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Minority fails to torpedo 2.5 increase in VAT

The in parliament has redeemed itself in the successes they chalked in the approval of the 2023 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government for the year ending 31st December, 2023.

Unfortunately, it failed in one crucial target which a lot of Ghanaians were hoping would be a major relief to the already overburdened population – 2.5 increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT). The Minority Caucus narrowly missed out after a voice vote that declared the “I’s as having it was challenged by the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka who called for vote on the motion.

The Minority, however, narrowly lost by 136-135. As such the quest for government to increase VAT by 2.5 percent come 2023 eventually passed.

The Minority came under intense criticism after the passa of the budget principles which many misconstrued as the passage of the budget and concluded that everything that was contained in the budget would thus be implemented.

This forced some response from the leadership of the Minority Caucus in which they explained that the passage of the budget principles was just a first step; and that the real work would be done at the budget estimate and appropriations. And they promised to reject most of the things that they considered inimical to the good people of Ghana.

The major successes registered include:
*Ensuring government maintains the GHc100 threshold for MoMo transactions while reducing the rate from 1.5 to 1 percent.

*Defeated the GHS80million allocation for the Cathedral and have it expunged from the Appropriation Act;

* GHS1.3billion (€116million) Accra International Conference Centre Demolition and Redevelopment plans scuttled;

*Defeated proposed plans to establish new diplomatic missions in Jamaica, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago.

*GHS1.4billion request for Contingency Vote cut drastically to GHS533million;

6) Collapsing the Secretariats of the Special Development Initiatives & the Monitoring and Evaluation; both at the Office of the President by scrapping the budgetary allocations of GHS27.5million.

*Defeated the repugnant tax measure intended to compel drivers, particularly commercial drivers to produce tax clearance certificates as a requirement for renewing driver’s license.


Parliament: E-levy reduced to 1 percent; GHC100 threshold maintained

Parliament of Ghana has amended the Electronic Transfer Levy (E-Levy) Act 2022 to reduce the rate from the original 1.5 percent to 1 percent on Transfers.

Not only has this been done but the Minority in Parliament also forced the Government to back down on its decision as contained in the budget statement presented to the House by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta to remove the threshold and charge the E-Levy on all mobile money transactions, no matter the amount.

Government in its quest to institute measures to increase revenue proposed a reduction from the 1.5 percent to 1 percent on Electronic transactions.

This should have been good news; but another measure to remove the 100 cedis threshold caused some discontent among the citizenry.

Soon after the budget statement presentation, the Minority minced no words in expressing their displeasure at the removal of the threshold even though it welcomed the reduction in the rate, and served notice that they would fight the removal of the threshold among other tax proposals.

It was therefore not surprising the turn of events which led to government going back on its intended proposal.
The Minority has also achieved another feat as they forced the government to abandon a clause in the proposed law that sought to make the provision of tax clearance certificate a prerequisite driver’s license.

They assert that such laws if allowed to come into force would rather impoverish the already overburdened citizens.
The members of the Minority contend that the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) does not have offices in most of the places as such it would only put additional financial cost for people to travel particularly to regional capitals to have their task certificates, or hire the services of accountants to prepare their accounts for them.


Minority throws out GHC80 million budgetary allocations for National Cathedral

Government’s quest to continue the National Cathedral project has been dealt a big blow as the Minority members on the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee of Parliament have voted against the budget.

The Minority Members on the Committee won by a majority decision of 11-10 to reject the GH¢80 million budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture for the National Cathedral for the 2023 Fiscal year.

A Minority member on the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee of Parliament, Yusif Sulemana the Minority on the Committee voted against the GHC80million budget because this is not the time to be spending that huge sum of money in building a cathedral.

He said at the Committee, they were told that they had already spent GHC339 million but they failed to explain how the money was spent.

The Bole Bamboi Member of Parliament said they also observed that the National Cathedral Secretariat is not under the Tourist Ministry which means they only want to use the Ministry as a conduit to send the money to where ever they want to send it to, and the Minority will not accept it.

He asserts that the Minority is not against the Ministry of Tourism budget, and they will go ahead to approve it excluding the GHC80 million, adding that they were not satisfied with the explanations given to them.

He assured that the leadership of the Minority is solidly behind them and the Minority will not be part of it when it is brought to the House for debate.


Ensure full release of 2023 Budget Estimate to Defence Ministry – Speaker directs MoF

The Ministry of Finance has been directed to ensure the release of the full 2023 budgetary estimate Parliament has approved for the Ministry of Defence to enable the security agencies to discharge their mandate.

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin who gave the directive prior to the approval of the 3.742 billion budget estimate for the Ministry of Defence noted that partially releasing the approved budget for the ministry undermines the security agencies’ capacity to protect the safety and security of the individual and community as well as the stability of the country, which could not be toiled with by the Defence Ministry.

According to him, his (Speaker) checks from the Defence Ministry and the Controller and Accountant-General Department clearly indicated that the security agencies are one of the priority areas of the government but that was not was reflected in the performance of 2022.

The Speaker said he felt sad when he read and saw that approximately 81 percent of the budget on goods and services has not been released to the Ministry of Defence.

“In this current situation, how do you expect them to operate; it is not for this House to continue to appeal to the Ministry of Finance to release approved budget,” he said

The budget is meant for the implementation of the programmes and activities of the ministry for the 2023 financial year. “We are in charge, we legislate and pass the laws on taxation and Ministry of Finance are to implement; if they are failing to do it, we have to take them on and not to be appealing to them, he added.

“I cannot understand this particularly how the Defence Ministry and sister ministers are struggling with the safety of the Ghanaian and we know what is happening in the sub-region. I think that we should take this as the last occasion where we tolerate it from the Ministry of Finance; we do not want to have this repeated again,” the Speaker emphasized.

The Speaker’s comments were in direct response to Mr. Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor, Member of Parliament for South Dayi who in his contribution towards the approval of the budgetary estimate for the Defence Ministry observed that even though the approved budget which was later revised to GH¢141 million as capital expenditure for the Ministry of Defence but later revised from GH¢196 million, as of September when the budget was referred, the ministry had received only GH¢89 million; and added that “this is a very serious matter considering the accommodation difficulties that men in uniform are facing within the army, we should not toil with their budgetary allocation.

He was not happy that every year they (parliamentarians) stand on the floor and say that they are pleading with the Ministry of Finance; “we should stop pleading and demand”.

“Mr Speaker, when they collect the tax, they use the law to do so and they come here to make allocation and we give approval, we should not be pleading with the Ministry of Finance to release money.

How do you expect the army to work well if what they require in 2022 you cannot release all to them?”
He also noted that the Defence Ministry was making “heavy demand” for 2023 especially in relation to compensation, However, while the compensation for the ministry last year was GH¢1.8 billion, it was revised to GH¢1.4 billion as of September.

The ministry was demanding over GH3billion as compensation alone for this year; “and so, if we are experiencing shortfalls in CAPEX releases I fear what will happen in 2023 in respect of releases and the Ministry of Finance must pay attention to releases to the Defence Ministry,” he stated.


Help settle legal debt of GBC- Finance Ministry told

Parliament has urged the Minister of Finance Ken Ofori Atta to support the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation to pay what the Committee has described as a legal debt to the tune of GH¢ 51,598,085 as the house acknowledged the precarious financial circumstances of the Information Ministry and its other agencies under it.

While encouraging GBC to vigorously pursue its revenue mobilization agenda to support its activities, “the Committee urges the Ministry of Finance to provide additional funds to clear the legacy debt and to meet the Corporation’s investment expenditure shortfall”.

This came to light when the MPs debate the report of the Committee on Communication on Annual Budget Estimate of the Ministry of information for the year ending 31st December 2023.

The Committee observed “the prevalent funding challenges facing GBC” and that, the underfunding of the operations of the state broadcaster has not only undermined its capacity but has caused the Corporation to contend with huge legacy debts arising from Judgement Debts, Electricity Bills and Long Service Awards.

The report revealed that, despite the frantic efforts of GBC to pay its debt, “it is still battling with a legacy debt of (GH¢51,598,085).

The funding capacity of GBC would worsen in view of the meagre allocation made to the Corporation for its investment activities in 2023”.

The report said, “Officials of the Corporation informed the Committee that though GBC requested an amount GH¢7,412,088.02 to meet its investment expenditure in 2023, an amount of GH¢4,769,893.32 has been approved by the Ministry of Finance for that purpose”.

In a related development, The Informed Ministry has planned to spearhead the passing of the Broadcasting Bill in 2023 to introduce broadcasting standards towards bringing sanity and professionalism in Ghana’s media space.

It has also planned to facilitate the passing of subsidiary legislation under the Right To Information (RTI) Act to enhance the implementation of the law.

The Committee however urged the Ministry to prioritize the passing of these two important legislations in 2023 in order to restore some level of sanity to the broadcasting industry.

The House to adopted the Committee’s and therefore approved the sum of One Hundred and Fourteen Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty-One Ghana Cedis (GH¢114,780,331) for the implementation of programmes of the Ministry of Information for the 2023 Financial Year.


Parliament dreams big; institute initiatives to be more relevant to the public

The Parliament of Ghana looks forward to serving better and being more relevant to the people of Ghana as it seeks to institute innovations to be more open and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin adding his voice to a statement made by the Member of Parliament for Ho West, Emmanuel Kwesi Bedzra on Ghana being adjudged the best on open parliament in West Africa said Ghana’s parliament has committed itself to it and there is a plan of action that is being touted, adding that those countries seeking to unseat Ghana from its first position are actually learning from Ghana’s plan of action. “What they don’t know is that we have gone beyond our plan of action and we are going to next year implement so many initiatives”.

He thus urged the Members to cooperate with the leadership and parliament service board, the clerk and management of parliament so that they will be able to implement the initiatives.

He expressed relief that the President Nana Akufo-Addo has recommended what parliament has proposed, and the budget submitted for next year has been greatly supported by the president. He said they have made proposals for enough funding to ensure detail implementation of most of the initiatives started this year.

“We are not going to be complacent at all; we will not allow any parliament to overrun us; that will not happen. And so luckily next year, the proposal to get real true offices for members of parliament will come on board and we will start the construction lf offices, real offices; not party offices, public state offices for members of parliament where as representatives of all the people in your constituencies, they can reach out to you, not just only party members, and that will not be to the inconveniences of your family members”. This move, he said forms part of the open parliament initiatives.

Additionally, the new standing orders will open up all parliamentary committees to the media, “and so parliament as you know, we transact our business in open, that is why we have public gallery; you don’t have public gallery at cabinet meetings, you don’t. And so it is not only when we are in plenary session, when we are at the committee level, we should be open to the public and we will be opening a lot, not just to the media but the public in general”.

The Speaker disclosed that in light of this, they are trying to get into agreement with Ghana Television in the meantime, while they roll out their own television network so that they can broadcast live proceeding of the House.

He said because parliament has a lot to do next year, they have got the Parliamentary Service Board to approve a new organogram for parliament, so that there would not be only Public Affairs Department, “we also going to have Public Engagement Department, as well as Media Relations Department. All these will work together and encourage us, which we are going to do to establish a Citizens Bureau, so that the citizens can have access to parliament.

He said they are also working hard to establish the Budget and Physical Analysis Office which would be rolled out next year “when we pass the Budget Act. The Budget Act which is on board would be passed latest by next year and then we would have the opportunity to get all these things in place.

He assured that there would be a lot of investment in Information Technology (IT) and this would be a serious change and there would be a paperless parliament and urged the MPs to upgrade their phones to be able to conform with the new trend.

He said, it would not only be about work, “we are also going to empower the House, the institutions and members to be able to measure up to the expectations of their constituents”.

He advised the Members to increase their resolves of bringing in Private Members Bills to assist the House in their advocacy for their constituents to know who an MP is, the duties and responsibilities, and what parliament is and how parliament works.


Arise Ghana and Justice for Ghana to picket at National Cathedral tomorrow

A combined pressure group of Arise Ghana and Justice for Ghana have served notice to government of their intended picketing at the construction site of the National Cathedral in Accra.

Addressing the press in parliament on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday, 21st December, 2022 picketing, Prince Derek Adjei, a member of the Arise Ghana said it is good the cathedral has been suspended; but they want the construction of the cathedral completely taken off Ghana’s books. “….. we want it taken completely off Ghana’s books, completely, halted, stopped and the walls must come down so that Ghanaians can see the extent of damage caused to Ghana’s purse, the public purse has been hurt very badly”,.

The group is also calling on government to completely retrieve monies so far expended on the construction of the project including those used in the demolishing of properties that were initially at the sites and those paid to the architect David Adjaye.

This, they said is very important at a time government is undertaking a debt restructuring programme asking people to have hair-cuts that are underserving of anybody.

In tomorrow’s picketing, the group served notice that they will also be addressing Pensions funds that are being taxed “because of the negligence of one Ken Ofori-Atta, assisted by one Dr. Addison and one Dr. Ogbame, and another Dr. Bawumia and a certain President Akufo Addo”.

Prince Adjei said it is their believe that “Pensions of Ghanaians must not be touched, and therefore they want that also taken off the books and as far as any restructuring of our debts are concerned”.

On the introduction of new taxes, they indicated that Ghanaians are already suffering and they do not expect more nuisance taxes, serving notice that the E-levy must not happen in the form that is being proposed, “that there would be no threshold for even the poor, means that the government does not recognize any poor people any more even at the time that even the rich are suffering”.

They also do not want any increases in the Valued Added Tax (VAT) and asked that the Members of Parliament (MPs) shoot down all the items mentioned so that Ghanaians are not overburdened.


“Stay away from laying budget of OSP and Judiciary”—Haruna

As Parliament approves the budget estimates of 2023 for the various Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu has called on the Speaker not to allow the Majority Chief Whip to lay report for the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the Judiciary for approval.

He said Mr. Kissi Agyebeng the Special Prosecutor’s condition of service has not been determined and has not been paid for the past sixteen (16) months, whiles some appointment has been made without the knowledge of the board.

“We will not allow any report to be laid here, your commitment to fighting corruption begins with your attitude towards an independent body like the OSP who has been denied salary; and can any of you live without salary if you are not paid. But you expect him to combat corruption, what do you expect from him in the fight?”

And further strengthen his argument that the Judiciary made a request to the president but their request has not been met. “Nobody will lay a report with respect to the judiciary here, unless they have a formal correspondent from the president in accordance with article 179”, he stated.

“Majority whip take note, no one should come and lay anything for the judiciary in the name of the Chief Justice until, we know how much was the request made to the president by the chief justice and the judiciary, how much of it has been granted by the president”.

And on the OSP until they have assurances that he will be paid his arrears and person recruited we will scrutinize them to know when they were recruited; whether they were there as a board approval in that regard. “Who asked who to go home, and who ask who to come; then you can lay the report so stay away from the budget of the OSP and the Judiciary”, he stated.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Francisca Oteng confident CHRAJ will acquit her in the GHC3million Conflict of Interest probe

Madam Francisca Oteng Mensah, the Deputy Minister designate for the Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry, has expressed confidence that the work of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) would exonerate her from any wrong doing in the conflict of interest case before the Commission.

“On the issue of conflict of interest, I am sure CHRAJ is a competent body, and with their investigations, they will be able to come out and definitely exonerate me,” she said.

Her Response follows a question by Mr. Alhassan Sayibu Suhiyini, MP for Tamale North, on whether the nominee was aware of a conflict of interest investigation by CHRAJ with regards to some three million Ghana Cedis budget approval by the National Youth Authority for campaign to educate people on how to protect themselves from COVID-19.

But Madam Oteng Mensah who admitted being the Board Chair and that the board actually approved the budget the purpose said she was not a member of the Entity Tender Committee.

She said, “I have no idea they were purchasing from Adonko Company Ltd at that time. It got to the time when we were in the peak of the COVID-19 season, in fact, if we all recall, getting access to sanitizers were a huge challenge, and so, at that point in time, everybody including even Members of Parliament were struggling to go anywhere that they could get sanitizers to give to their people”.

“And so, at that point in time, in that state of emergency, nothing of that sort came to me and so, I find it difficult to accept that there is any conflict of interest, it was afterward that I got to know that they even purchased some number of sanitizers from Adonko Company Ltd.”

The nominee said the NYA did not purchase from Adonko Company alone, and that, per her checks, it also purchased from other companies like the GIHOC.

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is investigating a conflict of interest issue concerning the purchase of quantities of hand sanitizers from the Adonko Company Limited by the National Youth Authority (NYA).


Parliament vets Gender Minister and deputy designates

Parliament on Thursday vetted the president’s nominees for Minister and deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Lariba Zuweira Abudu, the Member of Parliament for Walewale and Francisca Oteng Mensah, Member of Parliament for Kwabre East respectively.

In August this year, the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, acting in accordance with article 78 of the Constitution, appointed the Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Lariba Zuweira Abudu, the Member of Parliament for Walewale, as Minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection subject to the approval of Parliament.

He also exercised his powers under article 79 of the Constitution, and nominated Francisca Oteng Mensah, Member of Parliament for Kwabre East, as Deputy Minister- designate for the same ministry.

Both nominees having satisfied the constitutional requirements and having been elected as members of parliament were largely questioned on their new roles when given the nods.

The President is hopeful that Parliament will expedite the approval of his nominees for this important Ministry, so they can assist in the effective delivery of his mandate for his second term in office.