The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has directed the Business Committee to schedule the Finance Minister to appear before the House on Tuesday, February 14, 2023, to brief members on affairs of the Domestic Debt Exchange programme (DDEP).
He said both sides of the House had agreed that Ken Ofori-Atta be scheduled to come and brief the House on policy statement and some details about debt arrangement since Parliament was ever prepared to assist the government to get out of that “quagmire.”
“This is a very urgent matter particularly dealing with elderly people; if the pensioners are picketing at the Finance Ministry, we need to do this as quickly as possible,” he stated.
Addressing members of Parliament at the start of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament today, Mr Bagbin said “The Business Committee kindly and urgently schedule the Finance Minister to appear before the House to give us a brief on the statement of affairs.”
The Speaker gave the directive after some Minority MPs had raised concern after the Vice Chairman of the Business Committee, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, had presented the business statement for this week.
First, the National Democratic Congress MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa had told the House that in spite the enormous public interest in the ongoing domestic debt exchange programme which the government was pursuing, it never found space in the business statement.
He recalled how the leadership of Parliament, during recess, received a petition from the Association of Individual Bondholders and the recent picketing of bondholders by senior citizens at the Ministry of Finance just yesterday.
Those developments, he said, had created enormous anxiety, with Ghanaians being concerned about their lifesaving and investments.
He said although the House had received no briefing or debated the programme yet the Ministry of Finance was going ahead to implement it as a conditionality of the IMF programme.
Mr Ablakwa also drew the House’s attention to how the Finance Minister, in presenting the 2023 budget, assured MPs that the details of the debt operation programme would be announced soon to the public and the investor community had been engaged.
“Mr Speaker this engagement has not taken place; members of Parliament have not been engaged and the individual bondholders were not being engaged.
“Indeed, the President had, a few days prior to the announcement, assured that bondholders would be exempted but now all those who were told they would be exempted have been included,” he said.
He added that: “The Finance Minister must come and brief us and we debate and agree what should be the nature of this domestic debt programme and its full ramifications on the economy and citizens.”
Sharing similar concern, the NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, said the duty of the Finance Minister was not to simply to engage the House.
He said article 181 (3) of the Constitution was clear that the government was borrowing on behalf of the state and sections 55 and 56 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 was also clear that government was borrowing on behalf of the state.
“Hence the terms and conditions of the borrowing ordinarily must be laid before the House and must be approved by a resolution of the House.
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“To the contrary, the Finance Minister had gone ahead to define his own terms and conditions of borrowing, negotiating with bondholders terms and conditions that had not been approved by the House, coercing and compelling banks, insurance institutions to accept terms and conditions that has not been approved by Parliament,” he said.
The conduct of the Finance Minister, he added, was clearly illegal and unconstitutional and was clear breach of his responsibility as Minister of Finance and an affront to this House.
“He must therefore bring the terms here for us to approve before he offers it to individual bondholders and institutions for them to accept or reject” he said.
We’ve engaged all bondholders
Responding, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei-Asare, in the 2023 budget, the Finance Ministry “sounded and mentioned” that the government was going to come up with a domestic debt exchange policy.
And based on the budget that was approved by the House, Parliament gave the Finance Ministry to spend compensation, borrow and undertake capital expenditure and goods and services to a certain tune.
“For my friend (Ayariga) to say that we are now going to borrow it is untrue as these are funds that were approved for us to utilise previously,” she said.
She added that due to the conditions government found itself in, it publicly announced that it would not be able to discharge what it initially had agreed with its debtors.
“Mr Speaker, let me put it on record that the pensions funds are not part of the exercise that we are engaging in now. We have been able to engage all these bondholders and we did it with the banks, insurance companies.
“I know that last week when we met the Business Committee of the House, we mentioned that once Parliament comes through we will come and brief the House on how far and the steps that we have taken to get to where we are,” she said.