Parliament tasked to scrutinise Presidential Transitional Bill

BY: Kobby Asmah
 Dr Michael Ofori-Mensah
Dr Michael Ofori-Mensah

A senior research fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Dr Michael Ofori-Mensah, has called on Parliament to scrutinise the proposed Presidential (Transition) (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which is before the House to ensure that Ghanaians get value for money.

As the custodian of the public purse, he said, Parliament, during its final session before the December 7 general election,  must consider and rethink through key proposals aimed at promoting accountability and transparency in the management of official assets.

 The House, he said, must also meticulously consider subsidiary legislation that would outline the finer details relating to the role of the Administrator-General and the mandate of the Presidential Estates Unit (PEU).

He was sharing the IEA’s perspective on the Presidential (Transition) (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which is currently at the consideration stage in Parliament.

The objective of the bill, among other things, is to amend the Presidential (Transition) Act 2012 (Act 845), address the loopholes identified in the act and ensure the effective and smooth presidential transition from one administration to another.  

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, Dr Ofori-Mensah pointed out that given the fact that the cost of government was a pressing public policy issue, the Transition Act could be tightened to ensure value for money.

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Additionally, he said, the effective management and maintenance of the large portfolio of official assets, which the Administrator-General and the PEU would oversee, could accrue huge savings to the nation.

He, therefore, underscored the need for the state to impose a statutory requirement for the Administrator-General to submit periodic (narrative and financial) reports to Parliament.

The proposed requirement, which could be on an annual basis, could be set within a time frame such as not later than six months after the end of each financial year, he stressed.

He said the annual report should also provide an update on the national register of executive assets (including size and location), timeliness of inventories taken, cost of maintaining the assets portfolio, assets procured, actions taken by the PEU during transitions (where applicable), the operations and performance of the PEU, among other issues.

Brief background

At a two-day workshop on the review of the Presidential (Transition) Act, 2012, (Act 845) at Akosombo in the Eastern Region on July 14, 2013, the then Administrator-General of the PEU, Mr Joe Issachar, said a complete inventory of assets and properties of the state did not exist and so the size, location, condition and value of those assets and properties were not known.

He said the situation created room for the loss, stealing and misuse of state assets and properties, as reflected in the Auditor-General’s annual reports.

Need to address loopholes

But in Dr Ofori-Mensah’s opinion, the situation that existed in 2013 largely remained the same and there was the urgent need to address the loopholes to save the nation’s scarce resources for national development programmes.

Parliament resumes sittings

Meanwhile, the Third Meeting of the Fourth Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic opened on Tuesday after a two-month recess.

During this meeting, 23 bills, including the Head of Family Accountability Bill, 2016; the Legal Service Bill, 2016; the Road Safety Bill, 2016; the Tax Administration Bill; the Corporate Insolvency Bill and the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill, 2016, will be on the table for presentation.

Others are the Prison Service Bill, 2016; the Advertising Bill, 2016, and the Statistics Bill, 2016.

There are 10 bills, including the Companies Bill, 2013; the Property Rights of Spouses Bill, 2013; the Whistleblowers (Amendment) Bill, 2015; the Narcotics Control Commission Bill, 2015; the Registration of Births and Deaths Bill, 2015; the Witness Protection Bill, 2015; the Cooperative Bill, 2015; the National Youth Scheme Bill, 2016; the Tertiary Education Research Fund Bill, 2016, and the Lotto and Lotteries Authority Bill, 2016, at the committee level which are still being worked on. 

Eleven bills are also at the consideration stage. They are the Presidential (Transition)(Amendment) Bill, 2015; the Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2013; the Intestate Succession Bill, 2013; the Right to Information Bill, 2013; the Real Estate Authority Bill, 2015; the Chieftaincy (Amendment) Bill, 2013. 

The rest are the Public Private Partnership Bill, 2016; the Local Governance Bill, 2016, and the Sports Bill, 2016; the Plant Breeders Bill, 2013, and the Ghana Aids Commission Bill, 2015.

The Wildlife Resources Management Bill, 2015; the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages Bill, 2015; the Public Holidays (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Children’s (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and the Development and Classification of Film Bill, 2016, are the bills for Second Reading. 

Also, nine instruments are to be presented at the meeting, three instruments at the committee level and 32 papers.

Ten motions have been tabled for debate and 100 other referrals of bills are at the committee level.

Besides, there will be notice of questions to be answered by various sector ministers.