Minority Accuses Finance minister over “doctored figures”

The minority in Parliament through a press release expressed its disgust and disappointment over figures they believe were artificially manufactured by the finance minister Ken Ofori Atta to wrongfully paint a good picture about our economy.

The minister of finance presented a mid year budget review to Parliament on 31/07/2017. The minority earlier raised concerns over procedural grounds. They were of the view that the finance minister came to Parliament with a statement instead of a motion. What it does mean is that the statement presented was not subjected to debate and approval. 

The minority per its press release dated 1/08/2017, has identified various distortions and inaccuracies in the statement presented.

Below is the full statement released

"STATEMENT BY THE MINORITY IN PARLIAMENT ON THE CLANDESTINE REVERSAL OF INTEREST PAYMENTS BY THE MINISTER OF FINANCE IN PARLIAMENT ON AUGUST 1 2017.

The attention of the minority in Parliament has been drawn to the reversal of interest payment of a colossal amount of GH₵758.5 million and review of GDP (without a formal GSS Statement) at the end of Financial Year 2016 (Par 14 and 15). It is quite clear that the Minister made this reversal, which violates long-standing ‘‘cut-off’’ fiscal rules for the sole purpose of making the government’s dismal performance for the first half of Financial Year 2017 “look good’’. The action also purports to make the performance for FY 2016 worse.

This ‘’doctoring’’ of figures is very shameful. This to say the least is very regrettable and cosmetic. From appendix Table 5A: Page 53 of the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, Summary of Revised Central Government Operations-2017, the Minister of Finance has reduced domestic interest payment by an amount of  ¢657,005,271 Ghana Cedis to create the impression that expenditure on domestic interest payment is being reduced. This is clearly artificially compressed and contrived. This is a blatant disregard for cut off fiscal rules in accordance to the Financial Administration Regulations (FAR), Regulations 193.

It must be noted that Financial Year 2016 ended on a weekend (December 31 was a Saturday). The long-standing “cut-off” fiscal rule is that Expenditures and REVENUES that fall due on the last day of the month or year during a weekend, accrue to the next working day Jan 2, 2017. Indeed, this rule also applies to situations where the last working day falls on public or statutory holidays. For this reason, when the last working day of the month or year falls on a weekend or holiday, BOG also closes the books on the prior working day.

Therefore, Ghanaians must be alarmed that the Minister will unilaterally change a long-standing fiscal rule (and indeed business rule) with respect to only one particular EXPENDITURE (interest payment) for the misplaced and selfish purpose of making the performance of the First half of 2017 “look good”. Ghanaians must be even more alarmed that BOG will ostensibly reopen its books to allow this to happen.

Furthermore, we note with concern that the Budget did not state that MOF and BOG applied the same rule to revenues that accrued on Saturday 31st December 2016 but were paid on the next working day on Jan 4, 2017. To be consistent, the Minister and Governor should have reversed all cash buffers that were carried over to Financial Year 2017.

We call on the Auditor-General and Parliament to immediately conduct an investigation into this violation of long-standing, “cut-off’’ fiscal rule by the Finance Minister. Clearly, the Minister lacks the authority to make the adjustment he made under the Financial Administration Regulations (FAR) Regulation 193 on Closure of accounts. It reads;

(1): “At the close of business of the LAST WORKING DAY of each month or FINANCIAL YEAR, whichever is applicable, the accounts shall be balanced off.

(2): “The RECEIPTS and PAYMENTS that belong to a period of a financial year OTHER THAN The reporting period of financial year, shall be shown in the accounts and the details shall be given in the NOTES in accordance with regulations 187 and 188’’.

Checks on some Loan Agreement provisions indicate that where the last working day falls on a weekend, the “next working day” rule applies to interest and principal (debt service) payments.

Given these rules, the NDC did not go back to adjust the 2008 Financial Year records with ARREARS arising out of policies and actions such as SINGLE SPINE, “GANG OF SIX” ROADS, SUBSIDIES, etc.

As we aim to be law abiding and responsible citizens but not spectators, we all will be better served as a nation if these issues raised are treated with a sense of urgency, fairness and despatch by the Ministry of Finance for the development and in the supreme interest of our dear country, Ghana.

Signed:

Hon Casiel Ato Forson.

Minority Ranking Member on Finance.

Albert Wotorgbui

Seth Doe"

Newsstandgh is yet to cite any official response from the minister.

Author: Denis Andaban

Denis Andaban is a young writer and practising journalist. He is also a young teacher who has an unrepentant passion for writing. He has written feature articles ranging from politics, social issues, academic and relationship. He also writes news for many online media portals. Currently, He is reading B A English Language Education at the University of Education, Winneba, Kumasi. Denis Andaban is a native of Fian in the Upper West Region

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