At Public Accounts C’ttee sittings: 2 MPs clash …over line of questioning of GNPC officers

Chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, yesterday clashed with the Deputy Ranking Member on the Committee, Mohammed Hardi Tufeiru, over the propriety of questions posed to officers of the Ghana National Petroleum Commission (GNPC) who appeared before the committee to answer audit questions on the operations of the Corporation for the year ending December 31, 2017.
 
Led by a Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Dadzie , the GNPC was unable to explain under what circumstances the board approved GH₵5.42 million and disbursed same to some six institutions as part of its corporate social responsibility commitments.
 
According to an October 2019 memo, signed by the GNPC Board Secretary, Mrs Matilda Ohene, the GNPC approved the request for sponsorship by the Rebecca Foundation, GH₵120,000, Okyehene’s 20th anniversary celebrations, GH₵1.8 million, Damba Festival, GH₵400,000, Ghana Journalists Association, GH₵50,000, Ghana Boxing Association, US$30, 000 and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), GH₵550,000.
 
Asked by Ningo Prampram MP and Member of the Committee, Sam George, how the GNPC executes its CSR projects, Mr Dadzie told the committee that CSR obligations are channelled through its foundation.    
 
“There is a board of trustee which oversees the activities of the foundation. A member of the GNPC Board chairs the Board of Trustees and the Chief Executive is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the foundation so I think the decision of the Board of Trustees should be final [in relation to CSR] because their budget is scrutinised by the board of GNPC,” Mr Dadzie explained.
 
The foundation’s mandate, however, he said covers interventions in the education, environment and economic empowerment sectors in areas affected by its operations.
 
Given the opportunity to respond to the memo, Mrs Ohene said she only acted upon the instructions of the Board.
 
Unclear why the GNPC Board bypassed the Foundation to approve the request for sponsorship, which has been classified as CSR, Mr Avedzi pressed further questions regarding funding, and the corporate governance structure of the foundation.   
 
Enthused by the line of questioning, Mohammed Hardi Tufeiru, NPP MP, Nantong, interjected and accused the chairman of springing a surprise on the GNPC reps.
 
“They are appearing before this committee to answer audit issues reported by the Auditor-General. They are not prepared for this matter that you have subjected them to,” he stated.   
 
He argued that public interest questions in the past were prior approved by leadership of the committee, wondering why the Chairman had decided to move away from the known rule.
 
“Let us be consistent in the application of the rules,” he demanded.
 
“Honorable member will you listen to me? I am the Chairman of the Committee. What is your problem? What is your problem?” Mr Avedzi asked. “The rules are that we allow public interest questions and I approved that public interest question. If I approve a public interest question, I don’t have to call you the Deputy Ranking Member to inform you that I have approved a question.
 
“I am the chair of the committee. If you want to take over, come and take over.”
Dispelling any political motive behind the questions, Mr Avedzi said the question was in the interest of the people of Ghana.  
 
“If a member here thinks that we don’t have the right to ask these questions, I will end the discussion here but the people of Ghana will judge.” 

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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