Majority Leader in Parliament Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has debunked claims that the Secretary to the President unilaterally cut down budget estimates for the Judiciary and the Legislature.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu was misquoted after an interview that Nana Asante Bediatuo wrote a letter to reduce the budgets of the two arms of government on the blind side of President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo.
The letter, which was submitted to Parliament, reportedly indicated that the budget for the Legislature will be slashed by GH¢119 million while that of the Judiciary will reduce by GH¢77 million.
This decision was however reversed in a second letter before the approval of the 2021 budget statement and economic policy of government by Parliament.
Budget for Parliament
The budget for Parliament was reduced by GH¢119,846,911 this year.
At the beginning of the debate on the 2021 Budget and Financial Estimates, Speaker Alban Bagbin urged the House, especially the committees concerned, to take note and inform the plenary on the negotiated figure.
However, Mr Bagbin last Thursday informed the House that the President, in a letter to his office, said he had taken due note on the concerns he had earlier raised, particularly articles 127 and 179 of the Constitutions and Section 15(a) of Parliamentary Service Act, Act 460.
The President, according to him, in the letter dated March 23, 2021, said, “I agree with your position that proceeding to reduce the budget without consideration of these provisions will be potentially unlawful”.
According to the President, the letter in respect to the capped estimates were dispatched by Nana Asante Bediatuo under the mistaken belief that the figures contained there were agreed on between Parliament and the Ministry of Finance and the Judiciary and the Ministry of Finance.
He said the Secretary only forwarded what was authorised and the subsequent letter confirmed that the Secretary could not have unilaterally submitted anything to the Speaker.
Nonetheless, it was reported that the Majority Leader who is also the leader of Government Business in Parliament, claimed in an interview with JoyNews that Nana Bediatuo unilaterally wrote the letter to the Legislature.
This has resulted in some people chastising the Secretary to the President and calling for investigations into the matter.
However, speaking in an interview with THE CUSTODIAN, the Majority Leader and MP for Suame insisted he was grossly misunderstood either by JoyNews or other media outlets.
Read excerpts of Majority Leader’s clarification below:
“My attention has been drawn to an interview that I granted to Joy (JoyNews) and the kind of spin that has been put on it.
“I don’t know whether it’s from Joy or from other networks that listened.
“It has to do with the president’s second communication to Parliament in respect to the allocation to both parliament and the judiciary and Joy asking me about the status of the first one and I said that was yesterday issue and then they wanted to know from me whether there had been engagement between parliament and the president and I stated in the affirmative that Yes, there was some engagement between parliament and the president, which engagement had not been concluded when the president had to leave to the La Cote d’Ivoire.
“That was what I said and they stressed whether there had been any engagement and I said yes there had been an engagement and they wanted to know whether his (Bediatuo) writing was unilateral and I said no there was nothing unilateral about that and indeed I stressed that it was a yesterday matter. Going forward is what we should be looking up to.
“I even made a point that indeed Parliament has been floating on the wings of the judiciary because when you look at Article 179 of the Constitution, which the speaker used to cover Parliament, Article 179 (5) is in respect of the judiciary and not Parliament, that protection is not given to parliament by any provision of the constitution. I will want to believe that parliament was left out as an arm of government, is an anomaly and that it is a mistake on the part of the drafters of the constitution because Parliament is also an arm of government and should have been given the same treatment as the judiciary.
“Having said that, I suggested and indeed told them (Joy FM) that this practice has come from President Kufuor’s time when we had this discussion with the president and agreed that same treatment as accorded to the judiciary should be accorded to Parliament and it’s an emerging practice, it’s a convention that even though not clothed with any constitutional provision, we have been living by that.
“So what I said was not an indictment on Nana Asante Bediatuo but it looks like people want to put a spin on it and I understand one medium has even gone on to say that Nana Bediatuo sat in the comfort of his room and wrote to Parliament, nothing can be further away from the truth.
“Indeed, the day when I spoke with Nana Asante Bediatuo, he was with the president in La Cote d’Ivoire so nothing can be further away from the truth.
“But the important thing is what the president promised us, that is facilitating the construction of constituency offices.
“The write-up to Parliament includes a quota for that so we are going to be in a position to begin the construction of 70 constituency offices for members of Parliament.
“It is envisaged that next year provision will be made for additional 70, the third year another 70 so that into the fourth year we would have finished with constructing 275 structures or constituency offices for all members of Parliament.
“With respect to the judiciary, they required to have some more allocations to buy vehicles for newly recruited magistrates and I think the figure was about GH¢77 million or so.
“The president has made an allocation to them in recognition of that request. So, I guess the two arms of government relatively, are now much more comfortable than the previous situation.
“No malice intended and I think we can move on in tandem as one government”.