Minority probes GHc440million budget

A proposed GH¢440 million funding to run the Youth Employment Agency, a new agency the government is seeking to establish with the Youth Employment Agency Bill 2014, has triggered anxiety among the Minority, with members demanding details on how the money would be spent.

Their request, they argued, stemmed from past experience where the predecessor agency, the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Agency (GYEEDA), was blighted with a series of corruption and misappropriation of state funds.

But their request was strongly countered by the Majority, who insisted that the amount earmarked was meant to halt uncoordinated programmes from the Youth and Employment Agency, as well as aid in planning.

The Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, in discussing the Bill yesterday during the consideration stage, told the House that it wasn’t economically wise to approve a budget, when members do not have the details of how the money was going to be appropriated.

“If we are going to learn any lessons, we should not appropriate without knowing what we are appropriating for. I am not saying that government cannot determine how much to spend, that’s her priority, but we should know what it intends doing with the funds before approval,” he noted.

Dr. Akoto Osei, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Old Tafo and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, wondered why the government did not budget for the ambitious project it was seeking to initiate in its 2015 Budget and Economic Policy, when it considered it a priority project.

He also wondered why the GH¢440 million for the agency was much larger than its sector Ministry, the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relation (GH¢43 million), the Office of Government Machinery, including the Office of the President, Parliament, and a host of other ministries.

“Mr. Speaker, this GH¢440 million is larger than the budget for the sector ministry itself, GH¢43 million, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, GH¢276 million, Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, GH¢463 million, except for the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior, the agency is getting a budget bigger than all ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So, Mr. Minister, where are our priorities?” he quizzed.

Nonetheless, he said there was a window of opportunity to make amends with the proposed budget, and proposed to the sector Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, to take advantage of the economic changes in oil revenue, coupled with lower output that has necessitated for a review of the 2015 Budget, to discuss the matter at Cabinet level and find a solution to it.

“When we approve this law, we have to find a way to operationalise it. Mr. Speaker, in my candid opinion, based on economic changes in oil revenue, lower output, among others, these numbers are going to change. There is going to be a new budget. Mr. Speaker, the Minister should take the window of opportunity to go and make a case in the new budget to justify for even a higher amount, so that Parliament can be convinced,” he advised.

Dr. Akoto Osei’s comment was in reaction to an amendment proposed by the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Youth and Employment and Labour Relations.

The Chairman of the Committee had proposed in one of the clauses in the Bill that the sources of funding for the Agency should be from (a) moneys approved by Parliament for the Agency; (b) 80% of the Communications Service Tax; (c) 15% of the District Assemblies’ Common Fund; (d) 5% of the Ghana Education Trust Fund; (e) Donations, gifts and grants; (f) Moneys approved by the Minister responsible for Finance; and (g) loans contracted by the Agency.

He proposed to the Minister, to, for now, forget about the all the other sources of funding the Bill was seeking, except that of which is approved by Parliament for the Agency, for the sake of transparency, good governance and accountability.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu Ankomah, in his contribution on the subject matter, said Parliament’s authorisation for expenditure is given only after a budget spelling out the details of expenditure had been presented for consideration.

He said the Bill’s proposal for the amount of GH¢440 million without spelling out the details of how the funds were going to be utilised is “something which is never done.”

He also argued that the formula with which the Bill was seeking the House to legitimise the proposal was contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which states in Article 252 Clause 3 that, “The moneys accruing from the District Assemblies in the Common Fund shall be distributed among all district assemblies on the basis of a formula approved by Parliament.”

“Mr. Speaker, we have never done this here, because there is a formula – we have never done that for GETFund, because there is a formula, and even for the Road Fund, it is for a specific purpose, and only expended after you get a programme. Let us also learn from recent past if there has ever happened to be in this country a wasteful and corrupt ridden institution, it is GYEEDA, the predecessor of this Youth and Employment Agency Bill, and arguments are being advanced to the effect that probably, it was because there was no legislative framework. No, it was because those in charge refused to abide by existing regulations.

And with this experience, after so much waste and corruption had been demonstrated, we are being told that, oh yes, now legalise it, and if you legalise this expenditure, we can assure you that the rape of the nation’s resources through that pot-barren agency will cease. Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ,” he noted.

He said the policy demonstrates policy incoherence on the part of the government, and invited the House to reject the 80% of Communications Service Tax as a source of funding for the project.  However, the Majority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, argued strongly in favour of the amendment proposed by the Chairman of the Committee.

According to Muntaka Mubarak, earmarking resources was meant to halt uncoordinated programmes from the Youth and Employment Agency, as well as help in planning for it.

“If you don’t earmark, and know exactly at the beginning of the year, you are going to start roughly with this amount of money, it becomes very difficult, and that is why, in the wisdom of the amendment, it is to make sure that we have this dedicated sum to help in the planning. Mr. Speaker, you know that for the past eight years, we have always tried to do budgetary before the end of the year. When the budget is done, and you know that this is the quantum that you are going to have, it will help the agency to prioritise and be able to tell all of us what exactly they will be able to do,” he said.

The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho, in commenting on the issue, said if parts of the sources for funding of the programme run contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, it would be a problem for Parliament, should anybody decide to challenge that in court.

He implored the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and the Chairman of the Youth, Sports and Culture to have a second look at the formula for the funding of the programme, especially, with regards to the percentage from the District Assemblies Common Fund and the Ghana Education Trust Fund to avoid any constitutional breach.


Credit: The Chronicle