General News of 2013-12-07

MPs expose Seth Terkper’s lies in 2014 Budget

When the man, who was named Zaccheaus by the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) Members of Parliament (MPs) during the presentation of this year’s budget, stood in the august House and told the legislators that the Chamber in which he was standing had been expanded without a whimper from members of the House, he thought he had succeed in getting away with it.

Minister Seth Terkper only succeeded at that material moment, as the eagle-eyed MPs have now managed to spot the obvious untruth.

The Krobo Odumasi-born Chartered Accountant is now facing the fury of the legislators for pulling a fast ‘419’ on them.

To the MPs, the Chamber has not been expanded as claimed in the budget statement by Terkper, and are demanding an immediate explanation from him.

Mr. Terkper had stated on page 56 of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the budget, that “for the period under review, Parliament continued to discharge its constitutional mandate of passage of required legislations.

“The Parliamentary Chamber was expanded to accommodate the increased membership of the House.”

But, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board and member for Subin in the Kumasi metropolis, Isaac Osei, in critiquing the budget statement on the floor of the House, exposed the Minister as taking glory in a project that never saw the light of day.

He further lamented that the way the project was captured in page 56 of the document, which noted that the Chamber of the House had been expanded to accommodate the current 275 lawmakers, was factually inaccurate.

“The budget stated quite clearly that the Parliamentary Chamber was expanded to accommodate the increased membership of the House. I, for instance, do not even have a table to write on, because I am sitting in the middle of two tables, and without the indulgence of my colleagues, I cannot have a place to write, obviously, they have not done anything, and it should not have been stated in this budget,” he stated.

Another factual inaccuracy, as described by the MP, was on page 60, in relation to the Electoral Commission (EC), where the Minister stated that “for the period under review, the Commission expanded and maintained its VSAT Wide Area Network to support the continuous registration of voters.”

Continuing, he said, the document noted that in 2014, the Commission will re-demarcate electoral areas and unit committee boundaries, and expand the biometric voters register to include persons who qualify to be registered.

The MP, however, argued: “We all know that in this country, there is no continuous registration of voters, and they should not have stated that in this budget.

“The next paragraph says that in 2014, they will expand the biometric voters register to include persons who qualify to register?

“So why are you going to expand the register, if it is a continuous registration process, it does not exist,” he lamented.

At this juncture, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Doe Adjaho, disclosed that the expansion of the Chamber, as captured in the budget, was written to the Ministry of Finance by the Parliamentary Service, but in anticipation of projects to have been done.

“In your submission, you made a very important point, and my attention has been drawn to the fact by the Clerk to Parliament, that the Parliamentary Service, in submitting their budget to the Ministry of Finance, did indicate in their write-up that in anticipation, we were going to expand the Chamber.

“And that was why the House was adjourned the last time, earlier than scheduled. So the communication was from the Parliamentary Service to the ministry, which was subsequently captured in the budget statement,” the Speaker explained.

The Speaker agreed with the concern of Isaac Osei, and stressed that the ministry should have cross-checked to find out whether the expansion was done before including it in the budget.

“Your observation is actually correct, it is important for Parliament to take responsibility where we have to. But the communication, which found its expression in the budget, came from the Parliamentary Service. To be fair, we, in Parliament, must take responsibility where we erred, so I thought I should put it on record,” Rt. Hon. Adjaho added.

Isaac Osei would not, however, swallow the intervention of the Speaker. According to him, the Minister of Finance had been coming to Parliament, together with his two deputies, who are all MPs, and they should have known better if there had been any expansion in the Chamber.

But in a quick response, the Minority Leader, Kyei Mensah Bonsu, said: “Mr. Speaker, since you are talking about records, the service does not also submit our proposal to the ministry, it goes to the Office of the President; maybe some indication could be given behind the curtains to the Ministry of Finance. But the statement here, is a statement of fact that the Chamber was expanded.”

Speaker: You are right that our budget, by virtue of the Parliamentary Act, as amended, is submitted to the Office of the President. But the Ministry of Finance has written to Parliament making a commitment that money is available for us to expand, and the process started as far back in June according to the information the Clerk gave me, hoping that before the budget is presented, the expansion would have taken place.

Kyei Mensah: If an indication is given, an indication definitely might have been given, but what is captured here is a statement of fact, and I don’t think the Parliamentary Service indicated that by this date, we would have completed the expansion.