Debates of 6 Nov 2009

PRAYERS 10:10 a.m.


Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Hon Members, item 2 -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings - I have been informed that the Official Report for yesterday is not ready. So we would only correct the Votes and Proceedings of yesterday -- Page
1 . . . 9 -
Nii Jonathan Tackie-Kome: Mr.
Speaker, I was with your Committee on Government Assurances in Tamale since Monday -
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
page are you talking about?
Nii Tackie-Kome: Mr. Speaker, I am talking of page 5 -- “The following Hon Members were absent:” and my name is listed absent. We were with your Committee on Government Assurances in the North since Monday. We just arrived this morning.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Is the House and the Leadership aware that the Committee was going there?
Nii Tackie-Kome: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The Hon Majority Leader is aware that we were on a committee assignment.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Very well.
Prof. (Emeritus) S. K. Amoako 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, page 9, item number 10, the very first line: “The Interpretation Bill . . .” I think a word is missing there. “. . . was accordingly read a Second time.” The word “was” is missing.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Hon Member, I think that without the word “was” it is still correct.
Pages 10 , 11, 12 -
Prof. (Emeritus) Amoako 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know the date or the day the Committee on Trade and Industry and Tourism had a meeting. It said the “Committee met on Tuesday, 4th November …” Either they met on Wednesday, 4th November or Tuesday, 3rd November.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Very well.
Prof. (Emeritus) Amoako 10:10 a.m.
And still on the same page, the “Members of the Ghana Journalist Association”, I think the ‘s' at the end of “Journalist” is missing - “Journalists Association”. And that is repeated under item number 3 - against number (ii) -- “Mr. Bright Blewn” -
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
It should be ‘u'.
Prof. (Emeritus) Amoako 10:10 a.m.
So maybe “Blewu” is also misspelt. I do not know that, but “Ghana Journalist Association” again -- [Interruption.]
Mr. Agyeman Manu 10:10 a.m.
Professor Emeritus.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
You are a proper professor. Hon Member for
Dormaa West, you are out of order.
Page 13 --
Mr. S. E. Asimah 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, under
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Works and Housing -
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Which page?
Mr. S. E. Asimah 10:10 a.m.
Page 13. “The following Hon Members were present”, my name is Simon Edem Asimah; it is not Asiamah.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Very well.

Hon Members , the Votes and Proceedings of Thursday, 5th November, 2009 as corrected is hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings.

Hon Members, item 3 - Business Statement - Hon Majority Leader and Chairman of the Business Committee.

Mr. Robert Sarfo-Mensah (Asunafo North) 10:30 a.m.
To ask the Minister for the Interior what pragmatic measures have been put in place by the National Disaster Management Organisation to prevent the perennial floods in Accra.
Questions --
* 1 3 4 . M r. I s a a c K w a m e Asiamah (Atwima-Mponua): To ask the Minister for the Interior what is being done urgently to assist flood victims in the Atwima Mponua Consti- tuency.
*173. Mr. Stephen Kunsu (Kintampo North): To ask the Minister for the Interior what steps the Ministry is taking to equip Kintampo Ghana National Fire Service Station with a utility vehicle and a new fire appliance to effectively handle emergency disaster cases at the Kintampo North Constituency.
Mr. Robert Sarfo-Mensah (Asunafo North) 10:30 a.m.
(i) Lambussie
(ii) Pina
(iii) Koro
(iv) Karni
(v) Bellow
(vi) Samoa
(vii) Suke
*273. Mr. John Doughr Baloroo (Lambussie): To ask the Minister for Communications when the ICT Centres built at Lambussie and Piina will be completed and commissioned.
Motion --
Adoption of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Report of the Auditor-General on the Statements of Foreign Exchange Receipts and Payments of the Bank of Ghana for the two half years ended 31st December 2007.
Consideration Stage of Bills --
Interpretation Bill, 2009.
Committee sittings

Questions --

to provide a television booster station for the people of Asunafo North Constituency to enhance television viewing in the area and the adjoining districts.

*274 Mr. Frank Boakye Agyen (Effiduase/Asokore): To ask the Minister for Information the number of vehicles recovered from former Ministers and other officials of the immediate past NPP Administration and the status of the vehicles.


Motion --

Third Reading of Bills --

Interpretation Bill, 2009.

Committee sittings.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:30 a.m.
Thank you very much, Hon Majority Leader and Chairman of the Business Committee.
Prof. (Emeritus) Amoako 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I seem to be confused here because according to the Majority Leader, this proposed Report is for the week ending November 13 but when you look at item 3 on the first page, I have something on the Budget for Wednesday the 18th. Does it mean that we are not going to have any Business Report next week? I think the Budget Statement is important and I do not think it should be captured in the Report of the week ending Friday the 13th. Can I have a little explanation on that?
Mr. S. K. B. Manu 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I
want to look at page 1 of the Statement where he talked about the formation of that committee, page 2 of the follow-up committee. I would like to know from the Hon Majority Leader how the composition is going to be and the chairmanship of that
committee, which way it will go.
Mr. Speaker, indulge me. When you were doing the Votes and Proceedings, I got up but I could not catch your eye on a very important issue. [Interruptions.] Please, please it is very important. When I finish, you will know the essence of it. [Interruption] - I know, I know it is past, that is why I started by saying, “indulge me”.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:30 a.m.
Hon Member, you are a senior Member of this House, we are on the Business Statement just presented by the Chairman of the Business Committee. If there is another problem with that Votes and Proceedings there is another way of going by it.
Yes, Hon - are you Suame or Old Tafo?
Dr. A. A. Osei 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, on page 2 of the Business Statement, the Hon Leader talked about the post-budget workshop, presumably which will take place on Saturday and Sunday. Mr. Speaker, I want to urge the Leadership to reconsider the time period and my reason is the following:
When the budget is presented on Wednesday, I think that even the best experts cannot take two days to go through to serve as resource persons. I have been there several times and I think they would need a little time, otherwise, it would be rehashing what the Hon Minister has said in Parliament.
So I want to see if the Leadership can consider giving them even a day extra and pushing our workshop a day extra so that they can do a better job of being resource persons for the Chairmen, Ranking Members and Leadership. Otherwise, we will go and sit there on Saturday and we would almost be hearing what the Hon
Minister had told us in Parliament and we can do some of the readings ourselves. This is what I have noticed in the past.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
You are talking from experience?
Dr. Osei 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, some experience.
Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyemang 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you most sincerely. Much as I appreciate the fact that the Business of this House takes absolute priority over everything else, it is also important that the human aspect of this be considered hence my intervention.
On the 21st of this month, if I read
it well, the post-budget workshop for Chairpersons and Ranking Members, committees and so on goes on from Friday the 20th to Monday the 23rd. Unfortunately, on the 21st of November, we have the funeral of one of our leading members, Dr. Sarfo-Adu, who has also served as a member of Council of State and a Minister for Agriculture. For some of us, in fact, most of us on this side, we would have to be there.
So I think that a little consultation would have to take place to see what it is, because it is very important that we pay tribute and honour to people who have mentored us in our political careers. So I want to appeal to the distinguished Leader of the House if the 21st would be excused. If he can reconsider the date because it has taken us a long while to be able to get a date which we thought was suitable and after consultations on both sides of the political divide, we had come to this date and now it looks as if that has been a bit changed.
I would plead that they consider that
date because for some of us, Dr. Safo-Adu was really a very senior figure, politically, in this country.
Thank you.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. Mr. Speaker, I was not at the last Business Committee meeting but before then, we had discussed this, that is the previous Business Committee meeting and I think this presentation is pursuant to the discussion that we had the other time. But, yes, bringing it forward, to 18th is encouraging.
Notwithstanding, as has been articulated by our Hon Ranking Member for Finance, even though we have an additional day, that is Wednesday, instead of the usual Thursday, I believe that additional day, if we have to meet on the night of Friday to commence work on Saturday, will still make the programme rather too tight. And for practical purposes, the resource persons would have the documents maybe, Wednesday evening. They start perusing and analyzing the document on Thursday and Friday and we are supposed to commence on Saturday.
Effectively we are giving them just two days and I believe that will be too much for them. They will come all right but their presentations will be very theoretical as we have seen in the past, which is why we amended the position and gave them more than one week to do the analysis and present to us what their in-depth consideration of the Budget Statement is. So I think that informed by that precedent, perhaps three days would even not be sufficient.
But given the special circumstances that we have, I believe three days would be all right, so Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
Hon Minority Leader, leave me out of the example you want to give. I am just pleading.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to you, if you want to be left out, you would not have filed a Question because your name is here. So for purposes of this discussion, you cannot be left out, unfortunately. That is not in any way to take anything away from you.
Mr. Speaker, the point being made is that sometimes some of the Questions which are asked are rather weighty, including the one that you yourself has filed and so you may use your discretion when you get there as per Standing Order 60 (2) and allow us to go, maybe, a bit beyond the prescribed hour as permitted by our Standing Orders, that is Standing Order 60 (2).
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.
Mr. Frederick Opare-Ansah 10:50 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, on page 2 of the Business Statement read by the Hon Majority Leader, item 4, he talks about the Committee recommending setting up a committee to specifically follow up on recommendations of the House and to deal with relevant matters and in doing so the Hon Majority Leader referred us to article 187 (6) of the 1992 Constitution.
Mr. Speaker, if you refer to Standing Order 165 (2), it talks about the specific area that the Public Accounts Committee is supposed to work within. But clearly if you look at the past years and Standing Order 165 (2), it talks specifically about the audited accounts. We would all agree that in the several years past, the Public Accounts Committee has been tasked
with looking into matters arising out of the Auditor-General's Report.
So my concern here is, was it the intention of article 187 (6) to recommend the setting up of a separate committee besides the Public Accounts Committee which is already tasked by Parliament on numerous occasions to look at this same report? And in any case, if it is not already doing that function, why do we need another committee and why the same functions cannot be referred to the Public Accounts Committee, which I believe is already appropriately constituted and structured to deal with such matters?
I, in my opinion, feel that constituting and composing another committee would be superfluous and will be creating a paralleled structure to the existence of the Public Accounts Committee.
Mr. Bagbin 10:50 a.m.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I hope the Hon Member who raised the first issue was listening to the queries of the other Hon Members. He would have got the import of why even though the 18th does not fall within next week, we decided to give notice of the Budget to be presented on the 18th. That is in order to give sufficient notice for us to programme our work as individual Members in order to give the opportunity for the House to make these comments so that we could take them on board.
So it is on the statement side, not the details of next week. That is why we put it there on the first page which deals with the Memorandum. That is the reason, to give us the opportunity to plan ahead for that very important item. Maybe, we should have stated “Observation” as the heading for that item.
The other comments, I must say, were somehow taken into consideration. From our experience, it is true that the resource
persons scarcely have enough space to educate themselves on the Budget that had just been presented before acting as resource persons. In fact, we tried getting the presentation on the 17th but the difficulties of underdevelopment, is what we are faced with and it is not easy to get the Budget together within some period that Parliament may want.
So we were compelled to take a day extra, 18th, and we are expecting that the first day, that is Saturday, will be the opportunity for the Hon Minister and his technical people to take us through the Budget.
Then the second day we have the resource persons. So that extra day that is being requested will be available for the resource persons that are outside the Ministry and not involved in the process of budgeting. So we looked at that. We also think that it is important to use more than two days because experience has shown that as we cramp the resource persons into a two-day programme, Hon Members do not have sufficient time to ease up and raise queries that will ignite very good debate for us to be able to get the full import and essence of the Budget.
So we decided that it should be more than two days and that is why we are starting on Saturday to give opportunity for the opening ceremony and the resource persons from the Ministry and those who are dealing with the Budget process to make their presentations.
The second day, we get from the civil society, the third day, we wind it up and by mid-day, we pack bag and baggage and come back to Accra to prepare for the debate on Tuesday. We are being told that we should rather consider it on Wednesday. The Business Committee will discuss that and then present the details next week.
Mr. Bagbin 10:50 a.m.

The issue raised by my uncle, Hon Owusu-Agyemang, popularly known as Hon Hackman - [Interruptions] -- I do agree with him that the late Dr. Sarfo-Adu is a very important statesman of our nation and that we should try as much as possible to give him a befitting funeral. I expect that, yes, some Hon Members will be at the funeral and I also expect that business will keep on and particularly State business will not be stopped because of the funeral.

I particularly have a personal problem with our culture of giving much of what we have to the dead and not to the living. It is a personal problem. We spend a lot on corpses and leaving the living as a culture and I have made this known to our illustrious paramount chiefs, professors and the rest that, I in particular have a problem with that.
Mr. Owusu-Agyemang 10:50 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate what the dis- tinguished Leader of the House is saying but what I was trying to underscore is the fact that a former Member of Parliament, a former Member of Council of State, a former Minister, a mentor to most of us on this side of the House, we will be obliged to pay homage until what his wish is, is changed and if nothing happened, then at least, we expect a befitting funeral for him and so that we can fully participate in this.
Giving the shortage of the time, the Minority Leader suggested we start on Sunday, one day later and then we will then be able to -- because I do not think
that you want to go to a meeting -- a retreat to look at the Budget and then most of your Ranking Members are not there. Indeed, I have it on authority that the other side is also being formally informed.
So I do not think that I am saying -- I started my preamble by saying “much as I appreciate the fact that the business of the House must take absolute priority over everything else”, I believe also for now, what is happening in this society is that people must be given their due respect, especially a former Colleague of this House.
So I just want to appeal that -- I am not arguing that we should spend all our energies on funerals, no, but it so happens that they are also State funerals. They are State funerals and that day the President and the whole team is mobilized. So I just want to appeal that let us accept the proposal of the Minority Leader to start on Sunday; we will go and then those of us who are obliged to come, will come and do the State business. A happy balance between State business and also what is humane, what is our common humanity must inform our movement.
For now, I think that your movement will not change until we change the culture of this country, but let us go on that way. I plead with you, Hon Leader. I make a special plea to you, Sir.
Mr. Bagbin 10:50 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy that you have already transformed my statement into a movement. I hope we will make a headway to change some of you; to change the culture of adoring the dead bodies. I agree with you but I would want to insist that we consider him a Statesman and therefore this side of the House, that side of the House does not come in. So I am surprised you were referring to it that way. I know that both sides of the House will participate and that there will be a befitting funeral but I am saying that we
should still allow business to go on. As we sit now, one of our --
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 11 a.m.
Hon Member, do you have a point of order?
Mr. Fredrieck Opare-Ansah 11 a.m.
That is so, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am not very sure I heard the Hon Majority Leader right but if I did, then I might have heard him say that there is a culture of adoring dead bodies.
I am not very sure what the Hon Majority Leader sought to imply by that because I know we cherish the memory of the people we have known in our lives but I do not know if by any extension of the imagination of the Hon Majority Leader, he wants to imply, that is adoring dead bodies. So if he can elucidate on that point, I think he will do the House some good. Otherwise, the Hon Majority Leader should find a nice way of re-capping what he was saying.
Thank you.
Mr. Bagbin 11 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I have seen and I have observed many times some elegant decoration of corpses -- [Laughter] -- and I have seen and participated in bowing down before coffins. We are paying respect, I do agree. But all the same, the extent to which we go is something that as a nation and a people, we should reconsider. That is all what I am calling for.
I agree that we must participate in the funeral, I have no doubt about that. My concern is allowing an arrest or an injunction on the business of the House because of the funeral. That is what I am
worried about.
I am saying that even now, we have one of our former very hard-working members of our staff who used to sit at the Table Office to preside over business here, the funeral is ongoing this morning. But here we are doing business, then after that we will go and participate in the funeral. That is how it should be and even as we are here, there are some people there. There are some Members representing us, both staff and Members of Parliament.
Mr. Owusu-Agyemang 11 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, much as - I do not think that I am a clairvoyant to the extent that without reading things, I see them. If the Budget will be in the lines that we all expect, then we will know how to go about it. But that does not mean that I can comment on a document that I have not seen - [Laughter.]
At least, I do not behave like sometimes he used to do before the Budget is read; you all had your pieces of paper commenting on issues when you had not read the Budget. So, wait until the Budget comes, let me see it, I have brilliant ideas that I will feed into it but I do not pretend that I can comment meaningfully, with my experience and background on documents that I have not seen. So, if you want to give me an advance copy, that will be fine.
Mr. Bagbin 11 a.m.
Thank you very much. That was on the lighter side. When Hon Hackman came to Parliament, I was in the Majority and we were learning some of the tricks that they were employing when
Mr. Bagbin 11:10 a.m.
they were in the Minority. And that lesson, we got from them of preparing before the Budget is presented, is very good for democracy. We have noticed the Standing Order that the Hon Deputy Chief Whip of the Minority has - [Interruptions.] Sorry, I am sorry, you are not Deputy, you are Chief Whip - [Laughter] - Sorry.
We know that the Public Accounts Committee is mandated to examine the accounts and present the report. Then after that, the decision is left to the House. If the House decides that the Committee should follow up on the recommen-dations, so be it. If the House decides that we should set up another committee to do it, we will do so. If we want the Committee to compose itself into a sub- committee, we will do that.
But we realized that the workload of the Committee is that heavy and if you add some more to them, you break the neck of the Chairman. So we are proposing that we set up another committee but that is left to the House to decide. I still want us to try to balance the competing demands on our time.
We are calling for more time to be able to digest and debate the Budget and we are also calling for time for some other activities. We need to balance them and we are just proposing this balance for the House. That, yes, let us allow and take notice of the fact that some Members including some key Members may be absent on the first day but we know that they will catch up on the second and third days. Because if we shift it, we will be left with only Sunday and Monday and we will not have sufficient time for the resource persons to take us through the Budget. I am saying this from experience and I think that we should take more than two days.
I also think that, yes, we could consider not to start the debate on Tuesday, we could consider not to start it on Wednesday, we could start the debate on Thursday but rather allow members of the various committees to concentrate on the committee work while a representative body debates the principles and policies on the floor.
We could do that because we are left with barely one month and a few days and on that day after the presentation, we will be left with just one month and we will have to do justice to it. That is why I keep on reiterating the fact that we need to pass this Budget Bill as soon as possible so that we can start from next year, being part of the process of budgeting. I think that will help us.
The best practice as we all know is for the House to be given three months to consider and debate a budget and pass the Appropriation Bill. That is the best practice. Ours is in the middle, some countries use two weeks but we use mostly one month but that is not sufficient.

So Mr. Speaker, I just want to crave your indulgence and to plead with my Hon Colleagues to, in the meantime, accept the notice that we have given and the concerns that they have raised will be dealt with by the Business Committee at its next meeting and then we would bring the detailed programme for that week for consideration. But we have as many as over 300 Questions and we are program-ming not to give opportunity to Hon Members to ask Questions when the Budget is before us unless they are of such a nature that we are compelled to do justice and to allow Hon Members to raise them.

So we want more time for more Questions from many more Hon Members so that we can reduce the backlog of

Questions on the Agenda. We know there are more Questions coming but as at now, we have over 330.

So Mr. Speaker, this is the proposed Business and as I said, the details of the Budget Week would be given at the next Business Statement.
Minority Leader (Mr. Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu) 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I think that it is a good decision from the Business Committee to inform the House about what is intended the following week. Just so that Hon Members would be able to sort themselves out and also adequately prepare for the ensuing week. I believe it is for the information of this House and as the Majority Leader said, we may input into it and that input that is proffered may ultimately shape the final structure of the Business of the ensuing week. Which is why I would want to leave it at that and not go on.
But I think that it is not for nothing that the Majority Leader was mandated to engage the Hon Minister for Finance and Economic Planning to see whether we could not bring it forward to even the 12th of this month. Initially, when he insisted that it was not going to be possible, then we were thinking that we could have it on the 17th.
We are informed that it is almost impossible to do that, the 18th is a middle way, we would take it like that but we are talking about the preparation of the resource persons. They have always insisted that the time that we have given them have not been enough, which is why we have given them about eight, nine days. Now, we are talking about three, four days which is still not enough but then if we have to really do diligent work, then as you are proposing, perhaps, Sunday.
What has been the normal practice? The normal practice has been that when we
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 11:10 a.m.
brings us to the end of the consideration of the Business Statement presented by the Chairman of the Business Committee. Fortunately, the greater part of the areas that we are commenting on, there will be an opportunity for the Business Committee to look at it again.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 11:10 a.m.
But it is
a very big initiative that the Chairman of the Business Committee has given prior notice so that between now and that time, if there are further consultations, it can take place. So that brings us to the end of the Business Statement.
Hon Balado, let me listen to you now.
Mr. S. K. B. Manu 11:10 a.m.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the floor. I am sorry I did not catch your eye when I got up at the time.
If you go to page 12 of the Votes and Proceedings, the Hon Prof. [Emeritus] Amoako effected some corrections regarding line (3) of paragraph (1), which begins with the word “Journalist” and he added “s” to it. It is further required that we put an apostrophe after the (s) to make it -- [Interruptions] -- Some are saying “too known”.
Please, I am a teacher -- [Hear! Hear!] -- and I am proud of being a teacher and not a mere teacher but a teacher of languages and a member of Ghana Association of Teachers of English (GATE), so if I am around and something like this is filtering through, I should not sit down.
There are students up there who may learn from what we are doing. So, as I said, it is required that after the Prof's (s), there is an apostrophe to make it plural possessive and there is a consequential correction down the paragraph when you come to 3. In Attendance; “(ii) Mr. Bright Blewu, Ghana Journalist Association”. There is a consequential correction there.
Thank you for your indulgence.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 11:10 a.m.
Clerks Office should verify from the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) how they write their name and do the proper corrections.
Hon Majority Leader.
Mr. A. S. K. Bagbin 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker,
as I indicated earlier on, we are bereaved and we are expected to be part of the funeral this morning at Kanda. There are some compelling matters before some committees and I am sure the committees will also be sitting, so I will just be pleading that - [Interruptions] - we have done both, Business of the House is gone on and the funeral is going on.

So it is with this that I beg to move, that this House adjourn to Tuesday where we will reconvene to continue with business of the House.

I beg to move.
Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to second the motion.
Question put and motion agreed to.
ADJOURNMENT 11:10 a.m.