The start of hearings of the Committee probing the basis for a vote of censure against the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, was held up because of a clash over the mode for tendering evidence at the committee.
Even before being sworn in, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu and, Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, who were the first to appear before the committee, wished to utilise evidence in a manner that was contested.
The Finance Minister had written prior to the hearing requesting full particulars of the allegations against him in the Minority’s motion.
While the committee’s clerk said he had not received the formal record of the evidence from the Minority, Mr. Forson said he had sent the notice of evidence via hyperlinks because the clerk’s notice to him had come in a letter sent via WhatsApp.
As the debate escalated, the Minority members of the committee appealed for flexibility and the urgent handling of the allegations against the Finance Minister.
“I don’t think that we should be so rigid. It is being to appear like we just want to place impediments in the way,” the North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa said.
The Majority members on the committee pushed for a formal notice of the evidence to be tendered before proceedings continue.
The Sekondi MP, Andrew Agyapa Mercer, for example, argued that the committee was a quasi-judicial proceeding and required conditions for a fair hearing for the Finance Minister.
“The purpose for which disclosures and exchange of documents are made is clearly known to all of us. It prevents the element of surprise,” Mr Mercer said.
In a retort to this argument, later on, a member of the Minority and one of the chairs of the committee, Dr. Dominic Ayine, argued that the committee was an administrative body and not a judicial-adjacent one.
“We are a political body mandated with the task of investigating… that is the essential task we are here to investigate this morning,” he said.
For its evidence, Mr. Forson said the Minority would be relying on IMF staff reports from 2018 to 2021, fiscal data from the Ministry of Finance, Budget statements from 2019 to 2022, mid-year budget statements from 2019 to 2022, the Auditor General reports from 2018 to 2020, PIAC reports from 2019 to 2022, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Public Financial Management Act, the Petroleum Management Act, the constitution and standing orders of Parliament.
He also said the Minority will make reference to an analysis by external experts.
Appeal from Finance Minister
Mr. Ofori-Atta’s lawyer, Gabby Okyere-Darko, expressed concern that his client would be caught off guard by the evidence and requested “full particulars of the facts in support of the allegations against the minister.”
He also said there would not be enough time to scrutinise the evidence outlined by the Minority.
“It would not be fair for the Minister of Finance to be ambushed right here without any preparation to start answering questions.”
“All we are asking for in the interest of justice is that we should be furnished with the full particulars of the facts in support of each of the allegations contained in the letter and then the supporting documents,” Mr. Okyere Darko said.
Despite the appeals, the hearing was allowed to proceed after the Minority Leader swore his oath and was allowed to give his testimony.