The Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, has asked the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, to come before the House and spell out how he intended to execute the Debt Exchange Programme (DEP) he announced on December 6.
According to the Leader, the mere announcement of the DEP was not the end. He indicated that the haircuts on loans and investments, both domestic and external, were approved in accordance with the law, and any variation in the terms and conditions must equally be done in consistency with the law, hence the need for the Minister to come before the House and walk them through how the program would be implemented.
Mr. Iddrisu rooted his arguments in Article 181, which states:
“(1) Parliament may, by a resolution supported by the votes of a majority of all the members of Parliament, authorise the Government to enter into an agreement for the granting of a loan out of any public fund or public account.
“(2) An agreement entered into under clause (1) of this article shall be laid before Parliament and shall not come into operation unless it is approved by a resolution of Parliament.
“(3) No loan shall be raised by the Government on behalf of itself or any other public institution or authority otherwise than by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament.
“(4) An Act of Parliament enacted in accordance with clause (3) of this article shall provide –
“(a) that the terms and conditions of a loan shall be laid before Parliament and shall not come into operation unless they have been approved by a resolution of Parliament.
“Mr. Speaker, we are serving notice, even the Debt Exchange, they must bring something and lay here for the people of Ghana,” Mr. Iddrisu said.
He continued: “The Minister of Finance cannot just walk in this country as if everything is determined by him.
If you are doing haircut and you are changing terms of agreement whether domestic or external, they are contractual and those contractual agreements come with obligations and therefore, he must come and lay a paper on how he intends to work on those external debts because when we approve those loan agreements, we approve them in consistent with Article 181[with all the] terms and conditions [and so] so you cannot vary the terms and conditions as it pleases you.
Those terms and conditions must be brought to this House for our scrutiny [in order] to satisfy ourselves that he can go forward doing what is debt exchange,” Mr. Iddrisu continued.
He made the comments while seconding a motion for the adjournment of the House yesterday.
His lamentation stemmed from the fact that the House was not undertaking much business even though there were a lot of budget estimates, bills and other activities which must be approved in order to set the Budget Statement in motion.
He was also worried about the limited time the House had to execute these tasks before it proceeds on recess on December 21.
This was where he sent a notice to the Finance Minister to not think he had been let off the hook by the mere announcement of DEP, but demanded that the Minister comes to the House and do the needful.
Yesterday, Mr. Iddrisu also sounded a word of caution to ministers who would want their budget estimates to be approved, but would not make time to be in the Chamber for that exercise to be conducted. The Minority Leader said that any minister who does not show up would get his budget approved after the approval of the Appropriation Bill.
He cautioned them not to send any Deputy Minister or a team from their respective ministries, but rather show up in the Chamber in person.
“Mr. Speaker, while seconding the motion, I further warn that ministers who want their budgets approval must appear in person. If you delegate your deputy, we will delegate your money for you some other day after Appropriation. If they send emissaries to come for budget approval estimates, we will send their approvals to them the day they are available.”
He, therefore, called on the Majority Chief Whip, whose job it is to see to it that the various committees present the budget estimates for the approval of the House, to work swiftly to ensure that it was done.