Speaker of Parliament Aaron Michael Oquaye on Wednesday directed the First Majority Deputy Chief Whip Matthew Nyidam to communicate to the Finance Minister to make available the 2020 Budget Estimates to the House for consideration.
“We want the documents; we want them now to approve them for him,” Speaker said, adding, “and if we have any concern, to raise it accordingly.”
The Speaker’s directive came at the back of concerns raised by Alhaji Mohammed- Mubarak Muntaka, the Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, over delay by the Minister of Finance in presenting the 2020 Budget Estimates for Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the legislators to study them in order to make observations for meaningful contributions when the debate opens on the floor.
The House on Tuesday concluded debating the principles of the 2020 Budget Statement and Financial Policy of the Government of Ghana, presented to the House by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta on the authority of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on November 13, 2020.
The Chief Whip of the Minority drew the attention of the House to the absence of the estimates for the perusal of the members, complaining further that the House had barely three weeks to go on recess, but, as he spoke, not a single of the estimates was available.
He said the delay would not only make the MPs not to play their oversight role and do due diligence on the estimates, but also culminate in them sitting for long hours into the night in the few days prior to recess.
Alhaji Muntaka indicated that the matter was raised by the Business Committee meeting, and assurance given that it would be available before the approval of the principles of the 2020 Budget.
Deputy Minority Leader James Avedzi ; and Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, MP Wa West supported the positon of Minority Chief Whip, stressing that there should not be any delay in the presentation of the estimates.
Mr Chireh reminded the legislators that the House was using public time, and there was no need to waste that time.
He said if the allegation was that the documents were with the Table Office, which could not answer to the absence of documents, then it was a deliberate attempt by the Majority Leadership to hoard papers and not to allow effective scrutiny of the estimates.
“We can’t be wasting public time like that,” Mr Chireh said, adding that the explanation of Finance Committee Chairman that the estimates would be distributed by Friday, for Committees to discuss them at the weekend could not work for all members.
“Budget estimates must not be taken lightly,” Mr Chireh said, adding further, “the practice where documents come and and walk away, and we don’t have copies, has to stop from now.
In his ruling, the Speaker said it wasa fact that budget estimates must quickly follow the debate on the principles of budget.
He said: “It is a fact that the cumulative effect of the rules makes the demand of Chief Whip genuine.”
Speaker Oquaye said he received a handwritten notice that four of the estimates were ready.
The Speaker said, and reminded the MPs that a matter which was not before the floor of the House was not ready.
“If something is ready, may the relevant persons run and place them in the face of this Honourable House immediately.”
Speaker Oquaye urged the Deputy Majority Chief Whip, as the most senior person, to convey to the Finance Minister that the House wanted the documents immediately.
“I believe this is a genuine parliamentary demand.
“Please, let’s be non-partisan about some of these things, so that the House will have the honour that it deserves,” Speaker Oquaye said.