General News of Wed, 25 Apr 201833

Prove your claims, apologise or resign – Minority demands of Information Minister

The Minority Caucus in Parliament has challenged Information Minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid to provide proof of his claims that the erstwhile Mahama administration spent a whopping GH?3 billion on the Office of Government Machinery in 2016.

Failing to provide that proof, he should apologise to Ghanaians for peddling untruths, or as a final alternative, he should resign from office altogether.

The challenge is contained in a statement the Minority have issued Wednesday morning, signed by Ranking Member of Parliament’s Finance Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson, who also served as a Deputy Finance Minister in the Mahama administration.

A list by the government to Parliament last week detailing names of 998 staffers as employees at the Office of Government Machinery (OGM) has left in its trail bitter exchanges across different segments of the Ghanaian society, most of the arguments underpinned by economic and political considerations.

In defence of criticisms labelling the size of government as unprecedented and wasteful, the Information Minister had countered that a commitment to protect the public purse should be the issue of concern rather than the number of staffers at the presidency.

He had argued that in 2017 for instance, the budget for government machinery was Gh?1.5 billion under President Akufo-Addo as against President John Mahama’s Gh?3 billion in 2016, even with a fewer staff numbers.

But the Minority, who are contending that the budgetary allocation to the OGM and the Ministry of National Security under President Akufo-Addo in 2017 was about GH?1.9 billion as against GH?719,108,911 under President Mahama, are disputing his claims and now want him to provide the evidence.

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The group cites a number of what it says are government’s own accounts as evidence that the Information Minister’s claims cannot be true, and concludes that his claims “were uninformed, hasty and diversionary.”

“Consequently, we challenge him to produce evidence of his claims failing which he should render an apology to the good people of Ghana or resign his position.”

Below is the full statement by the Minority

MINORITY STATEMENT ON FALSE CLAIMS BY AKUFO ADDO GOVERNMENT ON BUDGETARY ALLOCATION AND OVERRUNS FOR THE OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT MACHINERY IN 2016

The attention of the Minority Caucus in Parliament has been drawn to claims by Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, to the effect that the Office of Government Machinery (OGM) was allocated GHS3 billion in 2016 as against GHS1.5 billion under President Akufo-Addo in 2017.

We have also noted a publication in the New Patriotic Party's 'Daily Guide' newspaper, that the Office of Government Machinery overrun it's budget by about GHS3 billion after it had been allocated GHS3 billion in 2016, bringing total expenditure to GHS6 billion.

We wish to state that these claims are totally false and were made in a desperate effort to justify the unconscionable packing of the Presidency with activists of the NPP leading to the submission of a list of 998 Presidential staff and evade the intense public anger that has greeted the publication of the list.

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The claims, false as they are, also betray an uncanny lack of thoroughness and attention to detail on the part of the Information Minister in particular and the government he speaks for in general.

This is especially so when official documents presented to Parliament by the same government clearly state the amount allocated to the OGM and how much was spent in total in the year in question.

At page 6 of the budget estimates presented to Parliament in March, 2017 for the OGM covering the 2017 fiscal year, the government stated at page 6 that "The Office of Government Machinery was allocated a budget of GHS 453,877,343 and GHS 718,854,911 for 2015 and 2016 financial years respectively."

Regarding expenditure, the Akufo Addo government also stated on the same page that "The total expenditure as at 31st December, 2016 stood at GHS 1,306,325,076.23. However OGM's Total expenditure at the end of December, 2015 was GHS 799,731,387.07."

The above quote shows clearly that the Minister of Information peddled a blatant untruth when stating that GHS 3 billion was given to the OGM in 2016.

This also belies the claims of the 'Daily Guide' in respect of the overrun for 2016. It stood at GHS 587,470,165.23 and not GHS 3 billion.

Further evidence of the budgetary allocation for 2016 to the OGM can be found in a document presented to the Finance Committee of Parliament by Deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidency, Samuel Abu Jinapor, dated Monday, 20th March, 2017; in which he stated at pages 4 and 5 that "In the 2016 budget estimates, the Office of Government Machinery, in addition to the Cost Centres now under the Ministry of National Security, were allocated a ceiling of Seven Hundred and Nineteen Million, One Hundred and Eight Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eleven Ghana Cedis (GHS 719,108,911) from GoG, ABFA, and IGF Sources."

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Furthermore, the Finance Committee of Parliament in its report on the 2017 budget estimates stated in section 3.8 at page 6 that "For the implementation of the various programmes and activities, a total amount of Seven Hundred and Nineteen Million, One Hundred and Eight Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eleven Ghana Cedis (GHS 719,108,911) was released to the office of Government Machinery for the 2016 financial year."

We also wish to draw attention to the fact that the budgetary allocation for the OGM in 2016 also covered the National Security Secretariat (NSS) and its allied agencies unlike the GHS 1.5 billion allocated under the Akufo Addo government which did not include the budget for the NSS.

A separate allocation of GHS 325,878,659 was made for the Ministry of National Security, under which the National Security Secretariat and it's allied agencies fall, in the 2017 budget estimates. This means that the allocation to the OGM and the Ministry of National Security under President Akufo Addo was about GHS 1.9 billion as against GHS 719,108,911 under President Mahama.

The overwhelming evidence above puts it beyond doubt that the claims by the Minister of Information were uninformed, hasty and diversionary.

Consequently, we challenge him to produce evidence of his claims failing which he should render an apology to the good people of Ghana or resign his position.

We are aware that the Akufo-Addo government prefers to use subterfuge and falsehood to wiggle its way out of the multiple scandals that have rocked it, instead of approaching issues of governance with candour and respect for the citizenry.

We urge the media, therefore, to be wary of information emanating from government and undertake a thorough scrutiny of same to avoid being used as unwitting conduits in the spreading of falsehood to cover up for the shambolic performance of this government.

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Cassiel Ato Forson

Ranking Member, Finance Committee of Parliament.

Wednesday, 25th April, 2018. Accra

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