Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) ground for the censure motion against the embattled Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta may be failing and falling flat following the response of their accuser.
Two of the charges have been struck out and the remaining five have been strongly challenged by the Minister when he presented his statement of defense.
This was after the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) which was called upon by the committee to testify on Thursday did not say that the Finance Minister authorised payment of oil revenues into offshore accounts.
During proceedings on Friday November 18, 2022 Co-chair of the committee Dr Dominic Ayine said “…They also did not say anything to the effect that you gave the instructions with respect to that payment. On account of the evidence adduced which kind of contradicted the evidence that was led by the proponent of the motion, the committee has taken the view that you will not be called to deal with this matter.”
He added “…So in essence, there are now five grounds that you will have to deal with. Those are grounds 2, that is the unconstitutional withdrawals in relation to the national cathedral, then we have ground 5, 6 and 7 to deal with.”
Many Ghanaians are anxious to know the fate of the minister as the 8-member ad-hoc committee is expected to present it report this week.
However, the expectations of many Ghanaians after the appearance of the minister before the committee appear to have put the vote of censure in jeopardy.
Former Deputy Finance Minister, Carsiel Ato Forson and Haruna Iddrisu presented the seven charges against the minister.
Ofori-Atta has been criticised for his handling of what has been described as Ghana’s worst economic crisis in a generation. This comes at a time when he is leading negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a relief package of up to $3 billion.
He is accused of gross mismanagement of the economy, conflict of interest among others.
The Ghanaian cedi has plummeted more than 40 percent this year, straining importers of both raw and processed materials. Consumer inflation hit a 21-year high of 40.4 percent in October on the back of soaring import costs.
Against this backdrop, the embattled minister is facing censure with lawmakers from both major political parties calling for his removal from office.
Ofori-Atta defended himself against a raft of criticism in his first public comments on the matter.
Last week, parliament set up a committee to investigate opposition allegations that Ofori-Atta has been benefiting from Ghana’s economic woes through illegal payments and unethical contracts, among other charges.
The minister said he was concerned about the country’s woes, but added that the accusations were unfounded.
“The people of Ghana are enduring hardships. I feel the pain personally, professionally and in my soul,” Ofori-Atta said.
He said that by the end of the hearing, the “unfounded doubts about my motives, my competence and my character would have been dispelled”.
Ofori-Atta also said he had always served the country with “integrity and honesty”.
He denied claims that he had misreported economic data to parliament and that his policies were to blame for the cedi’s steep decline.
“The idea that the depreciation of the cedi is a result of fiscal risk and recklessness is not supported by the available facts,” said Ofori-Atta.
He said negotiations with the IMF were progressing well.
“We are nearly through the IMF negotiations. We’re working assiduously to achieve a staff level agreement by the end of December 2022.”
Calls for Ofori-Atta’s removal have been a central theme of recent street protests, and more than half of his own party’s lawmakers have publically called for his removal.
However, the ruling party MPs, unlike the opposition, have agreed to suspend their calls for the minister’s dismissal until after he concludes negotiations with the IMF.
However, the Minority NDC has expressed new hope that the Finance Minister would be exposed when the matter get to the plenary and the report presented to Parliament.
According to Ahmed Ibrahim, Deputy Minority Chief Whip and MP for Banda most critical aspect of the censure motion grounds were not answered maybe as a result of the limited duration given to the committee to present it report.
He mentioned that “You remember that aspect of the constitutional breach of statutory payment, the minister was not able to answer it well because the constitution has been breached and I’m saying this in relations to the releases of the District Assembly Commond Fund. Out of 4.8 billion, the minister released only 750 million.”