Intense Debate Over Petroleum Bill
Over one hundred amendments have been proposed by Members of Parliament for consideration by the House during the deliberation stage of the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill which is scheduled to commence today. The House yesterday concluded a debate on the second reading of the bill during which the members subjected it to intense scrutiny on the principles and objectives of the bill which seeks to provide the framework for the collection, allocation, and management of the petroleum revenue in a responsible manner for the benefit of both current and future generations. The aspect of the bill that appears to have found common ground of consensus across the political divide was the need to temporarily suspend the saving of the expected oil revenue into the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund for a period of time for the money to be used to provide critical infrastructure. Both sides of the House were also in agreement on the need for an accelerated development plan to address development challenges in the Western Region as petitioned by the chiefs. The Majority Leader, Cletus Avoka, in his contribution corroborated the view expressed earlier by Professor Gyan-Baffour on the need to use the revenue to solve critical problems of infrastructure, adding that while it was useful to save some of the expected revenue for the future, it was equally important to invest the revenue to address immediate challenges facing the country in terms of motorable roads, access to potable water, education and health. Mr Avoka also raised issue with the composition and the role assigned to the Public Interest and Accountability Committee, (PIAC), as espoused by the bill, saying that it would be a waste on public fund and burden on the economy and rather suggested that accountability institutions such as Parliament should be strengthened to play that role. The Majority Leader commended the Western Regional House of Chiefs for the matured manner they handled their petition to the House and reiterated the need to accelerate the development of the area and added that the 10 per cent of the expected oil revenue, as requested by the chiefs, might not be the panacea to addressing the challenges in the area. The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, for his part kicked against the transfer of the expected oil revenue into the consolidated fund to support budgetary allocations and suggested that the expected oil revenue should come with its own programmes and activities for easy tracking to ensure value for money. Mr. Kyei-Mensah Bonsu stressed the need for a national development agenda and for the composition of the National Development Planning Commission to be devoid of partisanship so that its programmes would be accepted by any party in government. The Minority Leader discounted claims in some sections of the media that parliament had rejected the petition by the chiefs from the Western Region, adding that the region was deficient in infrastructure considering the fact that it formed a backbone of the economy; hence, the need to address challenges facing the area. In winding up the debate on the second reading of the bill, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Seth Terkper, commended the MPs for their valuable contributions to the bill and said the ministry had taken note of the concerns of the members on the need for both the Petroleum Revenue Management and the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bills to work in tandem as well as the Commission to oversee the oil and gas industry as required by Article 269(1).
Source: Ghanaian Times