Finance Minister deceived Parliament on public debt — PAC Chairman

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Mr James Avedzi
Mr James Avedzi

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr James Avedzi has accused the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta of deceiving Parliament on the country’s debt as at December 2016.

The 2017 budget statement, which was presented to Parliament, indicates that the country’s debt as at December 2016 stood at GH¢122 billion, but the Controller and Accountant General (CAG) in its 2016 report on the consolidated fund reported that the debt stood at GH¢120 billion.

While pointing out the discrepancies in the figures to Deputy Minister of Finance, Ms Abena Osei Asare when she appeared before the committee, Mr Avedzi accused Mr Ofori-Atta for deliberately deceiving the House.

“Our domestic debt was GH¢52.179 billion and external was GH¢68.149 billion. The two put together will give you GH¢120.3 billion,” he noted.

“The accounts of the Controller and Accountant General confirmed GH¢120 billion and the auditor also verified and confirmed that figure. My question is, why did your minister say GH¢122billion when the actual debt was GH¢120 billion?”

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Exchange rate fluctuation

Ms Abena Asare, explaining the reason for the discrepancy, said the ministry used the exchange rate as that time to arrive at the GH¢122 billion.

“Yes, our minister confirmed GH¢122 bilion, but you know that a lot of these debts are foreign based or denominated and so these exchange rates differ. My minister reported this in March 2017 based on the current exchange rate at that time,” she stated.

“Anytime you are quoting your current liabilities, you need to quote it at the current rate. Certainly, Ghana took some loans way back in 1999. We cannot use the exchange rate of 1999 when we are talking about that loan and making some repayment. So, certainly he will use the current exchange rate, “she added.