Members of Parliament have taken a stand to reject vehicle loan arrangements in the future and demanded the state to take responsibility for the provision of duty post vehicles for MPs just like it is done to other Article 71 Officeholders.
According to the members, this has become imperative because of the erroneous interpretation being given to the now ‘infamous car loan’ by the public and the abuses emanating from this.
They argued the MPs car loan has become a subject for ridiculing Parliament even when the existence of the legislature goes to the root of democracy and warned that if Ghanaians cherish democracy then there is a need to protect the legislature.
The MPs made this known during debate on the report of the Finance Committee on the loan agreement between the government, acting through the Ministry of Finance, and the National Investment Bank Limited for US$31 million to finance the purchase of vehicles for members of the 8th Parliament and the members of the Council of State respectively.
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Presenting the report of the Committee to the House, Chairman of the Finance Committee, Kwaku Agyeman Kwarteng, called for discontinuation of the Vehicle Loan Arrangement for MPs.
The Committee, he said, took note of recent concerns expressed by many sections of the Ghanaian public about the burden the current vehicle loan arrangement for MPs and members of the Council of State imposes on the public purse.
He stressed that these legitimate concerns are fueled by the fact that, of all the Article 71 officeholders, it is only MPs and Members of the Council of State who benefit from these vehicle loans.
He said, “The Committee took the view that, as representatives of the people, Members of Parliament cannot continue to leave these concerns unattended. That weakens the confidence Ghanaians have in us.”
“We have a responsibility to reflect the values and ideals of the people we represent.”
Seconding the motion, Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson warned that Parliamentarians will become engendered species if the House fails to listen to the public and their concern.
According to him, it is essential therefore that members reject the car loans and demand government provides MPs with duty vehicles as is done for the two other arms of government, the Executive and Judiciary.
In his contribution, MP for Pru, Kwabena Donkor, argued that Parliament is the only true representative of the people and the only symbolic representative of democracy.
He noted that other Article 71 Officeholders in academia, politics, judiciary and the security agencies among others are provided with vehicles by the state, which also takes up the cost of fueling, insurance and maintenance including providing drivers.
“If the people believe that no one should have an official vehicle then they should say so because currently, it is only Parliamentarians that bear the cost of the cars they use to perform state business,” he said.
Mr. Kennedy Nyarko Osei, MP for Akim Swedru, called for the Constitution to be respected in terms of Article 71 so that the state will provide duty vehicles to MPs.
Members, he said, are not interested in the car loan but how to be mobile to perform Parliament’s work and yet they have become the target of public anger.
He stressed that providing vehicles for MPs is a constitutional imperative and therefore there is no choice but to respect this provision.
MP for Bia East, Richard Acheampong noted that the decision had been to reject the loan outright but deductions from salaries of members started in January, which could lead to serious problems.
“Parliament should provide duty-post vehicles for MPs and also take up the cost of drivers, fueling and insurance and let’s see who is spending personal resources to do state work.”
“So let’s listen to the public and go to the root of Article 71 and all the arrangements provided and ensure that going forward MPs are provided with vehicles rather than loans,” he stated.
All those contributed to the debate including Davis Ansah Opoku, MP for Mpraeso; Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu; Samuel Atta Akyea, MP for Abuakwa South; Lardi Ayii Ayamba, MP for Pusiga; KT Hammond, MP for Adansi Asokwa; Murtala Mohammed, MP for Tamale Central; James Klutse Avedzi, MP for Ketu North; Alexander Afenyo-Markin, MP for Effutu; and the 2nd Deputy Speaker, Andrew Asiamah Amoako were unanimous in the call for the vehicle loan agreement to be dispensed with.
The state, they insisted, should assume its responsibility of providing MPs with vehicles as the 3rd arm of government and also Article 71 officeholders just like all the others.
The House subsequently approved the amount of $28 million dollars to finance the purchase of vehicles for MPs of the 8th Parliament, $3 million for members of the Council of State and a tax waiver of $13.158 million for the purchase of the vehicles.