General News of Thu, 3 Aug 20176
Finance Minister 'shamefully doctored' budget figures – Ato Forson
The Minority in Parliament has accused the Minister of Finance of 'clandestine' reversal of interest payment in his mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2017 budget statement and economic policy that he presented to Parliament last Monday.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra Wednesday, the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Mr Casiel Ato Forson, said the attention of the minority in Parliament had been drawn to the reversal of interest payment of a colossal amount of GH?758.5 million.
"It is quite clear that the Minister made this reversal, which violates long-standing ‘‘cut-off’’ fiscal rules for the sole purpose of making the government’s dismal performance for the first half of Financial Year 2017 “look good’’. The action also purports to make the performance for FY 2016 worse."
"This doctoring of figures is very shameful. This to say the least is very regrettable and cosmetic," he said.
Mr Ato Forson said the Minister of Finance had reduced domestic interest payment by an amount of GH¢657,005,271 to create the impression that expenditure on domestic interest payment was being reduced.
"This is clearly artificially compressed and contrived. This is a blatant disregard for cut off fiscal rules in accordance to the Financial Administration Regulations (FAR), Regulations 193", he said.
Mr Ato Forson said the financial year 2016 ended on a weekend (December 31 was a Saturday).
He said the long-standing “cut-off” fiscal rule was that expenditures and revenues that fell due on the last day of the month or year during a weekend, accrued to the next working day Jan 2, 2017.
He said per the rule, when the last working day of the month or year fell on a weekend or holiday, Bank of Ghana (BoG) also closed the books on the prior working day.
"Therefore, Ghanaians must be alarmed that the Minister will unilaterally change a long-standing fiscal rule (and indeed business rule) with respect to only one particular expenditure (interest payment) for the misplaced and selfish purpose of making the performance of the First half of 2017 “look good”.
"Ghanaians must be even more alarmed that BOG will ostensibly reopen its books to allow this to happen", he said.
Mr Ato Forson expressed worry that the budget did not state that Ministry of Finance and BoG applied the same rule to revenues that accrued on Saturday December 31, 2016 but were paid on the next working day on Jan 4, 2017.
He said to be consistent, the Minister and Governor should have reversed all cash buffers that were carried over to financial year 2017.
Mr Ato Forson called on the Auditor-General and Parliament to immediately conduct an investigation into the violation of long-standing, “cut-off’’ fiscal rule by the Minister of Finance.
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