The majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday approved another loan of $19.8 million for capacity building in the oil and gas industry to the chagrin of the minority members, particularly the ranking member on Mines and Energy, K.T. Hammond.
He said the loan was completely needless and would only add to the country’s mounting debt stock.
K.T. Hammond, who is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Adansi/Asokwa, said funds for capacity building in the oil and gas industry had already been catered for under the Petroleum Revenue Management Act as a major component of the distribution of the country’s oil revenue.
‘In 2012, the Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC) came out to say that an amount of GH¢112 million of Ghana’s oil revenue had been used on capacity building, yet the government has not come out to tell the whole nation what kind of capacity building was that huge amount of money devoted for,’ he said, stressing that it was important for the government to account properly for the amount assigned for capacity building from the oil revenue before a further loan could even be secured for the same purpose.
Mr K.T. Hammond told Parliament that going for the $19.8 million loan did not make commercial sense at all since money had already been allocated for capacity building under the Petroleum Revenue Management Act.
‘Mr Speaker, this loan should be rejected by this House because we are already saddled with payment of huge interest on our monstrous debt stock and therefore going for additional loan just to build capacity in the oil and gas industry will be insensitive to the nation’s fiscal problems,’ he charged.
According to the ranking member on mines and energy, what even annoyed him most was the fact that $7 million of the loan would be given to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) which is so much resourced that it could afford to distribute monies to corporate bodies as freebies.
‘I for one and we in the Minority, will never support this loan because Ghana is bleeding from excessive borrowing by this government and that this loan in particular is not necessary at all, looking at our present circumstances,’ he underscored.
The Minister of Petroleum, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, stoutly defended the $19.8 million, saying that the country needed to help build capacity of staff of the ministry, the Petroleum Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Internal Revenue Service, the Attorney-General’s Office, as well as the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to help in effective mobilisation of revenue in the oil sector.
He explained that the capacity of staff of these institutions was very crucial in respect of the rapid growth of the gas and oil industry.
The minister said since oil and gas were discovered by the country, fast-track reforms had taken place and that there was the need for institutions which would help sustain the reforms to be given effective capacity building.
He said for instance that $7.8 million of the loan would be given to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to train petroleum engineers.
He said the cost of training technical people as well as petroleum engineers abroad is very expensive – $25,000 per technical training and $100,000 per petroleum engineering training – and therefore adequately resourcing domestic institutions with the capacity to train local experts would greatly help minimise the cost borne by the Ministry of Petroleum to train technical people overseas.
Meanwhile, members retired to the Committee of the Whole to consider this year’s formulae for the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), the National Health Insurance Levy and the District Assembly Common Fund amid heated debate.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr
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