The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, yesterday told Parliament that the government did not seek parliamentary approval for bonds issued to service the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) debt because the issue of the bonds was part of the Net Domestic Financing (NDF) of the 2010 Budget that had already been approved by the House.
He was answering a question posed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Dormaa West, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who wanted to know why parliamentary approval had not been sought for the bonds issued to settle the TOR debt.
His explanation, however, did not go down well with the Minority, who argued that since the bonds were financial transactions, the minister should have sought parliamentary approval.
The MPs from the Minority side were of the view that at least the terms and conditions of the bond should have been brought to Parliament for approval.
However, Dr Duffuor explained that since domestic borrowing was different from external borrowing, there was no need for him to have sought the approval of the House for the NDF which had been captured in the 2010 Budget that had already been approved by the House.
In the midst of the arguments and counter-arguments, the Speaker, Mrs Joyce Bamford-Addo, directed the minister to seek advice from the Attorney-General and come back to the House to ensure that the proper thing was done in future.
In his explanation, Dr Duffuor said the government found that TOR was in debt to the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) to the tune of over GH¢1.0 billion, with serious implications for both TOR and the bank.
Because the debt was not being serviced, it had become a huge non-performing asset on the balance sheet of the bank and was also weakening the balance sheet of TOR.
Dr Duffuor said to address the problem, the government issued a three-year bond for GH¢445 million in March 2010 which it used to pay GCB.
According to him, in April 2011, the government again issued a three-year stock certificate to the bank for the remaining GH¢572 million, following an agreement reached between the bank and the government.
In another development, COCOBOD has embarked on an exercise to collate the database of cocoa farmers for the implementation of a social security and pension scheme for cocoa farmers.
Already, seed money of GH¢15 million has been set aside and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning is ready to supplement that with more funds before the scheme takes off.
Dr Duffuor told Parliament yesterday that presently no farmer had been selected to benefit from the scheme, explaining that the beneficiaries would be selected immediately the consultants who designed the scheme had presented their final report.
The MP for Agona East, Mr John Agyabeng, who posed the question, wanted to find out from the minister about modalities used for the selection of farmers to benefit from the scheme.
Dr Duffuor stated that the registration exercise to build the database of the cocoa farmers would take into consideration personal information and farmer activities such as age of a farmer, location and size of farms, sale of cocoa beans, agro-chemical usage, among others.
He explained that the database would help in making several economic and social decisions regarding the cocoa sector.
A controversy arose when the minister answered another question bordering on why payment for the third quarter of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) was not made in the 2009 financial year.
Dr Duffuor explained that the payment of the inherited 2008 arrears, in addition to 2009 statutory transfers, put a lot of stress on the budget, such that the schedule for the transfer of funds to the DACF in 2009 could not be adhered to.
He said as a result of that, the 2009 third quarter release of GH¢75,349,945, which should have been paid by December 31, 2009, was paid on January 26, 2010.
Dr Antony Akoto Osei, the MP for Tafo-Pankrono, however, disputed the minister’s figure, compelling the Speaker to ask the two of them to meet to reconcile their figures and report to the House next week.
Source: Daily Graphic
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|