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General News of Monday, 29 March 2021

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Parl. budget cut: What Majority Leader said about Bediatuo Asante's letter that angered Speaker

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (NPP - Suame MP), the Majority Leader has denied his March 24 assertions that Nana Bediatuo Asante, Secretary to the President, wrote an unsanctioned letter to Parliament about budget cuts to the judiciary and the legislature.

Fortunately, GhanaWeb monitored the Majority Leader in that interview on Accra-based Joy FM, in which the Minority Leader stated that Bediatuo did not get the full facts before the letter was written to the Speaker of Parliament.

On Sunday, the Majority Leader accused the media of spinning his statement and making it appear that he had accused the Secretary to the President.

“The interviewer had asked whether we had really engaged the President. And I said yes, there was an engagement with the President, unfortunately, the engagement was not conclusive until the President left. And then the Secretary thinking that we had about ended, wrote to us with respect to the request to Parliament and the Judiciary,” the Majority Leader told Joy News on Sunday, March 28.

“Nothing in what I said suggests to anybody that Nana Asante Bediatuo acted unilaterally and that there was no engagement. So it came as a surprise that it was interpreted to mean that I had suggested that Nana Asante Bediatuo had acted unilaterally.”

He continued: “There was no such communication from me. And if that was the understanding of the person who was interviewing me, I think it was most unfortunate.

Nana Bediatuo Asante, the Secretary to the President, wrote to Parliament proposing a GH¢77 million slash in the budget estimates of the Judiciary and a GH¢119 million deduction from that of the legislature respectively, compared to the 2020 approved amounts.

“Accordingly, Parliament is respectfully requested to keep the estimates of Parliament and the Parliamentary Service within the expenditure ceiling as proposed by [the] government above to enable [us] contain expenditures within the overall fiscal space for 2021,” Bediatuo Asante wrote.

The Speaker of Parliament reacted by warning the Executive that he would block the approval of the 2021 budget and economic policy of the government if the Executive maintained its decision.

“The Budget is not for the Executive, we have the final power to approve and so what the Constitution has done is for them to make a recommendation and to negotiate during the deliberation before the House,” Speaker Alban Bagbin said.

Subsequently, the President reversed his decision to reduce the budgetary allocation for Parliament and the Judiciary.

But what did Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu actually say on Joy FM on March 24:

GhanaWeb has transcribed the conversation between Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and the interviewer.

Here are the facts.

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “The President was travelling out, I think he was going to La Côte d'Ivoire and we were having the discussion, it was not complete and then in his absence, the letter came […] I was under the impression that the President who has done the communication or continued the discussion with his secretary, [but] it turned out that the discussion was not conclusive and on account of what has been happening earlier, the Secretary wrote the letter. I think it is yesterday’s issue, we’ve now agreed that the proper thing should be done.”

Interviewer: “So the Secretary was not seized with the full facts when he wrote the letter to Parliament?”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “It will seem to me because the President insisted that, ‘look, when I am even travelling outside and I write to Parliament as an arm of government and in recognition of the authority of the House of Parliament, I sign under my own hand, so in these matters, I should sign under my own hand’…the President, a former Member of Parliament himself recognizes Parliament as one arm of government and should be treated with considerable…”

Interviewer: “You’ve made a critical point because today’s letter was signed by the President himself, correct?”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “I’ve not seen the letter myself…”

Interviewer: “In fact, I heard the Speaker read the entire thing including…”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “I should think that because that is what he [The Speaker] said.”

Interviewer: “But the previous one that came was under the hand of Nana Asante Bediatuo?”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “Yes, that’s so.”

Interviewer: “How is it possible that the President’s Secretary will write to another arm of government, the Speaker, and not fully briefed or receive the brief from his boss and get this wrong and create all the public chaos?”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “I don’t know the details. What I do know is what I have told you. If the secretary is writing on the instruction of the President [and] it begins by saying ‘His Excellency has received this and I am directed by the President to do this,’ that was not the language in the first letter.”

Interviewer: “So he did it on his own volition; on his own authority?”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “I wouldn’t want to go further down lane, further downstream with you on that…”

Interviewer: You don’t think it is something that should be looked at because you know the chaos it caused.”

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: “You know I’m related to it and I thought he should have technically - if the President is not available and his place has to be filled - the Vice President was there and in the absence of the President, the Vice President should be writing. In the temporary absence of the President, if the President has spoken to the Secretary, the Secretary could also write, except that the language should be distinct to reflect that, but we didn’t see that - I must confess - which is what the President has come to correct.”

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