The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Sekondi, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, in a debate as to how money should be allocated for the implementation of the Youth Employment Agency Bill (2014), provoked the Majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in parliament yesterday.
He had said that the formula proposed for allocation of funds could create another avenue for misappropriation of public funds, just as the ruling government had been incompetent in resolving the ‘dumsor’ (erratic power supply) crisis.
This comment quickly got members of the majority side on their feet, with some expressing disgust at the fact that the Sekondi MP was indirectly casting insinuations and attacking the government for being wasteful and incompetent.
The Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin, said that Papa Owusu-Ankomah had been possessed by the devil that was why he was speaking like that, but the MP for Sekondi retorted, saying that he had rather been possessed by the Holy Spirit to speak passionately about better governance and how to protect the public purse.
The clause that generated the heated debate in the course of the consideration of the bill was that the government would be needing GH¢440 million for the start of the new programme and intended to use 80 percent of the Communication Service Tax, 15 percent of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) and five percent of the Ghana Education Trust Fund.
The clause on the sources of funding for the programme says that government would also rely on donations, gifts and grants as well as other moneys approved by the minister responsible for finance to fund the programme.
The Sekondi MP said the blanket formula which would be legitimised by the Bill is 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, when we give consent to this clause, we would be enacting a budgetary allocation permanently which has never happened in this House,”
Papa Owusu-Ankomah warned, stressing that parliament must learn from past experiences with regard to the National Youth Employment Programme and the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) which were corrupt ridden.
According to him, a formula must be agreed on by parliament before allocation or disbursement is made for the funding of the new programme.
The MP for Old Tafo and ranking member of the Finance Committee,
Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, said the GH¢440 million budgeted for the new programme in a year is too much, saying that certain key ministries like Food and Agriculture, Transport and the institution of parliament, have annual budget far below the GH¢440 needed for the implementation of the Youth Employment Agency which means the government is confused about priorities.
The majority chief whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, argued strongly in favour of the budget for the new programme, stressing that the sources for the funding proposed should rather be maintained.
The Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, said that if parts of the sources for the funding ran contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, they would be problematic for parliament, if anybody decides to challenge that in court.
He therefore implored the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and the chairman of the Youth, Sports and Culture to re-look at the formula for the funding of the programme, especially with regards to percentage from the District Assemblies Common Fund and the Ghana Education Trust Fund so that there would not be any constitutional breach.
BY Thomas Fosu Jnr