Ken Ofori-Atta & Naa Torshie Summoned
The Herald, has picked signals from Parliament that, Wednesday’s budget reading by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, might suffer some difficulty unless the government clears a GHC607, 677,408.54 debt owed the Office of District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) for onward release to the Members of Parliament (MPs) through the assemblies.
Documents available to this paper, reveal that the Akufo-Addo government, has massively defaulted in the statutory payments into the Common Fund and this has affected developmental projects at the various Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
The MPs, have also been unable to meet certain financial commitments in their constituencies, because the funds assigned them under Article 252 of the 1992 Constitution is not coming.
What is strange is that, the Akufo-Addo government, upon assumption of office in 2017, had slashed down the percentage allocated to DACF from 7.5percent to 5percent of the total revenue generated by government, yet having difficulties in releasing the money to the MMDAs.
For instances in 2017, after the Finance Minister, announced the government’s intention to reduce the DACF to 5percent, only 4.49percent of funds were released to DACF administrator, Irene NaaTorshie, to distribute to the MMDAs.
In 2018, Mr Ofori-Atta, according to documents obtained from the Finance Ministry, only a paltry 3.60percent was handed over to DAFC Administrator, leaving 1.40percent the equivalent of GHc142 million as balance outstanding.
This year, only half of the first quarter payment was made to the DACF. The second and third quarter payments, are all in arrears with no indications as to when they will be paid, in addition to the other half of the first quarter.
Per the documents cited by The Herald, the Akufo-Addo government, thus owes MMDAs a whopping GHC607, 677,408.54 as at the end of second quarter of 2019.This amount does not include the third and fourth quarters of 2019.
The threat to boycott the budget reading according to this paper’s insiders in Parliament, is so dire that, the Speaker has summoned the the Common Fund Administrator, Naa Torshie and Finance Minister to meet the Committee on the Whole tomorrow behind closed doors, to forestall any embarrassment ahead of Wednesday’s budget reading.
The view is that, the budget is very crucial for the Akufo-Addo government and the President himself who is going to fight for re-election next year facing accusations of non-performance.
He will need a rich election year budget to execute projects which could win him a second term in office, and he does not want to be seen fighting Parliament.
Sources close to the MPs on the Majority side of the House, told The Herald that, their leadership led by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, is having challenges mobilizing New Patriotic Party (NPP) MPs to the House to grant audience to the Finance Minister.
This paper learnt that, while the Majority, could bow to government pressure, the Minority from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), are raving mad about the arears, and will boycott the budget reading on Wednesday to send a message over government’s disrespect for the Constitution.
Recently, the Deputy Minority Whip and MP for Banda, Ahmed Ibrahim, has urged President Akufo-Addo to ensure full implementation of Article 252 of the Constitution, which requires government to allocate a percentage of the country’s annual revenue to the DACF every quarter is respected.
He confirmed government, has not fulfilled that obligation from April 2019 to date.
According to Ahmed Ibrahim, government’s failure to meet such constitutional obligation is seriously affecting local governance in the country.He, therefore, urged the government to release the DAC to the MMDAs as a matter of urgency.