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General News of Friday, 30 July 2021


More trouble for Health Minister as minority demands audit into coronavirus expenditures

Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu

The woes of embattled Health Minister, Kweku Agyemang Manu, is far from over as the minority in parliament, is demanding a full-scale audit into all expenditures made by the Akufo-Addo government regarding the handling of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This means that, Mr Agyemang Manu, who is presently under pressure from the public to resign or be fired, would be forced to account for all monies spent on the management of the pandemic which have so far, claimed many lives since the outbreak somewhere in March 2020.

Government, has been under pressure following the confusion surrounding the procurement of $64million Russian Spuknik V vaccines a few months ago.

Speaking at a Policy Dialogue held at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) in Accra on Monday, July 26, 2021, Minority Leaders, Haruna Idrisu, said ordinary Ghanaians need to know in detail, how much of their monies have been blown in handling the Covid and other related expenditures being made by government.

"Our message is that, the Minority is demanding a comprehensive audit of all Covid related expenditure in the country, including and adding on the 21 billion that was spent prior to the elections," he demanded at the event dubbed NDC Ranking Members Forum.

The call for the audit, which has been the demand for majority of Ghanaians means that the board of trustees of COVID-19 Fund, chaired by former chief justice Sophia Akuffo would also be hauled to account for their stewardship, including the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta.

Meanwhile, delivering a power-point presentation, the keynote speaker who doubles as Minority Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson revealed the miserable state of Ghana's economy as a result of excessive borrowing and mismanagement.

Dr Ato Forson, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ajumako Enyam Essiam cautioned that, Ghana could fail to meet its debt service obligations if urgent steps were not taken to seek debt relief from its lenders.

He said the current debt profile of the country made it unsustainable and was putting severe pressure of the nation's finances making it difficult to meet debt service deadlines while meeting other expenditure commitments at the same time.

Dr Forson, said available figures showed that up to 87 per cent of government tax revenue went into debt servicing which is the payment of interest and amortization alone leaving very little for investment in critical sectors of the economy. This he said, would worsen if the current borrowing situation continued into the foreseeable future.

"The Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government must seek urgent debt relief from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through the newly proposed Debt Relief Initiative, known as the Common Framework for Debt Treatments Beyond the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which can be likened to the HIPC Initiative" Dr Forson said at the event attended by a cross -section of Minority MPs and some Academics draw from various Universities in the capital.

He added that, "failure by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government to do as recommended, within the next 18 months, would expose Ghana to a High Risk of Default on its debt service obligations which will plunge the country into much deeper economic crisis".

According to him, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government bears responsibility for 60per cent of Ghana's current public debt if data gathered up to the end of 2020 were to be used.

The former Deputy Minister of Finance under erstwhile John Mahama administration, explained that out of Ghana's Public debt of GHS 291 billion as of December,2020, President Akufo-Addo's tenure accounts for GHS 171.22 billion representing 60per cent.

He said the completion point of the HIPC initiative brought total debt relief of GHS 5.5 billion which reduced President Kufuor 's end period contribution to the public debt to a little over GHS 800 million, while President's Atta Mills and Mahama added GHS 26.2 billion and GHS 84 billion respectively.

The current debt position he explained, placed the country on an unsustainable trajectory requiring urgent measures to address.

Dr Forson cautioned that unless far reaching measures were introduced to stem the current tide, Ghana could default on its debt service obligations and fall deeper into economic crisis.

The ranking member explained that, the government's reckless borrowing is to blame for the economic failures that have led to an unprecedented 15.2percent deficit and an asphyxiating debt overhang.

According to Dr Ato Cassiel Forson, desperate efforts by the Akufo-Addo-Bawumia administration to fault COVID-19 for its self-inflicted mismanagement are simply excuses to escape responsibility for its failures.

"A careful analysis of key debt sustainability indicators provides ample evidence that, prior to COVID-19 (i.e. before March 2020) Ghana's public debt was on an unsustainable trajectory."

He said the hardships Ghanaians face are the direct consequences of mismanagement of the economy and populism of the administration by the Government.

Using extensive Government-issued data to back his assertion at a press confab Monday, the Minority, said beyond more than doubling the inherited debt from independence from GHc 120 billion to over GHc 291 billion in its first term, the Akufo-Addo administration worsened Ghana's debt to GDP ratio by hiking it from 56percent in 2016 to 76.8percent by end of year 2020. This was against the fact that the NPP in opposition faulted the NDC for operating at 56percent, which was below the recommended threshold of 70per cent.

The Akufo-Addo administration also worsened Ghana's ability to repay its debt, the Minority noted.

"At the end of 2020, Ghana's Total Public Debt was more than five times its Domestic revenue", Dr Forson noted.

Meanwhile, responding to the issues raised at the Policy Dialogue, Deputy Finance Minister, John Kumah, who was in attendance said government had noted the concerns raised by the Minority and would announce comprehensive counter measures in the Mid-Year Budget Review to be delivered by the Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta on Thursday.