Ofori-Atta C’ttee Split Over ‘Ambush’ Evidence
A CALL for full disclosure of evidence supporting allegations contained in the NDC Minority’s censure motion against Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, yesterday split the ad-hoc parliamentary committee probing the issues.
Counsel for the minister, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, prior to the commencement of the proceedings, had requested for the cross-party committee to furnish his client with the full particulars of the facts supporting each of the allegations, in the interest of justice.
According to the lawyer, the grounds [charges] for the censure motion were wide, noting, “It will not be fair to the Minister of Finance to be ambushed, and right here without any preparation to start answering questions.”
“There are no particulars to some of the charges. All the hundreds of bonds that have been raised, we do not know which one they are talking about.
“The last charge says gross mismanagement of the Ghanaian economy which has occasioned untold and unprecedented hardship. If you give us PIAC report and [IMF] Staff Report of 2018, 2019 and 2020, it will take us about, maybe, two months to go through all that,” Mr. Otchere-Darko stated.
“Before we start this proceeding, all we are asking in the interest of justice is that we should be furnished with the full particulars of the facts in support of each of the allegations contained in the letter. We want the charges to be complete with the particulars. That is all we are asking,” he stressed.
But the censure motion-backing members of the committee refused to back the position of the minister’s counsel, dismissing the argument that the committee’s work was a quasi-judicial exercise that required strict adherence to the rules and procedures.
Co-chair of the committee, who is the NDC MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine, said the evidences to be relied upon by the proponents of the motion, which he is one of them, were public documents that could be accessed by the Finance Minister and his counsel.
The NDC MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, added, “I don’t think that we should be so rigid. It is being made to appear like we just want to place impediments in the way.”
The NPP MPs, on the other hand, denied using the full disclosure of evidence to try to delay the proceedings, insisting that the minister was entitled to a fair hearing.
NPP MP for Asante-Akim Central, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, and NPP MP for Sekondi, Andrew Kofi Egyapa Mercer, who backed the full disclosure demand, contended that the proponents of the motion needed to furnish both the committee and the respondent a formal notice of evidence before the commencement of proceedings.
After back and forth for some minutes, the committee finally agreed to allow the proponents to read out the evidence they would rely upon.
NDC MP for Ajumako Enyan Esiam, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson told the committee that the Minority would be relying on the IMF Staff Reports from 2018 to 2021; the Fiscal Responsibility Act (Act 982), budget statements from 2019 to 2022, mid-year budget statements from 2019 to 2022, the reports of the Auditor General from 2018 to 2020, PIAC annual and semi-annual reports from 2019 to 2022; the Public Financial Management Act, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, as well as Article 82 of the Constitution as the primary records.
Speaker of the House, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, on November 10, 2022, set up the eight-member committee, made up of four MPs from each of the caucuses to launch an inquiry into the issues levelled against the Finance Minister and report back to the House for consideration.
The committee is co-chaired by NPP MP for Adansi-Asokwa, K.T. Hammond, and NDC MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine.
Other members of the committee are Patrick Boamah (NPP Okaikoi Central), Andrew Egyapa Mercer (NPP Sekondi), Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi (NPP Asante-Akim Central), Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings (NDC Korle Klottey), Samuel Ablakwa (NDC North Tongu) and Barnard Ahiafor (NDC Akatsi South).
The Speaker explained that the committee would afford the minister the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations, noting, “And what our colleague (referring to the Minority Leader, who moved the motion) said cannot constitute evidence.”
“The evidence will be placed before the committee. The minister will have the opportunity to defend himself and a report will be presented to the House, and we will debate that report,” he stated and added that the committee has seven working days to deal with the case.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu moved the motion of censure over the leadership of Ken Ofori-Atta as Finance Minister, arguing that Mr. Ofori-Atta should be made to account for his “poor performance” with the economy.
The motion, filed on behalf of the NDC MPs by the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, requested the House to pass a vote of censure on the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, in accordance with Article 82 of the 1992 Constitution.
According to the NDC MPs, the Finance Minister is in “despicable conflict of interest” for allegedly and directly benefiting from Ghana’s economic woes as “his companies receive commissions and other unethical contractual advantage, particularly from Ghana’s debt overhang.”
“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; legal payment of oil revenues into offshore accounts in flagrant violation of Article 176 of the 1992 Constitution; and deliberate and dishonest misreporting of economic data to Parliament,” the motion noted.
The NDC MPs are also accusing the Finance Minister of “fiscal recklessness leading to the crash of the Ghana Cedi, which is currently the worst performing currency in the world; and alarming incompetence and frightening ineptitude resulting in the collapse of the Ghanaian economy and an excruciating cost of living crisis.”
BY Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House