The Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has advised the government to cut down on expenditure in certain areas as contained in the 2022 budget.
Once the government does that, there will be no need to reintroduce the electronic levy when parliament resumes in January 2022, Mr Ablakwa said.
According to the opposition MP, the Akufo-Addo administration is expecting to raise some GHS6.9billion from the e-levy but Mr Ablakwa said there are outrageous expenditure items that far exceed this revenue target and which can be shelved so that there will be absolutely no need for the government to “recycle the obnoxious e-levy and re-present it in 2022.”
Mr Ablwaka has identified some of these expenditures that, in his view, must be reduced.
First, he wants the government to cut down on the allocation of GHS3,130,633,000 to the Office of Government Machinery (OGM).
This provision, he said, is almost half of what the e-levy is expected to rake in.
In a statement, the lawmaker said: “The OGM has been an unbridled tax guzzler under this regime. Adding over GHS450million to last year’s allocation in a period of pandemic recovery and austerity is extremely inconsiderate. If the allocation to the Health Ministry during a pandemic could be slashed by some GHS2billion compared with 2021 figures, there can be no justification for the self-serving lion share allocation to the OGM. All the suffering Ghanaian people ask, is for President Akufo-Addo to remember he once promised to protect the public purse and so needs to be faithful to Ghana’s Presidential Jet as his predecessors did, and desist from profligate and sybaritic charters of ultra-luxury US14,000.00 an hour executive jets. And if the President will lead by example as he calls on us all to burden share, the OGM certainly does not need this colossal GHS3.1billion allocation which consumes about half of all E-Levy expected revenues.”
Mr Ablakwa further said approvals granted on page 291, Appendix 10C of the budget document for the current Accra International Conference Centre to be razed down for the construction of a new edifice at 116 million Euros “in an opaque non-competitive arrangement must be halted.”
He also noted that prestige and sentimental projects such as approvals to construct a “Standard Stadium” each in Abuakwa South and Sunyani and the construction of regional conference centres and theatres for creative arts contained on page 293 of the Budget should be cancelled because again they do not reflect the times.
Under the current economic circumstances, Mr Ablakwa quizzed if the nation still needs five new university campuses for STEM.
“Can we not scale down to two or one and adopt an incrementalist approach when the economic horizon improves? Don’t forget double-track still plagues the education sector due to an acute lack of facilities,” he said.
Mr Ablakwa further expressed surprise that an austerity budget will contain approvals for fanciful projects such as Boankra Green Technology City and Tourism Village.
He also noted that the intention to establish new diplomatic missions in Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico could wait for better times in the future.
He suggested that in any case, Ghana can learn from Mexico, Columbia, Chile and Peru who all share one diplomatic mission in Accra as members of the Pacific Alliance. “It is time to rethink the old dinosaur framework for establishing physical diplomatic missions in favour of a more modern smart diplomatic presence,” he added.
The North Tongu legislator continued that considering that there is no allocation in the 2022 budget for constructing the Keta Port, which cannot be argued against in a period of austerity, the logical consequence is to demand the termination of the appointment of CEO of a non-existing port. In his view, that office remains “an embarrassing drain of scarce taxpayer cedis.”
The statement also said: “The staff strength at the Office of Government Machinery is projected to increase again to 2,111 from 1,597 in 2021. (See page 273 of 2022 Budget). This is curious considering that Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta had only recently told the Ghanaian youth not to put their hopes in public sector jobs as the public sector is bloated. It seems to me that caution doesn’t apply to party apparatchiks who will be engaged in 2022 to occupy the 514 spaces specially created at the OGM for them. Such policy duplicity does not help the credibility of the government and it doesn’t help the government’s expenditure control either.
“I am particularly frightened by the quantum leap in the Contingency Vote from an allocation of GHS186,829,891 in 2021 to a staggering GHS993,007,000 in 2022. (Almost a billion Cedis). That is a jaw-dropping addition of 806,177,109 in just a year. This represents an inconceivable 431.5% increase.
The irony is that despite all the propaganda about E-Levy serving as the main funding source for YouStart - which is the government’s flagship for job creation, Appendix 4C at page 252 reveals that the government allocated only GHS385,088,000 as it expects donor partners to come up with a greater share of GHS614,912,000 to achieve its GHS1billion target. So, this is a government that couldn’t dedicate GHS1billion for its grand job creation agenda as it depends on the benevolence of foreigners to help our youth find jobs, and yet it could allocate a similar amount of a billion for its use as contingency.”
Mr Ablakwa said Parliament can also make a contribution to the expenditure downsizing by reducing the scope and quantity of MPs constituency offices it intends to construct in all 275 constituencies over the next three years.
He suggested that “a sluggish 5- to 6-year arrangement with a reduced scope of works in instalments beginning from the farthest/hardest-to-reach constituencies, preferably in the northern and Oti regions should be more appropriate. That will be a worthy contribution of the legislature towards frugality in a period of austerity and harsh economic conditions.”
He stated that if the nation gets its priorities right by taking a hard and sincere look at public expenditure and eliminates blatant corruption, Ghana would not need an “obnoxious, divisive and regressive e-levy.”