The First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu, yesterday shot down a private members motion seeking to probe Government of Ghana’s COVID-19 expenditure.
According to Mr Osei-Owusu who is also the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Bekwai, the motion, admitted by the Speaker of the House, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, shouldn’t have been admitted and that same was not properly laid before the legislative assembly.
The First Deputy Speaker’s ruling follows an objection by the Majority caucus for the motion to be thrown out, because COVID-19 expenditure which falls under the preview of the Ministry of Health should be audited by the Auditor General before Parliament acted on same through its Public Accounts Committee.
Inviting the Bekwai MP to rule on his preliminary objection, Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said the motion was politically motivated and a window dressing by the opposition NDC through its parliamentary wing ahead of the 2024 polls.
Though the Minority argued its way to get the House constitute the seven-member committee to probe government’s spending of COVID-19 funds, its advocacy could not prevail.
Delivering his ruling, Mr Osei-Owusu said the demands of the sponsors of the motion fell under a Committee of the House and that there would be no need to constitute an adhoc committee to enquire into COVID-19 expenditure.
“Are we saying the matters that we are called upon to set up a committee to investigate, do not come under any of the select or standing committees of the House?
“In my view, they fall squarely within the [powers] of the Public Accounts Committee and indeed, all the committees of the House are bi-partisan and the Public Accounts Committee by nature is designed to be chaired by the Minority.
“So in all its form and the related questions, if the Public Accounts Committee is minded to investigate anything related to the COVID-19 expenditure is fully seized with the authority and the power to investigate that particularly because all the accounting of it has been provided for in the budget which is before the House.
“My view is that this motion ought not to have been admitted if improperly laid before the House. I so rule.”
Unenthused by the ruling, the Minority said same would be a bad precedent for Parliament going forward accusing the government of running away from accountability using their parliamentary wing.
“What the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s government has done through its leadership in Parliament is to throw our quest and desire as a people for an open, transparent and accountable government to the dogs.
“With the precedent that is being set I worry for the future of our parliament and any parliamentary committee that will be seeking under Article 103(3) of the constitution to enquire into any matter of public interest,” Caucus Leader and Member for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, told the media.
Their request for a bi-partisan probe, Mr Iddrisu said, as admitted by Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin and advertised for more than a month was in the national interest, apt and ought to have been allowed by the First Deputy Speaker, following “damming report into COVID-19 expenditure by Ghana.”
But in a rebuttal in a separate press engagement, Mr Afenyo-Markin said “we are not against accountability and transparency but we are saying that due process as enshrined in the Constitution must be respected.”
In this day and age with the GIFMIS system, Afenyo-Markin said “there is no way government of Ghana would take public funds, spend and hide that expenditure. It is not possible.”
The motion was sponsored by the Minority Leader, his Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak and the Caucus’ Ranking Member on the Committee, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI