The Minority in Parliament have raised concerns over the Finance Committee of the House authorising government to spend some GHS1.2 billion from the Contingency Fund without presenting the approval report on the Floor of the House.
The Committee granted the authorization on Wednesday after the Finance Minister made the request to help government boost its fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Speaker of Parliament subsequently referred the request to the Finance Committee of the House.
The Committee however granted the request despite the Minority’s concerns of lack of details in the financial estimates presented.
Prior to the approval, the Minority MPs on the Finance Committee indicated that it would not support the request by the Finance Minister if a provision is not made to absorb electricity bills of residential consumers in these trying times.
Speaking on Eyewitness News, Deputy Minority Leader, James Klutse Avedzi said the refusal of the Finance Committee to present its report on the Floor of Parliament for further debate is a major source of worry.
“Our proposal [for domestic consumption of electricity power] was made clear to the committee, we expect that the Chairman will incorporate our recommendations into the report that the committee will have to generate. But they are raising Article 177 (1) of the Constitution where they think that the committee is not supposed to issue any report to the House. We didn’t agree to that because this is not the first time this is happening. But they think that they don’t want to go by that, they think that the Finance Committee alone can just look at it and approve it and write the communication to the Ministry of Finance that they have approved it. That is what they want to do but I think that posterity is going to judge all of us. I think that there is nothing wrong if the Finance Committee communicates its approval in the form of a report for the entire House to debate and adopt it for the Minister to go and spend. They decided to use a different way and we do not support that at all,” the Ketu South legislator remarked.
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta has been given the green light to spend about a billion Ghana Cedis from the Contingency Fund to implement the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP).
It followed a statement he presented to the House on Wednesday.
The Finance Minister has already indicated that the cumulative effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic will cost Ghana GHS9.505 billion.
As part of other measures, the government has put in place a GHS600 million soft loan scheme with a two-year repayment plan for micro, small and medium scale businesses.
This is in collaboration with the National Board for Small Scale Industries, Business & Trade Associations and selected Commercial and Rural Banks.
Persons who access these loans will have a one-year grace period before beginning repayment.
Mr. Ofori-Atta is also seeking the support of Parliament to amend the relevant laws to lower the cap of the Stabilisation Fund from US$300 million to US$100 million.
This is to enable the government use the excess funds to bridge the gap created by the economic impact of the pandemic.
Among other interventions, the government will be taking care of the water bills for all Ghanaians for April, May and June 2020.
Seven regions have so far recorded cases of the novel coronavirus with Ghana's count standing at 313.