Parliament to begin COVID-19 expenditure probe public hearing on February 15
The parliamentary public hearing of the COVID-19 expenditure will begin on Wednesday, February 15, Dr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority Leader, has said.
Speaking at the Parliamentary Leadership press conference in Accra, Dr Forson said the Speaker made a referral of the COVID-19 Expenditure Probe to the Joint Committee of Health and Finance, at the time that he (Dr Forson) was the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee.
He noted that he had to obviously contend with the fact that he was serving as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee of Finance and Health that was charged with the responsibility of probing the COVID-19 expenditures.
He said the Joint Committee had had series of meetings and that they had agreed that the COVID-19 expenditure hearing was supposed to start on February 7, however, the Leadership of the Committee met, and they agreed that they would start the public hearing beginning on Wednesday, February 15.
He said Dr Nana Ayew Afriyie, the Chairman of the Joint Committee probing the COVID-19 Expenditure and New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Effiduase-Asokore, would be speaking on the COVID-19 Expenditure Probe.
Touching on Tax Wavers, Dr Forson said the House had done a lot on Tax Wavers, and that he and Mr Kwaku Agyeman Kwarteng, the Chairman of Finance Committee of Parliament, both converged on this Tax Exemptions.
“We believe that Tax Exemptions are becoming too much, and particularly in times like this when the country needs every cedi to save our economy, you cannot continue granting Tax Exemptions,” Dr Forson said.
“And so, you will notice that the Finance Committee has been very adamant in approving Tax Exemptions. We worked with the Ministry of Finance, virtually, we led it to get the Tax Exemption Bill passed. So, we have a Tax Exemption Regime in place as a country for the first time.”
He paid tribute to Mr Kwarteng for spearheading the efforts to get the Tax Exemption Bill passed.
He noted that in terms of the savings that the Finance Committee had led Parliament to save in terms of Tax Exemptions, which when quantified, one would notice that they had made huge progress as a country in terms of Tax Exemptions.
He said there was one more issue that they were working on, which had to deal with One District, One Factory (1D1F) Tax Exemptions.
“We believe that the time has come for us to put breaks on those Tax Exemptions and rake in enough revenue to support the fiscal, obviously the country because we need every revenue to move the country forward.”
He reiterated that putting in perspectives, the country had made a lot more progress on the Tax Exemptions than before; saying, “I can’t say that is comfortable enough, I believe in continuous improvement, so, we will have to continuously identify the gaps about Tax Exemptions and improve it going forward.”
Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business in Parliament said lot of businesses were taking advantage of the Tax Exemption Regime to seek tax wavers, which was not really helping the country; stating, that was the reason the government had introduced the Tax Exemption Act.
He said from now, the Tax Exemption Act was going to be the guiding principle and that the difficulty would be the outstanding imports that were occasioned under the old tax regime, especially most of them being the 1D1F.
He said the imports had arrived in the country, which were predicated on the old tax regime and that if one wanted to benchmark that on a new law, it would be difficult.
He said there was the need to find a way to get them out of it and make a determination that going forward, those of them that had been under post exemption law, the Exemption Law, would have to be strictly applied.