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Ursula hot Over StarTimes deal … As MPs wade into controversial contract

botchway September 25, 2018

 

By Frederick E. Aggrey   .

Ursula Owusu-Ekufu, Minister for Communications, is in hot waters, as the Minority members of Parliament (MPs) are mounting pressure on the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications, headed by Kennedy Ohene Agyepong, to summon her to answer questions regarding the controversial StarTimes deal.

The Committee, which sits with the powers of a High Court, has oversight responsibility of the affairs of the sector ministry, per the Constitution.

The Minority MPs want the Minister to put to rest all issues surrounding the deal, which is being hotly challenged by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA). 

Ahmed Ibrahim, member of the Committee and first Deputy Minority Chief Whip, told the media that the Minority members had called on the Chairman to summon the Minister to appear before the Committee, and subsequently, the House on the issue.

According to him, the move would help unravel every mystery surrounding the deal, adding: “When you appear before the Committee of Parliament, it is like sitting before the High Court,” he said, adding, “The Committee would not entertain perjury.”

To him, the public would lose confidence in Parliament should the house fail to act on the issue.

According to him, debates over the issue on the airwaves would not bring about any meaningful solution, and that Parliament had the power to bring finality to the issue.

The Ministry of Communications has signed a contract with StarTimes to perform ‘enhancement’ works on Ghana’s Digital Terrestrial Infrastructure, spearheaded by K-NET, a Ghanaian company.

The terrestrial infrastructure is expected to help migrate analogue television broadcast to digital.

The GIBA, however, fears the deal is just a ruse to hand over our digital television space to the Chinese company to manage, a development that could spell doom for the country, if it turns out to be true.

The Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mohammed, corroborated the First Deputy Minority Chief Whip’s claim, adding that they would hopefully haul the Minister before them in the course of the week-long emergency sitting, to answer urgent questions.

He said: “We have asked members on our side, and I want to believe that many members, even on the Majority side, in good faith, want to listen to the official positions, so that they can react.

“We are hopeful that it will happen this week, then, they will seek the help of the Minister to come and give them further and better particulars.”

However, in a sharp rebuttal, the sector Minister indicated that the contract should not be misinterpreted to mean the government’s intention to transfer ownership of the platform to StarTimes.

She said: “The selection of a contract and financing options for any aspect of the project should not be interpreted as an intention to hand over the ownership and management of the platform to any third party.”

According to the ministry, the deal is a condition for accessing a loan from Eximbank.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and National Media Commission have also waged into the impasse, kicking against the deal.

However, the Minister has indicated that she pardons GIBA for misinforming the public.

She said: “There was a bit of confusion on their minds on what we were doing, and so I will pardon them, and I hope that the clarification that has come will set their minds at ease.

“I think there was a bit of dis-ingenuity in the GIBA statement, and the impression that they were creating that we were handing over the platform to StarTimes to manage, when they knew that it was not the case.

“So I think that there was some deliberate misinformation put out there, and I’m surprised why they did that.”

Meanwhile, Parliament, yesterday, indicated that the House would consider introducing a legal regime that would compel the President to present ministers who are moved from one ministry to the other, and those who are elevated to cabinet positions, to help improve performance and governance.

 

 

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