..allows NPP MPs to use dubious numbers to pass controversial E-Levy
The Majority side of Parliament yesterday, got itself embroiled in an act of illegality when they were captured to have passed the controversial Electronic Transfer Levy (E-levy) without the required numbers of Members of Parliament to take a decision of this nature.
But what is worse is a decision of the Minority group made up of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to once again stage a walkout from the House before the bill was considered at the second reading stage and eventually passed into law. The boycott has been described as a “miscalculated strategy” since the majority did not have the numbers.
The “miscalculated strategy” manifested itself in a post by Alhassan Suhuyini, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Tamale North Constituency, appears to be in despair over the passage of the E-Levy, saying he is “scandalized”.
In a Facebook post, the MP said: “Too many calls and messages I’m unable to respond to for now. For now, I’m scandalised, pained and disappointed”.
He continued: “Some of our colleagues and lawyers said and still insist that they had a superior plan”.
“Let’s exercise patience and support them to the end.” This is not the first time the minority have had to walk out from parliament over an issue and receiving backlash. The first time was the 2022 budget in which it was reported that after walking out, a lady came to the House to impersonate Sarah Adwoa Safo of Dome Kwabenya constituency.
Interestingly, the Minority group led by Haruna Iddrisu, the MP for Tamale South, has announced that it is heading to the Supreme Court, insisting “the Majority of less than 137 conducting business only proceeded on illegal and unconstitutional business. Parliament did not have the numbers to take any decision that should be binding on Parliament and Ghanaians.”
But many have been arguing that the walkout was not in the interest of Ghanaians, if the NDC MPs had the numbers to torpedo the passage of the controversial E-levy.
Sarah Adwoa Sarfo, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP is still stuck in the United States of America and did not take part in yesterday’s event.
Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi of Asante Akim Central, who doubles as chairman of the constitutional, legal and parliamentary affairs committee, was also said to be in London.
Although an ambulance came to the House and said to be carrying the ailing Ahanta West colleague, Ebenezer Kojo Kum, who doubles as Minister of Religious and Chieftaincy Affairs, to conduct parliamentary business, many have argued that he did not take part in proceedings let alone voted. He had to be wheeled to the floor and this did not happen.
Mr Kum is reported to have suffered a stroke, thus, was hospitalized for months now.
What is confusing most people is that the NDC MPs, party leadership as well as its flag bearer have in recent times expressed doubt in the fairness of the judiciary following a string of unanimous decisions which have favoured the Akufo-Addo government with John Mahama, the party’s 2020 flagbearer calling for some judicial reforms.
Hours ahead of the passage of the E-Levy, the NDC Minority had complained that it had been taken by surprise by the unexpected consideration of the levy as the E-levy was not listed in Parliament’s business statement for this week, and later walked out of Parliament before the second reading of the Bill after debating it.
John Jinapor, the MP for Yapei-Kusawgu, said the NPP government’s push for the passage of the controversial E-Levy, will have a huge impact on its fortunes in the next general election in 2024.
The MP for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo, had asked the Akufo-Addo government to withdraw the E-levy bill laid before parliament since the majority of Ghanaians were against it, adding he is surprised by the government’s insistence on getting the bill passed despite the wide opposition to it.
The MP Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam, Cassiel Ato Forson, demanded that the bill be rejected saying, the controversial levy that will affect Mobile Money (MoMo) transactions is regressive and one that the Minority will reject, adding “Don’t tax MoMo. The NDC opposes the E-levy, It is not only regressive but punitive.
“The NDC’s position is that don’t tax MoMo, and we are going to vote against it,” Mr Ato Forson, said amid cheers from his colleague Minority MPs.
All the proposed amendments standing in the name of some Minority MPs were withdrawn, because none of them was present to move those amendments in their name.
But speaking at a press conference, Haruna Iddrisu, insisted that the passage was unconstitutional, as Parliament did not have the required numbers to make a decision on the e-levy.
“The Majority of less than 137 conducting business only proceeded on illegal and unconstitutional business. Parliament did not have the numbers to take any decision that should be binding on Parliament and Ghanaians.”
“I think they have to come again on E-levy because as of today, I don’t think they had the numbers to say that the E-levy has been passed. We will question this decision in [the Supreme] court on the basis of the earlier ruling and on the basis of the fact that they said we can’t take a decision with 137 [members], but they can take with 137.”
The Minority, could not participate in the consideration of the e-levy at the second and third reading stages due to a boycott.
He believes the tax policy is not in the interest of Ghanaians and that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) will lose the next general election considering the resistance by the citizenry.
Partaking in the debate on the E-levy Bill on the floor of parliament yesterday, the MP, particularly took on the Finance Minister for introducing policies that worsen the plight of already suffering Ghanaians.
“I want to tell the Finance Minister that managing this economy is not about quoting Bible verses or wearing white. Thank you very much for the Bible quotations but when you quote the Bible, you must follow that with actions, principles, programs and projects. I am even more convinced that whether the E-levy is passed or not, you are on the way to opposition come 2024”, John Jinapor said.
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, said he was surprised by the Minority walkout, but indicated that it would not affect the course of proceedings, leading to the passage of the tax.
The levy, which was amended from 1.75 percent to 1.5 percent yesterday, will be a tax on electronic transactions, which includes mobile-money payments.
The charge will apply to electronic transactions that are more than GH¢100 on a daily basis.
But the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, speaking on the matter, said the passage of the electronic transfer levy is in the best interest of the country and his side is happy to have championed it.
He said the delay in passing the bill over the past three months has taken a severe toll on the country’s economy, including the withdrawal of foreign investments and a depreciation of the cedi.
“We have done what is good for the country. As a house we should position ourselves to monitor the proceeds,” he said at a press conference yesterday.
The Suame legislator added that, “the effect of this [long process] on the economy has not been good. Over the past three months, there was considerable uncertainty about our revenues, and Ghanaians, investors and Ghana Revenue Authority were worried, which explains why there was a lot of speculation in the system which led to the downgrading of our economy and a downward spiral of the cedi which raised the cost of living.”
Parliament on Tuesday passed the Electronic Transfer Levy in the absence of the Minority MPs, who had walked out before the Bill was considered at the second reading stage.
The Minority had complained that it had been taken by surprise by the unexpected consideration of the levy as it was not listed in Parliament’s business statement for this week
During a debate on the bill, the minority side lamented that the bill would worsen the plight of Ghanaians.
But the Majority Leader said he is convinced that the passage of the E-levy will bring huge relief to Ghanaians.
“To the extent that our colleagues were not rancorous, and no such infractions came, we should be thankful for them that we had a smooth conduct of business in the House, and we are moving the agenda of national development forward,” he said.
The Finance Minister, had moved the motion in Parliament for the E-levy bill to be considered.
The government is hoping that the bill will this time get Parliament’s endorsement as its previous efforts have seen the bill rejected.
Isaac Adongo, one of the vociferous opponents of the bill, said President Akufo-Addo “chose a very memorable day [His birthday] to punish citizens with E-levy.”
John Jinapor accused the government of being insensitive and unwilling to bring reprieve to the populace.
“It is clear that, the centre cannot hold. The Economic Management Team under President Akufo-Addo has been the worst in the history of Ghana. The failure on the part of this country is legendary because putting a three-square meal on the table is a major challenge. The ordinary Ghana is suffering and if you look at the true state of the economy and instead of the government to think of how to cushion Ghanaians, its main principle is to tax.”
Contributing to the debate on the floor of parliament, Mr. Isaac Adongo accused the government of mismanaging the country’s economy and plunging it into a difficult position and turning round to bill citizens to fix the mess.
“They have damaged and compromised the future of our economy… He [Akufo-Addo] has marshaled all his troops to this chamber to deliver misery and rip the poor’s little money,” he said.
“He [Akufo-Addo] was elected to serve the people and not to punish them. The people have rejected the E-levy and yet the government says it will impose the e-levy,” he added.
Contributing to the debate from the Majority side, Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah tried to woo the Minority to approve the E-Levy bill.
He said in these trying times where economies have suffered the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important that everyone supports the government to implement E-Levy to rake in additional revenue to support the development of the country.
On Mr Kum, his colleague MP for Sekondi constituency, Andrew Egyapa Mercer, has insisted that there is nothing wrong with having in the House to conduct parliamentary business as others have claimed they saw the Ahanta West MP in the house to votes to approve or reject the E-Levy.
But Ghanaians have already described the development as insensitive to the 54-year-old legislator’s predicament.
Reacting to this, the Sekondi MP told JoyNews that though he is unaware of Mr Kum’s presence in the House, it would not be out of place.
He explained that “it is not the first time that has happened.”
“Like I said, I’m not aware if he is going to participate but if he has to, then that is exactly what is going to happen,” he said on Tuesday.
“We are where we are and we need to do what we have to do,” he told Kwesi Parker-Wilson.