The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has explained that claims that the government had not been transparent with its COVID-19 expenditure are not the case, as widely perceived by Members of Parliament from the minority caucus.
Addressing Parliament yesterday, the Minister said all programmed, mobilised and utilised funds pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic had been dully reported in line with government’s commitment to accountability and transparency.
His justification comes on the back of the Minority MPs’ demand for an audit into all COVID-19 related expenses in view of what they claim as discrepancies in the government’s expenditure data.
Responding to questions, Mr Ofori-Atta categorically stated that government was transparent in its expenditure items, and would continue to operate an open-door policy.
“Mr. Speaker, at this juncture, I wish to dispel the notion that there have been inconsistencies in government data on COVID-19. His Excellency, the President intimated during the State of the Nation Address on March 30, 2022, that we had mobilised about Gh¢17.7 billion since 2020 to fight the pandemic.
“We have subsequently reconciled the data, and I can report that, as of end of May, 2022, we have mobilised GH¢18.19 billion to mitigate the effect of the pandemic. Again, when His Excellency the Vice President indicated on April 7, 2022 at the National TESCON Conference that Government had spent Gh¢8.1 billion on Covid-19, it was within the context of expenditures for 2020 as I have already indicated,” the Minister said.
The Minister disclosed that out of the GHC18.19 billion expended to mitigate the effect of the pandemic, GH¢150 million was disbursed under the Support to Households Programme, and GH¢149 million was allocated to health response-supplies equipment and relief for health workers.
He added that GH¢600 million was also released to begin the construction of hospitals across the country, adding that “an additional GH¢763.92 million had been released to continue the construction of the [Agenda] 111 district hospitals”.
According to him, government also programmed a total amount of GH¢875 million for security operations, evacuation of Ghanaians stranded abroad and coordination of MMDAs’ sanitation and disinfection exercises.
He added that in line with measures to stabilise the economy after the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, government had implemented programmes to revitalise the economy and protect jobs. “This includes the GH¢600 million utilised under Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAPBuSS) by the NBSSI, now the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA),” he mentioned.
Touching on vaccine procurement, the Minister indicated that GH¢929.30 million had been allocated, explaining that “a total amount of GH¢775.82 million was released for the purchase of Sputnik V, the Janssen COV SARS 2 Covid Vaccines and the Emergency deployment of vaccines in schools among other key disbursement by government”.
The Finance Minister assured that government remains committed to implementing measures to address the perennial depreciation of the Ghana cedi against its major trading partners.
According to the Minister, government has so far implemented a 30% cut in expenditures as part of measures to reduce the fiscal deficit, noting that this is geared toward helping reduce the pressures on the exchange rate.
He further disclosed that government was complementing efforts to keep the cedi afloat through its fiscal consolidation measures and real sector interventions.
“The implementation of the 30% cut in expenditures and other expenditure measures approved by Cabinet are all helping to reduce the fiscal deficit and thereby reduce the pressures on the exchange rate.
“Government is also undertaking real sector interventions, including the Ghana CARES programme, to support import substitution of products such as poultry, rice, and other essential commodities, thereby, reducing foreign exchange pressures from the imports of those products,” he noted.
Mr Ofori-Atta said government is also arranging to raise about US$1.0 billion to support the 2022 Budget and foreign exchange reserves. This forex inflow, he explained, is expected to improve the supply of the foreign currency and the stability of the local currency.