The Health and Finance Committees of parliament have been tasked by Speaker Alban Bagbina to probe all the government’s COVID-19 expenditure as accounted to parliament by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta on Wednesday, June 22.
Mr Bagbin’s directive to the committees followed a denial by Mr Ofori-Atta on the floor while answering some 16 questions that the government has not been transparent with its COVID-19 expenditure.
Addressing Parliament on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, Mr Ofori-Atta said all programmed, mobilised and utilised funds pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic have been duly reported in line with the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency.
His presentation comes on the back of the Minority Caucus’ demand for an audit into all COVID-19-related expenses over discrepancies in the government’s expenditure data.
However, responding to the questions, one of which was on COVID-19 expenditure, Mr Ofori-Atta said the government is transparent with its expenditure items and will continue to operate an open-door policy and welcome any opportunity to engage to engage in the national interest.
“Mr. Speaker, at this juncture, I wish to dispel the notion that there have been inconsistencies in government data on COVID-19. His Excellency the President intimated during that State of the Nation Address on 30th March 2022 that we had mobilised about GH¢17.7 billion since 2020 to fight the pandemic”.
“We have subsequently reconciled the data and I can report that as of end-May, 2022, we have mobilised GH¢18.19 billion to mitigate the effect of the pandemic”, Mr Ofori-Atta told the legislature.
Again, he added, “when His Excellency, the Vice-President, indicated on 7 April 2022 at the National TESCON Conference that the government had spent GH¢8.1 billion on Covid-19, it was within the context of expenditures for 2020, as I have already indicated,” explained Mr Ofori-Atta.
He clarified that out of the GH¢18.19 billion expended to mitigate the effect of the pandemic, GH¢1,550 million was disbursed under the Support to Households Programme, GH¢1,049 million was allocated to health response-supplies equipment and relief for health workers; GH¢600 million was released to begin the construction across the country and a further GH¢763.92 million has been released to continue the construction of the 111 district hospitals.
He said the government also programmed a total amount of GH¢875 million for security operations, evacuation of Ghanaians stranded abroad and coordination of MMDAs’ sanitation and disinfection exercises.
Additionally, he said in line with measures to stabilise the economy after the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government implemented programmes to revitalise the economy and protect jobs.
This includes the GH¢600 million utilised under the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAPBuSS) by the NBSSI now the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA).
With regard to vaccine procurement, the minister indicated that GH¢929.30 million was allocated.
A total amount of GH¢775.82 million was released for the purchase of Sputnik V, the Janssen COV SARS 2 COVID vaccines and the emergency deployment of vaccines in schools among other key government’s disbursement.
Following Mr Ofori-Atta’s answers, the Minority Caucus proposed that an ad hoc committee be set up to probe the minister’s account but the Speaker sided with the Majority Caucus’ counter-argument that there were a number of existing parliamentary committees empowered to undertake such an exercise.
“We need to go beyond the minister and get in touch with the COVID-19 National Trust Fund to be able to unearth [the truth], and, therefore, there is the need for further investigation”, the Speaker said, adding: “With this, I direct that the Committee of Finance, ably supported by the Committee on Health, should investigate and inquire into the total receipts and how those funds were applied for the betterment of the people of this country.”