The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, says all the payments made for the National Cathedral were lawfully made.
According to him, the payments were made from the Contingency Vote under the “Other Government Obligations” vote and not from the Contingency Fund as alleged by the Minority.
He was responding to accusations that he breached the Constitution in making payments to support the construction of the National Cathedral of Ghana.
“I have taken no money from the Contingency Fund to make payments for the National Cathedral,” he stressed.
The Finance Minister explained that the Contingency Vote is a line under the “Other Government Obligations” vote, which is approved by the Finance Committee and passed as part of the annual Appropriation Acts passed by Parliament.
According to him, in preparing the Annual Budget, the practice is that provision is made for indicative expenditures that have not been fully costed at the time of the budget presentation and provisions are made in the Contingency Vote to cater for such expenditures.
For example, he said there was no specific allocation in the 2014 budget for Ghana’s participation in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, the Cabinet of President John Mahama, in March 2014, approved some $9.622 million for that tournament, including that amount which was flown to Brazil in a private jet for the players.
He added that a more current example is Ghana’s participation in Qatar as the Black Stars qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, way after the 2022 budget, presented on November 16, 2021, was approved by Parliament.
Mr Ofori-Atta noted that no specific amount was budgeted for it but through the Contingency Vote, government has been able to provide funds legitimately for the team to participate in the competition.
In the same vein, he said expenditures in respect of the National Cathedral were made from the Contingency Vote under the “Other Government Obligations” vote as had been the practice before his tenure, assuring that he has copies of several payments from the Contingency Vote dating back to 2015 to share.
He explained that the National Cathedral is 100 per cent owned by the State and is not the President’s cathedral as described by the minority, stating further that the Attorney General issued an opinion on January 6, 2022 which confirmed that the National Cathedral is a state-owned company limited by guarantee, under the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board.
The Finance Minister noted that in paragraph 156 of the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, he announced on the floor of Parliament, government’s vision for the National Cathedral as well as the commitment to facilitate the construction by providing the land, the Secretariat, and seed money which constitutes policy approval of the Budget after the extensive debate.
Subsequently, he said regular updates on the progress of the construction of the National Cathedral have been provided to Parliament and the nation.
Mr Ofori-Atta noted that Paragraph 385 of the 2020 Budget Statement and Economic Policy announced the establishment of the Board of Trustees and Secretariat for the Cathedral.
He also cited Paragraph 279 of the Mid-Year Review of the 2020 Budget Statement: which provided an update on the ground-breaking ceremony held on March 5, 2020 to mark the formal commencement of the construction phase of the project.
According to him, Paragraphs 1132 and 1134 of the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy informed the House of the Letter of Intent (LoI) signed on November 25, 2020 between NCG Trustees and RIBADE JV (led by Rizzanni de Eccher with M Barbisotti & Sons and Desimone).
The Finance Minister explained that the same budget announced the appointment of Apostle Prof. Opoku-Onyinah as new Chairman of the Board of Trustees on February 8, 2021.
He said Paragraphs 354 and 355 of the Mid-Year Review of the 2021 Budget Statement announced the expansion of the Cathedral project to include a Bible Museum (Bible Museum of Africa – BMOA) and Biblical Garden; as well as the establishment of the 100-Cedis-a-Month “Ketewa Biara Nsua” Club, in line with the original plan to encourage as many donors as possible to contribute towards the establishment of this national monument.
BY TIMES REPORTER