Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance
Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance

Schedule Finance Minister to brief Parliament - Speaker directs

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has directed the Business Committee of Parliament to schedule the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to appear before the House to brief members on affairs of the domestic debt exchange programme (DDEP).

He said both sides of the House had agreed that the Finance Minister be scheduled to come and brief the House on policy statement and some details of the debt arrangement, since Parliament was ever prepared to assist the government to get out of that “quagmire”.

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“This is a very urgent matter particularly dealing with elderly people; if pensioners are picketing at the Finance Ministry, we need to do this as quickly as possible,” the Speaker said.

MPs’ concerns

Addressing members of Parliament (MPs) at the start of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament yesterday, Mr Bagbin said: “The Business Committee, kindly and urgently schedule the Finance Minister to appear before the House to give us a brief on the statement of affairs.”

He gave the directive after some Minority MPs had raised concern after the Vice-Chairman of the Business Committee, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, had presented the business statement for the week.

First, the National Democratic Congress MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, had told the House that in spite of the enormous public interest in the ongoing DDEP which the government was pursuing, it never found space in the business statement.

He recalled how the leadership of Parliament, during recess, had received a petition from the Association of Individual Bondholders and the picketing by bondholders at the Ministry of Finance.
Those developments, he said, had created enormous anxiety, with Ghanaians being concerned about their life savings and investments.

No briefing

Mr Ablakwa said although the House had received no briefing or debated the programme, the Ministry of Finance was going ahead to implement it as a conditionality of the IMF programme.

The North Tongu MP also drew the House’s attention to how the Finance Minister, while presenting the 2023 budget, had assured MPs that the details of the DDEP would be announced soon to the public, and that the investor community had been engaged.

“Mr Speaker, this engagement has not taken place; MPs have not been engaged and individual bondholders are not being engaged.

“Indeed, the President had, a few days prior to the announcement, assured Ghanaians that bondholders would be exempted, but now all those who were told they would be exempted have been included,” he said.

“The Finance Minister must come and brief us for us to debate and agree on what should be the nature of this DDEP and its full ramifications on the economy and the citizenry,” he added.

Unconstitutional act

Sharing a similar concern, the NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, said the duty of the Finance Minister was not to simply engage the House.

He said Article 181 (3) of the Constitution and sections 55 and 56 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 were clear that the government was borrowing on behalf of the state.

“Hence the terms and conditions of the borrowing must ordinarily be laid before the House and approved by a resolution of the House.

“To the contrary, the Finance Minister has gone ahead to define his own terms and conditions of borrowing, negotiating with bondholders terms and conditions that have not been approved by the House, coercing and compelling banks and insurance institutions to accept terms and conditions that have not been approved by Parliament,” he said.

The conduct of the Finance Minister, he added, was clearly illegal and unconstitutional, a clear breach of his responsibility as Minister of Finance and an affront to the House.

“He must, therefore, bring the terms here for us to approve before he offers them to individual bondholders and institutions for them to accept or reject,” he said.

“We’ve engaged all bondholders”

Responding, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei-Asare, said in the 2023 budget, the Finance Ministry “sounded and mentioned” that the government was going to come up with a domestic debt exchange policy.

She said based on the budget that was approved by the House, Parliament gave the Finance Ministry the permission to spend compensation, borrow and undertake capital expenditure and goods and services to a certain tune.

“For Honourable Ayariga to say that we are now going to borrow is untrue, as these are funds that were approved for us to utilise previously,” she said.

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She added that due to the situation in which the government found itself, it publicly announced that it would not be able to discharge what it initially had agreed with its debtors.

“Mr Speaker, let me put it on record that pension funds are not part of the exercise that we are engaging in now. We have been able to engage all these bondholders and we did it with the banks and insurance companies.

“I know that last week when we met the Business Committee of the House, we said that once Parliament came through, we would come and brief the House on how far we had gone and the steps that we had taken to get to where we are,” she said.

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