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Speaker defers debate on Pwalugu Dam project

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, yesterday blocked an attempt by the Majority to have a report on the contract agreement on the $1-billion power and irrigation project to be adopted and debated on the floor of Parliament.

The Speaker told the House that the decision to stand down the matter until Tuesday would allow the Minority ample time to study, analyse and do background research into the project for a full debate on the report to begin.

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“Let us face it, we are now debating the matter; please do your research and bring your facts, figures and analyses because a committee of this House is not the House. By our rule, there is only a recommendation and any argument for or against by any member will be duly accepted and considered on Tuesday,” he ruled.

Ruling

The Speaker’s ruling came after the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, had tabled before the House a report on the turnkey contract agreement between the government, represented by the Ministry of Energy, and PowerChina International Group Limited for $366 million for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of a 600-megawatt hydro-power project in Pwalugu.

The report also contained a contract agreement for $55.39 million for the EPC of a 50MW solar power plant and $474 million for the EPC of a 24,000-hectare irrigation scheme, both in Pwalugu.

Opposition

However, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, called for the rejection of the report, since none of the Minority members on the Finance Committee was called to make any input into the report.   

The Minority last Wednesday called on the President to suspend the construction of the $366 million Pwalugu Dam, since the contract agreement on the project had not been approved by Parliament.

It said while the Minority was not against the construction of the multi-purpose dam to generate 60MW of power, the government hastened the sod-cutting of the project, without securing the necessary approvals from Parliament.

The move, they claimed, was due to the secrecy surrounding the award of the contract to a Chinese construction company, PowerChina International Group Limited, at an “inflated and unacceptable cost”.

“Together with the irrigation component of the dam, the entire project is estimated to cost the Ghanaian taxpayer close to $1 billion, and the Minority is vehemently opposed to the outrageous cost which, by all standards, has been hugely and unconscionably padded,” it said.

Rip-off

Addressing a press conference in Parliament last Wednesday, Mr Iddrisu drew comparison with similar dam construction projects within and outside Ghana.

“In Ethiopia, the construction of the Renaissance Dam, with the capacity of 6,000MW of electricity, will cost $6.4 billion at a unit cost of $1 million; in Uganda, the Isimbe Dam will produce 183MW at a cost of $568 million and a unit cost of $962 million; in Zambia, the Kafue Dam will produce 660MW at a cost of $600 and unit cost of $1 million; the Gilgel Gibe III Dam, with a capacity of 1,870MW, cost $1.8 billion and a unit cost of $1 million, and even the 400MW Bui Dam at a cost of $790 million and unit cost of $1.9 million.

“The Pwalugu Dam of President Akufo-Addo at 60MW will cost $366 million and a whopping $6 million per megawatt of electricity, which is three times Bui and established figures globally.

“As the Minority, we will not accept this and no one should expect the Minority to be part of any process to give approval for the project because it is a rip off. Best practice throughout the world is between a minimum of $1.5 million and maximum $2 million,” he stated.

He was joined by other minority Members of Parliament, including the MP for Damango, Mr Adam Mutawakilu; the MP for Yapei Kusawgu, Mr John Jinapor. and the MP for Pru East, Dr Kwabena Donkor.

Haste

The Minority Leader noted that in November last year, President Akufo-Addo performed the sod-cutting for the dam and emphatically stated that the cost of the project would be borne entirely by the government.

Surprisingly, he said, the 2020 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government had no budgetary provision for the construction of the dam.

“It is obvious that the President Akufo-Addo-led government is once again attempting to use the back door to surreptitiously implement this project, which is a ridiculous rip-off,” he said.

Avoiding scrutiny

He indicated that the Minority was convinced that the strategy to introduce the agreement at the closing hours of Parliament in December last year was a deliberate attempt to railroad the process and avoid thorough scrutiny.

“The Minority has noted with grave concern the referral of the contract agreement to the Finance Committee, instead of the Mines and Energy, as well as the Food and Agriculture Committee, as stipulated in our Standing Orders,” he said.

He explained that the agreement was a contract agreement, as captured on the Order Paper, and, therefore, could not be considered by the Finance Committee, which ordinarily dealt with financial agreements, in accordance with Article 181 of the Constitution.

source:www.graphic.com.gh

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