Parliament’s joint committee probe into the COIVD- 19 expenses may amount to nothing if signals from the majority side are anything to go by.
Kweku Kwarteng, Chairman of the Finance Committee, which is one of the two directed to dig further into the figures presented by the Finance Minister has publicly said the Speaker’s directive, will not achieve any significant outcome.
Speaking on Accra-based JoyNews’ AM Show on Thursday, Mr. Kwarteng, who is MP for Obuasi West and a former deputy Finance Minister described the Speaker’s action as cosmetic and intended to achieve a parochial interest.
“I genuinely believe that what happened yesterday [Wednesday, June 22] was to achieve a political demand, and it is never going to achieve any public finance accounting.
“I worry that if we begin to do this, we are shifting attention where the discussion should be when the Auditor-General goes into these accounts, the numerous irregularities they uncover which have been a traditional problem for decades. ..he added.
It is not clear how the Finance and Health Committees of Parliament intend to carry out investigations and if their proceedings will be made public. Public interest has been heightened by inconsistencies in the figures presented but even before they sit, there are already signals that the Majority group in Parliament which is totally against an independent probe, may frustrate the process.
Government spokespersons maintain that Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, was honest in his presentation and needs commendation but the Minority in Parliament, which is elated about Alban Bagbin’s directive, said the conflicting figures, raise more questions than answers.
MP for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo who argued passionately on the floor of Parliament after Mr. Ofori Atta’s presentation said …” I just don’t know how this man [Ken Ofori-Atta] thought that he will just come and bamboozle [us] and get away with it. No wonder he has been running away from accountability and Parliament all this while.
People who contested elections openly claimed that they were given allocations of COVID money to spend, yet most of these monies did not even come as free money. People cannot hide behind COVID to plunder the public purse. They must account for it and the more open that process is, the better it is in claiming back the credibility of Parliament and the government architecture we set for ourselves.”
According to Mr. Ofori Atta, the government mobilized GH¢18.19 billion out of the programmed GH¢19.3 billion in 2020 from various funding sources. For 2020 and 2021, the programmed expenditure amounted to GH¢15,763.48 million for the COVID-19-related expenditures out of which the actual utilization was Gh¢12,036.41 million.
The Finance Minister among others said GH¢12.1million was spent on distribution of the packed hot food served to about 2,744,723 in Accra, Tema, Kasoa, and Greater Kumasi. GH¢42.24 million was also expended on the distribution of Dry Food packages to about 470,000 persons through Faith-Based Organizations in Greater Accra and Kumasi.
Provision of free water and electricity cost the state GH¢143 million, while a whopping GH¢600 million was allocated for the Agenda 111 District, Regional and Mental Hospitals in 2020 and GH¢¢763.92 million for the same project in 2021.
Finance Minister also told Parliament that GH¢853 million of the COVID fund has been spent on the establishment of the Development Bank Ghana to address gaps in the Ghanaian credit markets, especially the availability of medium- and long-term finance for the private sector; f GH¢775.82 million was released for the purchase of Sputnik V, the Janssen COV SARS 2 COVID Vaccines.
The Minority has cited President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s State of the Nation Address in March this year in which he was emphatic that over a 17billion cedis have been spent to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a classical example of the inconsistencies and the need for a thorough probe.
The Finance and Health Committees are expected to present their report to the House in October this year.