangement, as Parliament was not engaged before the decision to house the gitmos, was taken.

Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) disagreed with his colleagues asserting that it was a matter of exchange of diplomatic notes, not an agreement - thus the essence of activating Article 75 of 1992 constitution is not to indict the Executive, but to serve the purposes of checks and balances. Hence the ruling of the Supreme Court under Article 75 means every agreement by the Executive must be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. Ghana is a friendly country, he says, nonetheless our friendship with the United States of America (USA) should not stop us from asking questions and demanding that things are done right. The US must learn from its mistake and never detain people without trial, he concluded.

Joe Ghartey (MP, Essikado/Ketan) was also of the view that government is continuous; a new government does not have the liberty to ignore an existing agreement.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei-Kyei Bonsu (MP, Suame) said Parliament’s role is to acknowledge the agreement and subject it to scrutiny. The agreement is in itself an illegality since it did not come to Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor-Botchway (MP, Sowutuom) stated that once the agreement is ratified by Parliament, conversation around the gitmos must begin in earnest. There is a need to consult the US government to bring the matter to closure. She assured the House that the government through National Security and the Interior Ministry has an exit plan for the gitmos.

Her statement brought a resolution to the motion with Parliament approving the agreement between governments of Ghana and the United States of America on the resettlement of the two gitmo individuals under Article 75.

  • Ameri Deal

K.T Hammond (MP, Danse/Asokwa) submitted an ''urgent motion'' which was seconded by the Deputy Majority Leader, to rescind decision on AMERI deal. Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) said the House will be veering into realms of the judiciary if they agree to this, whilst demanding that the President states his position on the matter.

In response to K.T Hammond and Haruna Iddrisu’s submissions, the Speaker said “Parliament is not bound to its predecessors” and ''it is proper to refer this matter to Committee on Energy: decision will be made after Committee has looked at issue.'' He finally ruled that, all matters of law and privity of contracts whether brought by Committee or presidency is best determined by a Committee.

  • Finance committee report on annual debt management report for 2016

The report which was read by its Chair, Mark Assibey-Yeboah (MP, New Juaben South) recommended that new borrowing must reflect in the productive sectors of the economy. The Chair’s report on the VAT compliance and ratification of the Newmont and the Ghana Bauxite Company agreements revealed Newmont had repatriated 60% of its proceeds through local commercial banks. To this effect, a list of all mining companies will soon be made available to Parliament for questioning and also to be ascertained, is whether Newmont and Ghana Bauxite company are VAT compliant.

The report was adopted by only the Majority on the side of Parliament (since the minority boycotted proceedings).

Banking and Finance

The Finance committee report on inquiry on Bank of Ghana’s measures for microfinance companies and check operations of sham companies in the country was adopted by Parliament. The Committee also recommended that going forward, microfinance companies must hold 25% cash equivalent to operate in business.

  • Questioning of Ministers

Upgrade of Osino health centre into hospital

The deputy health Minister, Kingsley Aboagye when asked by Kofi Okyere-Agyekum (MP, Fanteakwa South) on when Osino Health Centre will get a laboratory and also be upgraded to hospital, said there are plans to equip the hospital with facilities that will enable it to function. As soon as funds are made available to the ministry, construction of new Eastern Regional Hospital will begin with the 2018 budget likely to include the financing of construction of new hospital for Eastern Region.

Roads and Highways

When asked by Albert Alalzuunga (MP, Garu) on the reconstruction of the collapsed Tamne Steel Bridge which links Garu-Tempane District to Bawku Municipal, Binduri, and Pusiga in the Upper East Region and Burkina Faso, the Minister of Roads and Highways Kwasi Amoako-Atta said,

I visited site of collapsed bridge on July 19, the alternative route was also visited, I gave instruction for repair of road and eligible contractors have been invited to submit bids by the 3rd week of September but the collapsed Tamne Steel Bridge in Garu is strong. In future, we'll build a concrete bridge over it.. Articulated truck overload & stealing of parts on bridge caused the Tamne Bridge to collapse. I can assure the House that all bridges across the nation are quite strong. Collapsed superstructure if parts are dismembered. We should report people who steal parts on any steel bridge in the country to relevant security agencies. We should be patriotic citizens and not remove parts on any steel bridge constructed in Ghana.

  • Tribute to late J Owusu Acheampong

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (MP, Suame) paid a tribute to the late MP J. H Owusu Acheampong who was the first MP to serve as Majority Leader in the fourth Parliament under Speaker Justice D. F Annan. Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) added that there are two standing orders that can be credited to him.

A moment of silence was offered in his memory.

NOTE: Parliament has adjourned and will resume in October 2017.