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22.06.2005 General News

Barclays To Grant $7m Loan To Parliament

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Parliament, in conjunction with the Executive, has entered into a loan agreement with Barclays Bank Ghana Limited for US$7 million to procure official vehicles for Members of Parliament (MPs).

By that arrangement, Parliament and the Executive will receive the amount and on-lend it to the MPs.

According to a paper laid in Parliament yesterday, Alhaji Malik A. Yakubu, the MP for Yendi and Second Deputy Speaker, said the two recipients would be provided with the cedi equivalent of the amount on behalf of the MPs.

The First Deputy Speaker, Mr Freddie W. A. Blay, who presided, referred the paper to the Committee on Finance.

In 2001, the issue of loans to MPs to purchase cars generated a furore, with some Ghanaians calling for an end to the practice.

The debate on the justification for granting MPs that facility raged on without a clear-cut decision being reached.

At a point in time, some MPs said they could not afford to service the car loans unless their salaries were adjusted upwards.

The issue took another dimension when the matter was sent to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) by a Ghanaian based in the United States of America. The petitioner was of the view that the facility granted the MPs was a luxury, particularly at a time when many ordinary Ghanaians could not make ends met and social services were in dire need of attention.

Some MPs, however, viewed such developments as unfortunate. They contended that officials in the public and civil services were entitled to official vehicles and wondered why MPs should be denied similar facilities when theirs were loans.

Furthermore, the MPs were of the view that the cars were a necessity to facilitate communication with their constituencies. Besides, they contended that the facility was a loan which they paid back from their meagre salaries.

Since the loans for the vehicles were not disbursed on a cash-down basis, beneficiaries either arranged to acquire cars of their choice or refused the facility.

MPs who might not stay in office long enough to service their entire loans would have to pay for any balance from their end of service entitlements.

Earlier, the Volta River Development (Amendment) Bill was presented to the House and read for the first time. The object of the bill is to amend the Volta River Development Act, 1961 (Act 46), in order to continue with the implementation of the power sector reforms which were started in the nineties.

The reforms were motivated by the realisation that there were inherent obstacles that affected the efficient operation of the energy sector.

The main objectives of the reforms were to create conditions that would attract private sector investments in the energy supply chain.

Following a review of the reforms, the government has concluded that to improve the objectives, the Volta River Authority (VRA) should confine itself to hydro electricity generation.

Consequently, the bill seeks to divest VRA's function of operating the transmission system.

The VRA will, however, continue to perform its transitional arrangement until the anticipated transmission utility is established and becomes operational.

Story By Kweku Tsen & Joe Isaac Haizel

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