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Finance Minister’s absence to answer questions unacceptable - Minority

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Finance Minister’s absence to answer questions unacceptable - Minority
Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka - Minority Chief Whip

The Minority in Parliament Thursday urged the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, to issue a directive to the Minister of Finance to appear before the House to respond to some urgent outstanding questions on the floor of the House.

it said most of the 13 pending questions had been advertised in the name of Mr Ken Ofori-Atta in the Order Paper since June 2021 yet he had only kept giving reasons not to appear in the House to answer them.

The Minority said they found such conduct “very unacceptable since Mr Ofori Atta could find time to go round the country for Town Hall meetings and yet does not want to answer to the representatives of the people.”

“Mr Speaker, if you check these questions, about 13 questions have been outstanding for over nine months and today we are told the minister is going to hold press conference to address the country but he is failing to come to the House to answer questions,” it said.

Be answerable

Speaking on the floor of Parliament Thursday, the Minority Chief Whip, Mr Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka said if the Finance Minister “cannot get the time to do the work, he should tell the President he does not want to be Finance Minister.

“But if truly he wants to be the Finance Minister, he should be answerable to and come to the House answer questions as and when it is required but not to be giving excuses, waiting just a day for questions to be answered then he will write for an excuse that he is gathering data on the questions that have been asked,” he said.

Mr Muntaka raised the concern soon after the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, had proposed that the House varied the order of business and considered a motion for the approval of the Report of the Finance Committee on Ghana’s subscription to 11,996 shares ($11.9 million) allocated by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank.

But Mr Muntaka said the House had scheduled about 10 questions for the Finance Minister to come before the House to answer them Thursday [March 24, 2022].

Definitive instructions

He said per the Standing Orders, the minister was to answer questions within two weeks after the notice of the questions had been served on him.

He, therefore, was worried that if Parliament kept accommodating the Finance Minister’s excuses, he would gloss over the questions he was supposed to answer.

“I would plead with the Speaker that yes we may want to vary some work and I do not have any objections to that but we should give a definitive instructions for Finance Minister to come and answer the questions so that we do not leave in the pool for them to get lost.

“Because even the business that we are trying to vary involves the Minister of Finance again and I do not know for whatever reasons, he chooses not to come to this House but always sends his deputies,” he said.

Minister not refusing to come

Speaking in support of the Minority’s concern, the Majority Chief Whip Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, agreed that those outstanding questions advertised in the name of the Finance Minister had gone through the necessary process.

He said the Speaker admitted the questions and he (Annoh-Dompreh) had followed up on those question since they were admitted.

He, however, expressed doubt that those questions were admitted eight months ago.

“In this House between leadership, we have come to working agreement that where a sector minister is unable to attend upon the House at least we should have that correspondence a day ahead of the day he is billed to answer the said questions.

“I personally followed up to ensure that this correspondence got to this House yesterday; so, I can understand the concern of our colleague except to say that the Finance Minister has not on any occasion refused to come and answer questions advertised in his name,” he said.

He added “the Minister has written and let’s give him the benefit of the doubt; after the expiration of the date given then we can have a cause to complain. He has respected this House,” he said.

Re-programme questions

Responding, Mr Osei-Owusu said while the Finance Minister would not be in the House today to respond to the question, the Business Committee must re-programme the questions as early as possible for them to be answered.