Ofori-Atta fails to appear before Parliament … Finance Ministry’s businesses suspended

Parliament has postponed all businesses related to the Ministry of Finance over the failure of the Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to appear before the House and respond to questions asked of him by lawmakers. 

By a directive of the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, the Finance Committee of the House is to suspend work on requests by the ministry currently pending before it, until the minister comes to account for COVID-19 related funds. 

Mr Ofori-Atta failed to make himself available to account for monies government received in response to COVID-19 pandemic and answer other questions. 
Mr Bagbin on May 26, 2022 directed that the minister to appears before Parliament and account for COVID-19 related funds.

This followed the opposition to the Finance Committee’s report recommending for approval a €75 million financing agreement between the government of Ghana and the European Investment Bank for COVID-19 Health Response Ghana Project. 

But, the expectation of the Members of Parliament (MPs), especially from the Minority wing, was crushed yesterday when it was announced that the Finance Minister would not be available to appear before Parliament to respond to the questions. 

Mr Bagbin said: “I had given a directive to the effect that the minister should appear before this House to account for monies that we have approved for him to use in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I did indicate that until that is done, any motion that requests of this House for more money to be given to him for the purpose of COVID-19 be put on hold until he responds to the questions.” 

He said the House reserved the right not to allow any minister to lay any business before it, depending on the conduct of the minister.

Mr Bagbin directed the committee not to act on the request by the Minister of Finance until he made himself available next week, Wednesday, to render account on COVID-19 expenditure and respond to other questions.  

“The minister must respond to my directive before the committee will consider the business. That is my directive and I will stick to that,” the Speaker said. 

Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said Mr Ofori-Atta is a key minister at an important ministry whose answers mean a lot Ghanaians. 

Mr Iddrisu said: “This is the first time in our democratic history under the fourth republic a minister and a government are running away from questions of accountability. Come and account to the people. The donors are saying account for the monies they gave you.” 

“The minister must demonstrate respect to Parliament. He can’t come as and when he chooses. He must respect the election principle behind us as MPs that we have the trust and mandate of the people to represent them here. We are demanding accountability in the interest of Ghanaians and donors that he comes to account for the GH¢19.7 billion COVID-19 money he received”, Mr Iddrisu, MP, Tamale South, said. 

Offering explanation as to why the minister was unable to honour the invitation, Majority Leader and MP for Suame, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the minister only received responses to the questions on Wednesday night, and “he said he ought to read to ensure that they are in sink with responses that other people have given.”

Mr Osei-Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the minister was not running away from accountability, adding “Let nobody rush to that conclusion. We all want ministers to respect this House and respond to our questions”. 

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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