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14.06.2005 General News

National Petroleum Authority Bill is passed

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Accra, June 14,GNA - Parliament on Tuesday passed the National Petroleum Authority Bill after days of uncertainties and political antics. The Bill seeks to create a National Petroleum Authority to oversee the petroleum downstream sector. It attracted the support of all parties in the House but not without the occasional threat of abandonment. It also seeks to establish a Unified Petroleum Price Fund (UPPF) that would pursue the objective of compensating Oil Marketing Companies for the difference in the cost of transporting petroleum products with a view to creating an enabling environment for equal pricing of products in the country.

According to the report of the Committee on Energy and Mines: "It would also set the ceiling on the price of petroleum products." Members effected the necessary amendments during the consideration stage to, among other things, give an enviable role to the Energy Commission in the Petroleum Sector and keep the strategy of stockpiling as a national security activity that would not be subjected to the whims of private companies. What could have destroyed the beauty of cooperation and compromises was a question of quorum Emotions had drowned Members on Friday morning when the possibility of an early adjournment starred in their faces due to low attendance.

The Majority had suspected an act of sabotage while the Minority held the view that if they meant business, they would have come to the House in their numbers.

The day was slated for the consideration stage of the National Petroleum Authority Bill and incidentally it was the day of the burial of Mr Victor Selormey, a Former Deputy Minister of Finance, during the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration. Mr Lee Ocran, NDC Jomoro, had told Mr Ebenezar Sekyi-Hughes, Speaker, that the House lacked the number to do business and the Speaker asked him to wait for the stipulated 10 minutes before he could take action. Some minutes later, he reiterated his point, which attracted the wrath of the Majority.

Mr Owusu Agyepong, the Majority Leader, said he suspected that the Minority were about to renege on their promise that they would help push the Bill through. Mr Doe Adjaho, Deputy Minority Leader, responded: "If there is no quorum, there is no quorum. The rule is clear." He said the Majority was trying to intimidate the Minority, adding that, if the Majority saw the Bill as that important, they would have filled their seats for the business of the day. The Leadership later agreed to accommodate each other but one person whose rage did not subside was the mover of the question on quorum - Mr Ocran.

A funeral of a compatriot of the Minority and a Majority, whose whip laid cold, nearly postponed the conclusion of the Bill. Members had to spend the whole day and the better part of Friday night to take the Bill through the consideration stage After the Speaker had taken a favourable yes vote from the House to pass the Bill, the Majority and the Minority cheered and exchanged pleasantries. The two hurdles left to make it complete are the presidential assent and its gazetting. But a Majority Leader, who was happy to see the end of an arduous journey, relaxed in his giant chair nodding to cheers from the Minority - a group of people he had to live with as long as the Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic runs.

By the passage of the Bill, Government has the most potent instrument to excuse itself from blame and anxiety in the pricing and management of prices of petroleum products in the country.

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