Ghana’s parliament on Thursday June 2, deferred voting on the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation’s GHS2.6 billion budget for the third time.
There was no quorum in the House to vote on the matter, forcing Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho to defer voting, again.
The minority on Tuesday May 31 succeeded, for the second time, in preventing the approval of the budget. The second deferral was after the minority MPs explained that GNPC was veering off its core mandate of exploring petroleum products.
Debate on the matter was first put on hold on Friday to enable the Minister of Petroleum, Emmanuel Amah Kofi Buah make an appearance on Tuesday, to provide further clarifications before approval was to be given.
But his appearance made no difference as the opposition MPs insisted that the core mandate of the corporation does not allow it to be providing guarantees and loans to state institutions.
After a back-and-forth, First Deputy Speaker, Ebo Barton-Odro deferred the approval, for the second time, to Wednesday June 1.
The Petroleum Minister, expressed unhappiness with the posture of the minority.
According to him, the corporation was operating within its constitutional mandate contrary to the minority’s claims.
He said: “We are all great pretenders; I am telling you what we have done. I am telling you the parliament of Ghana has accepted that, for example, ECG is financially weak. …We are all in power crisis, we know that and I am speaking from my heart…businesses are collapsing and we want to fix the energy crisis. We want to bring a power barge and nobody in the country has the capacity to provide the guarantee. GNPC, this is within its mandate…in fact the KarPower, they are the ones providing the heavy fuel [and] oil today. So, GNPC now signs agreement, provides a guarantee, it is a guarantee to ensure that ECG, when they buy the power, will pay for it. I have already stated that parliament has accepted that we need energy sector levies to address some of the issues and we are working to make sure that VRA is strong, ECG is strong but in the meantime we [should] allow this country to collapse?”
The sector minister further said: “Secondly, we talked about another $34million. There was a pipeline GNPC had to lay that was part of it and that led to the construction of that pipeline that Ghana Gas continued, so one- by-one all the things that have been raised there, I will have the opportunity to explain.
“GNPC have plans to have a national headquarters but government has made a decision. Let me explain to you why. Today, as we speak, Tallow, Kosmos, all the international oil companies, everybody is renting a house over 20million a year. Government had studied modules around the world and this is what we have decided, it is most cost effective, it is good for the people of Ghana for GNPC to be an anchor tenant to bring all these oil companies to come and pay for this money.
I think, ultimately, the government and the people of Ghana would save so much money; that is why we are strategically now working with GNPC to create an energy city where all these oil companies, who are spending this money renting, [will come and lodge]. In the end, the people of Ghana are paying for it because that is cost to us and we are being smarter about it and the people of Ghana must know it.
So, it is fun to scandalise GNPC but the reality is that as we go on the issues one-by-one, they are clearly being done because we are in circumstances where we have no choice but to make those decisions because it is smart for the people of Ghana”.
Meanwhile, the MP for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea was unconvinced with the explanation by the Minister. In his view, GNPC is spending monies allocated to it on unnecessary ventures.
He stated: “I have a constitutional duty to oversee the executive. The national purse should always [have a] hole or an area that people can peek into to have understanding and meaning. Nobody should come and stand before parliament and just wave his hand that we should approve programmes for GNPC without we understanding what we are approving.
“So, for instance, we are so embarrassed by the fact that we do not know the contract sum for the construction of a new head office for GNPC and that for 2016, alone, the amount budgeted for that project is GHS115.42million, so, therefore, what is the contract sum and how much are we paying? There are more issues to that. Who is the contractor? Was it a subject of a competitive bidding and the rest of it? The programme is silent on all these matters, so, they want to reduce us to a rubber stamp and just approve this and get away with it.
“Do you know how much GHS115.42million can do to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital? Let us think about it. Look at Research and Technology Centre [for] GNPC, [that is] GHS69.73million just for a Research and Technology Centre; what are the details, what is the purpose of the research and what technology are they lacking that we should come to this kind of area?
“Then what is frightening for me is ICT upgrade and expansion. So they have ICT already, they want to expand it [that is] GHS45.20million. What are we talking about? They have not given us any meaning and understanding as to what is involved. Then what I commented on, which is also very serious, interest payment. It is in the neighbourhood of GHS66.20million. So these are areas we should interrogate. If not for some analysis that might come later on, we will be rubbished here as a useless setup that whatever is brought to parliament, we have become like a conveyor belt, it passes”.