Kennedy Agyapong and Sam George
The Chairman of the Communications Committee of Parliament, Kennedy Agyapong, and Sam George, a member of the committee, nearly exchanged blows yesterday in the House during a highly charged meeting to discuss the controversial Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) project to be undertaken by StarTimes.
The meeting was necessitated by a petition sent to parliament by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) for it to intervene in the impasse between it and the government over the DTT project. The meeting came to an abrupt end after tempers had flared.
But the meeting with GIBA’s representatives was reconvened for matters to be discussed in camera.
Kennedy Agyapong, who is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Assin Central, was said to have been infuriated by some utterances made by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Ningo-Pampram at a stakeholders’ forum organized by IMANI on the controversial project at the Regency Hotel on Wednesday.
According to Ken Agyapong, members of the committee had resolved at closed door meeting in parliament on Tuesday to refrain from making public utterances on the DTT matter until the meeting with the officials of GIBA and the minister.
The NDC MP for Ningo-Pampram also indicated that he attended the IMANI programme because the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, had scandalized the committee by allegedly saying members of the Communications Committee are ‘hypocrites.’
The chairman, Ken Agyapong, accused the NDC MP, Sam George of disrespecting members of the committee by breaking their oath not to make public comments on the matter.
When the meeting with the GIBA people was later reconvened, the chairman of the committee told journalists that he was really upset with Sam George but after getting further explanation from him as to why he went to the IMANI programme, he smoked the peace pipe with his colleague.
“Initially I was very furious about his utterances at the IMANI meeting, and so I confronted him but after listening to his explanation I realized he was right to make those utterances in response to a comment made against the committee members so I apologized to him.”
He pointed out that the matter would not end there because the committee would have to look into that allegations made against members of the committee, saying “we had a fruitful discussion with GIBA”.
He said they would also meet the minister over the matter.
Mr Agyapong, however, said the Minister of Communications had kept the committee in the dark as far as the StarTimes issue is concerned.
Sam George, on his part, told journalists that there was a slight miscommunication between him and the chairman of the committee and that they had resolved the matter.
According to him, he has great respect for the chairman of the committee but that miscommunication brought about the confrontation, adding that such a miscommunication would not happen again.
The government has postponed migration to digital broadcasting for more than three times.
It, however, contracted StarTimes in 2012 to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure for Ghana.
The infrastructure was to guarantee multiple TV channels, clear pictures, better sound quality and offer more opportunities for advertisers and broadcasters.
The project, which cost $95 million, was supposed to have been completed before 2015.
But StarTimes allegedly failed to execute the project on time so the contract was abrogated in 2014 and handed over to Ghanaian firm, K-NET.
The termination of the contract, according to then Minister for Communications, Omane Boamah, was due to “the failure of the company to secure the necessary funding from the China EXIM Bank to execute the project.”