MINISTER OF Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta appeared at the dispatch box in Parliament yesterday to account to the House on the expenditure incurred by the government since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Since May this year, the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament has been demanding accountability for COVID-19 related funds, accusing the government of misapplying funds secured from both local and international sources.
Mr. Ofori-Atta, after a directive from the Speaker, appeared in the House to account for the funds received, indicating that a total amount of GH¢12,036.41 million was expended for the years 2020 and 2021, out of a programmed expenditure of GH¢15,763.48 million for the COVID-19 related expenditures.
In 2020, he said a total amount of GH¢11,162 million, which includes the CAP, was programmed for COVID-19 related expenditure and out of this amount a total of GH¢8,122 million was utilised.
“The amount was utilised to provide support to households; supply equipment and provide relief to health workers (Health Response); health infrastructure; security operations, evacuations, quarantine and coordination; economic relief; stabilisation and revitalisation; and COVID-19 complementary releases,” the minister indicated.
Mr. Ofori-Atta continued that a total amount of GH¢4,601 million was programmed in the 2021 budget for COVID-19 related expenses, and that at the end of December 2021, total utilisation was GH¢3,914.40 million, representing 85% utilisation.
Giving breakdown of the expenditures, he said GH¢1,693.05 million was expended on support to households, GH¢2,167.63 million on health response (equipment supplies), GH¢1,363.92 million on health infrastructure, GH¢875.11 million on security operations, GH¢4,760.11 on economic relief, GH¢775.82 million on COVID-19 vaccines, and GH¢400.77 million on other COVID related expenditures.
He stated that Ghana recorded its first two cases on March 12, 2020, and President Akufo-Addo immediately put together a taskforce which spearheaded the development of “a bold, comprehensive, and decisive strategy to ensure that we are not overwhelmed by the pandemic.”
The minister said in line with this strategy, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of Ghana was assessed and measures designed to address its immediate impacts.
Mr. Ofori-Atta noted that the impact of the pandemic, however, was even more severe than anticipated both globally and domestically, adding, “It has upended and exposed the weaknesses in critical structures and systems in education, health, economic life and communities.”
He pointed out that to finance the additional expenditure such as support to households, engagement of additional health personnel, deployment of security personnel at the country’s borders to enforce the COVID-19 protocols as well as the procurement of personal protective equipment, the government adopted major fiscal measures to accommodate the increased expenditure and the shortfalls in revenue.
“Though our response was bold, decisive, and compassionate, it has also been costly,” he asserted and continued that the implementation of the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) commenced.
He said that during the presentation of the 2020 Mid-Year Fiscal Policy, he indicated that the supplementary request included a programmed funding of GH¢19.3billion from various funding sources to support the budget both directly and indirectly.
“On the expenditure side, an amount of GH¢11.16 billion was programmed for COVID-19 related expenses. The difference of GH¢8.14 billion was programmed to provide for shortfalls in revenue,” he intimated.
He continued that in 2021, the budget programmed a total amount of GH¢4,601 million for COVID-19 related expenses, and added that the Finance Ministry mobilised the needed financial resources, whilst the various COVID-19 interventions and related expenses were implemented by the relevant sector ministries and agencies.
According to him, the government mobilised GH¢18.19 billion out of the programmed GH¢19.3 billion in 2020 from various funding sources to support the budget in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on businesses and households, ensure that economic activities recover and minimise job losses.
Mr. Ofori-Atta said a total of GH¢1,204 million was secured from the nation’s contingency fund to finance the COVID-19 Alleviation Programme, GH¢1,334 million from World Bank Group Funds (Health Interventions), GH¢377 million O/W GARID CERC, and GH¢203 million from O/W Fast track COVID-19 facility.
He indicated that additional GH¢754 million was secured from O/W Fast track COVID-19 facility, GH¢5,852.950 million from IMF, GH¢405.650 million from AfDB, GH¢504 million from EU and GH¢10,000 million from BoG to fund Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP 1&2) and 2020 budget support.
He dispelled the notion that there have been inconsistencies in government data on COVID-19, pointing out that President Akufo-Addo stated during that State of the Nation Address on March 30, 2022, that the government 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. Again, when His Excellency the Vice President indicated on April 7, 2022 at the National TESCON Conference that government had spent GH¢8.1 billion on COVID-19, it was within the context of expenditures for 2020 as I have already indicated,” he added.
BY Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House