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Committee vets more ministers-designate

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The Appointments Committee of Parliament Thursday refused to allow ministerial nominees appearing before it to answer questions on judgement debts subject and  the payment of 51 million cedis to businessman Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome.

The Chairman of the committee and First Deputy Speaker, Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, ruled out questions on the two matters when the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice-Designate, Mrs Marrieta Brew Appiah-Opong, appeared before the committee to be vetted for the position she has been pencilled in for.

When the Deputy Chairman of the committee and Member of Parliament for Ashaiman, Mr Alfred Agbesi, posed a question on judgement debt,  Mr Barton-Odro ruled that since the President had appointed a sole commissioner to sit on the matter, the subject should not be discussed at the committee's sitting.

Even though Mr Agbesi, who is also the Deputy Majority Leader, insisted that it was a legitimate question, Mr Barton-Odro insisted that the committee could not discuss that matter.

When the MP for Agona East, Maame Pokuaa Sawyer, also posed a question on the Woyome saga, the chairman ruled it out, explaining that the matter was before a competent court of jurisdiction and would not, therefore, be right for the committee to discuss it.

Mrs Appiah-Opong, who, however, answered a number of questions pertaining to her designated ministry, told the committee that people who were advocating the decoupling of the Attorney-General from the Ministry of Justice had not brought out enough basis for their argument.

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She argued that the fact that there had been few perceived political cases did  not mean that the Attorney-General should be decoupled from the Ministry of Justice.

On her view about the death penalty, Mrs Appiah-Opong said  research had revealed that the imposition of the death penalty could be used to deter some people from committing crimes for which the death penalty was imposed, but added that the death penalty sentence should rather be commuted to life sentence without parol.

On the high attrition of state attorneys, the nominees stated that the single spine salary policy was being used among other incentives to entice lawyers to the Attorney Generals Department.

On the lost of a number of high-profile cases by the Attorney General's Department recently, Mrs Appiah-Opong said even though she appreciated the concerns by the general public she would want to have a look at the files of those cases before knowing what actually happened before passing judgement.

She explain that it would be unfair to say that the department  had lost cases, since it had also won thousands of cases which even though might not be high profile ones.

Touching on homosexuality, Mrs Appiah-Opong said the position of the law was clear on the matter, explaining that "having unnatural carnal knowledge was criminal".

She said personally, she was against the practice of homosexuality.

She also promised to liaise with the Chief Justice to ensure that more court buildings were constructed in the districts to provide accommodation for the dispensation of justice in the rural areas.

On the NDC manifesto promise to provide justice for all, the nominee told the committee that she would come up with a programme to ensure that that manifesto promise was fulfilled.

"My vision, should I be given the nod, is to ensure efficient, effective and prompt service delivery, since justice delayed is justices denied," the nominee declared.

Minister-designate for Trade and Tourism

When he took his turn, the Minister-designate for Trade and Industry, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, stated that Ghana would not sign onto any agreement that would not enure to the benefit of the country.

He said he had a better appreciation of Ghana's interest as far as Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was concerned and said he would therefore consult both Nigeria and Ivory Coast before deciding to either sign or not sign onto such partnership agreements.

Mr Iddrisu gave an assurance that he would set up an enterprise development centre to assist indigenous businesses  to build their capacities.

He said everything should be done to enable Ghanaian indigenous businesses to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.

The nominee stated that the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act had to be revised to ensure that foreign businesses paid the required taxes, adding that if that was not done it would be a disincentive to local businesses.

Mr Iddrisu said he would ensure that standards were set for  local producers to ensure the full protection of consumers.

Government Business in Parliament

The minister-designate for Government Business in Parliament, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, who lasted for about 20 minutes, explained why his position was necessary.

He said even though the African Peer Review Mechanism kicked against such a position, it had been seen in practice that Majority Leaders who were not ministers had problems of laying papers in the House.

Dr Kunbuor promised to ensure that the review of the Standing Orders of Parliament which had been on the drawing board for some time now was completed to take care of the changes that had taken place in the House.

Minister designate for Transport

The minister-designate for Transport, Mrs Dzifa Aku Ativor, whose appearance before the committee lasted for about 45 minutes, said Ghana’s goal of becoming the aviation hub of West Africa required the establishment of a national airline.

She said a private-public partnership document had been crafted for the establishment of a national airline, and, if confirmed, she would seek to implement the policy.

On how to empower the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) to make it more effective, the nominee said  plans were far advanced to elevate it to an authority and empower it to arrest and prosecute people who flout road traffic regulations.

Turning the spotlight on the decongestion of the ports, she said a road map was developed last year which laid emphasis  on the development of inland ports to serve the northern sector of the country.

The development of the inland ports, she said, would ensure that goods which arrived at the ports and were meant for the northern part of the country  were transported by rail to those areas and cleared by the importers.

Mrs Ativor  said plans also existed for the construction of aerodromes and airports in regional capitals which did not have them and added that the obstacle to the commencement of those projects  was lack of financial resources, an obstacle she pledged to help overcome if approved.

Asked how she hoped to address the problem of accidents on the Volta Lake, the nominee said 8,500 youth had already been trained and deployed in communities along the lake to ensure that boats were not overloaded and that passengers wore life jackets. Those youth had saved more than 8,000 lives.

To further enhance safety on the lake, she said ferries and fibre glass boats would be procured to provide a more convenient means of travel on the lake.

Energy and Petroleum

The minister-designate for Energy, Mr Emmanuel Kofi-Armah Buah, when he took his turn, said it was necessary to subsidise some petroleum products such as kerosene, Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Pre-mix fuel, which he described as “social products”.

“It is important that government intervenes to subsidise some products,” he said, adding that last year about Ghc1.5 billion was spent on petroleum subsidies and looking at the trend, this was likely to increase to Ghc2.5 billion per annum in the next few years.

He was, however, quick to add that subsidies must be juxtaposed against the amount of financial inflows the country had and done in a prudent manner.

Commenting on the turf war between the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) and the Petroleum Commission on who has the power to regulate the industry, Mr Buah said  the GNPC had to focus solely on building capacity to discover more oil for Ghana and leave the issue of regulation to the Petroleum Commission.

On plans to reform the Electricity Company of Ghana, he said the utility distributor was to be “broken up” into four small units to take charge of various regions in the country and added that the move formed part of plans to make the company more efficient.

He said if given the nod, he would ensure the establishment of a small

Story by Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah & Mark-Anthony Vinorkor