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General News of Thursday, 7 November 2013

Source: Daily Guide

$123.4m Security loan stepped down

There was a charged atmosphere in parliament yesterday when the majority tried to bulldoze its way to get a $123.4million loan facility approved for a supply contract between the government of Ghana and the ZTE Corporation of China for the supply of dedicated security information system at a cost of $129.9million to boost national security in the country.

The minority, led by the ranking member of select committee on communications, Kennedy Agyapong, and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Assin Central, MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu-Ankomah and MP for Old Tafo, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, raised very serious concerns about the nature of the contract agreement which gave wholesale indemnity to the supplier, ZTE Corporation, absolving it from any cost in the contract.

Mr Agyapong said the indemnification by the government as per article 37(2) of the contract agreement would not favour it since the government should pay all cost, expenses and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the supplier in connection with any defence, unless the supplier chooses to defend itself.

“We want this indemnity absolving the contractor from any cost to be modified or deleted altogether from the contract agreement because it will not benefit the government,” he said.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said the contract, as it is, would have constitutional consequences, if it was approved by parliament because there was no clause in the contract agreement that stated the obligations of the contractor towards the government and that invariably gave room for the contractor to deny any particular obligation as and when the issue arose.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah, therefore, advocated that the motion be stepped down for proper due diligence to be done and further consultations to be done to ensure that there was a ‘win, win’ situation.

The majority, led by the National Democratic Congress(NDC) Member of Parliament for Amenfi Central, George Kofi Arthur, and chairman of committee on Defence and Interior and the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, also pressed that the loan be approved despite the reservations raised by the minority members.

The minister said the issues raised by the minority might be genuine, he would still want parliament to go ahead and approve of the loan.

He indicated that if the loan was approved, those concerns would be addressed later.

The minority members did not agree to the assertion by the minister because they believed there was no guarantee that those assurances given by the minister would be addressed, if the loan was approved.

This led to exchanges between the members on the majority side and the minority side.

The first deputy Speaker, Ebo Barton-Odro, who was presiding over proceedings, however, said that the minority’s concerns were well-placed.

He pointed out that, if those concerns were addressed, they would eventually be in the larger interest of the government.

He, therefore, ruled that the motion was stepped down for the Minister of Communications to take steps to address the concerns raised by the minority members and after that the motion be brought back next week for consideration by parliament.