Fallout from 2022 budget: Speaker halts tollbooths closure …directs Roads Minister to restore fees

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has directed the Roads and Highways Minister, Kwasi Amoako-Atta, to with immediate effect, restore the collection of road and bridge tolls across the country. 

Mr Bagbin said the decision by Mr Amoako-Atta, NPP MP for Atiwa West, to order for the cessation of tolls collection across the country was an “empty boast and has no effect.” 

Mr Kwasi Amoako-Atta

Presenting the budget statement and economic policy of the government for the year 2022 in Accra on Wednesday, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, announced that toll booths would be abolished because they have become a source of vehicular traffic impacting negatively on time and productivity in the process. 

“To address these challenges, government will zero-rate tolls on all public roads and bridges. This takes effect immediately the budget is approved,” Mr Ofori-Atta told the House. 

Few hours, however, after that indication by the Finance Minister, the Roads Minister in a statement directed the “cessation of the collection of road and bridge tolls at all locations nationwide effective 12am on Thursday, November 18, 2021.” 

But Mr Bagbin said the Minister has no such powers to without amending the law which imposed those toll and charges, stop their collection.

“It is very clear that the Minister has no such authority to do what he sought to do.

“The executive cannot just on their own suspend the implementation of a law without coming back to the House. That is not democracy. 

“I want to clearly direct that what the Minister released is a complete brutumfulmen. It means it is an empty boast and has no effect,” he directed. 

According to him the Minister might have misunderstood or misapplied the law and it was for Parliament to draw his attention that “he has no such authority,” and insists the right thing was done. 

To Alban Bagbin all that are contained in the Finance Minister’s statement to the House were proposals and “until they are approved, nobody, and I mean nobody, has the authority to start implementing something that does not exist.” 

The directive comes on the back of a complaint filed by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, arguing that the directive issued by the Roads Minister had breached the Fees and Charges Miscellaneous Provision Act, 2018. 

Raising the matter on the floor at the commencement of sitting in Accra yesterday, Mr Iddrisu, NDC MP for Tamale South, said the Minister’s directive was in “excess of his powers.” 

According to him, the directive attempts to “dilute the mandate and authority of this House because the policy principles presented by the Finance Minister have not been approved let alone the important aspect of the law and legislation on fees and charges which prescribes what must be paid.” 

But in a subtle defence of the Road Minister’s directive, Majority Leader and NPP MP for Suame, OseiKyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said same saved the situation. 

“Mr Speaker, my understanding is that immediately after the delivery of the budget, confusion arose at the various tollbooths. There were exchanges of fisticuffs at the various tollbooths. 

“Mr Speaker, to avoid further escalation of the confusion and chaos at the tollbooths, the Minister, in order to save the situation, came with that directive. The Minister acted timeously to save lives and property,” he said to loud laughs from the Minority side of the House. 

He, however, disagreed with the ruling of the Speaker arguing that the directive should have been in the name of the House and not the Speaker. 

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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