Speaker’s letter exposes President, Finance Minister, Chief Of Staff & Nana Asante Bediatu’s Involvement
Government’s denial that it is unaware of the US$200 million new parliamentary complex project, has catastrophically been collapsed by a letter from the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Michael Aaron Oquaye, revealing President Akufo-Addo, and key officials, have been in the known of the project, contrary to claims by the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
Again, the Speaker of Parliament’s letter dated June 19, 2019, to the President, also revealed that “the Minister of Finance – Ken Ofori-Atta – has dutifully given budgetary allocation” contrary to the Information Minister’s claim that, there has not been any engagement between the legislature and the executive on the new 450-seater chamber parliamentary complex project.
The two-page letter inviting President Akufo-Addo, to come to the Forecourt of Parliament House, Osu-Accra, to cut-sod for the commencement of construction of the new complex, was copied key functionaries in the Jubilee House; the seat of government.
They include; the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare and the Executive Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo.
Others outside the Jubilee House, who were also served the letter from the Speaker, are the Clerk to Parliament, Emmanuel Anyimadu and the Chairman, Entity Tender Committee, Parliament House.
Although, the letter left the date for the ceremony to President Akufo-Addo’s “convenience and confirmation”, it proposed a day in the “last week of June, 2019” at 9am.
According to the Speaker’s letter, President Akufo-Addo, was “to symbolically kick-start preparatory activities towards this flagship project”, adding “Mr. President, we intend to have a brief sod cutting ceremony on the proposed grounds for the edifice in Parliament House”.
But The Herald, was informed that June 27, 2019, was confirmed as the date for the sod cutting event, until Minority Leader and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, wrote a letter demanding additional information on the project, his letter stalled the event.
Speaking to several radio stations since the issue of the new parliamentary complex broke out and was greeted by massive public condemnation with complaints of lack of priority on the part of both government and Parliament, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Ofoase-Ayirebi lawmaker, has sought to disassociate President Akufo-Addo from the project, but the Speaker’s letter, has revealed the president’s tight links to the project.
The construction is being pushed by the Parliamentary Service Board, which has ex-Works and Housing Minister under John Kufour, Hackman OwusuAgyeman, as one of the members, with project expected to be funded partly by the Indian government with counterpart funding from the government of Ghana.
“They will need to go through their processes, come to a certain decision and if they are required to inform any other arm of government they will so do. From the executive perspective, I am not even aware that even the executive has been engaged on this. Even the parliamentary service board is yet to engage members of Parliament.”
“I understand it is only the leadership they have spoken to. Like you hear MPs talk about it, it is not a popular something even for MPs so I am sure you will hear what the MPs will say about it let alone if they choose to engage whether the judiciary or the executive about it.”
But the Speaker’s invitation letter to the President, clearly showed that plans had moved beyond preparatory stages to the actualization of the project as captured in the words, “Mr. President, we intend to have a brief sod cutting ceremony on the proposed grounds for the edifice in Parliament House”.
The letter is entitled “PROPOSED NEW CHAMBER COMPLEX FOR PARLIAMENT OF GHANA Invitation to Sod Cutting Ceremony”
The speaker wrote “I respectfully refer to the above and inform that the Parliamentary Service plans to undertake a sod-cutting ceremony regarding the construction of a new ultra-modern Chamber Complex within Parliament House. This is further to our briefing regarding the same”.
He explained “the aim of the project Mr. President is to overcome the capacity challenges with the current Chamber which is operating at its optimal seating capacity now. Additional, it will provide a building suitable for Parliamentary duties, enhanced physical and electronic security for Honourable Members and Staff of Parliament to ensure more efficiency in legislative business”.
He added that, “currently, preparing of detailed designs, preparation of Bills and Quantities as Well as Value of Money check arrangements are underway, to be followed by a formal application to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for procurement approval of the construction phase. The Minister for Finance has dutifully given budgetary allocation”.
In this regard, “to symbolically kick-start preparatory activities towards this flagship project, Mr. President, we intend to have a brief sod cutting ceremony on the proposed grounds for the edifice in Parliament House”.
“We request to have the honour of your Excellency gracing the occasion as the Special Guest of Honour and to cut the commencement sod. Mr. President, we hope you will make time to honour Parliament with your presence”, the letter said, adding “Proposed details of the sod cutting ceremony, subject to Your Excellency’s convenience and confirmation….”.
Some MPs from both sides of the House, have also expressed views against the parliamentary chamber complex which was expected to begin before the end of 2019. Indeed, the architect David Adjaye who designed the model took the leaders of the House through the proposed design and concepts at a meeting last week Friday.
The new chamber, will be a multi-purpose building with a chapel, mosque, eatery and a museum.
The planned construction was announced last Friday, when members of the Parliamentary Service Board, received a model for the proposed new chamber, but many MPs, have denied knowledge of the project, saying they had not been briefed by the leadership of the House, before the announcement.
Meanwhile, despite the far reaching measures taken by Parliament to the construction, including budgetary allocation and site for the project, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, is claiming that the interest of the public will be considered in the final determination on the planned construction of a new Chamber complex for the legislature.
He said, the plan for the construction has not been firmed up yet and it will be put before the plenary once that has been done.
The Suame MP, made the comment at a press conference held yesterday to provide more information about plans to construct the new multipurpose facility.
The Majority Leader, claim Parliament will not ignore the public concerns.
“The process is not concluded and the financials have not been concluded, procurement has not been concluded. The agreement has not been firmed up because these ones have not been completed. If the agreement is firmed up, it must come to Parliament for approval,” he said.
He added that “ultimately, whatever decision that Parliament can take on this, would have to factor into that decision, the sensibilities of the good people of this country.”
While describing as “unfortunate” last week Thursday’s brief event to show a 3D design of the proposed infrastructure to the leadership of the House, he said Parliament owes it a duty to Ghanaians to provide clarification on the plan and explain why the proposal was made.
Many Ghanaians on social media, have expressed anger over the announcement while some groups have planned protests. One of the organisers, Rasheeda Adams, has said that there would be protests, if Parliament does not rescind the decision.