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13.07.2004 General News

LI on NHIS levy under scrutiny

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Accra, July 13, GNA - Parliament on Tuesday adopted the report of the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation on the National Health Insurance (Commencement of Payment of Levy) Instrument, 2004, LI 1793, amidst a considerable amount of scrutiny by Members.

Mr Francis Agbotse, Chairman of the Committee, who presented the Report, noted that the LI, which was laid before the House on June 9, 2004, had specified the commencement date for the collection of the NHIS levy, adding that it also empowered the Minister of Finance to determine the collection agency.

In a letter attached to the Report, dated February 12, 2004, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, had nominated the Value Added Tax (VAT) Service to collect the two-and-a-half per cent levy.

Mr Agbotse said the collection of the levy would commence with the effluxion of time, being any day after a maturity period of at least 21 working days from the date the LI was laid before the House. He said the LI was in conformity with the NHIS Act 2003, Act 650, the 1992 Constitution and the procedural requirements stated in the Standing Orders 166 (2) and (3) of Parliament.

Mr Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader, sought to know whether the Minister's letter nominating the VAT Service to collect the revenue was also to be approved by Parliament, as the LI 1793 empowered the Minister to determine the collection agency without Parliamentary approval, other than nominating one as stated in the letter.

He also sought to know why the specific date for the commencement of the collection of the levy was not stated in the Committee's Report, saying that 21 working days from the date the LI was laid before Parliament fell on a specific date, which should have been stated in the Report.

"We are being told for instance that the collection of the levy would commence during this session of Parliament and Parliament is rising at the end of this week so we should know which specific day this week the collection would start rather than saying it would commence with the effluxion of time."

Mr Peter Ala Adjetey, Speaker of Parliament, however, explained that the LI coming into force after 21 working days from the day it was laid in the House, only meant that the minimum gestation period for the maturity of LI should not be less than 21 days, adding that the LI could come into force any day after the 21 days maturity period.

Mr Modestus Ahiable, NDC - Ketu North, also questioned the rationale for appointing the VAT Service as the collection agency, saying that the VAT Service had a limited scope of operation under the VAT Service Act, which did not include the collection of such a special levy.

In a related development, the House adopted the same Committee's Report on the Financial Administration Regulation 2004, LI 1802.

The object of the LI 1802 is to review the entire financial management set up of the public sector, by injecting sound financial management practice, high degree of public confidence and financial administration system and enhancing accountability in terms of the use of public funds among other things.

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