Finance Minister’sStatutory Payments Tame MPs
Some swift payments allegedly made by the embattled Finance Minister to Members of Parliament (MP),weeks after the unprecedented call for his removal from office by some majority lawmakers from his own party, appeared to have calmed down the situation.
Ken Ofori-Atta is said to have made four statutory payments owed the 275 MPs, after the New Patriotic Party (NPP) side made the call for him, together with the Minister of State at the Office of Finance Ministry, Charles AduBoahen, to be sacked.
The payments, which include the Disability Relief Fund, The Anchor gathered, were hurriedly made last week, after the agitation from the MPs.
The MP for Afigya Kwabre North constituency in the Ashanti Region, Collins Adomako-Mensah, first confirmed the latest development to host of the ‘Good Morning Ghana’ programme on Metro TV, Dr. Randy Abbey, when the latter ambushed him to confirm whether the said moneys had been paid or not.
But the MP said he was not sure if the payments were occasioned by the demand from his colleagues.
“I am not sure if it was because of the demands….the fact that it was after, but I am not too sure if it was because of the demands,” he said, amidst laughter.
Mr. Ofori-Atta had failed to pay some four statutory payments, including MPs Monitoring and Evaluation (Second Quarter), Common Fund (Quarters 1 and 2), Q1 and 02 of District Common Fund.
But he has suddenly found money to settle these arrears, as well as release the Disability Relief Fund, to the various districts.
Even though the NPP MP, who was on the show with veteran journalist Kwesi Pratt said he saw nothing wrong with the releases, many have raised eyebrows questioning the motive behind the sudden payments. Others alsodeem it as subtle bribery to them to back down on their call for his sacking.
In the past, the MPs, especially from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), had lamented about the nonpayment of these funds for a long period of time.
Minority Leader Haruna Idrissu, as at February, this year, called out the ministry for failing to release District Assemblies Common Fund for the whole of 2021.
The Tamale South MP was backed by the Deputy Chief Whip on the Minority caucus, Ibrahim Armed, who, on the floor of the august House, asked that Mr. Ofori-Atta be dragged to Parliament to answer for the delay.
“Mr. Speaker, we must programme and bring the Minister for Finance to meet us for us to know the status of the formula that we used in 2021. I want to know how much was transferred from the ministry’s account.
“The 2021 District Assembly Common Fund of Gh₵2.2 billion that was approved in this House, there was not a pesewa transfer from the Ministry of Finance to the Office of the Administrator of District Assembly Common Fund.
“If there was, let the Deputy Minister for Finance give us the figures,” he had demanded.
The MP, who had been rebutted by a deputy Finance Minister, Abena Osei Asare, continued, “How much was transferred, I want to know? Mr. Speaker, if you are aware, do you remember on the 17th of November when the Finance Minister was coming to present the budget, we had this complaint that if there is no transfer, we are not going to sit.
“Mr. Speaker, the 200 million that you went to pay at the Access Bank that was first quarter 2020. So, the whole of 2021, the 2.4 billion, you have not transferred a pesewa.”
But the MP, whose confirmation shocked Mr. Pratt too, further said, “That is true, it is true. These payments were supposed to come and there were delays, and it has been paid. It is true. Uncle Kwesi, these are statutory payments, there were delays, fortunately, they have been paid, thank God, they have been paid.”
Meanwhile, the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has said the release of the delayed cash by Mr. Ofori-Atta will not save him from being removed as the sector minister.
Speaking on the same ‘Good Morning Ghana’ show last Friday, Mr. Ablakwa insisted that the action by the minister “is not working and will not work.”
There have been conflicts of interest accusations against the Finance Minister and Charles Adu Boahen, who have been at the helm of affairs at the ministry since 2017.
Recall that about two weeks ago, NPP MPs, numbering more than80, in a never-seen before fashion, organized a presser to demand the removal of the finance minister for promising not to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but went there cup-in-hand, begging for a bailout.
The MPs, who were led by Andy Kwame Appiah-Kubi, who is the MP for the Asante Akeem North constituency in the Ashanti Region, threatened they will refuse to do business with government if their call was not heeded to by the President.
“We have had occasions to defend allegations of conflicts of interest and lack of confidence and trust against the leadership of the Finance Ministry. The recent development within the economy is of major concern to our caucus and our constituents. We have made our grave concern to our President through the parliamentary leadership and the leadership of the party without any positive response,” he reiterated.
Without mincing words, he continued, “We are by this medium communicating our strong desire that the President changes the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State at the Finance Ministry without further delay in order to restore hope into the finance sector and reverse the downward trend in the growth of the economy.”
Their call came at a time the Minority caucus had also announced it was initiating the process to censure the finance minister, after growing calls to President Akufo-Addo to sack him fell on deaf ears. The Majority MPs were subsequently whisked to the presidency to have a meeting with the President.
The President, on his part, allegedly promised to grant them their wish, but pleaded with them to exercise restraint until Ghana’s negotiation with the Breton-Wood’s institution is completed and the 2023 budget statement delivered in Parliament.