Watch over public purse with integrity - Speaker

BY: Daily Graphic
Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Bagbin
Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Bagbin

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Bagbin, has asked Members of Parliament (MPs) to be guided by their conscience and integrity in their exercise of power over the public purse.

He urged the legislators to take the capacity-building programmes seriously and use the knowledge gained to make meaningful and effective contributions in their deliberative functions on financial issues.

The Speaker made the call when he opened a two-day 2021 post-budget workshop for MPs in Ho, the Volta Regional capital, to equip them with knowledge to make effective contributions in the debate on the 2021 budget and economic policy of the Government of Ghana presented to Parliament by the caretaker Finance Minister, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, last Friday.

Enrich debate

“I would urge members to engage in thought-provoking deliberations and take home lessons from the workshop that can enrich debate and discussions of the budget at plenary.

“Honourable members, at the end of the day, after all has been said and done, it is left to your conscience and integrity to do what is right and in the interest of the country and our people,” the Speaker said.

The workshop, which was on the theme: “Economic Revitalisation through Completion, Consolidation and Continuity”, discussed topics such as the policy underpinnings of the 2021 budget - general analysis, overview of the 2021 budget - macroeconomic and fiscal management and what to consider in analysing the 2021 sector budget.

Wage bill

Other areas discussed at the workshop included employment generation, public sector wage bill, decentralisation of the 2021 budget and composite budgeting, the health sector, COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 management, the agricultural sector and the 2021 budget, revenue mobilisation and the education sector in the 2021 budget.

Mr Bagbin noted that the decision making by Parliament in respect of the budget approval should be informed by readily available accurate data and information that MPs could rely on in their deliberations.

He, however, observed that access to such data and information to enable Parliament to make informed decisions on the budget was limited.

Also, the time available for Parliament to debate such matters was short, in addition to constraints posed by constitutional, legal and institutional weaknesses.

“International best practice recommends that a minimum of three to four months is required for the approval of a budget by the legislature, if that approval is to be based on meaningful analysis and scrutiny,” the Speaker said, adding that the budget should be tabled sufficiently in advance of the fiscal year to which it related to enable the legislature to make decisions on the matter.

Budget scrutiny

The Speaker reminded the legislators that the scrutiny of the budget should make Ghana stronger and better positioned to face the challenges that confronted the nation and its people.

He reminded the House that the scrutiny of the budget also reflected the moral values that each member had.

“So honourable members, do not think that we are here only to understand and give direction on members. The debate on the budget will also signal the values that MPs stand for, what we cherish and the direction we want Ghana to pursue,” he noted.

The Speaker said the activity of debating and approving the budget and financial policy proposals of the President was crucial to the health, well-being and quality of life of the country and its people.

To that end, Parliament had to also employ and put into use all its functions, skills and tools of deliberation, representation, lawmaking, financial scrutiny and priority setting.

The Speaker blamed the lack or misuse and misapplication of public funds on both the Presidency and Parliament, stressing that the House would ensure discipline in the management of the public purse. — GNA