All eyes and ears will today be on Parliament, as Ghana’s under pressure Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, who has been bruised in recent days, appears before an ad hoc committee probing him over conflict of interest amongst others, to justify his fitness and competence to remain in office.
If the Yale-trained Investment Banker, is able to convince them, he might have his reputation back, boost investors’ confidence in the Ghanaian economy and also see a return of donor support which have been on a steep decline for some time now.
It has been almost a month and half since Mr Ofori-Atta, came under intense heat from Members of Parliament (MP) in his own governing the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to resign, citing economic mismanagement and hardship in the country.
This was followed by a motion of censure from the Minority MPs from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) citing the Finance Minister for “unconstitutional withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund in blatant contravention of Article 178 of the 1992 Constitution supposedly for the construction of the President’s Cathedral”.
The Minority’s other grounds for demanding Mr Ofori-Atta’s removal is “Deliberate and dishonest misreporting of economic data to Parliament” and “Fiscal recklessness leading to the crash of the Ghana Cedi which is currently the worst performing currency in the world”.
Additionally, the 137 MPs, also want the Finance Minister removed over what they described as his “alarming incompetence and frightening ineptitude resulting in the collapse of the Ghanaian economy and an excruciating cost of living crisis” and the last is “Gross mismanagement of the Ghanaian economy which has occasioned untold and unprecedented hardship”.
Ahead of today’s appearance, the Finance Minister, yesterday had ground three of the Minority’s vote of censure struck out by the eight-member ad-hoc committee of Parliament.
The ground, which has to do with illegal payment of oil revenue into offshore accounts, in flagrant violation of Article 176 of the 1992 Constitution, compelled the committee to invite the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) for questioning on yesterday, November 17, 2022.
Shortly, after PIAC and GNPC appeared before the committee to testify, Parliament has written to the Finance Minister, indicating that he will not be “required to lead evidence in respect of the said ground”.
This is because, “the Committee found the evidence from the two institutions satisfactory”, the letter from the parliamentary service said.
This follows PIAC’s confirmation that an amount of US$ 100 million withdrawn from the Petroleum Holding Fund by the government has not yet been refunded.
The Minority in Parliament, accused Ken Ofori Atta of illegally making payments of oil revenues into offshore accounts as part of the basis for a censure motion against him, and demanded that government refunds 100 million dollars transferred to the Jubilee Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation GNPC.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee probing the censure motion against the Finance Minister, the Vice Chairman of PIAC, Nasir Alfa Mohammed, said efforts made towards retrieving the funds have proven futile.
“We explored all the laws, in our opinion, that border around this issue, and we still came to an independent opinion, which we stand by on any day, that those revenues ought to have formed part of the petroleum revenues of Ghana and ought to have been deposited in the petroleum holding fund and not in any other account.”
“So, for us, it was contrary to the law for that money to have been deposited in any accounts, if at all.”
Meanwhile, ex-President, John Agyekum Kufour, has distanced himself from widespread media reports, suggesting that he has extended an invitation to the 98 NPP MPs demanding the removal of the Minister of Finance.
The disclaimer was issued after a section of the media report said that the ex-President had invited the MPs in question for a meeting in a bid to get the legislators to abort the #KenMustGo mission.
A statement issued by the Office of John Agyekum Kufuor, said, “we wish to bring to the attention of the general public that there is no truth to the said publication”.
The office also expressed worry over what it felt has become the blatant attribution of stories to the former President.
“The office of the former President vehemently detests the developing trend in disinformation that mischievously seeks to draw President Kufour into issues that he has not commented on”, the statement continued.
The majority MPs, demanded the removal of both Ofori-Atta as Finance Minister and now dismissed Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Charles Adu Boahene.
The demand had initially been criticized, because Ghana is currently pursuing support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In response to the calls from his own party’s MPs, President Akufo-Addo urged the MPs to hold on till Ghana concludes negotiations with the IMF.
Previous calls for the removal of Ken Ofori-Atta, have been rebuffed by President Akufo-Addo, who said he would continue to back Mr Ofori-Atta.
Meanwhile, the NPP legislators, have said they will not back the Minority’s vote of censure against the embattled Minister.