General News of Thu, 31 May 201818

Free SHS: Minority Caucus accuses government of misappropriation, threatens suit

Members of the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Caucus in Parliament have raised an alarm that the Government of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is overly using and deliberately diverting earmarked funds to finance the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme.

The Minority Caucus has thus sent a signal that it would haul Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta and the NPP Government to court for overly using earmarked petroleum funds to finance the free SHS programme, which took off last year.

“We are going to go to court to compel the Finance Minister to stick to the principles of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act as passed by Parliament.

“He cannot on his own circumvent an Act of Parliament. That is not good governance. In the coming days you will see what will happen, Minority Spokesperson on Finance Ato Forson said on Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists in Accra after the House had debated the Report of the Finance Committee on the 2017 Annual Report on the Petroleum Funds, Mr Forson, who is also a former Deputy Minister of Finance, said the Minority was interested in the matter, and was in talks with its lawyers, considering the options, including a legal action.

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Vice-Chairman of the Finance Committee Kwabena Asiamah Amankwah presented the report of the Finance Committee on the 2017 Annual Report on the Petroleum Funds.

The Petroleum Revenue Management Act stipulates that 70per cent of the Petroleum Fund should go into Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA). It also states that out of the 70 per cent that goes into the ABFA, 70 per cent of that amount should be dedicated towards infrastructure development and the remaining 30 per cent should be used for other priority areas as goods and services.

Also, the Ghana Infrastructure and Investment Fund Act stipulates that 25 per cent of the ABFA should go into the Ghana Infrastructure and Investment Fund for the purposes of developing infrastructure.

Mr Forson, who is also the MP Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam Constituency, in the Central Region, said the records of expenditure of oil revenue showed that the distribution formula set out in the Petroleum Revenue Management Act has been sidestepped in favour of funding the Free SHS.

The Minority further alleged that government was diverting monies from Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund (GIIF) for the Free Senior High School program.

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The NPP Government, Mr Forson said, has breached the law, and should face the consequences.

“They are breaching the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund Act. Clearly because the Petroleum Management Revenue Act stipulates that 70 per cent of the Petroleum Fund should go to the annual Budget Funding amount and 70 per cent of that amount should be dedicated toward Infrastructure development and the remaining 30 per cent should be used in certain priority areas for goods and services. That is what is in the law.”

The Minority, had during the debate on the Report accused the Government of excessive spending on consumption instead of infrastructure, for which wherever they went, the people talked mostly about roads and railways.

Their argument was that the directives as stated in the laws governing the disbursement of the Petroleum Funds were not complied with by the Finance Minister, stressing that revenue meant for infrastructure projects were diverted to finance the free SHS policy.

“Clearly, 2017, from January to December, the amount that accrued into the ABFA was US$217million.Very conservative, if you are multiplying it at a rate of GHC4.00 to the dollar will give you about GHC860million. Unfortunately, the government is spending most of the money on consumption instead of infrastructure.

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“And clearly you will see here in the Annual Report of the Petroleum Fund for the 2017 fiscal year submitted to Parliament by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta on the PRMA. Page 26 of the report says that Physical infrastructure and service delivery in education: an amount of GHC202 million has been spent on infrastructure. That is a lie. It is a complete lie. As if physical infrastructure is leading so it will make it look as if GHC202million was spent on physical infrastructure – that is not the case”, Mr Forson said.

He explained further that an amount of up of GHC196.38million paid to support the implementation of government’s free Senior High School and GHC6million paid to the Scholarship Secretariat in respect of scholarship.

“Is that infrastructure? Somebody is tactically breaching the Petroleum Revenue Management Act and the principles that it was established. I don’t think that it should be something that we should encourage. The people of this country should be interested in this matter and ensure that the government goes to the right direction,” Mr Forson said.

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