I’ve been honest in fiscal reporting - Ken Ofori-Atta defends stewardship
The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has said he has never sought to be dishonest in fiscal reporting during his tenure as Minister of Finance.
Rather, it was on record that during his tenure, there had been the most transparent regime in fiscal financial and economic reporting in the history of the country, he told the ad hoc committee of Parliament hearing the censure motion for his removal last Friday.
Additionally, he said, under his leadership at the Ministry of Finance, there had been significant improvement in the accurate reporting of public finances.
“Today, under President Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghanaians are enjoying greater accountability and transparency in the management of the public purse than any other period under the Fourth Republic,” he said.
I’ve been competent
Defending himself against the five allegations made against him before the eight-member committee, Mr Ofori-Atta said since 2017, the government had complied with the reporting provisions in the Public Financial Management Act 2016 (Act 921), including budget implementation report, fiscal reports, public debt report, Petroleum Revenue Management reports and the Energy Sector Recovery Levy report.
“I have not been alarmingly incompetent but instead we have been competent in managing the economy, and in doing so, we brought much relief to Ghanaians between 2017 and 2021,” he said.
The Finance Minister appeared before the committee with his two counsel – Addo Atuam and Jacob Sampson – to defend himself against questions pertaining to five grounds being advanced by the proponents of the censure motion.
The grounds are unconstitutional withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund, in blatant contravention of Article 178 of the Constitution, supposedly for the construction of the National Cathedral; deliberate and dishonest misreporting of economic data to Parliament and fiscal recklessness, leading to the steep depreciation of the Ghana cedi.
The rest are alarming incompetence and frightening ineptitude resulting in the collapse of the Ghanaian economy and an excruciating cost of living crisis, as well as gross mismanagement of the Ghanaian economy which has occasioned untold and unprecedented hardship.
Mr Ofori-Atta called on chiefs, elders and churches to take the mantle and speak a common language, saying the nation was going through a test.
“Our circumstances require a united and concerted response to the crisis. Let us all work as one country to support labour negotiations, find a solution to the impasse in Parliament and rise above witch-hunting and entrapment.
“These are not ennobling and progressive for a society seeking transformation,” he said.
He told the committee that the country had shown resilience for decades by surviving such crises.
“Ghana has faced economic challenges since independence. Ghana has always come through each of them stronger and better than before. God willing, we shall come out of these difficult times too. Ghana will and must rise again,”
Mr Ofori told the committee in his written response to the grounds for censure.
“I could not have been reckless.
”The Finance Minister told the committee that the current government had invested a huge amount of money in the people of Ghana since 2017.
He said when the government came to power, there had been over12 transformational projects which had been implemented over the years.
In line with that, he said, all annual budgets, which included fiscal operations, were approved by Parliament; therefore, I could not have been reckless”.
“I have not grossly mismanaged the Ghanaian economy and the current challenges are a factor of a myriad of challenges, most of which were inherited and also external in origin.
“Even in these challenging times, we have been swift, bold and responsive,” he said, indicating that the government had embarked on a journey to fundamentally reposition the economy.
“And our post-COVID-19 programme for economic growth which will be supported by the IMF and other friendly sovereigns will be our guide,” he said.
“I feel very tarnished"
”Mr Ofori-Atta pointed out that the seven grounds of allegations levelled against him had “attacked my person, my character and my professional integrity”.
“And I think we have shown here that those grounds were not very sound, but I wait to hear from the plenary,” he said.
In his view, the claims against him had been a very rare traumatic experience for him. Even more distressingly, he said, “such attack had pinched the professionalism of the staff at the Ministry of Finance who worked tirelessly in the management of the economy”.
“I feel very tarnished and it is also a very difficult week for the ministry with the exit of the Minister of State in a way that really does not elicit, enhance and encourage those who are not in the political sphere to come and help us in this,” he said, in direct reference to the dismissal of Charles Adu Boahen, whose appointment was terminated by the President a week ago.
Mr Ofori-Atta expressed the strongest conviction that he had been able to provide the responses to the grounds “brought on me and my ministry”.
Probe over debt overhung
On how much debt overhung the current government inherited when it assumed office in January 2017, the minister said a debt of GH¢123 billion (equivalent to between $29 billion and $30 billion) was inherited at the time when one dollar was GH4.2.
When Dr Ayine asked him to confirm to the committee how much the financial sector clean upcost, he said it cost around GH¢25billion.
On fiscal recklessness, Dr Ayine put to him that it was due to his non-compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and its regulations, the minister said he had difficulty understanding what ‘recklessness’ meant.
Unhappy with the answer, Dr Ayine asked him if he had read or seen the 2021 Auditor-General’s report and if he was aware of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Kpodo vs the Attorney-General in which the apex court said no less than five per cent of total revenues of Ghana must be paid to the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF).
Answering, Mr Ofori-Atta said he was aware of the ruling and that the government, which had gone through difficult times, was running a budget deficit with “lots of arrears that we are making do on a daily basis”.
“The fact that that amount has not been brought to the DACF does not mean that we are not complying with the Supreme Court ruling,” he said.