Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Ocquaye, says the legislative arm of government doesn’t know yet how much the new parliamentary chamber to be constructed later this year will cost.
Although he disclosed architectural firm run by UK based Ghanaian architect Sir David Frank Adjaye, Adjaye and Associate, came tops in a competitive bidding process ahead of two other firms to design and build the structure, the exact cost of the project has not been determined.
“These are yet to be confirmed. So, we are working on that. In fact, we had a tender process at which we had three architectural firms competing for this job. One from abroad… The Institution of Engineers was asked to make an analysis and bring a report which was one-sided overwhelmingly in favour of those that were chosen,” he explained.
“Ghana government has committed itself to some funding which is reflected in the budget. And we are also looking for external sources to complement that project,” Prof. Ocquaye added.
Joy News checks show the 2019 budget of parliament makes an allocation of 72 million Ghana cedis for capital expenditure out of the 268.2 million Ghana cedis given it. But it’s unclear how much of the capital expenditure budget will be sunk into the parliamentary chamber project.
When Joy news quizzed Sir David Adjaye on the basis for which he won the tender process when project cost was yet to be determined, he said it was because his plan seeks “to make a building which is not just a fanciful building, but a building which represents the DNA of our culture and the DNA of our democracy.”
Officials from Adjaye and Associates were in Parliament on Friday to discuss details of the building with the speaker and leadership of parliament. The new structure to be located right in front of the premises of the current parliamentary chamber will have 450 seats for MPs as compared to the current 275. The speaker was, however, emphatic that does not mean there are plans to increase the number of parliamentarians.
The new structure is expected to have libraries, a parliamentary museum, prayer areas for MPs of all religions, a canteen, media centre, “We have been given the direction to prepare to start sometime this year to be able to allow us to go on site… It can be completed in the next three years,” Sir Adjaye explained.
Prof. Ocquaye says there is a lot of goodwill from the executive arm government for the new parliamentary chamber project and “the president has agreed in principle to come and cut the sod for the project.” Both the Majority Leader Leader Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu and Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu expressed support for the project. “We look forward to doing what we need to do internally to get this project going,” Mr. Iddrisu said. “I am impressed by what I have seen…,” Mr. Mensah Bonsu also indicated. The man building the new structure says it will be a great edifice. “It’s really a new wonderful way to show the incredible ark of history of the Ghanaian parliament and that will be visible for all to see,” Sir Adjaye said during the meeting.
Explaining the need for a larger chamber than the current one, the Majority leader explained; “even now, there are more than 60 non-MP ministers and deputy ministers. On occasions, they are required to be in the chamber… So you provide adequate space. For now, when all MPs are in the chamber and ministers are there, many of them do not have anywhere to sit. Some necessarily have to stand.”
“We are being futuristic and making something that will stand the test of time,” Prof. Ocquaye said. “There will be a canteen, a hotel, eating places, private restaurants that people can rent and cook. Nobody should leave the parameters of this building in other to say I am going to eat and come. These are not scientific and not for this modern age of seriousness,” the speaker said.
The building is expected to stand on pillars for the space beneath to be used as car park and gardens whilst the structure itself is suspended in the air. “We are putting all the car parks that you see that are on surface parking under the parliament. So MPs can drive into a secured zone and rise up directly into the chamber,” Adjaye explained. The space beneath the new chamber block will be converted to an arena where Ghanaians will gather to witness the swearing-in of new presidents in future instead of the Black Stars Square.
Since 2017, various new infrastructural projects have been initiated in the precincts of the legislative arm under the Parliament House Physical Infrastructure Enhancement project.
The government of Ghana is funding a $ 23,074,249.84 (100 million Ghana cedis) project known as the Job 600 annexe to provide about 50 supplementary offices for 24 members of parliament who did not get office spaces in the original Job 600 MPs offices complex. Separately, the basement of the current chamber block is receiving a facelift and more administrative offices are being constructed around it.
The main administration block is being extended and a visitors’ lounge is being constructed. A 250 guest capacity hotel is also under construction under a public-private partnership.
This is not the first time the house is receiving a facelift. In 2014, about 22 million Ghana cedis was invested in refurbishing the current chamber; a project which included replacing the furniture. Two years after in 2016, the seats which were imported from China were replaced after they began tearing up, sparking widespread criticism.