Business News of Sunday, 14 December 2014
Parliament on Thursday approved a fiscal support agreement and security package term sheet among the government, the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC), ENI and Vitolat at an estimated cost of $8 billion oil and gas project to start.
The agreement generated heat, heckles and banter from both sides of the House.
There was an attempt by the Minority to block the deal, but the intervention of the Speaker, Mr Edward Korbly Doe Adjaho, foiled the attempt and the House finally endorsed the agreement.
The GNPC is in the open market to seek an $8billion business partnership agreement with the government, ENI and VITOL to develop the Sankofa and Gye Nyame oil and gas project.
The integrated oil and gas project is expected to generate estimated revenue of $11.115 billion to the state
To that effect, fiscal support agreement and security package term sheet report from the joint Committees on Finance and Mines & Energy was, yesterday, put before Parliament for adoption and approval.
Mr Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, the Minister of Energy and Petroleum, told the House that the project would, to a very large extent, help solve the challenges in generating power.
“The challenges with procuring light crude oil for power generation and the unreliable gas supply will be solved because the project promises to produce 50thousand barrels of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas for the next 20years,” he said.
While members from the Majority side were in full support of the project, the Minority raised concerns over the short period of time given to Parliament to scrutinize the agreement, arguing that 10 days were not enough against the two years it took the government to negotiate the contract.
The Minority was also peeved over the GNPC’s intention to raise a $700 million debt facility to, among other things, construct a gas pipeline.
The Minority further drew the Speaker’s attention to a case which was pending at a High Court and sought his guidance over the matter, with reference to his earlier ruling on the Merchant-Fortiz deal on January 6, 2014.
The Ranking Member on the Finance Committee and the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, who led the argument said since an aspect of the business partnership deal the GNPC was seeking for was already in court, it would be prudent for the Speaker to suspend the discussion until the final determination by the court.
He said a related matter to this report was in court and there are three plaintiffs to which he was one.
Dr Osei said the Judge is expected to rule on it this morning, so it would not be wise for the committee to go ahead without bringing the matter to the Speaker’s notice.
“The Term Sheet that is being sought to be approved, part of it relates to the $700m loan the GNPC was going for. I am seeking your guidance as per your earlier ruling on the Merchant Bank-Fortiz case, to see whether it will be permissible to consider it,” he said.
Also, he said, under the contract the government was expected to assume that if investors borrowed money at 2 per cent, it should be deemed to be 7 per cent and added that the government was also expected to grant tax exemptions to the tune of $125 million.
Dr. Osei said the government was expected to put up $100 million to protect investors but there were no clauses in the contract to protect the interest of the country and took a swipe at the GNPC for raising monies without Parliament’s approval and for misapplying funds.
But Speaker Adjaho responded that what the House was considering was different from what was before the Court.
He said he had carefully studied the report of the Joint Committees and that of the reliefs or claims the plaintiffs were looking for and there was nowhere that the aspects of the report were part of what was before the Court.
Three MPs, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei and Mr Samuel Atta Akyea are in court to challenge the decision by the GNPC to sidestep Parliament in their bid to secure $700million.
They are praying to the court direct the GNPC to suspend any transaction relating to the securing of the loan until hearing of the substantive matter is determined.
Counsel for Respondents, Mr Tony Lithur, argued that the wish when granted would stall efforts in securing the loan. Ruling on the matter is expected to be made on January 2, 2015.
The ruling of the Speaker did not go down well with the Deputy Minority Leader, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, who pressed for further clarification over the matter.
“Mr. Speaker, my fear is that in the event that the Court rules and brings the loan back to Parliament, it means our hands are tied as Parliament”, he said.
The Speaker however responded that the jurisdiction that the Legislature had called up to exercise was different from the loan approval, and that the hands of the House would never be tied.
The Security Package Term Sheet sets out the basis for the establishment of a gas payment structure to secure the gas payments and performance obligations of GNPC to ENI and VITOL.
The Security Package Term Sheet is primarily based on revenue flows from domestic gas sales through a main escrow GNPC Distribution Account that is backed by an escrow reserve holding account that GNPC will fund with a minimum balance.
These obligations will be backstopped, among other things, by a World Bank Partial Risk Guarantee cover of US$600million plus US$100million, which encumbers International Development Authority allocation to Ghana in the amount of US$150million, to cover the risk of payment default by GNPC and a sovereign guarantee up to US$100million that will cover any further payment shortfall that may occur.
The Offshore Cape Three Points Petroleum Agreement Security Package Term Sheet also allows the Supplier to seek Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency insurance in addition to the guarantees provided by the Government of Ghana and backed by the World Bank.
Mr Seth Terpker, the Minister of Finance, who was in the House before the agreement was ratified, allayed the fears of the minority MPs that the GNPC and World Bank which is offering the $700 million will provide the needed guarantee for the loan
The House, in a related another development, approved an amount of GH¢6,173,672 for the National Development Planning Commission, GH¢125,527,610 for the Audit Service,GH¢12,656,582 for the Public Services Commission, and GH¢222,850 for the office of the District Assemblies’ Common Fund Administrator as budget estimates for the year ending December 2015.