The Bipartisan Parliamentary Ad-hoc Committee investigating Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta in respect of Censure motion has ruled that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority present documents it will be relying to execute the motion of censure to the Minister and the committee.
Consequently, the documents were listed.
Conflict of interest saga
Lawyer for the Minister, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, also questioned the capacity of the Committee to probe allegations of conflict of interest when the Supreme Court had already pronounced on it.
Ofori-Atta to respond to the motion on Friday
After all the heated exchanges between the Minister’s lawyer and some of the Committee members, Ofori-Atta is to respond to the motion on Friday, November 18, 2022.
KT Hammond on evidential basis
Mr Kobina Tahir Hammond, MP for Adansi Asokwa, and Co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee said the matter had elements of criminality, political and civil responsibilities.
He said the committee had decided that there must be evidential basis for the allegations that were being made.
Dr Ayine on right to be heard
Dr Dominic Akuritinga Ayine, Co-Chair of the Committee and MP for Bolgatanga East, said Article 82(4) of the 1992 Constitution provided that during the debate for the vote of censure, the finance minister, who was the subject matter of the Motion, had the right to be heard.
Request for documents
On the first day of the Committee sitting, the minister’s lawyer, Otchere-Darko, asked the Committee to furnish them with the documents.
Rules of natural justice
He argued that the rules of natural justice and fair hearing required that the accused is not only heard but furnished with the documents that formed the bases of the allegations made against him.
He, therefore, insisted that the Minority, led by its Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, provides the documents.
This, he said, will enable his client better assess the allegations based on which his removal is being pushed for.
“It would not be fair for the Minister of Finance to be ambushed right here without any preparation to start answering questions.
“All we are asking for 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 and then the supporting documents,” Mr. Otchere-Darko said.
He argued that any development beyond this point may amount to ambushing the embattled Minister with questions that may be outside the scope of the probe.
The request was met with hesitance from the Minority, who appeared unprepared and insisted that they documents were already in the public domain and did not have to be tendered.
Ruling on document provision
After back and forth on the matter, the co-Chairmen, K.T. Hammond and Dr Ayine ruled that the minority furnish Ofori-Atta and the Committee with the documents.
The Finance Minister had written prior to the hearing requesting full particulars of the allegations against him in the Minority’s motion.
While the committee’s clerk said he had not received the formal record of the evidence from the Minority, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson said he had sent the notice of evidence via hyperlinks because the clerk’s notice to him had come in a letter sent via WhatsApp.
The Sekondi MP, Andrew Agyapa Mercer, for example, argued that the committee was a quasi-judicial proceeding and required conditions for a fair hearing for the Finance Minister.
“The purpose for which disclosures and exchange of documents are made is clearly known to all of us. It prevents the element of surprise,” Mr. Mercer said.
In a retort to this argument, later on, a member of the Minority and one of the chairs of the committee, Dr. Ayine, argued that the committee was an administrative body and not a judicial-adjacent one.
“We are a political body mandated with the task of investigating… that is the essential task we are here to investigate this morning,” he said.
Minority Leader states 7 grounds for censure motion
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu accused Ofori-Atta, of mismanaging the Ghanaian economy and given seven reasons for which it brought a motion of censure against him, last week.
He said the seven grounds included an allegation of “despicable conflict of interest” in which he (Mr Ofori-Atta) was directly benefitting from Ghana’s economic woes.
This is because his companies received commissions and other unethical contractual advantage, particularly from Ghana’s debt overhang.
He alleged an unconstitutional withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund, in contravention of Article 178 of the 1992 Constitution, for the construction of the National Cathedral.
The Minority Leader alleged illegal payment of oil revenues into offshore accounts in violation of Article 176 of the 1992 Constitution as well as misreporting of economic data to Parliament.
He said fiscal recklessness led to the crash of the Ghana cedi, which was reported to be the worst performing currency in the world.
Dr Forson, the Ranking Member for the Finance Committee, accused the Minister of deliberate and dishonest misreporting of economic data to Parliament.
Documents Minority relied on
For its evidence, he said the Minority would be relying on IMF staff reports from 2018 to 2021, fiscal data from the Ministry of Finance, Budget statements from 2019 to 2022, mid-year budget statements from 2019 to 2022, the Auditor General reports from 2018 to 2020, PIAC reports from 2019 to 2022, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Public Financial Management Act, the Petroleum Management Act, the constitution and standing orders of Parliament.
He also said the Minority will make reference to an analysis by external experts.
IMF cleared Ofori-Atta of alleged data misreporting
Mercer, has accused the Minority Caucus of rehashing old and debunked allegations against Ofori-Atta.
He noted that the allegations of misreporting data were first raised in May 2020 but was rejected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as being untrue.
He, therefore, wondered why the Minority NDC will use the same issues as bases for a motion of censure against Mr Ofori-Atta.
He responded to a presentation by Dr Forson, which centered on misreporting of the fiscal deficit, fiscal treatment of expenditures above or below the line and general public sector accounting.
The Sekondi MP said the immediate past Country Representative of the IMF, Dr Albert Touna Mama, debunked the allegations in May 2020.
According to him, the IMF Country Representative said all the figures were known by the IMF and therefore it was untrue that there was misreporting,” Mr Mercer said.
IMF compelled to clarify
He said “as much as possible to stay out of debates” they felt compelled to clarify statements made by Fact Check Ghana, an affiliate of the Media Foundation for West Africa concerning the $1 billion IMF COVID-19 relief fund to the government.
Fact Check Ghana, published on its website that government presented data to the IMF which was different from figures in the annual budgets for 2018 and 2019.
But, Dr. Albert Touna Mama in a media interview stated that Fact Check Ghana misrepresented the facts because the government was not the one that presented the figures that the IMF published in its statements as Fact Check Ghana reported.
Difference in methodology
The IMF Country Director explained that the difference in figures was as a result of a difference in the methodology of calculation, adding that the figure in fiscal deficit in their statement was a figure they generated themselves from the data government presented to them, having added financial and energy sector payments in line with their methodology, which is different from government’s methodology.
Speaker refers censure motion to Ad-hoc Committee
Speaker of Parliament has deferred the motion of a vote of censure against Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance to an Ad-hoc Committee for investigations.
The eight-member committee, which has four members from each side of the House, has seven days to present their report to the House for debate.
Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP, North Tongu; Dr Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, MP, Klottey-Korle; Mr Bernard Ahiafor, MP, Akatsi South; Mr Patrick Yaw Boamah, MP, Okaikoi Central; Mr Kwame Anyimadu Antwi, MP, Asante Akim Central and Mr Egyapa Mercer, MP, Sekondi are members of the committee.
Mr Ofori-Atta was accompanied to the hearing by his wife, Professor Angela Ofori-Atta; Dr John Ampontuah Kumah, a Deputy Minister of Finance and Mrs Abena Osei Asare, a Deputy Minister of Finance.