The Minority group in Parliament has accused the government of financial indiscipline for allowing the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) to rent new offices for which the authority is paying US$63,000 a month.
It has also condemned the government for allowing the Bui Power Authority (BPA) to build golf courses, while the Minister of Finance was requesting from Parliament approval for a loan for fishing harbours, irrigation facilities, railway infrastructure, among other facilities, for which the cost had not been established through due diligence.
At a press conference held yesterday, the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, presented a litany of issues which he said were bound to aggravate the harsh conditions in the country if they were not addressed immediately by the government.
He, therefore, proposed a national debate, to be held immediately, on the measures the government intended to take on the economy, otherwise there would be serious implementation problems.
Reaction from NPA
Reacting to the accusation of renting an office space at an unjustifiable cost, the Public Relations Officer of the NPA, Mr Yaro Kasanbata, told the Daily Graphic that the move from the NPA’s location last year had been urgent and it was to avoid a catastrophe.
He also disclosed that the amount being paid was not arrived at arbitrarily but that it was the best deal it had that fitted the needs of the authority.
He said although the going rate at the time was between US$35 and US$40 per square metre of office space, the NPA was able to secure one at US$23 per square metre.
“For the going rate, we found a cheaper rate and the board approved of it,” he stated.
“Where we were at Cantonments was a four-storey for a family of 16. We were nearly 200 people at the time we were leaving last year.
The washrooms were not enough and we had to deal with a fire outbreak and the only entrance to the building was where the electricity connection was,” he explained.
Explaining why the NPA had to move from its previous location, Mr Kasanbata said although it had plans to acquire its own land for offices which were still on course, the move became urgent when the building started developing cracks.
He disclosed that the NPA’s current office space was procured through a two-year lease and it was anticipated that it was enough time to look for land and come up with drawings for its new offices.
Among the list of issues on which the Minority charged the government to be proactive were the lack of transparency on the true state of the Ghanaian economy, the shortfall in revenue so far and the arrears that existed in wages and statutory funds such as social security for government employees and capitation grant.
Dr Akoto Osei, who is also the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, stated that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made some proposals to the government for more revenue which, “if implemented, will have far-reaching effects on various stakeholders”.
They include the introduction of or increase in selective tax rates, higher excise tax on specific products, immediate tax freeze on new tax exemptions, better identification and targeted auditing of large taxpayers, among other things.
He also listed IMF proposals on expenditure, which he said “have far-reaching implications, especially for the public sector workforce”.
He claimed that nothing was being discussed since the Senchi forum, which the Minority found unacceptable, adding, “Some of these proposals being contemplated require legislation which must be carefully debated.”
Guidelines on forex
While welcoming the Bank of Ghana’s relaxation in the use of foreign exchange accounts and additional measures, Dr Akoto Osei stated, “We recommend to the government to review existing agreements on retention accounts.”
Speaking on the China Development Bank (CDB) loan, he reiterated the Minority’s advice to the government that the terms of the loan did not favour Ghana.
He said the country had so far paid US$54 million on commitment fees alone, adding, “As the loan continues to stall, the country is paying close to $100 million by the end of 2014 in fees and charges.”
Dr Akoto Osei also alleged that the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), with the support of the Ministry of Finance, was perpetuating an illegality in the implementation of the VAT Act