Speaker summons Finance Minister over COVID-19 funds
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin has directed the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta to appear before the House and account for all the monies approved for the utilization for COVID-19 related expenditures.
The directive by the Speaker follows concerns raised by the Minority side in relation to a loan agreement between the Government of Ghana and the European Investment Bank (EIB) for an amount of Seven-Five Million Euros (€75,000,000) for the COVID-19 Health Response Ghana Project.
Mr Kwaku Kwarteng, Chairman of the Finance who moved the motion for the House to adopt the report of the Finance Committee stated the objective of the facility was to finance some of the health issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit Ghana in 2020.
He said the loan facility which is priced would go a long way to help provide health infrastructure and related health services.
However, Mr Casiel Ato Forson, Ranking Member on the Finance Committee criticized the government for failing to account properly to Parliament the monies approved for the utilization for COVID expenses.
He said the COVID-19 expenses were piling up and the House had also been called upon to borrow another €75,000,000 in addition to the original amount that the country spent.
“Mr Speaker, I think the time has come for this House to be given the opportunity to vet the COVID-19 expenses so far… I believe we should all be interested in this matter” he said.
Mr Forson also called on the government to place a moratorium on new loans, saying the loans are becoming too much and that the government should find alternative means to raise funds.
Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzra, Ranking Member on the Work and Housing Committee threatened to mobilize the Minority MPs to vote against the loan since the President had relaxed the COVID restrictions given indication the severest of the pandemic was over.
Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annor-Dompreh recognizing the atmosphere in the House asked the Speaker to stand down the loan agreement.
Speaker Bagbin however ordered the finance minister to appear before Parliament to account for all the Covid funds, saying it was only then that the credit facility would be approved by the House.
“I direct that the Minister of Finance appears before this House to account for all the monies that were approved for the utilization for the covid pandemic. It is only then and only after that this motion will have an expression in this House to be approved or otherwise,” the Speaker said.
Speaker Bagbin also blamed the House for reneging on its oversight responsibilities to ensure accountability for the people.
“We have all it takes to make sure the right thing is done. It is Parliament that is weak and reneging on its duties and functions” he added.