General News of Sat, 22 Dec 20188
Ken Ofori-Atta given ultimatum to top up Parliament’s budget
The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has been given a six-month ultimatum by the Parliament of Ghana to provide additional funds amounting to GH?177,398,597.00 that was cut off from the original 2019 budget estimate for the services of Parliament and the Parliamentary Service.
This follows the decision of the Ministry of Finance to downsize the GH?445,666,104.00 2019 budget allocation to the legislature and the Parliamentary Service to GH?268,267,507.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, who was least happy about the development, directed Mr. Ofori-Atta to immediately take steps to pay the amount in full.
He has to that effect, demanded for full assurance in writing from the Minister of Finance that the remaining GH?177,398,597 shall be paid in the middle of 2019.
“The fact still remains that we have protested vehemently that the fact that there has been an improvement in our grants does not mean that in other situation whereby the Executive will approbate and reprobate and we want that this should be conveyed in very clear terms on the pre-approved letter that myself signed by the Registrar, that is the Clerk that this matter will be well settled. Hon. Members, let’s make ourselves clear and in fact, we are approving of this amount on the full assurance which we demanded in writing which has been duly given that in the middle of the year, we will have full complement of GH?445million so that it will not be a matter of a grant or a favour when the appropriate time comes”, he ruled while presiding over the motion for the approval of the 2019 budget estimate for the Ministry of Finance, Friday.
Prior to the Speaker’s ruling, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, had questioned why the Minister of Finance will cut down the 2019 budget estimate for the service of Parliament and Parliamentary Service.
To him, demanding an assurance letter from the Finance Minister is not enough, insisting that the focus should be on the President of the Republic and therefore referred the House to Article 179 that mandates the President to have course to be prepared and laid before Parliament the Budget and Economic Policy Statement of the Government.
“Mr. Speaker as you yourself reminded them, Article 179 – the mandate for budget is not the Minister of Finance, it says that the President shall course to be prepared and laid before Parliament. The President’s letter referring to your letter is GH?445million. So, Mr. Speaker, I will reluctantly support this with the assurance from the Minister of Finance. Where is our power of the purse when the Minister of Finance can undercut our budget to GH?268million? Mr. Speaker, even in the GH?445milion that originally should be our budget there is concern that the goods and services has been reduced by GH?64million and capex about GHS72million.
We will need that because Mr. Speaker, your effort to get additional offices completed and your efforts to get new reforms done and for us to commence work on a new chamber block are all premised on Parliament’s budget. So, Mr. Speaker, even though I support the motion, I am not satisfied at all with just an assurance letter from the Minister of Finance. This is Parliament! We exercise budget control and the Minister of Finance can look into the institution of Parliament and reduce our budget from GH?445million against GH?420million in 2018 to GH?268million?” he quizzed.
The Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, also contributing to the motion explained the rationale behind the cutting down of the 2019 budget estimate for the service of Parliament and the Parliamentary Service.
“If one looks at the allocation to Parliament, let’s not go far back – 2015, 2016, 2017 – you will see the level of allocations – it was always between GH?170million and GH?200million. But for 2018, because of what was to be done with this new facility. It was thought that the amount has been ring-fenced so for this year, it was not added to it. We just got to know that we need to lump it to what together was allocated this year we need to really add it to that and that is the assurance that we have got from the Finance Minister”, he noted.