The Minority NDC Members of Parliament (MPs) have threatened totake legal action against the government and the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, for deliberately diverting petroleum funds earmarked for infrastructure projects to finance its flagship free Senior High School (SHS) policy.
In the view of the minority NDC MPs, there was a purpose for which the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) was enacted; hence, any move that contravenes the Act is a clear breach of the law which must be answered at the court.
“We are going to go to court to compel the finance minister to stick to the principles of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act as passed by Parliament. He cannot on his own circumvent an Act of Parliament. That is not good governance. In the coming days you will see what will happen. We are interested in the matter and we are currently in talks with our lawyers and we are going to act accordingly”, the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Casiel Ato Forson, interacting with journalists on the sidelines of Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting noted.
He was reacting to the report of the Finance Committee on the 2017 Annual Report on the Petroleum Funds which was presented to the plenary by the Vice-Chairman of the Finance Committee, Hon. Kwabena Amankwah-Asiamah.
The Petroleum Revenue Management Act stipulates that 70% of the Petroleum Fund should go into Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA). It also states that out of the 70% that goes into the ABFA, 70% of that amount should be dedicated towards infrastructure development and the remaining 30% should be used for other priority areas as goods and services.
Furtherance to that, the Ghana Infrastructure and Investment Fund Act says that 25% of the ABFA should go into the Ghana Infrastructure and Investment Fund for the purposes of developing infrastructure.
However, the Minority argued that none of the directives as stated in the laws governing the disbursement of the petroleum funds were complied with by the Finance Minister, insisting that the revenue that was meant for infrastructure projects were diverted to finance the free SHS policy.
“Clearly, 2017, from January to December, the amount that accrued into the ABFA was US$217million.Very conservative, if you are multiplying it at a rate of GH₵4.00 to the dollar will give you about GH₵860million. Unfortunately, the government is spending most of the money on consumption instead of infrastructure. And clearly you will see here in the Annual Report of the Petroleum Fund for the 2017 fiscal year submitted to Parliament by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta on the PRMA. Page 26 of the report says that Physical infrastructure and service delivery in education: an amount of GH₵202 million has been spent on infrastructure. That is a lie. It is a complete lie. As if physical infrastructure is leading so it will make it look as if GH₵202million was spent on physical infrastructure – that is not the case”, argues Ato Forson.
He added “On the same page; the amount is made up of GH₵196.38million paid to support the implementation of government free Senior High School and GH₵6million paid to the Scholarship Secretariat in respect of scholarship. Is that infrastructure? Somebody is tactically breaching the Petroleum Revenue Management Act and the principles that it was established. I don’t think that it should be something that we should encourage. The people of this country should be interested in this matter and ensure that the government goes to the right direction”.
The former Deputy Finance Minister was of the view that should the government decide to go its own outside the dictates of the law they should immediately come to Parliament and amend the PRMA.