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Statement Requesting Parliament to delay process on the Aluminium Authority Bill

December 11th, 2008, Accra, Ghana

BY TWN - AFRICA

The purpose of this press conference is to draw public attention to our concerns about the proposed Aluminium Authority and Integrated Aluminium Industry Bill and its implications for national development and policymaking in the minerals sector, and to request Parliament to delay the process and ensure democratic participation. Our concerns arise mainly from the manner in which government and parliament are proceeding with the passage of the Bill in the face of apparent uncertainties and potential institutional confusion likely to be introduced by the Bill.

In the midst of these uncertainties and confusion government and parliament are making frantic efforts to get the Bill pass into law. Only this week, frantic efforts were made by both the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, and Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament to discuss this Bill.

In relation to the process there are a number of important considerations yet to be clarified for the Ghanaian public before parliament could proceed. In the first instance, the elections have understandably taken much of the time of most members of parliament and very few of them might have had a thorough reflection on the substantive issues raised by the Bill. In fact, a few of them are still contesting the election results at their respective constituencies. The situation is compounded by the run-off announced by the Electoral Commission yesterday for the two major political parties. This announcement is likely to take most of the MPs from both the two major political parties out of parliament. This therefore suggests that both in terms of numbers and psychological preparedness Parliament is not ready to deliberate on an important Bill like this one.

Secondly, Government has made a claim that the partnership between it and a consortium of International Aluminium Companies provides an opportunity for the establishment of an integrated aluminium industry. Even as this partnership is a major driver to this Bill there is no clarity where government stands in the sale agreement of its 70% shares in VALCO. We all recalled media reports that the purported buyers of the government’s shares in VALCO denied having negotiated such a sale agreement with them. It is over a month now government has not yet come out to deny the reported denial of the supposed buyers of VALCO. Meanwhile, there has been frantic effort to rush decisions on the Bill. The uncertainty surrounding the sale of government’s 70% shares in VALCO point to the importance of due diligence.

The question remains who are International Aluminium Partners? Information available to us indicates that the address of Martin Lopez who signed the Agreement for International Aluminium Partners is a Trust Company in the British Virgin Island which belong to a group engaged in notorious tax haven for a variety of improper purposes.

The Bill intends to introduce a new institution solely for bauxite the reasons for which are difficult to establish. This novel creation is likely to introduce some confusion between it and the Minerals Commission in terms of oversight responsibility. We find it difficult to understand why bauxite alone would be isolated for such prominence when there is no history of deficiencies in the current institutional arrangement. The establishment of this institution is a recipe for corruption and potentially unaccountable public institution. Because this new Authority will hold both final regulatory authority and commercial functions in relation to bauxite. Indeed, under the proposed Bill, the Aluminium Authority will have the power both to undertake the evaluation of applications and to make grants in respect of bauxite rights. Also, decisions of the Authority may be exempted from the ratification power of Parliament. Again, under the Bill, the Authority is expected to hold “not less than 25% equity” in a joint venture company to mine bauxite.

We believe that these are important issues which must which require deliberation and democratic consultation before government and parliament proceed on the Bill.  

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