The Minority has blocked a GH¢1 billion budget item for the Ministry of Finance for what it said was the lack of clarity on what the money would be used for.
The amount is almost half the GH¢2,405,469,474 estimate allocated to the ministry for its programmes and projects for the 2023 fiscal year.
Under the item line Revenue Mobilisation and Economic Relations, the House was just a question away from approving the amount when the Deputy Minority Leader and MP for Ketu North, James Klutse Avedzi, spotted the anomaly.
As a result, Mr Avedzi, asked that the particular item or the entire estimate of the ministry be stood down until further consultation and clarification was provided by the ministry.
“Mr Speaker, we need to probe that figure further to know what it entails. What is the ministry going to use that money for? I think that until we get explanation to this, we should stand this estimate down,” he submitted.
In defence of the expenditure estimate, a Deputy Minister of Finance and MP for Atiwa East, Abena Osei Asare, said the money was to be used for the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) reforms.
She said the Revenue Mobilisation and Economic Relations is a division of the ministry tasked to coordinate the reform of the PFM.
The division, she explained, included Ghana’s multilaterals and bilateral and all other revenue resource mobilisation mediums.
“That division is coordinating all the agencies that are going to use the US$150 million loan for the PFM reforms and has nothing to do with resource mobilisation,” she further elaborated.
The amount, she said was the cedi equivalent of the US$150 million loan facility at the pertaining exchange rate at the time of the preparation of the budget and that “nothing is outside the scope of the US$150 million” and urged the House to approve same.
When the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, who was presiding attempted to put the question despite what the Minority said was an “unsatisfactory explanation”, Mr Avedzi raised quorum issues to stop the near approval.
“We are not even up to 40 here. We need about 138 (pursuant to Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution) to be able to make the decision. Mr Speaker, you can’t put the question,” Mr Avedzi argued.
Some members of the Finance Committee, meanwhile, had admitted that the figures escaped them and that there was the need for them to go and re-look at the figures.
For the Ranking Member on the Committee and Bolgatanga Central Member, Isaac Adongo, it was baffling that the ministry and its agencies including the division in question spent GH¢497 million for the entirety of 2022 for same to jump to a billion cedis and asked the Committee to take a second look at the figure before the question was put.
With consensus not in sight, the Speaker, who was surprised at the members of the committee for not raising the red flag at the committee level, deferred the question for further consultations.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI