Youth Employment Bill causes stir in Parliament

General News of Friday, 6 February 2015

Source: Graphic Online

New Parliament

An animated debate erupted in Parliament yesterday during discussions on some proposed amendments to the Youth Employment Agency Bill, 2014.

Discussions on the bill, which is at the consideration stage, suddenly came alive when the chairman of the committee working on the bill and the Member of Parliament for South Tongu, Mr Kobena Mensah Woyome, presented a proposed amendment to the sources of funds for the agency to the House.

According to the proposal, the sources of funds should include money approved by Parliament for the agency, 80 per cent of the Communications Service Tax and 15 per cent of the District Assemblies’ Common Fund (DACF).

The rest are; five per cent of the Ghana Education Trust Fund; donations, gifts and grants and money approved by the Minister of Finance.

Sub-sections ‘b’ and ‘c’, of the new clause, which propose 80 per cent and 15 per cent respectively of the Communications Service Tax and the DACF were the most contentious among the MPs.

GH¢440 million for Youth Agency

The Ranking Member of Finance and MP for Old Tafo, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, contended that if the House agreed to take 80, 15 and five per cent from the CST, DACF and GETFund respectively, on the basis of the budget, it would mean committing approximately GH¢240 million, GH¢126.6 million and GH¢79.3 million in turn from the three sources to the agency, without recourse to accountability.

“So if we accept this amendment, what we are saying is that we are creating a situation where we are saying, we give you GH¢440 million, minimum, go and spend it without telling us what you are going to spend it on.

“The reasons that we have the issues at Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) [are] precisely because of this moral hazard problem. If you give me GH¢100 million without asking me to budget for it, I will find reasons to spend GH¢100 million,” he said.

Dr Osei suggested therefore, that the best way to go was for the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to convince Cabinet with a budgeted project for funds and asked the House not to approve the clause without knowing what they were approving it for.

“This GH¢440 million is larger than the budget of the sector minister himself – GH¢43 million, except for the ministries of Education, Health, Defence,

Interior, the agency is getting a budget bigger than all ministries,” he stated. In his opinion, only the first part of the new clause; ‘monies approved by Parliament for the agency’ was necessary and could take care of the rest, to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance.

For his part, the Majority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, who supported the new clause, said the biggest challenge was not earmarking resources, which made it difficult to have funds for anything.

In his view, therefore, earmarking was important to ensure dedicated funds for the agency. He disagreed that the amount was huge and said each year about 50,000 graduates completed school, while vacancies in agencies was only 10,000, thus leaving 40,000 well-trained youth without jobs, which had persisted for the past seven years.

Formula needed

The MP for Sekondi, Mr Papa Owusu-Ankomah, said a formula was needed before any money was taken from the CST, DACF and GETFund.

“So Parliament’s authorisation for expenditure comes only after you have presented a programme, coupled with a plan of expenditure,” he said.

The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and MP for Tamale South, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said according to the 2007 budget statement, out of 175,000 jobs created in its first year, the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) had, after four months in operation created a total of 39,000 jobs.

He added that GH¢58.89 billion had been released from the 2006 DACF to the MMDAs to implement programmes to reduce youth unemployment in the country, in line with the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II).

Mr Iddrisu also said for 100,000 jobs, even if everyone was paid GH¢300, it would total GH¢30 million and that the GH¢440 million may not even be enough to cater for the hordes of unemployed youth.

The Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, asked whether it was appropriate for money meant for the development of districts, the DACF, to be taken to the national level.

Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, the Majority Leader and MP for Nadowli/Kaleo, proposed a formula of 15 per cent of the DACF for the Youth Employment Agency, since 10 per cent would be inadequate, “looking at the magnitude of unemployment in the country.”

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