June 19, 2013

Parliament’s Select Committee on Finance has identified that the low capacity of persons in the legal department of the Attorney General (AG)’s office and other state agencies is the cause for the many flaws in Ghana’s international transactions.

This assertion was contained in a report presented to parliament on Tuesday June 18.

The Committee also said the lack of capacity partly explains the reason government has not been successful in accessing the rest of the $3 billion loan facility from the Chinese Development Bank (CDB).

Parliament on Tuesday approved amendments to the original agreement which until recently committed government to transfer 70% of the commercial value of each crude oil lifting into a collection account and then establish a letter of credit in the same amount to Bank of Ghana as surety for the transfer amount.

However, the new agreement now requires Ghana to transfer a defined amount into the collection account. This enables the country to save money after each lifting.

Chairman of the Committee, James Afedzi, in the report noted that while representatives of international contracts that Ghana deals with apply themselves diligently to the negotiations, the same could not be said about the country’s representatives.

In the view of the Committee, this could partly be attributed to the lack of expertise at state institutions. It therefore recommends capacity building for staff of the legal department of the Attorney General.

The Committee said the AG’s department should be revamped with the requisite skills and competence required for negotiations in such international transactions and contracts.

Former Attorney General and Member of Parliament (MP) for Sekondi, Paapa Owusu Ankomah, couldn’t agree more with the suggestion.

He said until government takes a new look at the AG’s department, it will continue to be plagued with the current predicament.

He said the Constitutional provision which allows an agency to engage consultants in international transactions, at huge costs to the state, creates resentment among the professional staff of that agency.

The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, revealed “I am in a discussion with the Clerk [to Parliament] to recruit brilliant students…to be sent to the [United Kingdom] House of Commons to be trained and come down to assist in the scrutiny work of this House”.

The Speaker also announced plans to institute a bi-partisan team from the House to meet with the AG’s department on the way forward.