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The Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central enjoyed a moment of humour on the floor of Parliament last week when his colleagues poked fun at him, saying he should go to court to face the Special Prosecutor instead of appearing in the House to debate.
The MP had stood up to contribute to a debate on the floor, but before he could utter a word, his colleagues on the other side of the political divide, jokingly shouted; “go to court,” “go to court.”
However, looking unperturbed, and even joining his opponents to laugh at the comment, the MP also responded: “I went to court yesterday,” a response which pressed the play button of the second part of the laughter.
The expression, which on the lighter note mocked the Bawku Central MP, was in regard to a court case between the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), representing the Republic, and the MP. It is public knowledge that the OSP has taken the MP to court for tax evasion and abuse of office. The MP ran for cover under his immunity as a Legislator, which protects parliamentarians from being prevented from executing their official duties.
Following his failure to appear before the court on the day the case was called, the Presiding Judge, Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe, asked that the legislator be produced in court within a space of three hours, as she was waiting to continue with the case.
On the floor that same day, Mahama Ayariga sought leave of the Speaker to go to court on any other day when Parliament was not sitting. The Speaker also wrote to the court to respect the immunity of the MP.
The jovial phrase ‘go to court’ brought down the tension as a result of the sensitive motion on the floor – the country’s debt situation, vis-à-vis the competence or otherwise of the current government and the previous administration.
Before the debate, as usual, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Mark Osei-Assibey, moved the motion for the House to adopt the report of the Finance Committee on the annual public debt management report for the 2018 financial year.
The annual public debt report for the 2018 financial year was presented to Parliament on Wednesday April 3, 2019, by the Aviation Minister, Joseph Kofi Adda, on behalf of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.
Pursuant to Article 103 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 169 of the Standing Orders of the House, the report was referred to the Committee on Finance for consideration and report.
In the Committee’s report, it observed that a key development in 2018 was the successful issuance of Ghana’s US$2 billion Eurobond in May 2018, which was the sixth time Ghana had participated in the international capital market.
According to the report, the government-supported financial sector reforms and cleanup by the regulator, the Bank of Ghana (BoG), impacted on the public debt significantly in 2018. The move saw the government supporting the BoG to issue GH?9.80 billion of bonds to protect depositors of the affected banks, “which added to the public debt stock significantly,” the report captured.
“In 2018, [the] government continued to limit the level of commercial borrowing to US$500 million, in line with programme targets under the IMF programme. The Committee was informed that on the back of macroeconomic stability, the rate of public accumulation continued to plummet to a low of 14.5 per cent (without the financial bailout), from a 2017 rate of 16.6 per cent.
“In nominal terms, Ghana’s public debt stock, as at end 2018, stood at GH¢86,169 million (US$17,868.50 million) and GH¢86,899.70 million (US$18,020 million) respectively.
“As a percentage of GDP, debt-to-GDP with financial bailout stood at 57.9 per cent, and without the bailout was also at 54.7 per cent, as at the end of 2018,” the report stated in part.
The report also had an attachment as appendix, the list of loans signed in 2018.
After nearly three hours of a heated debate from both sides, the House adopted the report of the Finance Committee on the annual public debt for the 2018 financial year.
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