The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ruled that the Ministry of Works and Housing and the Ministry of Transport be surcharged with the cost of organising its sitting on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
This was after the two ministries had failed to appear before the committee without any prior notice.
The two ministries have also been asked to bear the cost of the day’s live broadcast of the sitting on national television and media coverage aimed at bringing the Committee’s work closer to the public.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr James Klutse Avedzi, who gave the ruling, also warned ministries, departments and agencies that take the work of the committee for granted.
He reminded them that Article 103 (6) of the 1992 Constitution granted the Committee, like any other Committee of Parliament, the powers, rights and privileges of a High Court in relation to enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise.
He said the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation were the only Committees of the House chaired by a Member from the Minority side of the legislative body and that was to deepen the mandate of the Committee in scrutinising properly the audited accounts of government institutions.
National reclamation scheme
Meanwhile, at the sitting of the PAC yesterday, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR), Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, disclosed that the government would roll out a comprehensive national reclamation scheme and plant different species of economic trees to replenish vegetation cover across the country.
The scheme, which was being finalised, was expected to start from July this year.
Under the scheme, he said, former illegal miners, who lost their jobs due to the government’s clampdown on galamsey, would be recruited to plant millions of trees in degraded mining communities and depleted forests.
He said special attention would be paid to the southern part of the country, including the Eastern, Central, Western and the Ashanti regions, where the entire landscape had been badly degraded.
“I had an opportunity to go on an aerial tour and you will see that the whole landscape has been degraded and we are now working to roll out a national reclamation programme which will see us reclaiming all the lands, and hopefully in the process, the young men and women who have fallen out of the crackdown on illegal mining can be recruited to reclaim these lands and plant economic trees,” he said.
The minister, who was accompanied by the officials of the various agencies under the MLNR, particularly the Lands Commission, was before the committee to respond to questions raised by the Auditor-General on the operations of agencies in the lands and natural resources sector.
He and other accompanying officials answered questions pertaining to the activities of the Lands Commission, the granting of licences and permits for natural resource exploitation, abuse of the ban on rosewood export, measures to sustain trees planted under the Green Ghana Day (GGD), fundraising for the GGD and youth in afforestation.
He also answered questions on the national afforestation and reclamation programme, illegal mining, alternative livelihood for former illegal miners and the management of the Achimota Forest enclave.
Responding to a question on the government’s support for formal illegal miners, Mr Jinapor, who is also the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Damongo, said the President’s vision and strategy for the small-scale industry was not to just clamp down on galamsey but the provision of alternative livelihood which was dear to the heart of the President.
In his view, the government was determined to make it a viable industry which would employ the youth and contribute to the economy.
Small scale mining
He told the committee that the small-scale mining sector contributed 40 per cent of the country’s gold output last year and “we are not at all against small-scale mining.”
“What we are against is illegal small-scale mining and the efforts we are making now, which has got the Ghana Armed Forces involved, exclusively is in respect of the red zones — the water bodies and forest reserves of our countries,” he said.
Survival of trees
On how to nurture to maturity tree seedlings planted during the Green Ghana Day, Mr Jinapor said there was a whole strategy to ensure the survival of the over five million trees that were planted on June 11, this year.
He pointed out that from now till the next Green Ghana Day next year, a programme would be rolled out to ensure that more trees would be planted, especially in protected forests and major highways.
On the flouting of the ban on the harvesting, transportation and export of Rosewood from Ghana, the minister said matters of the natural resource sector and issues about Rosewood, which was one of the sought-after species of wood everywhere in the world, had become a complicated issue.
He, however, gave an assurance that adequate measures had been put in place to actively police the activities of those harvesting and exporting Rosewood in the northern part of the country.
To fortify the ban on Rosewood exports, the minister said the MNLR had also entered into partnership with chiefs from the northern Ghana, particularly those from the Savannah Region, who had placed a total ban on the harvesting of shed trees and Rosewood.
With regard to the mechanism for auctioning illegally harvested woods, he expressed worry about the manner in which individuals and groups behind illegal logging formed criminal cartels to benefit from the auctioning of confiscated illegal logs.
“What I have found personally as minister is that in many cases, the criminal cartels involved in this illegal logging find other unorthodox means of participating in the auctioning.
“The enforcement regime we have now is deterrent enough. So, we are examining it at the level of the ministry and to decide whether we should, for instance, begin to burn what we confiscate or give them to other institutions. These are questions which need answers to,” Mr Jinapor added.