The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho has reminded the Committee on Mines and Energy of Parliament to address issue of transparency in the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill, 2016.
The Speaker’s call follows a concern that was raised in the Bill by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Atwima-Mponua, Isaac Asiamah, when the Report of the Committee on Mines and Energy on the Petroleum Bill, 2016 was being considered on the floor of the House by the Lawmakers.
‘Mr Speaker, my worry is about the issue of Transparency and Accountability in the oil industry, which is the main reason why we are dealing with this important bill. By then if you read the Bill, Clause 10 Sub-section (3 and 4) of the Bill, it talks about introducing competitive tendering in the process, that is exactly captured in Clause 10 Sub-section(3) of the Bill.’
‘Mr Speaker, immediately after 10 (3), 10 (4) negates this whole bill. Clause 10 Sub-section (4) then further goes on to say that the Minister upon his discretion would nullify all the tendering process.’ The MP added that the aforementioned clauses in the bill ‘are his worry and the worry of Industry Players.’
Hon. Asiamah, who is also a Member of the Committee on Mines and Energy, reiterated that ‘when they met Industry Players and various think tanks, the above clauses were a major concern for many Industry Players, hence ‘need to be addressed.’ Mr Speaker, why would one go through the tendering process where everything has been done, then Minister issues a fiat to negate all this process that the person has gone through?’
The New Patriotic Party MP also stated that ‘Mr Speaker, we need to address the challenges in the existing legislation. The main reason the bill is introduced is to address the issue of Transparency and Accountability and if we fail to deal with it, it will negate against the Bill.’
‘I am going to file an amendment to that effect that we should delete Clause 10, Sub-clause (4) in the Bill. Mr Speaker, Second Reading is about principles of the Bill and that is why I am bringing up all these concerns that the Bill has something to cure and that something is lack of transparency in the existing one (law). The principle is that let us cure those effects in the existing law so that Ghana will benefit. That is my concern’, Hon. Asiamah posited.
Defending Clause 10, Sub-sections (3 & 4), Chairman of the Committee on Mines and Energy, Amadu Sorogho said that ‘Mr Speaker, if you read 10 (3) carefully and then 10 (4), Clause 10 Sub-section (3) says that “a petroleum agreement shall only be entered into after an open, transparent and competitive public tender process.” Then when you read 10 (4) it says “the Minister may decide not to enter into a petroleum agreement after the tendering process as prescribed…’, Mr Speaker, that is not to say the Minister will cancel it (the agreement).’
The Speaker was not enthused with the Chairman’s explanation in respect to Clause 10 (3 & 4). He therefore asked the Committee whether they have filed an amendment to that effect that the regulation in the bill would address the circumstances under which the Minister might decide not to enter into the agreement.
Hon. Doe Adjaho also said that ‘I am raising this question because when this Bill (2014) was first laid, we withdrew it and the understanding that you told the House was that there were so many amendments so you want to withdraw it and address those concerns and incorporate it into the Bill. So I’m even surprised that in spite of all these there are issues.’
The Speaker added that ‘Hon. Members, do you know why I am raising these issues and I will continue to raise it as long as I am on this chair. The same Committee on Mines and Ennergy came some time ago and brought an agreement for the House to approve and after the House…., the rest of the story is known to all of you in this House. And these days the boundaries of democracy continue to expand. At times we approve things and other oraganisations go for copies of the report of the Committees and they write to me. The debates, the reports and all those things, so when somebody raises the issue of transparency, it is important for the Chair to find out whether those matters have been addressed. Otherwise an impression will be created that the issue of transparency has not been addressed. Hon. Members, let us pass a Bill that can withstand the test of time.’
The Chairman of the Committee assured the Speaker that they would be taking note to address those concerns since the Report is still before the House for consideration.
The Bill, which has been duly read the second time seeks to regulate petroleum activities and to provide for related matters.
The Bill contains ninety-seven (97) Clauses and has been arranged in line with the various stages of petroleum activity.