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04.03.2005 General News

EDITORIAL: Budget Silent on NRC Compensation

By Public genda

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, either by omission or commission failed to comment on the report of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) in the 2005 budget statement.

It was expected that the NRC report, which was submitted to President Kufuor in the run up to the 2004 general elections, would among other things, recommend compensation for the victims of human rights abuse; including cash payments and the deconfiscation of assets. It was also expected that the report would recommend the setting up of an education fund for children of the victims. It is not yet clear whether the government has the cash to pay the kind of compensation the victims are expecting, but the failure of the minister to capture the NRC report in the budget means victims could wait longer than expected for compensation if any.

This is because the budget statement, which usually captures the government's expenditure and its economic programmes for the year, did not make provision for the NRC report. Perhaps, the Minister of Finance's failure to comment on the report in the budget could be blamed on the delay by the Attorney General's Department to study the report and make recommendations to the government. Based on the Attorney General's recommendation, the government would then issue a white paper.

Part of the problem could also be blamed on change of minister at the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General's Department. The former Minister of Justice, Papa Owusu Ankomah, who was mandated to study the report has been shifted to the Ministry of Interior and replaced with Mr. Ayikoi Otoo who had hardly settled down before the budget was read.

Is it any surprising, that ministers are refusing to comment on the report? The Statesman on Wednesday reported its frustration in trying to get the Attorney General's office to comment on the whereabouts of the NRC report. According to the paper, a direct call to the AG's office yielded no results.

Public Agenda's own enquiries at the Ministry of Information yielded no fruits. In the last two weeks this paper assigned a reporter to Dan Botwe, the Information Minister, to find out when the government will comment on the NRC report. First, Botwe's excuse was that the government was very busy preparing the budget statement, so he could not comment on the report. On Tuesday, he told Public Agenda's reporter that he could not respond to the paper's enquiry on the NRC until after the 'Wahala demonstration orgainsed by Opposition National Democratic Congress and other pressure groups.' Botwe however, assured Public Agenda he would comment on the report as soon as cabinet gives him the go ahead.

Two questions come to mind. First, now that the budget has stated government expenditure for 2005, where will the government get extra money to pay compensation to the victims, if the AG's office approves the report? Secondly, is this report on course to join the large number of similar reports gathering dust at ministries?

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