Parliament yesterday passed the Electronic Transfer Levy (E-Levy) Bill into an Act, amidst a walkout by the Minority in protest against the passage of the bill.
The E-Levy was introduced by the government in the 2022 Budget on basic transactions related to digital payments and electronic platform transactions. The levy had sparked controversies, as critics claimed it would have negative impact on mobile money transactions and the unbanked poor who rely on it.
Yesterday’s passage of the controversy-laden bill followed months of agitation, protests and demonstration as well as frustration of the legislative processes on the part of the Minority in Parliament.
The motion for the passage was put to vote after the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, had moved the motion for debate on the bill.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, in concluding his debate during the second reading of the bill, served notice that his side would not be associated with further discussions of the bill.
Before leading his side to stage the walkout, Mr Iddrisu, who is the lawmaker for Tamale Central, urged President Akufo-Addo to withdraw the E-Levy Bill from the House because.
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, was then quick to remind Speaker Alban Bagbin to put the question on the motion to the vote, while the Minority members were still in the process of walking out of the chamber.
The Speaker heeded to the call, and put the question on the motion, with the Majority members saying ‘Ayes’ to indicate they were in favour of the motion. The Minority, however, abstained from the voice vote.
Speaker Bagbin cautioned against the springing of surprises by the Majority side, but indicated that he would do everything within his power to ensure that government business moves on successfully.
He then told the House that since it was properly constituted, there was the need to proceed on with any further business.
The Minority had earlier objected to the motion because, according to them, it was not captured as part of Business for the week.
“When the business statement was presented last week, E-Levy was not part of the business approved for the House. We have warned time and again, and cautioned that we do not want to be taken by surprise by a major economic policy of the Government.
“Parliament cannot be that when a side is convenient with its number, then the business can go on. It cannot be. We will not accept that culture. So when Majority did not have the numbers, they weren’t ready. Now that they have the numbers, then you say we should do business,” Mr Iddrisu complained.
Despite the objection, the Finance Minister was permitted to move the motion.
Although the Bill was not captured in the business statement of the House for this week, it was enlisted for the second reading and consideration yesterday.
According to the Minister of Finance, the object of this Bill is to broaden the tax base of the country, by imposing the levy on electronic transfer, and enhance the government’s drive for revenue mobilisation.
“The levy, which is expected to raise GH₵6.9 million in 2022, is a key mechanism that the government will use to ensure Ghanaians contribute their fair share towards the development of the country. In the spirit of cooperation, the government has decided to reduce the rate of the levy from 1.75 to 1.5 per cent of the transfer. At the consideration stage, I will bring the necessary amendments to reflect the changes,” he told the House.
Obuasi West MP Kwaku Kwarteng seconded the motion.
However, just before he finished making his statement, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu rose and said they could not deliberate on it because they did have access to the report. His position was supported by Tamale Central lawmaker Murtala Mohammed.
Ruling on the matter, Speaker Alban Bagbin said: “The copies of the report are being distributed now. I don’t think it is proper for us to suspend sitting. I will give you time to read the report to make a meaningful contribution.”