Parliament, by a majority decision has passed a legal proposal to shift ministerial oversight responsibility of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) from the Ministry of Trade to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
However, observers of Parliamentary proceedings were taken aback by the partisan nature of the debate, which concerned a change of administrative structure, rather than one with any significant practical import.
Although, ministerial responsibility is already being exercised by the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), this is yet to be approved by an Act of Parliament.
Therefore, the Ghana Cocoa Board (Amendment) Bill, 2017 simply sought to amend Section 39 of the Provincial National Defense Council (PNDC) Law 81, which established COCOBOD, to vest ministerial responsibility of the activities of the Board in the hands of the Minister of Food and Agriculture as is already being done to all intents and purposes.
Under PNDC Law 81, the Minister of Trade and Industry has been exercising ministerial responsibility over COCOBOD, but that responsibility, in practice has been handled by the Minister of Food and Agriculture.
Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, Chairman of the Committee on Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs justified the amendment, asserting that the intended change in ministerial responsibility under the law is to properly focus cocoa production as the foremost function of the Board.
He said the fact that cocoa production was under the remit of the agriculture sector makes imperative for the Minister of Agriculture to have oversight responsibility over the Ghana Cocoa Board and related matters pertaining to the production of cocoa as an agricultural product.
However, the opposition National Democratic Congess’s representatives refused to back the passage of the bill ostensibly for several reasons.
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, Ranking Member on the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, complained that the Minority members of the Committee had great difficulty understanding government’s rationale for the amendment.
He cited Article 106(1) (2a) to argue that no Bill shall be introduced in Parliament unless it is accompanied by explanatory memoranda, setting out in detail the policies and principles if the Bill, adding the amendment being proposed did not meet that requirement.
Alhaji Fuseini also stated that the Ministry of Trade and Industries was designated to the supervisory Ministry by PNDC Law 81 more than 35years ago, and that COCOBOD was operating under the ministry all these years without problems.
“So, when the Bill was laid by the Attorney General and referred to us, it appeared to us there were other considerations other than the marketing of cocoa, which was informing the realignment of this ministry,” he said.
“So, the only conclusion we came to is that this current amendment does not meet the requirement of Article 106(1) (2a) or motivated by defects in the existing arrangement. That is why we cannot support this amendment,” he added.
Politically neutral observers were left wondering what the two major parties could possibly agree on in the national interest if they could not agree on something as innocuous as this.