The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament has shot down claims by Vice President Alhaji Dr. Bawumia that the erstwhile John Mahama government has failed to account for GH¢7 billion it spent while in office.
The Minority, however, said it was least surprised by the Vice President’s claims because “he made such claims in the past, notably on debt and borrowing which are now being discredited.”
Dr. Bawumia speaking at a forum on good governance in Accra, on Tuesday accused the previous government of failing to disclose expenditures amounting to GH¢7 billion from the state’s coffers between 2014 and 2016.
According to the Veep, the current administration discovered the “hidden data” while it was preparing the 2017 budget statement which was expected to be presented to Parliament next month.
“In preparing for this year’s budget, we have been surprised by the fiscal data. As we interrogated the data to see exactly why our public finances are in the state they are, we found out that there are about GH¢7 billion of expenditures that has not been disclosed”
But addressing the media in Parliament yesterday, a former Deputy Finance Minister in the John Mahama administration, Mr. Cassiel Ato Forson, expressed displeasure with Dr. Bawumia’s claims describing it as “unfortunate.”
“We are displeased by the tendency of the Vice President to rush with information to the public and the media particularly on the structural measures and reforms, without taking time to understand the rational for the reforms and initiatives”, Mr. Forson noted.
He explained that, the money in question “is as a result of a major initiative or reform on government contracts and expenditure, which is part of the GIFMIS project that the new administration is expected to continue implementing.
“The framework is also covered in the new Public Financial Management (PFM) Act, under the Budget Responsibility provisions.”
According to him, the fund was used for “part of the contract database and outstanding commitment and does not constitute conventional definition of arrears. The government is obliged to incorporate the commitments, as a first charge on the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDA’s) budget 2017.”
He said what the Finance Ministry did under the Mahama led administration was to create a contract data base for all MDAs showing the total contract sum, and variations, the amount of contract certified and the amount paid to date and the outstanding claim.
These he said marked “a clear departure from the old definition of arrears that focuses on only a maximum of six months commitments. While this approach is more transparent, it is work in progress that is planned to lead to a shift from the cash based to a commitment or accrual-based budgeting and preparation of the Public account.”
He said the purpose of creating the Database include making sure the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), did not award new contracts while they have commitments that are outstanding and avoid a situation where the MDAs award contracts beyond the provisions or estimates made in the budget and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
He said the NPP must not hide behind these allegations to run away from its campaign promises but should be reminded of the promises it made to Ghanaians and fulfill them accordingly.
Meanwhile the Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak has disputed claims by the Vice-president that the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government used $13.9million for the construction of official residence for Vice-president.
According to him, as far as he was aware, $5.9million rather than $13.9million was allocated for the project and that the impression created by Dr. Bawumia that the Mahama administration paid all $13.9million for the project was false.
Reacting to the claims by the Vice-president, Dr. Apaak said the previous administration did not spend the figure quoted by Dr. Bawumia because the then Vice-president Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur had all payments halted after being “alarmed” at the cost of the project.
“The then Vice-president was alarmed at the quoted amount to be spent in connection with the construction of the Vice President’s official residence and had all payments stopped until any anomaly had been resolved,” the MP and former presidential staffer said.
“The fact is that upon becoming aware of what it was going to cost, the then Vice-president said that no money is going to be paid before the completion of the said building,” he added.
Dr. Apaak said it was erroneous for Vice-president Dr. Bawumia to suggest that the previous government spent that colossal sum on the project adding that perhaps what was currently in the public domain was as a result of the Vice President not choosing the accurate words to convey his message.
By Julius Yao Petetsi