A Joint Committee of Finance and Health of Parliament have been tasked to probe all funds mobilized for the COVID-19 pandemic and all related expenditures.
The Committee has four months to complete its work and submit a report when the House returns from recess in October.
Speaker of Parliament, Alban S.K. Bagbin gave the directive Wednesday, June 22, 2022, after the Minister of Finance had read a statement to the House on the government’s expenditure on the pandemic.
The Minority Caucus had demanded a Special Committee to be constituted to probe the funds mobilized and spent on the pandemic, especially in view of the inconsistencies in the figures coming from the Finance Minister on the expenditure.
The Caucus insists it is imperative to go beyond the headline figures that have been provided by the government and the Minister and demanded accountability in order to protect the public purse and for Parliament not to lose its relevancy and credibility in its oversight function.
Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta in his statement to the House indicated after the reconciliation of all funds received as of May-ending 2022, the government had mobilized GH¢19.3 billion out of which GH¢12 billion has been used to mitigate the pandemic.
The Speaker stated that the directive to the Finance Minister was to appear before the House and account for monies approved by Parliament for the COVID expenditure relief programmes and not just to brief the House.
The Minister’s statement, he said, falls short of accounting and rather gave broad lines of monies released to various ministries, departments and agencies for the COVID fight in 2020 and 2021.
According to him, though the figures for the receipts included 2022 there was no corresponding expenditure for the same year.
The Majority group had resisted the call for a Special Committee of Parliament to be set up to investigate the COVID fund and argued the Auditor-General is already mandated to audit all government expenditure and hence is needless to set up an Adhoc Committee for that purpose.
Majority leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, however, pointed out that Parliament has Committees that are clothed with the authority to carry out such probes without necessarily constituting a new Committee.
Speaker Alban Bagbin, however, noted that Article 103 of the 1992 Constitution is not the same as the function of the Auditor General and stressed there is a difference between investigating and an inquiry into activities and administration of ministries and departments and auditing, which is usually conducted by the Auditor General.
He pointed out that just because the Auditor-General is going to audit all accounts of the government including the COVID fund, Parliament is not barred from instituting its own investigation or inquiry into the utilization of the funds.
“We have the mandate to do so,” he said.
The Speaker directed the Joint Committee to invite the ministries and agencies involved in the COVID expenditure including the Finance Ministry, and interrogate the figures between the Ministry and that of the presidency and reconcile same.
“Also go into the details of the expenditure of the monies that the minister has released to the ministries, departments and agencies,” he added.