The Minority has threatened to trigger censure processes to remove the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta from office for allegedly breaching the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
The Act, shepherded by the Finance Ministry and enacted in 2018, places a ceiling on the annual fiscal deficit at five per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
It, however, grants exceptions under which the deficit may be more than the five per cent. The exceptions include health pandemics, force majeures, amongst others.
This, however, the Act says must be by parliamentary approval.
The Finance Minister, presenting the mid-year review on July 23, asked that the law be suspended as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to hit the economy.
“From developments thus far, it is clear that the fiscal rules of a deficit not exceeding five per cent of GDP and a positive primary balance enshrined in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2018 (Act 982) are neither feasible nor attainable targets in this emergency period of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he told Parliament.
But taking his turn in the debate preceding the approval of the reviewed budget on Wednesday, Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said the law cannot be suspended because the House wields no such power.
“We will not suspend the law. He will undergo the sanctions spelt out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. He defined it for himself.
“In any case, Parliament, do you suspend your laws? If you are coming for the review of the law, do so because the law was definite. So Mr Speaker when the Minister said that he has breached his own fiscal responsibility rules, he is a potential candidate for sanctions under the Fiscal Responsibility Act and we will accordingly, sanction him in accordance with the law.
“We will not suspend our laws because of the convenience of Honourable Ken Ofori-Atta,” Mr Iddrisu maintained.
Speaking on Accra-based radio station, however, Chairman of Parliament’s Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah said per the provisions of the Act, there is an exception under which the rules can be set aside and that COVID-19 qualifies to be one of those conditions.
He explained that since the deficit could only be established at the end of the year, the Finance Minister was still within legal remits, adding that Mr Ofori-Atta had submitted to the House a request for the suspension of the rules.
To be able to succeed with this agenda, the Minority, with a numerical strength of 106 of the 275 members, would need the backing of 77 of their colleagues in the majority.
Per Order 108 (b) of Parliament, “the motion (to censure a minister) shall be debated in Parliament within 14 days of its receipt by Mr Speaker and shall be supported by the votes, in secret ballot, of not less than two-thirds of all Members of Parliament.”
Without indicating how soon the processes would be triggered, MP for Adaklu, Governs Kwame Agbodza told the Ghanaian Times that should they fail on the floor, a future NDC government would prosecute the Finance Minister.
“When you commit a crime against the state, there is no timeline within which if you are not prosecuted, the case dies,” Mr Agbodza posited.