The tenets of democratic governance oblige duty bearers to transparently manage public resources which are entrusted to them. This is even more imperative when it comes to the management of natural resources.
It therefore becomes worrisome when news emerges of opaque handling of resources such as is highlighted in our front page report. The report reveals how Ghana could lose about 180 million dollars just at the initial stages of developing a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) processing plant.
If the loss occurs, we believe, it will be because we as a nation failed to vigilantly guard the entire process. It beats our imagination that the Ghana National Gas Company could sit aloof and allow two companies controlled by the same person - Ms Yang Hua - buy and sell goods among themselves without any checkmating when we know that eventually the cost would be passed on to Ghana.
Even more worrying is pronouncements by Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Gas, who told journalists at a press conference that the arrangement between the sister companies was entirely up to the two firms.
We agree with the need to be seen not to be harassing foreign firms but we are strongly against a lack of or little supervision by those who have the responsibility to protect the public purse, including the fortunes of Ghana Gas.
It is important to remind Ghana Gas officials that the company was created out of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) because of the need to avoid occurrences such as currently happening.
And by the way, where has the Petroleum Commission been? How come it has not issued any recommendations for sanctions so far? The act of transfer pricing manipulation is a serious issue and so the Commission must not become a passive observer. It must act swiftly, biting where necessary.
We should not lose sight of the fact that some Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) have wrought devastating injustice in developing countries through transfer pricing manipulations.
For instance, it is estimated that Ghana loses 36 million dollars annually in tax revenue from transfer pricing irregularities in the mining sector coupled with the influx of MNEs into the country since 2007 when commercial quantities of oil were discovered in the west coast.
We are delighted, however, that new rules are in the offing to govern how companies with common beneficiary owners relate among themselves in terms of trade. The Ghanaian Times newspaper reported in its September 12, 2012 edition that Parliament's Committee on Subsidiary Legislation had recommended to the legislature to adopt its report and allow the Transfer Pricing Regulations, 2012, Legislative Instrument (L.I. 2188) to come into force.
Without doubt, this is most timely especially as the new rules would regulate the pricing of goods and services transacted between associated enterprises, particularly MNEs and their subsidiaries or branches.
We wish to bring to the attention of officialdom that L.I. 2188 is being enacted in response to provisions in the country's Internal Revenue Act, 2000 (Act 592) on transfer pricing regulation which was not invoked since the law was passed 12 years ago.
What that tells us is that without taking steps to implement the new rules and strictly enforcing them, nothing will be achieved.
In the mean time, however, we demand full disclosure on the gas plant contract by Ghana Gas. We also deem it important that full-scale investigations are conducted into the contract.