The Minority in Parliament has forewarned the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta of a possible censure process for allegedly breaching the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Fiscal responsibility implies a government pursues the appropriate level of government spending and tax to maintain sustainable public finances.
In 2018, the Finance Ministry enacted the Fiscal Responsibility Act as a regulator to check the annual fiscal deficit at five per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
The Act while enacted, came with some grant exceptions under which the deficit may be more than the five per cent. The exceptions include health pandemics, force majeures, amongst others.
It, however, requires parliamentary approval before these exceptions can be made.
The Finance Minister, presenting the mid-year review on July 23, asked that the law be suspended as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to hit the economy.
“From developments thus far, it is clear that the fiscal rules of a deficit not exceeding five per cent of GDP and a positive primary balance enshrined in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2018 (Act 982) are neither feasible nor attainable targets in this emergency period of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu on the other hand, stated that the law cannot be suspended because the House wields no such power.
“We will not suspend the law. He will undergo the sanctions spelt out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. He defined it for himself. In any case, Parliament, do you suspend your laws? If you are coming for the review of the law, do so because the law was definite.”
He went on to say that if the Finance Minister has broken his own law, he should be ready to face it.
“So, Mr. Speaker when the Minister said that he has breached his own fiscal responsibility rules, he is a potential candidate for sanctions under the Fiscal Responsibility Act and we will accordingly, sanction him in accordance with the law. We will not suspend our laws because of the convenience of Honourable Ken Ofori-Atta.”
However, the Chairman of Parliament’s Finance Committee in an interview, stressed that an exception can be made per the requirements of the Act and COVID-19 qualifies to be one of those conditions.
Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah explained that since the deficit could only be established at the end of the year, the Finance Minister was still within legal remits, adding that Mr. Ofori-Atta had submitted to the House a request for the suspension of the rules.
According to him, for the Minority to succeed with this agenda, they would need the backing of 77 of their colleagues in the Majority as they constitute 106 out of the 275 members.
Per Order 108 (b) of Parliament, “the motion (to censure a minister) shall be debated in Parliament within 14 days of its receipt by Mr Speaker and shall be supported by the votes, in secret ballot, of not less than two-thirds of all Members of Parliament.”
Without indicating how soon the processes would begin, Member of Parliament (MP) for Adaklu, Governs Kwame Agbodza in an interview stated that, should they fail on the floor, the Finance Minister will be prosecuted should the future NDC government comes to power.
“When you commit a crime against the state, there is no timeline within which if you are not prosecuted, the case dies.”
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