The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, will present a policy brief on the domestic debt exchange programme (DDEP) to Parliament tomorrow.
The briefing is according to the Speaker’s directive to the Business Committee last week to programme the minister to appear and brief members of the House on the subject.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, who made this known to Parliament last Friday, said the leadership of the House had engaged the Finance Minister.
“The minister, in his response, indicated that he had committed to an earlier engagement on behalf of the government on the said Tuesday,” he told the House.
Mr Afenyo-Markin disclosed this when he presented the business statement for the week ending Friday, February 17, 2023.
The minister was initially scheduled by the Business Committee to appear before the House on Tuesday, February 14, 2023.
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, last Tuesday directed the Business Committee to schedule the Finance Minister to appear before the House to brief members on affairs of the DDEP.
He said the briefing was necessary since Parliament was ever prepared to assist the government to get out of that “quagmire”.
“This is a very urgent matter particularly dealing with elderly people; if pensioners are picketing at the Finance Ministry, we need to do this as quickly as possible,” the Speaker said.
Mr Bagbin gave the directive after some Minority MPs raised concern after Mr Afenyo-Markin had presented the business statement for the week.
First, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, told the House that in spite of the enormous public interest in the ongoing DDEP which the government was pursuing, it never found space in the business statement.
He recalled how the leadership of Parliament, during recess, had received a petition from the Association of Individual Bondholders and the picketing by bondholders at the Ministry of Finance.
Those developments, he said, had created enormous anxiety, with Ghanaians being concerned about their life savings and investments.
Mr Ablakwa said although the House had received no briefing or debated the programme, the Ministry of Finance was going ahead to implement it as a conditionality of the IMF programme.
The North Tongu MP also drew the House’s attention to how the Finance Minister, while presenting the 2023 Budget, had assured MPs that the details of the DDEP would be announced soon to the public and that the investor community had been engaged.
“Mr Speaker, this engagement has not taken place; MPs have not been engaged and individual bondholders are not being engaged.
“Indeed, the President had, a few days prior to the announcement, assured Ghanaians that bondholders would be exempted, but now all those who were told they would be exempted have been included,” he said.
Second, the NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, said the duty of the Finance Minister was not to simply engage the House.
He said Article 181 (3) of the Constitution and sections 55 and 56 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 were clear that the government was borrowing on behalf of the state.
“Hence the terms and conditions of the borrowing must ordinarily be laid before the House and approved by a resolution of the House.
“To the contrary, the Finance Minister has gone ahead to define his own terms and conditions of borrowing, negotiating with bondholders terms and conditions that have not been approved by the House, coercing and compelling banks and insurance institutions to accept terms and conditions that have not been approved by Parliament,” he said.
The conduct of the Finance Minister, he added, was illegal and unconstitutional, a clear breach of his responsibility as Minister of Finance and an affront to the House.
“He must, therefore, bring the terms here for us to approve before he offers them to individual bondholders and institutions for them to accept or reject,” he said.
Responding, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei-Asare, said in the 2023 Budget, the Finance Ministry “sounded and mentioned” that the government was going to come up with a domestic debt exchange policy.