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President ups budget for Parliament, Judiciary

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
 Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin— Speaker of Parliament
Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin— Speaker of Parliament

The President has recommended budget estimates for Parliament and the Parliamentary Service as well as Judiciary and the Judicial Service for the 2021 fiscal year.

From the initial GH¢583,486, 685 million budget estimates Parliament requested, the Presidency recommended a total of GH¢523,639,774 budget estimates for the Legislature.

The new estimates comprised compensation of GH¢201 million, goods and services of GH¢205 million and capital expenditure (capex) of GH¢127 million.

The Office of the President had earlier revised the budget estimate for Parliament by GH¢119.8 million, citing reduced fiscal space in the national budget as a result of statutory and debt service obligations.

On the other hand, out of the GH¢470,415,847 million the Judiciary requested, the Executive recommended an estimate of GH¢437,397,640.

The new budget estimates followed an earlier rejection of the budget estimates for the two arms of government by the Speaker, Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin.

Mistaken belief

The Speaker yesterday informed the House that the President, in a letter to his office, said he had taken due note on the concerns he had earlier raised, particularly articles 127 and 179 of the Constitutions and Section 15(a) of Parliamentary Service Act, Act 460.

He said the President, in a letter dated March 23, 2021, said: "I agree with your position that proceeding to reduce the budget without consideration of these provisions will be potentially unlawful”.

"The letters to Parliament in respect of the budget estimates for Parliament, the Parliamentary Service, the Judiciary and the Judicial Service were dispatched by the Secretary to the President under mistaken belief that the figures contained therein were agreed between Parliament and the Ministry of Finance and the Judiciary and the Ministry of Finance, respectively.”

Letter from the President

The letter was from the Executive Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo, on budget estimates of Parliament and the Parliamentary Service as well as recommendations of the government’s position on the matter.

Mr Bagbin indicated that it was in response to his objection to the review of the budget estimates for Parliament, the Parliamentary Service Board, the Judiciary and the Judicial Service by the Executive.

On March 13, this year the Speaker expressed displeasure about the decision by the Executive to cap the budget allocation for the Legislature and the Judiciary.

He said what was even more unacceptable was the very low ceiling, which he described as “below the belt.”

New budget estimates

Disclosing the contents of the President’s letter, which was also copied to the Vice-President and the Chief of Staff, Mr Bagbin said a request totalling GH¢583, 486, 685 million estimates of expenditure was made for Parliament and the Parliamentary Service.

However, he said with the recommendations of the government on estimates of expenditures for Parliament and the Parliamentary Service, the President said in view of the reduced fiscal space in the national budget as a result of statutory and debt service obligations, the government could not accommodate the request by Parliament.

He said the government recommended that the expenditure estimates for compensations, goods and services and administrative and operational expenses remain the same.

He, however, said contrary to the GH¢127 million capex Parliament submitted, the President proposed GH¢117, 500, 000 instead of the initial one which was reduced to GH¢57 million.

“So, instead of the GH¢533,486,685 million submitted by Parliament and the Parliamentary Service, what has been recommended by the President is GH¢523,639,774,” he said.

According to Mr Bagbin, the President, in his letter, recommended that Parliament and the Parliamentary Service should operate within the proposed budget while the government explored opportunity to increase the allocation in subsequent years when revenue improved and debt had stabilised.

“Accordingly, Parliament is respectfully requested to keep the estimates of Parliament and the Parliamentary Service within the expenditure ceiling proposed by the government to enable government contain the expenditures within the overall fiscal space for 2021,” he quoted the President’s letter as saying.

Speaker’s previous letter

The Speaker recalled that the Secretary to the President wrote a letter dated March 11, 2021 to the House through the Speaker on recommendations of the government on the 2021 proposed estimates of expenditure for the Judiciary and the Judiciary Service as well as Parliament and the Parliamentary Service.

He said he drew the attention of the House that what the Executive had done was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Mr Bagbin urged the sector committee to consider the budget estimates for Parliament and the Parliamentary Service.

Appreciation

The Speaker thanked the President for his understanding and cooperation and for doing “what is right.

“This is what is required from all of us by the 1992 Constitution and the laws that we have passed. I will convey our gratitude to his Excellency the President for ceding to the request to do the rightful thing and for conceding and accepting not just for Parliament but also for the Judiciary. I think it is something worthy of emulation,” he said.