Ghana Hydrological Authority Bill goes through 2nd reading

 Ghana Hydrological Authority Bill goes through 2nd reading

The process to establish a state institution known as the Ghana Hydrological Authority (GHA) to deal with perennial flooding has moved a step further in Parliament. Last Tuesday, the Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, moved the motion for the second reading of the Ghana Hydrological Authority Bill, 2021. The bill seeks to establish the Ghana Hydrological Authority as the state institution responsible for the planning, design, execution, operation, and maintenance of flood control mechanisms, coastal engineering works, drainage improvement works, and operational and applied hydrology.

Mr. Asenso-Boakye said the creation of a well-resourced and highly professional Ghana Hydrological Authority would not only attract and retain highly skilled staff but would also ensure effective and well-coordinated development of drainage and flood management infrastructure in the country. “The Authority will also be in the position to engage with development partners and explore sources of funding other than the government of Ghana to undertake flood mitigation projects across the country while enhancing the resilience of our communities and essential infrastructure,” he added.

Mr. Asenso-Boakye indicated that the challenges associated with the delivery of hydrological services had made it difficult for institutions that depended on hydrology-related information for construction, irrigation, agriculture, and maritime purposes to take full advantage of the Hydrological Services Department’s services. He expressed the urgent need for a fundamental change in the country’s approach to addressing hydrological challenges. It was in that context that the minister said the establishment of the Ghana Hydrological Authority would go a long way to enhance existing hydrology and provide the essential technical leadership required to tackle drainage and sustain flood management services.

Mr. Asenso-Boakye said the government for the last five years had committed some GH¢ 2.8 billion for drainage construction works and an additional GH¢150 million on drainage and their control works. He said notwithstanding these investments there was the need for increased investment in drainage and coastal protection works. The Chairperson of the Committee on Works and Housing, Isaac Kwame Asiamah, who seconded the motion, said the bill when passed would minimize the incidence of flooding in the country while the issues of flood control infrastructure would be addressed.

The Ghana Hydrological Authority Bill, 2021 was laid in Parliament on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, and referred to the Committee on Works and Housing for scrutiny and report in accordance with Article 103 (3) of the 1992 Constitution and Orders 125 and 180 of the Standing Orders of Parliament. Pursuant to the referral, the committee met with the sector Minister, Mr. Asenso-Boakye; his deputy, Abanga Abdulai; officials from the ministry, Hydrological Services Department, Water Resources Commission, and officials from the Attorney-General ‘s Department.

The committee was assisted by other key stakeholders in its deliberations who submitted memoranda to the bill. The bill that would establish the Ghana Hydrological Authority is expected to restructure the Hydrological Services Department, an agency under the Ministry of Works and Housing since 1995 to effectively perform its mandate.

Parliament declines $1bn govt loan until Ofori-Atta appears before House

Parliament will not consider two loan facility agreements totaling $1 billion laid before the House until the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, appears before the House on June 22, 2022, to account for how COVID-19 money approved by the House since the outbreak of the pandemic, was applied. The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, gave the directive after the House suspended sitting for 10 minutes for the leadership of the House to deliberate on the inability of Mr. Ofori-Atta to appear before the House yesterday[June 16, 2022].

This was after the Minority caucus had expressed their disappointment about the non-availability of the Finance Minister to brief the House yesterday on how COVID-19 money had been utilized since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 and to answer 16 questions asked of his ministry by members of the House. The Speaker in his ruling after the meeting by the leadership, also directed that all matters relating to the COVID-19 loan facility agreement laid before Parliament would not be considered until the Finance Minister came before the House to account to Parliament, on behalf of Ghanaians, as to how previous loans for COVID-19 were spent.

Mr. Bagbin said although there was communication through the Majority Leader by the Finance Minister, Mr. Ofori-Atta also spoke to him directly on the phone about his non-availability to appear before the House yesterday, as requested. He is, therefore, to appear before the House on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Mr. Bagbin said when questions were asked of Ministers, the House expected them to come and answer them and cited Standing Order 61 of Parliament to buttress his point which says that “ Ministers shall by Order of the House requested to attend to sittings of the House to answer questions asked of them”.He further cited Standing Order 60 (3) which also says that “ A Minister shall not take not more than three weeks to respond to the question of House” to give his ruling on the matter.

Mr. Bagbin said that based on the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Business Committee of the House was given the opportunity to do the allotment and thus allowed June 16, for the Finance Minister to come and answer a number of questions that stood in the name of his ministry. “ The Finance Minister told us that he will not be available today and before today, I gave a directive to the effect that the Minister appeared before this House to account for money that we approved for him to use to lead the country as to how we could respond to the COVID-19 pandemic “, the Speaker said.

“ A lot of questions have been raised so we expected the Minister to come and account as to how state resources had been applied to the benefit of the people. “ I just indicated that until that is done, a motion requesting for approval of the House for money to be given to the Ministry of Finance for the purpose of the COVID-19 will be on hold”, the Speaker stated further. Mr. Bagbin reiterated that until the Finance Minister answered the questions and went through the accountability process, the House would not take that motion. “With respect to the question for today, the Finance Minister has another request before us and that will also be affected. Until he comes to respond to the question and to submit the statement as to how that money has been applied, we will not entertain any business from his ministry,” the Speaker stated. 

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