The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has cautioned the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to appear before the Parliament to respond to questions or forfeit doing business with the House.
He noted that, technically, ministers were mandated and empowered to present business before the Parliament, and the House could not refuse it, but can also refuse to do business with ministers, base on their posture.
“Until he comes to respond to the question, and to submit the statement giving explanations as to how that money has been applied, we will not entertain any business from that Ministry. Mark my words.”
“Technically, ministers are mandated and empowered to present business before the House, and the House cannot refuse it. That is it.
“But, it is a human institution; if you don’t give me the due respect; if you don’t see me as someone worthy of you doing business with, I can say that, well I will not allow you to come to do business with me.”
Mr. Bagbin’s comments comes after the Minority Caucus in Parliament complained about the Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta’s disregard for orders to appear before the House yesterday to give a statement on how Covid-19 funds were expended, as well as respond to sixteen questions from some members of Parliament.
The announcement of the Minister’s appearance in the House was done by the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, when he presented the Business Statement for the week.
But when the Order Paper for Thursday June 16, 2022 came out, the 16 questions were not on it. The paper, which outlines business for the day, did not also give any indication about the presentation of the statement on Covid-19 by the Minister.
Instead, two loan facilities, amounting to one billion dollars to finance capital growth related expenditures in the 2022 Budget, which was being requested by the Ministry, was featured.
This triggered concerns from the Minority side which pushed their First Deputy Chief Whip, Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim, to ask the Speaker to take action with regards to the Minister’s conduct.
Mr. Ahmed appealed to the Speaker to stand down the approval of the loan until Mr. Ofori-Atta appears before the House to do the needful.
In a quick response, the Majority Chief Whip, Mr. Frank Annor-Dompreh, indicated to the House that Mr. Ofori-Atta was not able to appear for a good reason, but had been rescheduled to appear next week Wednesday.
The Majority Leader, Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, also indicated to the House that with regards to the Parliamentary questions, the Minister needed time to read through the questions that had been prepared by his technical team at the Ministry, hence, his inability to show up.
Despite these reasons given by the Majority Leader and the Chief Whip, Speaker Bagbin went ahead to reject doing business with the Minister until he appeared before the House.
The Speaker only allowed the Deputy Minister, Mr. John Apontuah-Kuma, to lay the paper on the $1 billion loan facility, but asked the Committee on Finance not to work on it until the Minister did the needful.
“I will rule that we will allow the laying of the paper. I will refer it to the Committee, and will direct the Committee not to consider the business until the Minister fulfills the request of the House.”
Speaker Bagbin also noted that his actions were not based only on Mr. Ofori-Atta’s absence in the House yesterday alone, but also as a result of the Minister not fulfilling previous summons to the House.
It will be recalled that on May 27 Speaker Bagbin gave similar directives to Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta to appear before the House and provide a detailed breakdown of all monies approved for spending during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Speaker’s directive followed a move by the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Kweku Kwarteng, to get the House to approve €75 million for the Covid-19 health response project. This was, however, resisted by the Minority.
The Speaker, after listening to the Minority’s argument, directed that the Finance Minister appears to give account and was, hence, scheduled to appear before the House, but refused to show up.