TWN questions sale of VALCO

One major issue that is set to take center stage on the floor of Parliament is the controversial sale of 70 per cent shares of Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO) to International Aluminum Company.

Both the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, and the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, would have their hands full with questions on the exact identity of the International Aluminum Company – the proposed company which owns the 70% stake in VALCO, and the full tenets of the agreement it has with the government of Ghana.

Speaking at a news conference last week, the Coordinator of Third World Network (TWN), Dr. Yao Graham, wondered why government was in a rush to push the bill through Parliament, in the midst of raging uncertainties and confusion, and thus called on government to tarry the passing of the proposed Aluminum Authority and Integrated Aluminum Industry Bill, until all legitimate concerns on the implications of the Bill were adequately addressed.

He stated that the processes for passing the bill, required a number of other important considerations to be clarified, before Parliament could proceed to pass the bill, arguing that the current political temperature was likely to affect a full house’s participation in making constructive contributions to the bill, as most members of parliament were busily campaigning for their various political parties.

He said information gathered by his organisation, indicated that the address of Martin Lopez, who signed the agreement for International Aluminum Partners, was that of a trust company in the Virgin Islands, which belonged to a group engaged in a notorious tax haven for a variety of improper activities, thus raising grave concerns as to whether due diligence was done.

He further raised concerns over the bill, which is intended to introduce a new institution solely for bauxite, and the enormous powers the institution would wield.

He emphasised, “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 this is a recipe for corruption and a potentially unaccountable public institution,” he stated.

“This new authority will hold both final regulatory authority and commercial functions in relation to bauxite.

Indeed, under the proposed bill, the aluminum authority will have the power 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,” he further explained.

Parliament last month approved the 70 per cent sale of VALCO to International Aluminium Partners, a consortium said to comprise of VALCO, Norway’s Norsk Hydro and Companhia Vale do Rio Doce of Brazil.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vale and Norsk Hydro would pay an initial $25 million to the Ghana government, with the remaining due when VALCO resumes production with two pot lines running, with power guaranteed from the Volta Dam. However, hours after the deal become public both foreign companies mentioned in the deal document, denied having any plans to buy the stake.

Source: The Chronicle

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