Speaker directs the Finance Minister to brief Parliament.

Speaker - Rapid News Gh

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has directed the Business Committee of Parliament to schedule an appearance before the House by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta to brief members on the status of the domestic debt exchange program (DDEP).

Mr Speaker said both sides of the House had agreed that the Finance Minister be scheduled to come and brief the House on the policy statement and some details of the debt arrangement since Parliament was ever prepared to assist the government to get out of that “quagmire”.

“This is a very urgent matter, especially when it comes to the elderly; if pensioners are picketing at the Finance Ministry, we need to do this as soon as possible,” the Speaker said.

The speaker of Parliament Mr Bagbin

Concerns of MPs

Mr Speaker Bagbin told MPs at the start of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament yesterday: “The Business Committee, kindly and urgently schedule the Finance Minister to appear before the House to give us a brief on the state of affairs.”

Mr Speaker issued the directive after some Minority MPs expressed concern following the presentation of the week’s business statement by the Vice-Chairman of the Business Committee, Alexander Afenyo-Markin.

First, the National Democratic Congress MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, told the House that despite widespread public interest in the government’s ongoing DDEP, it was never included in the business statement.

He recalled how, during the recess, the leadership of Parliament received a petition from the Association of Individual Bondholders, as well as bondholder picketing at the Ministry of Finance.
These developments, he said, had caused widespread concern among Ghanaians, who were concerned about their life savings and investments.

There was no briefing.

Mr Ablakwa stated that, despite the fact that the House had not been briefed or debated the program, the Ministry of Finance was proceeding with its implementation as a condition of the IMF program.

The North Tongu MP also drew the attention of the House to how, while presenting the 2023 budget, the Finance Minister assured MPs that the details of the DDEP would be made public soon, and that the investor community had been consulted.

“Mr Speaker, this engagement has not occurred; MPs have not been engaged, and individual bondholders have not been engaged.

“Indeed, the President had assured Ghanaians a few days before the announcement that bondholders would be exempted, but now all those who were told they would be exempted have been included,” he said.

“The Finance Minister must come and brief us so that we can debate and agree on the nature of this DDEP and its full implications for the economy and citizens,” he added.

Unconstitutional act

The NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, expressed a similar concern, stating that the Finance Minister’s duty was not simply to engage the House.

He claimed that Article 181 (3) of the Constitution and sections 55 and 56 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 made it clear that the government was borrowing on the state’s behalf.

“As a result, the terms and conditions of the borrowing must ordinarily be laid before the House and approved by a House resolution.

“On the contrary, the Finance Minister has gone ahead and defined his own borrowing terms, negotiating with bondholders terms and conditions that have not been approved by the House, coercing and compelling banks and insurance institutions to accept terms and conditions that have not been approved by Parliament,” he said.

He went on to say that the Finance Minister’s actions were clearly illegal and unconstitutional, a clear breach of his responsibility as Finance Minister and an affront to the House.

“As a result, he must bring the terms here for our approval before offering them to individual bondholders and institutions for acceptance or rejection,” he said.

“We have contacted all bondholders.”

In response, Abena Osei-Asare, Deputy Minister of Finance, stated that the Finance Ministry “sounded and mentioned” in the 2023 budget that the government would implement a domestic debt exchange policy. Speaker

She stated that, based on the approved budget, Parliament granted the Finance Ministry the authority to spend compensation, borrow, and undertake capital expenditure and goods and services to a certain extent.

“For Honourable Ayariga to say that we are now going to borrow is false, because these are funds that were previously approved for us to use,” she said.

She went on to say that because of the situation the government was in, it publicly announced that it would be unable to discharge what it had initially agreed with its debtors.

“Mr Speaker, let me state unequivocally that pension funds are not a part of the exercise that we are currently engaged in. We were able to engage all of these bondholders, as well as banks and insurance companies.

“I know that last week, when we met with the House Business Committee, we said that once Parliament passed, we would come and brief the House on how far we had progressed and the steps we had taken to get to where we are,” she said.

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