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General News of Thursday, 19 December 2013

Source: Graphic Online

Ghana's weak Parliament cannot control gov't spending

Ghana’s parliament is under attack for apparently failing to control the government’s spending, a situation which has been described as worrying by some economists.

The lawmaking chamber recently debated and approved the country’s budget for next year. But some political watchers and economists hope Ghana’s parliament will be bold to halt unnecessary spending.

At the end of 2012, Ghana recorded a deficit of nearly 12 percent of GDP even though it had targeted nine per cent for that year.

The country’s large fiscal deficit in 2012 was the subject of criticism by the international investor community when it sought to raise one billion dollars in Eurobonds for various development projects.

Ghanaian economist, John Kwakye told XYZ News that the legislature in Ghana ought to control how the executive spends money, but that isn't happening.

“A budget deficit of 4.8 percent which was announced in November the previous year and then which became 6.7 percent in the supplementary budget of July 2012, eventually ballooned to 11.8 percent in December 2012.

"And nobody was sanctioned for this excess. In fact the blame should be put squarely at the door step of parliament. If parliament approves a budget for government especially expenditure, somebody should monitor it very closely and make sure that they don’t exceed it.”

According to John Kwakye, parliament should be able to adopt a non-partisan approach where appropriate but the 275 members of parliament are sharply divided along partisan lines.

147 members of parliament belong to the ruling party, the National Democratic congress. 122 back the biggest minority party, the New Patriotic Party. There are also four independent candidates.

Two other smaller parties, the Convention People’s Party and the People’s National Convention have one representative each. The governing party will always have their way although the minority will have their say in the chamber. Minority lawmakers recently walked out over a decision to increase taxes, showing how divided the chamber can be.

Minority lawmaker, Solomon Boar in an interview said the minority lawmakers are helpless because the majority in parliament has the numbers to override their proposals.

“There are instances where there is an issue, you expect the majority when the minority brings up an issue, even though the majority will see that what you have brought out is the truth and for that matter we should just condemn it, it becomes difficult.”

Fellow Member of Parliament from the majority side, Tetteh Chae also added that sometimes overspending by the government can be justified. He said parliament shouldn't stop special and urgent government expenditure simply because it wants to enforce its authority.

“What about if there are natural disasters? Are you going to say that because, there is a natural disaster that has occurred, and it needs immediate solution, government must not spend, to ensure that the citizens of this country are protected, are we going to say that until parliament reconvenes government should not allocate resources?”

According to Political analyst, Sammy Ohemeng Ghana’s system of governance must change if all the arms of government are to function well.

“If you look at parliament now, as far as their oversight responsibility over the executive is concerned, you can see that indeed, it looks as if, they are unable to discharge their duties very well, especially when it comes to issues of grace importance.”

Some political scientists believe parliament lacks that political will to act in the interest of the people rather of the political parties. Some supporters of the lawmaking chamber hope that with practice Ghana's multi party system of democracy will continue to improve.

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