Parliament resumes sitting: National ID, ExxonMobil, others to take centre-stage

As many as eight bills are likely to be considered for ratification as Parliament resumes its fourth meeting today, after almost a month’s break.

Though the itinerary for this sitting is yet to be made known, B&FT has gathered that major business bills will be pushed through in this current meeting of the 275-member legislature.

Among the bills expected to be ratified are: the ExxonMobil agreement; Estate Brokerage and Survey Council bills; National Identification Card Bill; and the Lands Bill.

Parliament is also expected to make amendments to the Rent Act (220), as the country seeks a solution to the growing housing deficit.

There ARE also public interest reports high on the agenda, including the final report of the 5-member Parliamentary Committee set up to probe into allegations of ‘extortion’ of monies from expatriates at the recently held Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA); the Ameri Power report to be submitted by the Mines and Energy Committee to the House; and the vetting of anti-corruption campaigner Martin Amidu as Ghana’s first Special Prosecutor.

ExxonMobil agreement

Parliament is expected to scrutinise the Ghana-ExxonMobil petroleum agreement for exploration of oil in the Tano Basin.

But before the agreement is presented to the Legislature, government will have to settle on a local partner for the American oil giant, who will control a 5% stake in the enterprise.

According to the Minority Spokesperson on Mines and Energy, Adam Mutawakilu, “We (Parliament) will be looking at how much Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is taking now, and how much they intend to add in case a discovery is made. Another thing to look at is the royalties; that is how much will the company be paying as royalty in case a discovery is made and production starts”.

He added: “We already have the laws on income tax payments and that will be of concern to us plus a very critical look at any instance of associated gas which our laws have made it clear as to who owns it. If the terms of the agreement are very evident not arguably, within a matter of a month we should be able to get consensus and pass it.

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Where information is not forthcoming as we request, it may take more than one month to complete. But we are waiting; anytime cabinet will be ready and come with its work, we are ready to look at it.”

 

National ID

A new legislative instrument (LI) to give the necessary legal backing for the full-scale implementation of the National Identification Programme is expected to be sent to Parliament for deliberation and passage.

“The National ID system has delayed. The law under which the ID system could commence turned out to be outlawed and so a new Legislative Instrument (L. I.), which is ready, will be sent to Parliament when they resume to be passed, then we can quick start the ID programme.

“When the L. I. is submitted to parliament, after the 21 days it can become law and set the stage right for the ID system to take off,” President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said when he met selected journalists at the Flagstaff House last week.

 

Amendment to Rent Bill

The amendment to the existing Rent Law has become necessary, given the rising cost of house rentals in major cities and towns across the country and growing housing deficit in the country.

Among many of the reforms proposed in the Act is monthly rental payments by tenants instead of the current 6-month rent advance stipulated under the law.

The reforms, when accepted and approved by Parliament, will also shift power from Landlords to the Rent Control Department of the Works and Housing Ministry.

Minister for Works and Housing, Samuel Atta Akyea, noted that: “It is our determination to ensure that a new Rent Bill will be validated and all anomalies of the existing Rent Act removed to promote a balance between the needs of tenants and landlords. When passed into law, the new Rent Act will ensure that the rights of vulnerable tenants are safeguarded and, also, real estate developers are not discouraged from investing in rental housing”.

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Ameri report

The Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament will also present its report to House as to whether Parliament should rescind its decision to approve the Ameri Energy agreement.

The previous government signed the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) Agreement on February 10, 2015 as an emergency power arrangement to help reduce the power supply deficit at the time, and the project was expected to be delivered within 90 days after fulfillment of conditions precedent – but it wasn’t done within the stipulated period.

It is a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer agreement between government and Africa and Middle East Resources Investment Group (Ameri Energy) for the installation of ten aero-derivative gas turbines.

Ameri Energy was said to have overcharged government and sub-let the contract to Turkish firm Power Project SANAYI (PPR) at US$315million less than what was charged the Government of Ghana (GoG).

Cash for seat probe

Parliament set up the committee following allegations that expatriate business executives were asked to pay up to US$100,000 in order to have the privilege of sitting at President Akufo- Addo’s table at the recently held Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA).

The Committee, which is chaired by Majority chief whip Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, is expected to present its report during this sitting to ascertain authenticity of the motion filed by the Minority in Parliament.

Vetting of Special Prosecutor

Martin Amidu is also expected to be vetted by Parliament this current sitting, and when approved he becomes the country’s first Special Prosecutor – charged with prosecuting past and current public officials, and largely to protect public funds.

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