Minority legislators are mounting a concerted pressure to get Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, removed from office, claiming he has breached key aspects of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2018.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act, also known as Act 982, was recently passed and places a 5% cap on fiscal deficit in any given year.
The law, which was passed in December last year in fulfilment of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s promise to curtail excessive public spending, also stipulates that the government’s primary balance should stay positive.
While presenting the 2020 Mid-Year Budget Review in Parliament last week, the Finance Minister stated that Ghana’s fiscal deficit is projected to hit 11.4% of GDP as a result of a GH¢13.6 billion revenue shortfall occasion by the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying global economic downturn.
But the law gives a leeway in specific instances – for instance, when there is a public health crisis, like the novel coronavirus pandemic – by allowing the Finance Minister to suspend these rules albeit with Parliament’s approval.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) legislators argue that Mr Ofori-Atta has breached the provisions under Act 2018 by first exceeding the spending limit and secondly, failing to seek Parliament’s approval to suspend the rules.
According to the MPs, the Finance Minister is, therefore, liable to removal from office under the same Act.
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Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said in Parliament on Wednesday that a belated request to suspend the rules will not get their backing.
“We would not suspend the law. He will undergo the sanctions spelt out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” Haruna Iddrisu, who is also MP for Tamale South said.
But Majority MPs disagree with the Minority and have dismissed the attempt to remove the Minister from office.
Majority legislator and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the House, Mark Assibey-Yeboah, told Joy FM on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, that as stipulated under Act 982, the Minister has duly submitted to the House a request for the suspension of the rules of fiscal responsibility due to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.
But another legislator on the Minority side, Inusah Fuseini, who also spoke on Joy FM, said the notice to suspend the rules came a little too late, when the 5% cap has already been exceeded.
The push to get the Finance Minister dismissed may not succeed as the Majority MPs have the numbers to secure the Minister in the office should the matter come down to a vote in Parliament.