The latest zero tolerance mantra that has been adopted by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) towards the passage of the electronic levy, which is expected to rake in close to GHS7bn for national development, is expected to be met with equal force by the majority side of the House, as approval of the controversial levy goes down the wire today.
Last week Friday, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, thought the House was going to debate the issue and was ready to put up a strong resistance, insisting that Ghanaians must know what the MPs are saying about the levy and that doing so during odd hours will not help the nation. Haruna insisted that the levy must be debated at the time Ghanaians would have the opportunity to listen to them. He insisted that his side will debate the issues and not vote for the passing of the levy.
Both Minority and the Majority have 137 members apiece and the independent member is doing business with the Majority side. This makes the NPP have a working majority. With this permutation, the majority side has a slight edge when it comes to voting on major issues on the floor.
It is, however, not clear about what is motivating Haruna’s side to assume that they will defeat the e-levy. However, the MP for Sagnarigu, Alhaji A.B.A.Fuseini, whose speeches are always full of ‘jargonistic verbosity’ told Pan Africa TV last week that their (NDC) political fortunes are tied to the e-levy and that they will use all legal means to stop it.
Meanwhile, before Haruna’s posture on the e-levy, the House had approved the Appropriations Bill 2021 for the 2022 fiscal year.The Bill contains a summation of all estimates of government’s planned expenditure for the fiscal year.
The approval is for government to expend GH¢145.4 billion but the budgeted expenditure for the fiscal year is GH¢137 billion, leaving a whopping deficit of GH¢9.8billion.
According to the chairman of the Finance Committee, Kwaku Agyemang Kwarteng, the GH¢9.8 billion added to the total expenditure will be used to cater for amortisation and clearance of arrears.
However, the Minority’s spokesperson on the Finance, MrCassielAto Forson indicated the need for government to offer more details on arrears’ clearance and amortisation for purposes of clarity.
“Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the Appropriations Bill 2021. For the records, the amount the Ministry of Finance is asking for is GH¢145.4 billion. It is important to note that this amount is different from a total expenditure as stipulated in the budget statement.
“Mr. Speaker, you will note that in the budget statement, the total expenditure is GHc137 billion but in the same budget statement, there is 7.9 billion for amortisation. If you are to add GH¢7.9 billion and the GH¢1.9 billion for arrears clearance, then you will have the total appropriation. Arrears clearance and amortisation are not included in expenditure allocation in the year concerned so it is important to clarify that information.”
Some approvals made
But before the approval of the bill, some of the Ministries have had their budgets approved.Among them is the Roads and Highways ministry which was given GH¢921million for the services of the ministry and its agencies. The Ministry of Railways also had GH¢ 575 million approved for it, to carry out its activities in the coming year.
Mr Peter Amewu, the sector minister,in moving the motion for approval of the budget noted that the objectives of the Ministry are to modernise and extend rail network, ensure effective and efficient flow of goods, services and related information to meet consumer needs, as well as develop associated infrastructure to enhance well-functioning regulatory bodies.
E-Levy in the offing
Though parliament approved the Appropriation Bill, the E-Levy component is yet to be approved.
Speaking at a press conference in Parliament earlier on Friday, MrCassielAto Forson, Minority’s spokesperson on Finance, indicated that the Committee, as at the time he was speaking to the media was yet to consider the E-levy bill.
“I can confirm to you that the Finance Committee is yet to consider the Electronic Transfer Levy Bill…”
He said he wasn’t sure when the bill will be considered and indicated it will be prudent for government representatives working on the bill to make a date available for the committee to consider.
On whether both sides of the House have come to a consensus on dealing with the bill, Mr Forson stated that the Minority has not struck any deal with the Majority, regarding the levy.
“No, No, I am the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee. I lead the Minority on issues like this and I can confirm to you now that the NDC Minority do not have any consensus with the NPP Majority on this levy.
“What I can tell you for sure is that we are waiting for a meeting to be called by the Chairman of the Finance Committee and when the meeting is called, we will position ourselves and obviously our position on the levy will be made known to the public.”
Telecommunication companies and their mobile money operators have agreed to reduce the charges on their transactions by 25% amid the possible introduction of the e-Levy.
According to the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GTC), the decision was taken following extensive deliberations with the government on the need to lessen the impact of the new tax on consumers.
The Minority’s Spokesperson, commenting on this development indicated that it needs to meet with the GTC to understand and ascertain why it agreed to such a concession and how it will impact the ordinary Ghanaian.
“So it (E-levy) is not something that we are going to rush it through. I can assure you that we will do a diligent work, we will not rush. Because it has to go through, we will deliver a bill that will stand the test of time if we have to approve it.
“But let me tell you, as long as we are concerned, we do not believe that the government should entertain any E-levy. ”
Mr Patrick Yaw Boamah, Member of Parliament for Okaikwei Central and member of the Finance Committee from the Majority side also confirmed that the Committee has not had any discussion on the E-levy.
“It (E-levy) was not a matter for discussion because we had not set this meeting to discuss it. We went in and I am telling you we had consensus on the appropriation bill. When a new date is set to consider that very important bill, I am sure you (journalists) will all be informed.”
Responding to a question on why the Committee is delaying in considering the bill, Mr Boamah indicated that the bill is a very important one hence time must be taken to do proper and broader stakeholder consultation.
“…Every bill is very important, including the E-levy bill and we believe that we ought to do some further consultation so that when a date is set, we can come out and talk to you (journalists) that we have reached a consensus on that particular bill.”