There was drama on the floor of Parliament, Tuesday, when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye directed the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, to immediately search for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Yapei/Kusawgu, John Abdulai Jinapor, and bring him back on the floor to make certain amendments to his discussion on the proposed tax waiver for Platinum Properties Limited.
Jinapor who made a very strong case in his discussion on the Finance Committee’s report called on the House to reject the proposed tax waiver for Platinum Properties Limited for the Pullman Accra Airport City Hotel and Serviced Apartments walked out on the mace immediately after making his submission.
The House was considering the motion for adoption of the Report of the Finance Committee on the Request for waiver of Import Duties, Import VAT, Import NHIL Levy, Import GETFund Levy, Domestic VAT, Domestic NHIL and Domestic GETFund amount to US$23,983,033.43 (GH₵134million) on materials, plant machinery and equipment to be procured by Platinum Properties Limited for the Pullman Accra Airport City Hotel and Serviced Apartments.
The Finance Committee chaired by Hon. Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah, has observed in its report that the implementation of the project was expected to generate substantial amount of taxes for government over the initial period of operation.
However, Jinapor in his argument wondered whether same could be said about the project during the long term period.
According to him, his investigations about the project have revealed that the said project will not be profitable and therefore it wasn’t the decision by the government to grant a tax waiver amount of GH₵134million to Platinum Properties Limited in unwarranted.
“Mr. Speaker, there is something known as investment decision – in taking investment decision there is something called investment appraisal. In conducting an investment appraisal there are tools for determining whether that investment is profitable or not. If not for anything, there is a net present value, there is internal rate of return among other things. Mr. Speaker, all these have not been met here. There is no evidence to show that this project if undertaken, will be profitable. And so, if you want to inject the Ghanaian tax payer’s money – GH₵134million into a private venture, you ought to do an investment appraisal, convince Parliament and let Parliament know that it is worth doing before you inject that sum of money. This has not been done and this is not captured in the report. This was not proven at the Committee’s report”, he noted.
African Export Import Bank
The Finance Committee had also observed in its report that the debt incurred by the project will be replaced by a long term financing from the African Export Import Bank of which the Board has approved the facility.
But Jinapor contributing further said a resolution to the Board’s decision was not been made available to the Committee, an issue he noted, raises a lot of questions about the long term financing viability of the project.
The Committee had also captured Shangri La Hotel among other private companies to have benefited from tax waivers but the Yapei/Kusawgu lawmaker said Shangri La hotel was never granted any tax waiver.
“This attempt to use the tax payer’s GH₵134million to grant the tax waiver status to Pullman fails the test of time. This very hotel that is being constructed under President Akufo-Addo – this Akufo-Addo hotel, Mr. Speaker does not meet the standard and I want to state that on this side of the House, we will not be part of an illegality, we will not support it, this is an abuse, this is a misuse, this is tantamount to misusing the tax payer’s money”, he underscored.
Point of correction
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Ofoase-Ayirebi and Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah raised a point of correction and appealed to the Speaker to direct Jinapor to withdraw a portion of his statement which said that “…this Akufo-Addo hotel” since the said hotel does not belong to the President.
The Speaker however, turned on his left but could not find Jinapor in his seat to direct him to do the needful.
He therefore, called on the Minority Chief Whip and NDC MP for Asewase, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, to ensure that Jinapor was present in the House.
“… that the Hon. Member’s presence is required in the House now. And Hon. Members, I must repeat that it is contempt of Parliament to turn your back at the mace the moment you finish making your contribution. When the House gives you the privilege to make a contribution, you don’t leave the House immediately thereafter. Hon. Members, those who have not acquainted themselves with this should go and have a conversation with their Erskine May immediately after sitting”, he directed.
Muntaka in a sharp response said “Mr. Speaker, my colleague drew my attention that he wanted to use the washroom. Mr. Speaker, he’s going to come back because I have always insisted that it is a bad practice even though it is not in our rules that after you’ve finished speaking you leave the floor. So, when I saw that he was stepping out, I drew his attention that he should come back and he said that he wants to use the washroom. So, Mr. Speaker, I am going to call him that he should come back”, he noted.
After waiting for some time with Jinapor not showing up, the Speaker directed that portions of Jinapor’s submission that stated that “…this Akufo-Addo hotel” be expunged from the records of the House.
This directive infuriated the Minority Chief Whip and demanded that the Speaker educates Members on portion(s) of the Standing Orders of the House that allows him to direct for submissions to be expunged from the records.
In the view of Muntaka, the Speaker doesn’t have the authority to direct the Table Office to expunge submissions from the records of the House. The Speaker, he noted, could only direct a Member to withdraw his or her statement or portions of it.
“Our rules are very clear and I will be very happy if you can educate us under which rules you are asking a statement made by a Member to be withdrawn or expunged from our records because the records are going to capture all the things that are said by the Member. You may disagree with what the person says and you can get the person to withdraw as a Speaker but can’t direct that those things be expunged. Mr. Speaker, it is not part of the authority this Standing Orders empowers you to do. It is grossly abuse of our Standing Orders”, he said.
I have the authority
But the Speaker in response told the Minority Leader that he has the authority to decide on any matter he deems fit, quoting Order 6 of the Standing Orders to buttress his point.
Order 6 of the Standing Orders of the House states that: “In all cases not provided for in these Orders, Mr. Speaker shall make provisions as he deems fit”.
With Jinapor nowhere to be found, the Speaker suspended any further discussions on the Finance Committee’s report until the Yapei/Kusawgu MP returns.